Cambridge Library

Comparative Literature

Comparative Literature is one of the bi-college (Bryn Mawr and Haverford) programs and draws on the diverse teaching and research interests of the faculty at the two colleges. Our allied faculty includes professors in English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Classics, Chinese, Arabic, philosophy, film studies, creative writing, music, and theater.

The study of Comparative Literature situates literature in an international perspective; examines transnational cultural connections through literary history, literary criticism, critical theory, and poetics; and works toward a nuanced understanding of the socio-cultural functions of literature. The structure of the program allows students to engage in such diverse areas of critical inquiry as East-West cultural relations, global censorship and human rights, diaspora studies, film history and theory, and aesthetics of modernity. Therefore, interpretive methods from other disciplines also play a role in the comparative study of literature; among these are anthropology, ethnology, philosophy, history, history of art, religion, classical studies, area studies (Africana studies, Middle Eastern studies, Latin American studies, among others), gender studies, and other arts.

Besides representing literary and cultural study with a global reach, the Comparative Literature major aims to help students develop analytic and interpretive skills that are the hallmark of liberal arts education. By promoting sustained engagement with language(s) and texts, our program encourages the majors to become attuned to the complexities of human communication within and across many borders. The program offers a rich variety of courses that range from ”Cultural Profiles in Modern Exile” and “Postcolonial Women Writers” to “Aesthetics,” “Film Theory,” “The Play of Interpretation,“ “Literary Translation Workshop,” “Museum Anthropology,” and “Words and Music.” We encourage our students to study abroad either for a summer term or a semester, or, in some cases, for two semesters and try to place them in programs that best meet their linguistic and academic needs. The students begin the major with the core course, “Introduction to Comparative Literature” and end with the “Senior Seminar,” where their capstone experience involves writing a senior thesis that draws on various forms of analyzing arts, literature, and culture.

Our students have been recipients of many prestigious awards, including Fulbright German Academic Exchange, Andrew M. Mellon, Max Kade, and Watson fellowships. Alumni surveys have consistently reflected the high satisfaction rate of our graduates who have gone on to highly selective graduate schools, law school, publishing, international business, diplomatic careers, and rewarding work in NGOs (non-governmental organizations).