I chose the Comparative Literature major at Bryn Mawr for its versatility and interdisciplinary flexibility. I wanted a course program with a strong focus on theory, which I found in all my Comp Lit courses. I was attracted to the notion of considering many forms of what we call literature in a more tolerant or dynamic way than in non-comparative approaches to literary study. The theoretical canon I was exposed to in my first few courses was also of great intrigue. My theses, in both Comp Lit and Spanish, drew from post-colonial theory and dealt with literatures of post-colonial context. Specifically, in the Spanish thesis, I explored the ethics of testimonial literature in a post-colonial framework. Was this the beginning of my interest in development and neo-colonialism, or was it the result of an interest I already had but did not yet recognize explicitly?... I don't know. Chicken or the egg. But ever since, the ethics of actions we take under the guise of doing good is of prime interest to me in terms of my future academic and professional pursuits. So, in a sense, I feel one might see a rift between my undergraduate background in the humanities and my current interest in development (considered perhaps more of a social science?). However, for me, they are not so disparate in my personal development or movements.
One of the aspects of the Comp. Lit. major that I enjoyed most in college was the wide variety of classes that I was able to take to count towards the major. The interdisciplinarity of Comparative Literature allowed me to explore my many different academic interests while also giving me a deeper understanding of literature's relationships with culture, politics, and philosophy. As a professional, this kind of perspective has been very enriching, particularly in my current position as Director of Communications of the Hispanic College Fund. In this role, my primary responsibility is to work with journalists to place stories - many of which address issues of cultural identity amongst Latinos and Latin Americans. Thanks to my Comp. Lit. degree, I can see the larger implications of my work; by helping journalists tell stories about what it means to be Hispanic in America, I am helping to provide a voice to this community and, though journalism, build its political and cultural identity.
In choosing my major, I was looking for a way to combine my interest in Spanish and English language literature, film, and critical theory; comparative literature was the perfect fit. My experience helped prepare me for an M.A. program at Middlebury College, the several years I spent teaching high school Spanish, and it inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. in Spanish literature.
I knew going into college that I liked studying literature and languages, and also had an interest in philosophy. I didn't just want to study what people were saying about the world through literature, but for what reasons; I wanted to learn new ways of looking at life, in order to expand my own. When I first took a Comp Lit course I realized the department encompassed all these interests, linking them together. The Comp Lit major examines how different people approach the world differently, and express this through the fiction they write -- it's very well-rounded, and works well as part of a double major, too. I'm deeply grateful to have found a department that encompassed so many of my interests, and from which I've gained so many new perspectives."
What IS Comparative Literature? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked or received this deceptively simple question, but I do know that each answer I’ve heard or spoken seems to add a new dimension to my understanding of the major and of the field. I chose Comp. Lit. because it can incorporate anything – it’s about discovering connections and exploring relationships in ways that are alive to the cultural contexts of literature, while necessitating and valuing my experiences and point of view.
I was also drawn to the Bryn Mawr program because of its very high student-faculty ratio, which has allowed me to develop invaluable connections with almost all of my professors and fellow majors. The professors on the steering committee are passionate about Comparative Literature and dedicated to working with students, and this tangible sense of an academic community among majors and faculty attests to the quality of the Comp. Lit. experience across the board.
Studying literature in the French and English traditions, delving into literary theory, and exploring various elective courses at once enabled me to accrue an exhilarating battery of perspectives upon which to draw in conversations and in my writing. Comp. Lit. at Bryn Mawr has empowered me to connect with literary and cultural tradition while challenging myself to locate new associations that facilitate a different way of seeing an issue, and it’s this elusiveness of what might be called the “essence” of Comp. Lit. that continually draws me to seek out new lines of questioning and critical approaches in every aspect of my life both in and out of Bryn Mawr.
As a student of Comparative Literature, I was struck by the ways in which this major seemed to encapsulate the very qualities that first drew me to Bryn Mawr itself: an engagement with various disciplines; the fostering of a close working dynamic between professor and student; and the crafting of an intellectual environment that inspires a dedication to the chosen field of study. In this microcosm of the bi-college community, scholars from a number of fields (including Film, French, and Russian Studies) encouraged me to explore the capaciousness of the Comparative Literature experience – and, moreover, to strive for a balance between theory, textual analysis, and the greater historical and cultural contexts that give rise to both. Emphasizing both precision and passion, the Comparative Literature program and its professors helped to define my approach to subsequent doctoral studies in Film.