Frequently Asked Questions

What is the nature of the Haverford/Bryn Mawr major program?

Our program is a joint interdisciplinary enterprise at the two colleges. We require students to take three core courses (an introductory course and a two-semester senior seminar), to do work at the advanced level in each of two language/literature departments, one of which may be English, and to take at least one course in literary theory and two electives that are themselves comparative in nature. We recommend (but do not require) that majors study abroad during one or two semesters of the junior year, and that students with a possible interest in graduate school begin a second foreign language before they graduate.

Why do students choose the major?

Majors are drawn to the program by several features: the ability to work with two languages and literature without giving preference to either (as a major/minor combination would); the opportunity to do interdisciplinary work with other fields such as anthropology, religion, or art history; and the flexibility in designing the major that enables students to choose courses from a broad range of other programs and departments. The fact that the program encourages study abroad also appeals to many students.

How many students major, and what are their programs like?

The number of majors at the two colleges in a given year has ranged from 6 to 19, with an average of 12. The most common combination of languages on which majors concentrate is English and Spanish, with English and French a close second, but we regularly have students working in English and German or Italian and have also had a number who work with other languages, including Russian, Arabic, Greek, Latin, and Japanese.

Some students follow a fairly traditional major model, working with two bodies of literature, while others make use of the flexibility of Comparative Literature to design a major program that has a strong language component but allows them also to pursue interests in other areas, such as music, art history, or anthropology. A number of Comp. Lit. students combine the major with a major or a minor in another field. Just about two-thirds of our majors study abroad for a semester or a year during the junior year.

What do students do after they graduate?

Comparative Literature alumni/ae are engaged in pretty much the same range of post-graduate activities as other majors in the humanities. Some have gone on to do graduate work in Comparative Literature and related fields while others have pursued advanced degrees in business, law, medicine, and journalism. Still others have undertaken a variety of careers, including publishing and teaching at the primary and secondary levels.

Who are the faculty?

The program is administered by two co-chairs, one at each college, and by an advisory committee of faculty from different departments, including those who have taught or are teaching the three core courses in the program. The current advisory committee includes faculty with degrees in a variety of fields: Comparative Literature, Classics, English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Religion. The affiliated faculty (those who teach one or more courses cross-listed with Comp. Lit.) broaden our reach still further to include philosophy, art history, music history, and cultural anthropology.

What should a freshman interested in Comparative Literature do?

Freshmen may take the introductory course, Comp. Lit. 200, though most students take this course as sophomores; they may also try out any of the various Comp. Lit. electives open to first-year students. Most importantly, freshmen should make sure they are doing work in a language that will allow them to reach a sufficiently advanced level (normally the 200 level, though there are exceptions) by their junior year. We recommend that students who think they might be interested in the major talk to the Chair at some point during their freshman year.