Department Website: http://complit.uchicago.edu
The major in Comparative Literature leads to a BA degree. This program is designed to attract students who wish to pursue an interdisciplinary plan of course work focused on the study of literature as written in various languages and in various parts of the world.
Such a student might come to the University with a strong background in languages other than English and want to work in two or more literatures (one of which can be English). Another student might have a strong interest in literary study and wish to address general, generic, and/or transnational questions that go beyond the boundaries of national literature offered by English and other literature departments. Or, a student might wish to pursue an in-depth study of the interrelationship of literature and culture, as well as issues that transcend the traditional demarcations of national literary history and area studies.
These descriptions of academic interest are not mutually exclusive. Each student will design a plan of course work that will suit his or her individual goals and that will take advantage of the rich offerings of this university.
The requirements outlined below are in effect as of Autumn Quarter 2017. Students in the Classes of 2018 and 2019 will follow the previous Comparative Literature requirements. If the updated program makes sense with their interests and fits within their graduation plans, they may request to switch to the new requirements. Those in the Class of 2020 and beyond will follow the requirements below.
Students interested in applying to the major in Comparative Literature should review the following guidelines and consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Comparative Literature. These guidelines are to assist students in developing a balanced and cohesive interdisciplinary plan of study.
The major is comprised of seven literature courses selected in consultation with the department, two foundational courses in comparative literary theory and history, and two courses in comparative literature methods and topics, with a BA project workshop serving as a capstone to the major.
- Prospective majors in Comparative Literature must complete the second-year sequence in a language other than English (for example: Persian, Kirgiz, Latin, Italian, etc.) or demonstrate language ability at an equivalent level through accreditation by the time they apply to the Comparative Literature program, typically by the end of the second year. Exceptions may be granted by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
- Four courses in a primary field, or in closely-linked subject areas in more than one field. The primary field must focus on literature in a language other than English.
- Three courses in a secondary field, or in closely-linked subject areas in more than one field. The secondary field may be literature in another language (including English), or else a discipline or area of intellectual interest (e.g., mathematics, performance studies, etc.) or literary theory, and must be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
- Two foundational courses in comparative literary theory and methods: CMLT 29701 Introduction to Comparative Literature I: Problems, Methods, Precedents and CMLT 20109 Comparative Methods in the Humanities. These can be taken in any order, but students are encouraged to take them fairly early in their studies.
- Two 20000-level special topics, methods, or theory courses in Comparative Literature.
- CMLT 29801 BA Project and Workshop: Comparative Literature is a capstone project completed in the student's last year of study. See BA Project for details.
Summary of Requirements
|4 courses in a primary literature||400|
|3 courses in a secondary field or literature||300|
|CMLT 29701||Introduction to Comparative Literature I: Problems, Methods, Precedents||100|
|CMLT 20109||Comparative Methods in the Humanities||100|
|2 methods or theory courses in Comparative Literature (20000-level)||200|
|CMLT 29801||BA Project and Workshop: Comparative Literature||100|
The department encourages students to pursue further language study by taking courses in a second or third language. NOTE: Those language courses will be approved for use in the major only if they are at an intermediate or advanced level; elementary-level courses cannot be counted toward the total number of courses needed to complete the major.
A student wishing to work in two literatures (one of which can be English) might choose two literatures as the primary and secondary fields. A student interested in literary study across national boundaries with a focus on generic and transnational questions might create a primary field along generic lines (e.g., film, the epic, the novel, poetry, drama, opera); the secondary field might be a particular national literature or a portion of such a literature. A student interested in literary and cultural theory might choose theory as either a primary or secondary field, paired with another field designed along generic lines or those of one or more national literatures.
Courses in the various literature departments and in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities are obviously germane to the building of any individual program. A student is likely to find courses in the Humanities Collegiate Division and in the Department of History that extend beyond the usual definitions of literature (e.g., film, art, music, history) to be appropriate to her or his individual program of study. Study abroad offers an attractive means of fulfilling various aims of this program as well. More than half of the major requirements must be satisfied by courses bearing University of Chicago numbers.
Participation in the Program
Students should express their interest in the major as soon as possible, typically before the end of their second year. The first step is to meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to consult about a program of study. Thereafter, students are required to submit a written proposal of about one thousand words in length that consists of two parts:
- a statement explaining how the proposed plan of study will take advantage of existing College offerings and meet departmental requirements
- a list of proposed courses (as well as alternates) and indications of how they will fulfill the department's requirements
Applicants must also submit a list of completed courses and a list of courses in which they are currently registered. Special mention should be made of language courses or other language training that affirms a student's level of language proficiency. Each proposal will be evaluated on the basis of the interest of the student and his or her achievement in the languages needed to meet the goals of the intended course of study. Students will be notified by email of their acceptance to the program. Students will need to formalize their declaration through my.uchicago.edu with the assistance of the College adviser.
Comparative Literature majors should demonstrate proficiency in a literary language (other than English) that is relevant to their proposed course of study (as indicated in requirement number one above). This requirement must be met at the time of application or shortly thereafter. Such proficiency is measured by the completion of a second-year sequence in the language, or by demonstration of an equivalent skill. Language ability is essential to work in comparative literature of whatever sort. The Department of Comparative Literature takes language preparation into consideration when evaluating applications, but it will also help students achieve their individual goals by suggesting programs of study that will add to their language expertise as appropriate.
The project should be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies and is supervised by a faculty member of the student's choice in Comparative Literature. It may be co-advised by a faculty member from another department. Students must complete their formal application to the major by spring of third year and should identify a faculty advisor at that time.
One obvious choice for a BA project is a substantial essay in comparative literary study. This option should not, however, rule out other possibilities. Two examples might be a translation from a foreign literature with accompanying commentary, or a written project based on research done abroad in another language and culture relating to comparative interests. Students are urged to base their project on comparative concepts, and to make use of the language proficiency that they will develop as they meet the program's requirements. Visit complit.uchicago.edu/undergraduate for details on the BA project.
This program may accept a BA paper or project used to satisfy the same requirement in another major if certain conditions are met and with the consent of the other program chair. Approval from both program chairs is required. Students should consult with the chairs by the earliest BA proposal deadline (or by the end of third year, when neither program publishes a deadline). A consent form, to be signed by both chairs, is available from the College adviser. It must be completed and returned to the College adviser by the end of Autumn Quarter of the student's year of graduation.
All courses to be used in the major, except for CMLT 29801 BA Project and Workshop: Comparative Literature, must be taken for a grade of B- or higher. CMLT 29801 is graded on a Pass/Fail basis.
To be eligible for honors in Comparative Literature, students must earn an overall cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher, and a GPA of 3.5 or higher in the major. They must also complete a BA essay or project that is judged exceptional in intellectual and/or creative merit by the first and second readers.
Students must consult on an ongoing basis with the Director of Undergraduate Studies for selection and approval of course work for the major. Students will need to regularly provide documentation of any approvals for the major to their College adviser for the necessary processing. Further advice and counseling will be available from the preceptor for the program and from the faculty member who supervises the student's BA project.
Comparative Literature Courses
CMLT 20109. Comparative Methods in the Humanities. 100 Units.
This course introduces the models of comparative analysis across national literatures, genres, and media. The texts to be discussed include Orson Welles’s “Citizen Kane” and Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan”; Benjamin’s “The Storyteller,” Kafka’s “Josephine the Mouse Singer,” Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, and Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Storyteller; Victor Segalen’s Stèles; Fenollosa and Pound’s “The Chinese Character as a Medium of Poetry” and Eliot Weinberger’s Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei; Mérimée, “Carmen,” Bizet, Carmen, and the film adaptation U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha (South Africa, 2005); Gorky’s and Kurosawa’s “Lower Depths;” Molière, Tartuffe, Dostoevsky, The Village Stepanchikovo and its Inhabitants, and Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel”; Gogol, The Overcoat, and Boris Eikhenbaum, “How Gogol’s Overcoat Is Made.”
Instructor(s): Olga Solovieva Terms Offered: Winter
CMLT 21200. Literature and Technology: Machines, Humans, and the Novel. 100 Units.
In his Scienza Nuova (New Science), Giambattista Vico writes that "the Egyptians reduced all preceding world time to three ages; namely, the age of gods, the age of heroes, and the age of men." What the Egyptians and Vico could not have predicted was that history had yet another age in store: the age of the machine. Carlyle baptized, Marx outlined it, Heidegger warned against it; Deleuze and Guattari proclaimed that "everything is a machine"; and Ted Kaczynski even went as far as to kill in order to free human beings from the "technological slavery" the machine age had purportedly brought about. And yet, as Heidegger wrote, "everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology, whether we passionately affirm or deny it." So what is technology? What impact did it have on human beings and on the writing of literature as the Industrial Revolution exploded onto the European continent? In this course we will pose anew the question concerning technology within the one field that Heidegger deemed akin to the essence of technology: art, and by deduction, literature. Together, we will trace the ecological, economical, and emotional footprints of various machines and technological devices (automata, trains, phonographs, cameras). We will delve into the topic with Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times, continue with a reflection on the human being as a machine (Frankenstein and Pinocchio), transition to accounts on cities, prog
Instructor(s): Ana Ilievska Terms Offered: Winter
CMLT 22303. Prosody and Poetic Form: An Introduction to Comparative Metrics. 100 Units.
This class offers (i) an overview of major European systems of versification, with particular attention to their historical development, and (ii) an introduction to the theory of meter. In addition to analyzing the formal properties of verse, we will inquire into their relevance for the articulation of poetic genres and, more broadly, the history of literary (and sub-literary) systems. There will be some emphasis on Graeco-Roman quantitative metrics, its afterlife, and the evolution of Germanic and Slavic syllabo-tonic verse. No prerequisites, but a working knowledge of one European language besides English is strongly recommended.
Instructor(s): Boris Maslov Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): CMLT 32303,CLCV 21313,CLAS 31313,SLAV 22303,SLAV 32303,ENGL 22310,ENGL 32303,GRMN 22314,GRMN 32314
CMLT 22380. Nature in/as Literature. 100 Units.
It seems self-evident that the world we live in influence our literatures and languages. The question is, How? On the other hand, nature itself is a kind of literature, and in more ways than one. From one point of view, nature writes itself when coastlines shift and mountains erode. But there are at least two other ways in which nature is a kind of literature. One of these stories is written by scientists and environmental historians, who take data acquired and use it to reconstruct narratives of environmental change. At the same time, there is another (and some would say, an especially urgent) story of nature, which is being etched into the natural world by bulldozers, bridges, and dynamite. Just like more traditional forms of nature writing, these other narratives of the environment are as much a form of literature as any other, and since humans have a role, not only in shaping the natural world, but also in telling its story, humans are the coauthors of the story of our planet in more than one sense. This course is an introduction to the history of the concept of nature, ecocriticism, and environmental history. We will discuss issues and topics such as: relationships between nature and literature, ecofeminism, literary/textual ecosystems, environmental ethics, narratives of rise/collapse, animal studies, urban studies, ecolinguistics, and human-environment interactions.
Instructor(s): David Orsbon Terms Offered: Spring
CMLT 22400-22500. History of International Cinema I-II.
This sequence is required of students majoring in Cinema and Media Studies. Taking these courses in sequence is strongly recommended but not required.
CMLT 22400. History of International Cinema I: Silent Era. 100 Units.
This course introduces what was singular about the art and craft of silent film. Its general outline is chronological. We also discuss main national schools and international trends of filmmaking.
Instructor(s): J. Lastra Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Prior or concurrent registration in CMST 10100 required. Required of students majoring in Cinema and Media Studies.
Note(s): This is the first part of a two-quarter course.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 28500,ARTH 38500,CMLT 32400,CMST 48500,ENGL 29300,ENGL 48700,MAPH 36000,ARTV 20002,CMST 28500
CMLT 22500. History of International Cinema II: Sound Era to 1960. 100 Units.
The center of this course is film style, from the classical scene breakdown to the introduction of deep focus, stylistic experimentation, and technical innovation (sound, wide screen, location shooting). The development of a film culture is also discussed. Texts include Thompson and Bordwell's Film History: An Introduction; and works by Bazin, Belton, Sitney, and Godard. Screenings include films by Hitchcock, Welles, Rossellini, Bresson, Ozu, Antonioni, and Renoir.
Instructor(s): Y. Tsivian Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Prior or concurrent registration in CMST 10100 required. Required of students majoring in Cinema and Media Studies.
Note(s): CMST 28500/48500 strongly recommended
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 28600,ARTH 38600,CMLT 32500,CMST 48600,ENGL 29600,ENGL 48900,MAPH 33700,ARTV 20003,CMST 28600
CMLT 22402. Fate and Duty: European Tragedy from Aeschylus to Brecht. 100 Units.
This class will explore the development of European drama from Attic tragedy and comedy and their reception in Ancient Rome and French Neoclassicism to the transformation of dramatic form in 18-20th c. European literatures. The focus will be on the evolution of plot, characterization, time-and-space of dramatic action, ethical notions (free will, guilt, conscience), as well as on representations of affect. All readings in English. No prerequisites.
Instructor(s): Staff Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): CMLT 32402,GRMN 22402,CLCV 22117,CLAS 32117,REES 22402
CMLT 23305. Directors and Directing: Theory, Stage, Text. 100 Units.
Theatre has always needed the concept of directing when staging a play. However, the role of the director as we know it has emerged only with the beginning of modern drama. This course will investigate the role of the director as an intersection between text, theory, and performance. The course explores the impact of the director in shaping modern drama, as well as critical approaches of literary and theatrical theory. We will deal not only with the historical development of the director’s role and textual interpretation, but also with the dynamics between theory and practice, and the changes in the concepts of space, acting, and performing. We will focus on approaches and writings by André Antoine, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Yevgeny Vakhtangov, Konstantin Stanislavski, Gordon Craig, Max Reinhardt, Jacques Copeau, Leopold Jessner, Erwin Piscator, Bertolt Brecht, and Samuel Beckett. We will examine these approaches in relation to literary theories of performativity (John Austin, John Searle, Judith Butler, Mikhail Bakhtin). We will also be interested in testing whether these theories match the practice, and discuss the potential of constructing a theory of acting, performing, and directing today.
Instructor(s): Michal Peles-Almagor Terms Offered: Spring
CMLT 24408. Before and After Beckett: Theater and Theory. 100 Units.
Beckett is conventionally typed as the playwright of minimalist scenes of unremitting bleakness, but his experiments with theatre and film echo the irreverent play of popular culture (vaudeville on stage and screen, e.g., Chaplin and Keaton) as well as experimental theatre and modern philosophy, even when there are no direct lines of influence. This course will juxtapose these points of reference with Beckett’s plays and those of his contemporaries (Ionesco, Genet, and others in French; Pinter in English). It will then explore more recent plays that suggest the influence of Beckett by Pinter, Caryl Churchill, and Sarah Kane in English; Albert Jarry and Michel Vinaver in French; as well as the relevance of theorists and philosophers include Barthes, Wittgenstein, and critics writing on specific plays. (D, G)
Instructor(s): L. Kruger Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): PQ: one course in the HUM Core
Equivalent Course(s): TAPS 28438,ENGL 44408,ENGL 24408
CMLT 24813. South African Fictions and Factions. 100 Units.
This course examines the intersection of narrative in print and film (fiction and documentary) in Southern Africa since mid-20th-century decolonization. We begin with Cry, the Beloved Country, a best seller written by South African Alan Paton while in the US, and the original film version by a Hungarian-born, British-based director (Zoltan Korda) and an American screenwriter (John Howard Lawson), which together show both the international impact of South African stories and the important elements missed by overseas audiences. We will continue with fictional and nonfictional narrative responses to apartheid and decolonization in film and in print, and examine the power and the limits of what critic Louise Bethlehem has called the “rhetoric of urgency” on local and international audiences. We will conclude with writing and film that grapples with the complexities of the post-apartheid world, whose challenges, from crime and corruption to AIDS and the particular problems faced by women and gender minorities, elude the heroic formulas of the anti-apartheid struggle era. (B)
Instructor(s): L. Kruger Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): PQ: one course in the HUM Core
Equivalent Course(s): CMST 24813,ENGL 24813
CMLT 25001. Foucault and The History of Sexuality. 100 Units.
This course centers on a close reading of the first volume of Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, with some attention to his writings on the history of ancient conceptualizations of sex. How should a history of sexuality take into account scientific theories, social relations of power, and different experiences of the self? We discuss the contrasting descriptions and conceptions of sexual behavior before and after the emergence of a science of sexuality. Other writers influenced by and critical of Foucault are also discussed.
Instructor(s): A. Davidson Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): One prior philosophy course is strongly recommended.
Note(s): Students should register via discussion section.
Equivalent Course(s): FNDL 22001,GNSE 23100,HIPS 24300,KNOW 27002,PHIL 24800
CMLT 25551. Psychoanalytic Theory: Freud and Lacan. 100 Units.
For this course, we will read major texts by Freud and Lacan. Freud readings will include “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” “Note on a Mystic Writing Pad,” “The Uncanny,” “Jensen’s Gradiva,” the Dora case, and a selection of texts from other works. Lacan readings: “Seminar on the Purloined Letter,” Poe’s “The Purloined Letter,” “God and the Jouissance of the Woman: A love letter,” and parts of the Ecrits. We will also read excerpts from a variety of texts that use the writings of Freud and Lacan for theoretical purposes: Derrida, Sarah Kristeva, Irigaray, Zizek, and others.
Instructor(s): Françoise Meltzer Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): ENGL 25509,ENGL 35509
CMLT 28900. Health Care and the Limits of State Action. 100 Units.
In a time of great human mobility and weakening state frontiers, epidemic disease is able to travel fast and far, mutate in response to treatment, and defy the institutions invented to keep it under control: quarantine, the cordon sanitaire, immunization, and the management of populations. Public health services in many countries find themselves at a loss in dealing with these outbreaks of disease, a deficiency to which NGOs emerge as a response (an imperfect one to be sure). Through a series of readings in anthropology, sociology, ethics, medicine, and political science, we will attempt to reach an understanding of this crisis of both epidemiological technique and state legitimacy, and to sketch out options.
Instructor(s): E. Lyon, H. Saussy Terms Offered: Spring. May be offered in 2017-2018
Prerequisite(s): Third- or fourth-year standing. This course does not meet requirements for the biological sciences major.
Equivalent Course(s): BPRO 28600,HMRT 28602,KNOW 27006,BIOS 29323
CMLT 29402. Language is Migrant: Yiddish Poetics of the Border. 100 Units.
This course examines Ashkenazi Jewish literary narratives about geopolitical borders and border-crossing though travel and migration, engaged with questions about the linguistic borders of Yiddish itself. As a diasporic language, Yiddish has long been constructed as subversively internationalist or cosmopolitan, raising questions about the relationships between language and nation, vernacularity and statelessness. This course explores the questions: How do the diasporic elements of the language produce literary possibilities? How do the “borders” of Yiddish shape its poetics? How do Yiddish poets and novelists thematize their historical experiences of immigration and deportation? And how has Yiddish literature informed the development of other world literatures through contact and translation? Literary and primary texts will include the work of Anna Margolin, Alexander Harkavy, Peretz Markish, Dovid Bergelson, Yankev Glatshteyn, Yosef Luden, S. An-sky, and others. Theoretical texts will include writing by Wendy Brown, Dilar Dirik, Gloria Anzaldúa, Wendy Trevino, Agamben, Arendt, Weinreich, and others. The course will incorporate Yiddish journalism and essays, in addition to poetry and prose. All material will be in English translation, and there are no prerequisites.
Instructor(s): Anna Elena Torres Terms Offered: Spring
CMLT 29700. Reading Course. 100 Units.
No description available.
Terms Offered: Autumn, Winter, Spring
Prerequisite(s): Consent of instructor and Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Note(s): Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form. Must be taken for a quality grade. This course does not satisfy distribution requirements for students who are majoring in CMLT unless an exception is made by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
CMLT 29801. BA Project and Workshop: Comparative Literature. 100 Units.
This workshop begins in Autumn Quarter and continues through the middle of Spring Quarter. While the BA workshop meets in all three quarters, it counts as a one-quarter course credit. Students may register for the course in any of the three quarters of their fourth year. A grade for the course is assigned in the Spring Quarter, based partly on participation in the workshop and partly on the quality of the BA paper. Attendance at each class section required.
Terms Offered: Autumn, Winter, Spring
Note(s): Required of fourth-year students who are majoring in CMLT.