Program in Comparative Literature, Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Rochester
Comparative Literature is the critical, interdisciplinary study of literatures, other media, and cultures from different geographic regions and linguistic groups and across different historical periods. In the broadest sense, it provides us with the tools to compare and contrast the experiences, identities, and material products of people in other places and other times. Central to comparative literature is a concern with how literature, culture and other media are both theorized and studied across historical periods and how different aspects of literature, culture and other media both inform and influence each other. Sensitive to the manner in which different geographic regions and linguistic groups conceive their identities in an era of globalization, students of comparative literature aim to increase international awareness through humanistic inquiry. In light of this increasingly global outlook, translation studies are also an important aspect of comparative literature. What does it mean to translate texts, ideas and outlooks across linguistic, ethnic and national boundaries and what happens to those texts, ideas and outlooks in the process of translation?
Students in Comparative Literature are, by definition, proficient in more than one language. They work in a variety of fields contiguous with literature, such as film, music, the visual arts, philosophy, history and anthropology. Those who study comparative literature acquire valuable skills in literary analysis, cultural awareness, critical thinking, as well as verbal and written communication and argumentation.
Comparative literature provides us with the critical tools to reflect on and form intellectual opinions about:
- Literatures and cultures of the world
- Cultural studies and how culture creates and transforms experience, everyday life, social relations, and power structures
- Technologies and world cultures
- The relation between written texts, music and art
- Performing Arts and New Media
- Global concerns
- World film
- Pop culture and its products
- Border studies
- Postcolonialism and national identity
- Issues of race, class, and gender seen around the world
The comparative literature degree at the University of Rochester offers three possible tracks, each reflecting a different aspect of comparative literature as it has been practiced at different times. Track one focuses on comparative literature understood most literally and traditionally as the study of two national literatures and cultures in relation to each other. Track two reflects how comparative literature has also concerned itself with theoretical concepts of culture. It requires students to concentrate on one non-English language national literature and courses in culture and cultural and critical theory. Track three looks at a non-English language national literature and culture in relation to other media (film, music, art). All three tracks require that the student have advanced proficiency in at least one other language in addition to English.