About Our Program

The Program in Comparative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis offers an undergraduate major and minor in two overlapping tracks of study: comparative literature and comparative arts. On the graduate level, it offers a PhD program with a choice of one of two intertwined tracks as well as two graduate certificates, one in translation and one in early modern studies. Additionally it supports joint PhD degrees with six different literature and culture programs and departments. The program, on both the undergraduate and graduate levels, prides itself on enabling students to put together a flexible program of study that supports both critical and historical scholarship and creative endeavor (including creative writing and translation). Undergraduates find that both tracks pair well with language study, studies in the other arts, international studies, and study abroad.

PhD students choose between two related tracks: one supporting a course of study in comparative theoretically informed critical and historical inquiry, usually in at least two literary (national) cultures, and the other supporting a combination of translation or creative writing with critical and historical inquiry. The Writers’ Track comprises a uniquely calibrated combination of creative project (translation, poetry, novel, etc.) and an accompanying critical piece. A broad range of affiliate faculty from across literature and culture studies in Arts & Sciences facilitates work that crosses boundaries, seeks to make connections, and strives for the stereoscopic view of the local and the global. The program is home to a diverse international group of students who for all their differences find generative points of contact in scholarly research and creative work.

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Why study comparative literature or arts?

Comparative Literature and Comparative Arts majors find internships and jobs--in the United States and abroad--where they do research, write and edit, or teach, while gaining experience and learning about fields as diverse as the environment and the arts and entertainment industries. Majors in Comparative Literature can enter degree programs in professional fields including Journalism, Law, Librarianship, and Business. Majors can study Education, to become certified to teach literature or languages in a high school. Or they can pursue a graduate degree in Comparative Literature or a national literature in preparation for a career in teaching and research at a college or university.

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Ena Selimovic wins prize for best essay in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest

Ena Selimovic wins prize for best essay in the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest

Studying Comparative Literature taught me to place any translation, work of literature or artwork into the context in which it was created. I learned that creation cannot exist in a vacuum; social, historical, political, geographic and cultural context is key. This perspective, learned from a nontraditional academic path, can make me a more thoughtful, empathetic and ethical designer.

―Tori SgarroCompLit, class of 2015