Undergraduate Program

Comparative Literature at WashU

Comparative Literature studies literature across national, cultural, and linguistic borders. The international and comparative range of the  discipline provides students a broad critical understanding of what literature is and does. Since knowing the language is essential to understanding a given literature and culture, all majors study a second language and literature at an advanced level. At the same time, the study of works in translation provokes cross-cultural comparisons and helps prepare students for a multilingual, pluralistic, and global world. Comparison of literature to other kinds of arts, media, and writing further extends understanding of literature and culture. Two programs of study are offered: the Major in Comparative Literature and the Major in Comparative Arts.

A Major in Comparative Literature or Comparative Arts Offers Many Possibilities

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.

Comparative Language Major

Flexibility to Design Your Program

Because comparatists must make choices about which languages and which national literatures they will study, you will find that the requirements for both majors encourage students to plan individualized programs of study in consultation with their advisors.

Help Making Your Choices

Course programs are planned by you and your faculty advisor, who will help you decide which literature courses to take, whether to start a third language, and where you would like to go if you study abroad. Your advisor will also help make arrangements for study abroad, get you together with other students who have studied abroad or are going to do so in order to share the experience.

Language Study

At Washington University you can take courses for four years in these languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Modern Hebrew, Russian, and Spanish. You can also take courses in Hindi, Portuguese, Swahili, and Swedish.

Study Abroad

Study Abroad Programs through WashU

All majors in Comparative Literature and Comparative Arts are encouraged to study abroad for periods of time ranging from a summer to a full calendar year. Washington University offers Study Abroad programs in over 50 countries. Recently, Comp Lit and Comp Arts majors have studied in Chile, Madrid and Granada in Spain, Paris and Toulouse in France, Bologna and Padova in Italy, Egypt, India, China and Taiwan.

Check out Washington University's Study Abroad Programs

Comparative Literature's Spanish Program

The Committee on Comparative Literature has approved two programs in Europe especially tailored to the curricular needs of our Comp Lit and Comp Arts majors. For students with basic Spanish, our majors have the opportunity to participate in our semester-long abroad program in Granada, Spain, through IES Granada. As a study abroad program, IES Granada offers our majors Spanish language and literature courses, interdisciplinary courses that cross various fields, arts and national boundaries, internships in Spanish cultural institutions, basic Arabic as a second foreign language, as well as an impressive array of extra-curricular activities in a wonderful location. Students who qualify can also enroll in Comparative Literature courses at the prestigious Universidad de Granada.

Comparative Literature's French Program

For students with basic French, our majors have the opportunity to participate in New York University’s Paris program. NYU Paris is a particularly good fit based on their interdisciplinary courses, excellent faculty, and an impressive array of extra-curricular activities in the arts capital of the world. Due to the great range and quality of world-renowned cultural institutions based in Paris students can greatly benefit from participating in this semester-long program.

I entered college thoroughly undecided on my major and took courses in my widely ranging areas of interest—literature, film, writing, Spanish. Then one day my World Literature professor handed me a pamphlet about the Comparative Arts major. I flipped through it and was astounded to find that my interests weren’t as irreconcilable as I had once believed them to be—they all belonged to one major! I was immediately sold on the Comparative Arts because of the flexibility it grants to students with diverse interests.

―Lily PinchoffComparative Arts Major