Comparative literature (CMPL) is the study of literature, theory, and criticism across the boundaries of language, nation, culture, artistic medium, genre, and historical period. Faculty in Oberlin’s program are drawn from the humanities, arts, and social sciences, and the curriculum emphasizes these important areas of the discipline:
- Literary Theory
- Literature and the Other Arts
- East-West Studies
- European Languages and Literatures
Comparative literature enables students to integrate their studies in more than one discipline at once. Because the major requires a combination of depth, breadth, and creativity, students consult with advisors to create individualized curricular pathways that match their specific interests, demonstrate advanced proficiency in at least one other language besides English, and culminate in a capstone or honors project.
Program alumni have attended top graduate programs, received numerous Fulbrights and other fellowships, and gone on to successful careers in such fields as academia, journalism, film, non-profit organizations, publishing, libraries, the arts, and teaching at all levels.
Comparative literature offers coursework for the major and minor. Students with an interest in the discipline should consult early on with their advisor and the program director to define an individual area of emphasis or inquiry. Majors are able to shape their course of study from a wide range of possible material. Because many different programs and departments contribute courses for the major and minor, advising plays an especially important role in student planning. Be sure to talk with the program director and or department staff if you are interested in this field of study. You may also use our planning sheet to assist in this process.
Students must take at least one 400-level course in a foreign language taught in the original language such as French, Spanish, or Russian. For the following four languages, the required level is 300: Greek, Latin, Chinese, or Japanese. Several courses presented for the major might focus on a specific period or movement (the Renaissance, modernism, surrealism), a genre (tragedy, lyric poetry), a problem (literature and the other arts, translation) or an approach (feminism, post-structuralism).
Outside of the classroom, majors and others may attend our Translation Symposium and Lecture that brings in prominent comparatists to share their works and observations. Guest lecturers are also available to assist you in your study of a wide variety of literary works and learn about challenging, contemporary issues. We encourage students to study abroad for a semester or a year in one of the many Oberlin-affiliated programs. Study abroad will enhance your understanding of literature as it relates to language and culture.