Comparative Literature (BA)

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Program Description

The major in comparative literature is aimed at students with broad interdisciplinary interests, a desire to explore new fields and forms of experimental thinking, and diverse language backgrounds (including mother tongue or second languages that are engaged in a comparative way). We offer many seminar-format courses with intensive faculty interaction and discussion. Our faculty specializations cover European, Anglo-American, African-American, African, Slavic, Latin American, Caribbean, Chinese, South Asian, and Middle Eastern literatures. Departmental courses immerse students in ancient, early modern, and modern global literatures, often with an emphasis on Continental philosophy and literary and critical theory more generally.

Students are given flexibility in the design of the major (which has two tracks, one in literature and one in literary and cultural studies) and can integrate into their course of study coursework in anthropology, philosophy, psychoanalysis, gender and race studies, history, political theory, religion, art, music, and film and media studies, among other fields. Qualified students are encouraged to take part in the department's honors program, which culminates in the writing of a senior honors thesis under the supervision of a faculty member. A minor in comparative literature is available for students majoring in a different discipline or field. We also strongly encourage prospective double majors who may seek to combine this humanities major with another specialty.

The department's rigorous teaching and rich curriculum have proved to be excellent preparation for our majors, many of whom have gone on for advanced study of literature at the graduate level or for professional education in law or medicine. Others have pursued successful careers in academia, human rights, translation, international relations, education, publishing, journalism, arts, media, film, performance, and other creative career options.

General Information

The guidelines of our program allow students great flexibility in shaping a course of study suited to their own intellectual goals. While all majors in comparative literature must take four courses originating in the Department of Comparative Literature, our commitment to a global and interdisciplinary outlook means that the remaining six courses required for the major can be taken in other departments or even, by taking advantage of NYU study away opportunities, on other continents. All students planning to major in comparative literature register with the director of undergraduate studies, who works closely with them to develop a coherent sequence of courses suited to their individual interests. Regular advising sessions with the director of undergraduate studies and a remarkably low student-faculty ratio help our students make the most of the wide range of possibilities that define the major. To take full advantage of the opportunities provided by comparative literature, students are encouraged to declare the major as early in their academic career as possible. In addition, please note that students planning to study away should consult and declare with the director of undergraduate studies well before their departure.


The department offers its majors and minors elective credit for internships in publishing, at literary agencies, and at other professional offices. Please consult the internship section of our website and contact the director of undergraduate studies for more information.

Double Major

As a promoter of interdisciplinary work, the department encourages double majors between comparative literature and other departments. The possibility of pursuing a double major should be discussed with the director of undergraduate studies.

Honors Program

To graduate with honors in the major in comparative literature, a student must maintain at least a 3.65 average in the ten courses required for the major, earn at least a 3.65 overall GPA in the College of Arts and Science, and write a senior honors thesis in his or her final year. At the end of the junior year, each honors student meets with the director of undergraduate studies for initial advisement and approval. Following this approval, a student may write the honors thesis by taking COLIT-UA 400 Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature in the fall semester and then enrolling in COLIT-UA 997 Independent Study in the spring semester. This independent study will generally be conducted under the supervision of a faculty member of the Department of Comparative Literature whose area of academic expertise coincides with the focus of the honors thesis. To be awarded honors, a student must complete this two-course sequence and produce a quality senior thesis. COLIT-UA 400 Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature is an 11th course for the major, in addition to the four courses originating in the Department of Comparative Literature and the other six courses for the major. The independent study may count as one of the ten courses required for the major, pending approval from the director of undergraduate studies.


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