Comparative Literature is the study of common features in the literatures of more than one culture. It can focus on a genre, a period or a theme, or it can focus very broadly on the materials of literature itself—structure, rhetoric or language. We live today in a global society where languages, literatures and cultures intersect and interbreed, and that is why it is important to broaden our scope, to see the world. We offer courses in the literature and culture of Europe and America, of China, Japan and Korea, and of East and West Africa. In comparative literature classes, you will read works in translation.
This major is perfect for anyone who enjoys reading and analyzing literature, but especially for students who are curious about other languages and cultures, or interested in global studies and international relations. Here you will study literature from all parts of the globe. Studying Comparative Literature is a great way to explore literary options beyond the English-speaking world. The major works especially well if you are also studying a foreign language: a lot of the classes will double-count, and you will be able to study foreign literature in its original languages.
In high school you might have read the Odyssey in English class. The Odyssey wasn’t written in English, of course, but in high school all literature—even if it was written in Ancient Greek—belongs to the English department. At UGA, the English Department teaches English and American literature; the Classics Department teaches Greek and Latin literature; Romance Languages teaches French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese literature. The Comparative Literature department is a little harder to pin down. We don’t limit ourselves to a single culture or language. We teach world literature. We teach the literature of one language or culture in relation to literature from another.
In other words, we compare literary works and traditions and ask questions like:
- “What have people around the world and through the centuries written about nature?”
- “What connects literature with visual art?”
- “How do literature and film compare, or literature and music?”
- “Can we compare children’s literature from culture to culture?”
- “What does the Japanese novel have to do with the English novel or the Russian novel?”
- “What kind of poetry is being written today in Eastern Europe and how does it relate to the poetry of South America or Africa?”
Our undergraduate courses pose and respond to all these questions and many more. We teach many works in translation. We also teach multiple languages, from beginning to advanced levels. We offer courses in the literatures, languages and cultures of China, Japan, Korea, and East and West Africa.
Beyond the Classroom
Comparative Literature differs from other literature concentrations largely through its international focus and broad view of culture. With such a broad focus, students majoring in comparative literature can use their degree in a variety of ways. Generally speaking, anyone who is professionally interested in the interpretation of the writtenor spoken word — whether lawyer, businessperson, writer or humanities professor — can profit from the theory and methods of comparative literature. Opportunities for graduates include education, foreign-service, and international business. This field provides students with sensitivity to international cultures and is particularly useful for careers in foreign service and international trade. Careers in translating, editing, publishing, journalism, broadcasting, public relations, politics, writing, library work, and criticism are also possible career paths.
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