What is Comparative Literature?

Comparative Literature is the study of literature from a range of different contexts and traditions. This includes literature produced by various cultures around the world, but also other kinds of comparisons as well–texts that belong to different media, for example.

At Williams, Comp Lit is a vibrant interdisciplinary program that brings together faculty and courses from a range of different programs and departments, including French and Spanish, German and Russian, Chinese and Japanese, Arabic, English, Africana Studies, Latino/a Studies, American Studies, Religion, and Theatre, among others.

What Kinds of Courses Can I Take in Comp Lit?

Courses listed in the Comparative Literature section of the course catalog or the courses page of this web site cover a wide range of texts and cultures: from the Russian novel to Asian American poetry, from the Hebrew Bible to Japanese film.

Can I Major in Comparative Literature?

Yes! If you are interested in literature–-including any combination of prose, poetry, theater, film, visual art, and new media–-Comparative Literature offers a great deal of flexibility in assembling courses for a major. We are proud of the fact that no two major plans are entirely alike: each of our majors works closely with an advisor to put together a creative mix of courses that fits his or her own unique interests.

The Williams College course catalog contains our major requirements, and we have a downloadable course planning worksheet for majors. For links to these things, see the Major section of this site.

Do I Need to Know a Foreign Language?

Not necessarily. The courses-listed in the Comp Lit section of the course catalog are almost all are taught in English, and many have no prerequisites.

While foreign language study is not required for the major, about three quarters of our majors do take foreign language classes at Williams. Many of these students work up to reading a particular literary tradition the original language, and many also study abroad. Other students focus more on reading in translation from a wide range of different traditions.

Other Questions?

We would love to hear from you! Feel free to contact the program chair or any of the faculty involved with the program. They are listed on the faculty page of this web site.

The banner images for these pages were photographed by Brianna Rettig ’18.