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 Theater, 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–-we offer two major tracks that offer students 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.

For majors, we have two tracks: one in which students study a foreign language and work up to reading literature in the original language and often studying abroad; and another track that does not require language work, but emphasizes 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.