Comparative Literature Program | College of Liberal Arts
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The Program in Comparative Literature at the University of Texas encourages a wide variety of critical methodologies and approaches. It operates on the assumption that many versions of the discipline coexist productively and that their doing so will stimulate fruitful debates among faculty and students. Moreover, in keeping with its open and flexible conception of Comparative Literature, the Program does not restrict the literatures taught in it to any particular geographical area or to any historical period: they range from Latin American to Russian, classical Greek to Hindi, contemporary American to ancient Chinese. Course offerings are also widely varied, as are the topics of Master’s theses and doctoral dissertations.

Having been selected as the administrative home of the American Comparative Literature Association from 2002-2011, the Program embraces an ever more inclusive view of the field.  Some courses trace the influence of one literature on another or inquire into problems of period or genre definition; others focus on the relationship between literature and disciplines such as art history, anthropology, and film; and still others study the theory and practice of translation, engage in research concerned with questions of literary theory, pursue gender and cultural studies, or investigate ethnic and third world literatures. In recent years the Program has offered such courses as “Bakhtin’s Renaissance,” “Ekphrasis: The Interplay of Word, Image and Music,” and “Europe and Its Others”; “Orientalism and Imperialism” and “Transnational Literatures”; “Russian and American Formalism” and “Joyce in Latin America.” This variety reflects the broad interests of a diverse faculty, which is drawn from all the language and literature departments and from area studies programs across the university.

The Program has shaped its general requirements in accordance with its commitment to variety, diversity, and flexibility, giving students the freedom, within generous limits, to shape their own programs of study. Although they must complete a certain number of graduate hours in Comparative Literature and in at least two different national literatures, the only specific required courses are a two-semester sequence dealing with the history and theory of literary criticism, a sequence that aims to introduce them to earlier theorists from Plato through Kant to the Russian Formalists as well as to influential contemporary thinkers.   Students are also at liberty to choose the literatures that most suit their interests and scholarly goals.   However, the Program insists that they demonstrate real proficiency in at least two world languages and literatures (a requirement often satisfied by taking graduate courses in them) as well as showing an ability to understand and interpret literary and scholarly texts written in a third world language. As they design their programs of study within these broadly conceived sets of requirements, students work closely with the Graduate Adviser of the Program and with specific advisers from the faculty in Comparative Literature. They are also encouraged to work with other professors who teach in the many nationally ranked language and literature departments at the university.

The Program is committed not only to allowing its students to play a central role in designing their course of study, but also to preparing them in a very practical way for their anticipated academic careers. By the time they have earned degrees in Comparative Literature, they will have acquired a firm grounding in the current theory and practice of their discipline and in literary theory generally. They will have conducted research in a specific area of Comparative Literature, such as the lyric or Romanticism or post-colonial literature, research that will prepare them to teach advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in that area at universities and colleges. Furthermore, they will have acquired a thorough knowledge of the history of at least one literature that they will be able to teach at the university level. Finally, almost all will have had substantial teaching experience in at least one language and literature department. Thus, when they finish their degrees, students will be qualified to seek positions as comparatists in departments of Comparative Literature, as specialists in one or possibly more languages and literatures, and, in many cases, also as literary theorists. In the last five years, students who have received degrees in the Program have taken tenure-track positions at a number of universities and colleges, including: Boston College, San Jose State University, Indiana University, Texas Tech University, Texas Lutheran College, Drury College, Princeton University, Syracuse University, the University of Western Ontario, and Michigan State University.