Comparative Literature

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Literature is a cultural site where the present is negotiated, the past excavated, and the future envisioned. In a globalized world where the circulation of blogs, legal documents, political manifestos, manuscripts, online journals, and images constantly shapes and reshapes human experience, understanding texts is utterly essential.

Majoring in comparative literature provides students with tools for analyzing texts, writing, editing, translating, and thinking across disciplinary and national boundaries. Our majors engage a variety of literary traditions and historical periods, from Latin American concrete poetry to Yiddish experimental fiction. The department offers rigorous training in the following areas of strength of our internationally recognized faculty: French, German, Italian, Hebrew studies, classics, critical theory, East Asian literatures and arts, performance studies, film and media, poetry and poetics, gender and sexuality, postcolonial theory, English and American literatures, early modern and Renaissance studies and Slavic literatures and cultures.

All members of the department are deeply invested in the academic development of our students and value you as an integral part of the Comparative Literature community at UC Berkeley. The department aims to develop your creative and intellectual interests and talents. As a major, you receive the opportunity to pursue rigorous research in a variety of literatures according to your interests, engage in team-based projects, participate in discussions about political, aesthetic, and social issues, and develop a nuanced cross-cultural understanding of historical and social processes. All of our students have close contact with cutting edge scholars in their fields in a small classroom setting, with extensive individualized work. Our undergraduate majors publish and edit their own journal of comparative literature (CLUJ) and run an annual research conference. Most majors also choose to spend time in study abroad to deepen their cultural and linguistic knowledge.

Our students benefit from training in comparative literature and go on to work in a variety of professions, including journalism, media, publishing, translation, theater, and politics as well as in many roles in the legal, corporate, social, medical, and arts sectors. Additionally, we prepare our students to enter top graduate programs in the US and abroad.

"That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you are not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong."

—F. Scott Fitzgerald

Declaring the Major

If you are thinking of majoring in Comparative Literature, come meet with the major adviser at your earliest opportunity. You will probably discover that the requirements are flexible enough to suit you, and may find it to your advantage to ask the department's adviser to suggest relevant freshman and sophomore courses.

Majors must see the major adviser each semester to plan a program for the coming year in order to pre-enroll via the CalCentral enrollment system. The Major Requirements tab to the right outlines the basic requirements. Keep in mind that most of these requirements will be adjusted according to the language areas in which you plan to work and your own long range plans.

Honors Program

Students who have attained junior standing may be admitted to the honors program if they:

  1. Have accumulated at least an overall 3.55 grade point average (GPA) and at least a 3.65 GPA in the major.
  2. Have completed at least 8 upper division units in literature, including COM LIT 100 or the equivalent.
  3. Are prepared to do upper division work in one vernacular foreign literature or one classical literature.

In addition to the requirements for the regular program outlined above, candidates for the BA with honors in Comparative Literature must demonstrate, through either examination or coursework, a sense of the historical development of their principal literature, and earn a grade of B or higher for an honors thesis in COM LIT H195. Students interested in the honors program are urged to consult an adviser in the Department of Comparative Literature at their earliest opportunity.

Minor Program

The Department of Comparative Literature has a new minor program, open to all UC Berkeley students regardless of college.  The minor comprises of 5 courses; the 3 "core" classes required for the major (COM LIT 100, CL151-165, and COM LIT 190) along with two courses from the "secondary" literature.  For more information, please review the department site at complit.berkeley.edu or contact the Comparative Literature major adviser at complituga@berkeley.edu.

Visit Department Website

Major Requirements

In addition to the University, campus, and college requirements, listed on the College Requirements tab, students must fulfill the below requirements specific to their major program.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for graded credit, other than courses listed which are offered on a Pass/No Pass basis only. Other exceptions to this requirement are noted as applicable.
  2. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 must be maintained in upper division courses used to fulfill the major requirements.

For information regarding residence requirements and unit requirements, please see the College Requirements tab.

Upper Division Requirements

Select one Introductory Course from the following:
COM LIT 100Introduction to Comparative Literature4
COM LIT 100AIntroduction to Comparative Literature: Literature and Philosophy4
COM LIT 100BIntroduction to Comparative Literature: Society and Culture4
COM LIT 100CIntroduction to Comparative Literature: Literary and Cultural History4
COM LIT 100DIntroduction to Comparative Literature (International and Cross-Cultural Perspectives)4
Select one period course of the following:4
The Ancient Mediterranean World [4]
The Middle Ages [4]
The Renaissance [4]
Eighteenth- and 19th-Century Literature [4]
The Modern Period [4]
On line: Fiction and Culture of the Americas [4]
Myth and Literature [4]
Special Topics in Comparative Literature [4]
Select one Senior Seminar course from the following:
COM LIT 190Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature4
Primary literature: select at least three upper division courses (minimum 12 units), with readings in the original language.12
Secondary literature: select at least two upper division courses (minimum 8 units), with readings in the original language and selected to fit the student’s period of primary interest.8

Minor Requirements

For the minor in Comparative Literature, students must take five courses for a letter grade: the three departmental core courses (COM LIT 100, 100A, B, C, or D; one from COM LIT 151–160, 156AC or 170, and COM LIT 190), and two in a secondary literature, which should be in another language aside from the student's main language. It is best that interested students meet with the major adviser to discuss planning for the minor. 

All minors must be declared no later than one semester before a student's Expected Graduation Term (EGT). If the semester before EGT is fall or spring, the deadline is the last day of RRR week. If the semester before EGT is summer, the deadline is the final Friday of Summer Sessions. To declare a minor, contact the department advisor for information on requirements, and the declaration process.

To complete the minor, interested students should fill out the "Completion of L&S Minor" forms and submit to the departmental adviser no later than the fifth week of classes of your final semester before graduation. The College of L&S will be notified of minor completion approximately four weeks after the final minor course has been completed for inclusion in the student's diploma.

General Guidelines

  1. All minors must be declared before the first day of classes in your Expected Graduation Term (EGT). For summer graduates, minors must be declared prior to the first day of Summer Session A. 

  2. All upper-division courses must be taken for a letter grade. 

  3. A minimum of three of the upper-division courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements must be completed at UC Berkeley.

  4. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required in the upper-division courses to fulfill the minor requirements.

  5. Courses used to fulfill the minor requirements may be applied toward the Seven-Course Breadth requirement, for Letters & Science students.

  6. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.

  7. All minor requirements must be completed prior to the last day of finals during the semester in which the student plans to graduate. If students cannot finish all courses required for the minor by that time, they should see a College of Letters & Science adviser.

  8. All minor requirements must be completed within the unit ceiling. (For further information regarding the unit ceiling, please see the College Requirements tab.)

Requirements

Take Five Courses for a Letter Grade
Two core courses:8
Introduction to Comparative Literature [4]
Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature [4]
One final core course from the following list:4
The Ancient Mediterranean World [4]
The Middle Ages [4]
The Renaissance [4]
Eighteenth- and 19th-Century Literature [4]
The Modern Period [4]
Fiction and Culture of the Americas [4]
Myth and Literature [4]
Special Topics in Comparative Literature [1-4]
Two courses in a secondary language (consult with adviser about specifics)8

College Requirements

Undergraduate students must fulfill the following requirements in addition to those required by their major program.

For a detailed lists of L&S requirements, please see Overview tab to the right in this guide or visit the L&S Degree Requirements webpage. For College advising appointments, please visit the L&S Advising Pages. 

University of California Requirements

Entry Level Writing

All students who will enter the University of California as freshmen must demonstrate their command of the English language by fulfilling the Entry Level Writing requirement. Fulfillment of this requirement is also a prerequisite to enrollment in all reading and composition courses at UC Berkeley and must be taken for a letter grade. 

American History and American Institutions

The American History and American Institutions requirements are based on the principle that all U.S. residents who have graduated from an American university should have an understanding of the history and governmental institutions of the United States.

Berkeley Campus Requirement

American Cultures

All undergraduate students at Cal need to take and pass this campus requirement course in order to graduate. The requirement offers an exciting intellectual environment centered on the study of race, ethnicity and culture of the United States. AC courses are plentiful and offer students opportunities to be part of research-led, highly accomplished teaching environments, grappling with the complexity of American Culture.

College of Letters & Science Essential Skills Requirements

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is designed to ensure that students graduate with basic understanding and competency in math, statistics, or computer/data science. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course taken for a letter grade.

Foreign Language

The Foreign Language requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work taken for a letter grade.

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and critical thinking the College of Letters and Science requires two semesters of lower division work in composition in sequence. Students must complete parts A & B reading and composition courses in sequential order by the end of their fourth semester for a letter grade.

College of Letters & Science 7 Course Breadth Requirements

Breadth Requirements

The undergraduate breadth requirements provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program. As the foundation of a liberal arts education, breadth courses give students a view into the intellectual life of the University while introducing them to a multitude of perspectives and approaches to research and scholarship. Engaging students in new disciplines and with peers from other majors, the breadth experience strengthens interdisciplinary connections and context that prepares Berkeley graduates to understand and solve the complex issues of their day.

Unit Requirements

  • 120 total units

  • Of the 120 units, 36 must be upper division units

  • Of the 36 upper division units, 6 must be taken in courses offered outside your major department
Residence Requirements

For units to be considered in "residence," you must be registered in courses on the Berkeley campus as a student in the College of Letters & Science. Most students automatically fulfill the residence requirement by attending classes at Cal for four years, or two years for transfer students. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless you graduate early, go abroad for a semester or year, or want to take courses at another institution or through UC Extension during your senior year. In these cases, you should make an appointment to meet an L&S College adviser to determine how you can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.

Note: Courses taken through UC Extension do not count toward residence.

Senior Residence Requirement

After you become a senior (with 90 semester units earned toward your B.A. degree), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence in at least two semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units. Intercampus Visitor, EAP, and UC Berkeley-Washington Program (UCDC) units are excluded.

You may use a Berkeley Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence requirement, provided that you successfully complete 6 units of course work in the Summer Session and that you have been enrolled previously in the college.

Modified Senior Residence Requirement

Participants in the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program (UCDC) may meet a Modified Senior Residence requirement by completing 24 (excluding EAP) of their final 60 semester units in residence. At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after you have completed 90 units.

Upper Division Residence Requirement

You must complete in residence a minimum of 18 units of upper division courses (excluding UCEAP units), 12 of which must satisfy the requirements for your major.

Student Learning Goals

Learning Goals for the Major

  1. Achieve solid proficiency in at least one language other than English, to the level needed to work with original texts in at least two national literary traditions.
  2. Attain a solid grounding in at least two national literary traditions, one of which is considered the student’s primary literature.
  3. Understand key characteristics of historical periods in the primary literature.
  4. Recognize and understand the workings of genre in literature (novel, poetic form, epic, drama).
  5. Achieve fluency in the use of major critical and theoretical modes of analysis.
  6. Situate literary movements in their relation to historical and cultural contexts.
  7. Analyze aspects of literature that can or must be studied cross-culturally (such as translation, avant-garde movements, romanticism, modernism, diasporic literatures).

Skills

  1. Critical reading. Students develop the capacity to:
    • Perform a strong and revealing close analysis of a text.
    • Recognize the literary and rhetorical features that structure texts and shape their reception.
    • Employ the conceptual tools and insights of literary theoretical texts in reading and interpreting texts drawn from various literary genres, literary criticism, historical materials, and literary theory itself.
    • Present accurately the arguments of a literary critic or theorist, uncovering unarticulated assumptions to illuminate the context in which the argument is made.
    • Understand the implications of different interpretive approaches, considering the benefits and limitations of different strategies.
  2. Argumentation. Students learn to:
    • Develop a line of questioning that leads to the construction of a logical, well-supported argument.
    • Evaluate their own arguments and those of others on the criteria of logical coherence, good use of evidence and comprehensiveness.
    • Respond to new evidence or new perspectives on the evidence by refining or revising their argument.
  3. Oral and written expression. Students learn to:
    • Present complex information and ideas orally, both in a prepared presentation and spontaneously.
    • Participate in a discussion with multiple participants by asking questions, listening closely to others, building upon their contributions, and formulating productive and relevant responses.
    • Write formal expository prose that is clear, persuasive, and economical.
    • Revise their own writing to improve its clarity and effectiveness.
  4. Research. Students learn to:
    • Formulate a productive research question that has a rigorous conceptual framework and makes good use of the available evidence.
    • Use databases, indices, and other tools to identify and locate relevant materials.
    • Assess the relevance and reliability of available materials.
    • Cite published work properly.

Major Map

Major Maps help undergraduate students discover academic, co-curricular, and discovery opportunities at UC Berkeley based on intended major or field of interest. Developed by the Division of Undergraduate Education in collaboration with academic departments, these experience maps will help you:

  • Explore your major and gain a better understanding of your field of study

  • Connect with people and programs that inspire and sustain your creativity, drive, curiosity and success

  • Discover opportunities for independent inquiry, enterprise, and creative expression

  • Engage locally and globally to broaden your perspectives and change the world

  • Reflect on your academic career and prepare for life after Berkeley

Use the major map below as a guide to planning your undergraduate journey and designing your own unique Berkeley experience.

View the Comparative Literature Major Map PDF.

 

Academic Opportunities

Study Abroad

Many Comparative Literature students study abroad. The department actively encourages this experience. International study can be enlightening and fulfilling, both personally and academically. Although study abroad requires some planning ahead, the benefits are well worth the effort for most students.

Berkeley Study Abroad (BSA) is a University of California, system-wide program. Located in 160 Stephens Hall, BSA administers education abroad for Berkeley students. To begin planning an overseas program, or for more information, contact an adviser in the BSA Office; search the correct adviser by seeking programs on this page.

The Department of Comparative Literature expects its students to make normal degree progress and will review standing in the major before approving a semester or year abroad. Advanced consultation with the department adviser is highly recommended.

Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal (CLUJ)

Students have the opportunity to run their own departmentally-supported journal, including writing, editing, and publishing. For more information, contact the Comparative Literature Undergraduate Major Advisor at complituga@berkeley.edu.

Vagabond

Students have the opportunity to run their own departmentally-supported multilingual literary magazine, including writing, editing, and publishing. For more information, contact the Comparative Literature Undergraduate Major Advisor at complituga@berkeley.edu.

Comparative Literature Undergraduate Research Symposium

Another opportunity is to participate in organizing and executing the annual Comp Lit Undergraduate Research Symposium, where scholars from around the world discuss their research. Typically the Symposium is held in mid-April. For more information, contact the Comparative Literature Undergraduate Major Advisor at complituga@berkeley.edu

Courses

Comparative Literature

Contact Information

Department of Comparative Literature

4125 Dwinelle Hall

Visit Department Website

Chair

Niklaus Largier

4117 Dwinelle

nlargier@berkeley.edu

Staff Graduate Advisor

Rita Lindahl-Lynch

4116 Dwinelle

complitga@berkeley.edu

Staff Undergraduate Advisor

Nina Rennert Cohen, MA

4118 Dwinelle

Phone: 510-642-1202

complituga@berkeley.edu

Departmental Manager

TBA

4205 Dwinelle

clfamanager@berkeley.edu

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