BA in Comparative Literature

The major in Comparative Literature is designed for students whose interest in literature extends beyond the borders of a single national literary tradition or language. Majors learn to read literature in one or more foreign languages and to trace the transformations and travels of literary genres and texts across time and space. They explore the connections of literature with history, philosophy, politics, and literary theory, and learn how literature intersects with other cultural forms such as film, drama, the visual arts, music, and new media. The practice and theory of translation are also an important part of the comparative approach to literature.

At the core of the major in Comparative Literature are courses introducing Western, East Asian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern literary traditions in the context of world literature and from a comparative perspective. These courses introduce students to the global diversity of literary forms and genres while acquainting them with the methods of comparative literary study. Meanwhile, students meet with advisors to put together a program of study that best suits their interests and goals.

In addition to the three required introductory courses (selected from CAS XL 100, XL 222, XL 223, XL 224, and XL 225), majors in Comparative Literature take courses from two literary traditions, one of which must be in a language other than English. They also take two courses in comparative literature (XL) beyond the introductory series. In the spring of the senior year, all majors come together in the Senior Seminar (CAS XL 479).

A major in Comparative Literature is an excellent foundation for further study at the graduate level or for practical translation work. It also prepares students to work in any field that calls for critical thinking, strong writing skills, competence in a foreign language, and a sophisticated understanding of cultural difference and diversity.

Twelve 4-credit courses with a grade of C or higher are required. Internships taken on Study Abroad programs may not be credited toward a major in Comparative Literature. Many Study Abroad courses may count for the major and minor.

Language Requirement for the Major

All majors must have or acquire knowledge of a language besides English via study or equivalent placement through at least the third year (normally by completing two courses numbered Lxx 303–313 or by completing CL 351 or CL 391). Acquiring a second foreign language is strongly encouraged. This study may be pursued concurrently with the coursework of the major.

Students who have received credit for these levels of language study through AP equivalency must take at least one BU course that is numbered at a higher level than the level they hold AP credit for and that requires knowledge of the language in question. Please consult the Convener of Comparative Literature to determine whether further language coursework is required for your course of study.

Required Courses

Unless otherwise noted, all courses are 4 credit hours.

  1. Three of the five “Introduction to Comparative Literature” courses:
    • CAS XL 100 Explorations in World Literature: Leaving Home
    • CAS XL 222 Introduction to Comparative Literature: Western Literature (in English translation)
    • CAS XL 223 Introduction to Comparative Literature: Middle Eastern Literature (in English translation)
    • CAS XL 224 Introduction to Comparative Literature: East Asian Literature (in English translation)
    • CAS XL 225 Introduction to Comparative Literature: South Asian Literature (in English translation)

    These may be taken in any order. CAS CC 101 and 102 together may be substituted for CAS XL 222.

  2. Three courses in a single non-English literature, normally in the Departments of Romance Studies, Classical Studies, or Modern Languages & Comparative Literature, or related study abroad programs. Courses principally on nonliterary topics do not qualify.
  3. Three courses in a second literature, chosen from one of the following:
    • three courses in English-language literature, normally in the Department of English and numbered CAS EN 300 or above; or
    • three courses in a second non-English literature
  4. Two additional courses in Comparative Literature (XL) numbered CAS XL 300 or above or cross-listed with such a number. A cross-listed course may be counted either as an XL course or (where appropriate) as a course in one of the student’s two literatures, but not as both. Students who have completed both CAS CC 201 and CC 202 receive major credit for one course toward this requirement. CAS XL 401 and 402 may not be applied to this requirement.
  5. CAS XL 479, the senior seminar or equivalent course chosen in consultation with the advisor.

Note: From among the six courses in a student’s two major literatures and the two additional XL courses (i.e., from among items 2, 3, and 4 above), at least one course must deal principally with literature from before the twentieth century.

Honors in the Major

Students may graduate with honors in the major by completing a senior thesis project (CAS XL 401 and 402). Consult with the convener for further information about this option.