BA in Comparative Literature

Comparative Literature majors learn to read literature in one or more foreign languages and to trace the transformations and travels of literary genres and texts across languages, borders, and historical periods. 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.

Like all World Languages & Literatures (WLL) majors, Comparative Literature majors generally begin with CAS XL 100 Leaving Home: Explorations in World Literature, a team-taught course in which students meet the WLL faculty through guest lectures and get oriented in the rich diversity of the world’s literary traditions. Courses at the 200 level (CAS XL 222, XL 223, XL 224, and XL 225) introduce Western, Middle Eastern, East Asian, and South Asian regional literary traditions. Students take at least two of these courses, acquiring a comparative perspective on the global diversity of literary forms and genres.

Choosing two literatures to focus on from those taught in the WLL, Romance Studies, Classical Studies, and English departments, Comparative Literature majors take three courses in each. Another option is to emphasize only one non-English literature along with three upper-level CAS XL courses focused on translation, literary theory, or comparison across languages. A language course beyond the fourth-semester level is built into the major, ensuring some ability to encounter literary texts in the original language. Translation electives, including CAS TL 540 Literary Translation Seminar and CAS TL 541 Translation Today, give Comparative Literature majors the opportunity to interact with important literary translators and to hone their own translation practice. Seniors majoring in WLL come back together in CAS XL 479, the senior capstone seminar. Students use this course to produce a substantial project in their major and share their work with other WLL seniors working in other languages. The course provides students with structure and research guidance for developing and discussing their projects, while meetings with a faculty language mentor hone students’ advanced language skills as applied to the area of their research. Student presentations build oral communication skills and the ability to describe one’s work to others. Possible final projects could include a research paper on literature, film, or popular culture; an annotated translation or work of subtitling; a video essay; or a digital humanities project. Students producing excellent capstone projects will be encouraged to develop them into senior honors work.

Many Study Abroad courses may count for the Comparative Literature major and minor.

Learning Outcomes

  • Clear, responsible, and insightful writing about literary texts.
  • Meaningful engagement with the literary traditions of at least two of the following regions: Europe, East Asia, the Middle East, and South Asia.
  • Proficiency in a non-English language/s at a level useful for academic research (at least ACTFL intermediate-low oral proficiency or its written equivalent).
  • Ability to read, discuss, and analyze literary and cinematic texts produced in at least two languages.
  • Ability to analyze texts in comparative perspective; understand how specific works make meaning in response to their literary, cultural, historical, and political contexts; and trace how and why literary genres and texts travel across historical periods, borders, and languages through translation and adaptation.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Comparative Literature will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Philosophical, Aesthetic and Historical Interpretation; Diversity, Civic Engagement and Global Citizenship; and Communication, along with requirements in the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major.

Eleven 4-credit courses with a grade of C or higher are required.

  • CAS XL 100 Explorations in World Literature: Leaving Home (or a substitute XL course for students declaring the major as juniors or seniors)
  • Two courses chosen from:
    • CAS XL 222 Introduction to Western Literatures
    • CAS XL 223 Introduction to Middle Eastern Literatures
    • CAS XL 224 Introduction to East Asian Literatures
    • CAS XL 225 Introduction to South Asian Literatures

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

  • Three courses in a single non-English-language literary tradition, normally in the Department of World Languages & Literatures (Arabic, Chinese, German, Japanese, Hebrew, Hindi/Urdu, Korean, Persian, Russian, and Turkish literature), Romance Studies (French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish), Classical Studies, or related study abroad programs. Courses must focus principally on literary topics. They may be taught in English or in the original language.
  • One language course beyond the fourth-semester level in a language of the student’s foreign literature of specialization, or a literature or culture course taught entirely in the language.
  • Three literature courses in a second tradition, English or non-English, OR three CAS XL or TL courses numbered above 300 (these could include the “Cities” courses LG 388 Berlin, LJ 388 Tokyo, and/or LT 388 Istanbul).
  • CAS XL 479 WLL Senior Seminar. A capstone course working with a faculty mentor on a final essay or project.

Honors in the Major

To graduate with Honors in the Major, students must maintain a GPA in the major of at least 3.4 and take two additional courses above the 11 required for the major:

  • One additional literature course chosen with the advisor’s approval.
  • Any XL or TL course numbered 500 or above, or XL 401 or 402 (continuation of the thesis begun in the capstone seminar).