Comparative Literature Programme

The programme allows you to study two or more literatures comparatively, either by choosing a comparative special subject or subjects in different languages. The languages are:

Celtic | English* | French | German | Byzantine & Modern Greek | Italian | Portuguese | Russian | Spanish

* Courses that may be taken in the Faculty of English are normally those shown under List C (Special Options) in the course handbook. Participation is restricted and by prior approval.

In 1827, Goethe stated provocatively that ‘National literature has become rather meaningless. The time has come for world literature.’ This view may seem particularly pertinent today, in an age of globalisation. Yet there is little sign that literature is becoming homogenised. Our limited linguistic competence and our specific cultural identities entail that we are generally most familiar with the literature of our own culture, and that other literatures are ‘foreign’. The historical events and developments that help to shape literature will differ between nations, and each literature has its own major authors and texts acting as models to be emulated or refuted. This does not mean that literature is constrained by national or cultural boundaries. Writers and readers move between literatures and bring them into play with each other, and the classical canon has given the European vernacular literatures a common basis. Translation and adaptation provide modes of creative transfer, and literature has always thrived on diversity of cultures and places. By studying literature comparatively, you will develop an enhanced awareness of the complexity of literary communication and develop your cultural imagination.

A degree-level knowledge of at least one European language plus English is a requirement for admission to this programme.

Course components
  • Comparative Criticism
    This course is taught in a series of lectures and seminars extending over the first two terms of the academic year. It brings together teaching staff and graduates with expertise in different literatures and disciplines from across the Humanities. Topics include National Literature – World Literature; Intermediality and Performance; The Ancients and the Moderns – the Role of the Canon; Translation, Adaptation, Version; Place and Displacement. The lectures will be given in the form of introductory conversations by leading researchers in the field. The seminars will focus on presentations by the participants, providing an opportunity to discuss the theoretical and methodological questions that will be central to your graduate work.
  • Two Special Subjects selected from a wide range of comparative and/or language-specific Special Subjects will allow you to pursue your specific subject interests in depth. Special Subjects are taught in the first two terms.
  • A Dissertation on a comparative topic
    This gives you the opportunity to carry out a piece of independent comparative research with guidance from one or two supervisors. You will define your topic in the course of the second term and complete your Dissertation in the third term.

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