1. GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE MAJOR
I am a freshman or sophomore interested in exploring the comparative literature major. What courses should I take?
Good places to start exploring the major are Comparative Literature/ Humanistic Studies 205-206
or Humanistic Studies 216-219
. These are, respectively, Classical Roots of Western Literature; Masterworks of European Literature; and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Western Culture: Literature and the Arts. Another good introductory course for the major is COM 225
, Odysseys: Exile and Migration in the Global Literary Imagination.
I am in my first three terms at Princeton but I already know that I want to major in Comparative Literature. May I declare early?
Do sophomores need two languages other than English to enter the department or start the major?
No. To enter the department, you must be sufficiently knowledgeable in one
language other than English to take an upper-level course in its literature in your junior year. For specific guidelines, please see the prerequisites
What do you mean by primary and secondary language?
Majors are expected to study two languages other than English. Your strongest non-English language (usually the one you entered the department with) is your primary language. Your next strongest language (the one you must be able to read in by the time you graduate) is your secondary language. You may use your second language in your independent work, but you are not required to do so. Please also see planning your major
What competency does the department expect majors to have in their secondary language?
We expect majors to be able to read in the language by the time they graduate. Students may establish their competence a number of ways. Language study may take place before or during the years as departmental majors. Some students demonstrate their competence in that language by taking an upper-level course (300+) in that language. Other students gain this competence by taking three terms of language study at Princeton, or two terms and an intensive language course in the summer, or (especially if the language is no longer spoken or one you studied in high school but not college) an intensive language course in the summer. Many majors (including early concentrators) apply for and receive funding from the department to study a language over the summer (either in the United States or abroad). You can also demonstrate your competence by having passed in high school the AP test in a language that is not your primary language for the major. Some take the foreign language test (placement exam) administered by the relevant department. (This exam is administered over the summer, so if you plan to take it, make sure you do so no later than the summer prior to your senior year.) You do not need to take the exam if you have satisfied the requirement one of the other ways listed above.
What competency in foreign languages does the university expect students to have?
Many undergraduates satisfy the university's foreign language requirement
by demonstrating proficiency when they enter the University through high scores on AP or SAT Subject tests or on placement tests administered by academic departments at Princeton. When an undergraduate begins a language at Princeton, study is required through successful completion of courses numbered 107 (or 108); that is, three or four terms of study will usually be necessary. At the end of any term beyond the first, a student may take and pass a departmentally administered test and may thereby fulfill the language requirement.
Does the department require that, after entering the department, majors begin working towards completion of one of the university's language sequences (e.g., learning French up to the 107 level)?
The department does not require the completion of an additional language sequence. However, please see the specific guidelines about the secondary language in planning your major
May I still major in comparative literature even if the comparative literature faculty members do not read the language I want to study?
Yes. For your senior thesis, you will need a Princeton faculty member who is knowledgeable to serve as an advisor, but he or she need not be in Comparative literature. to learn more about comparative literature faculty, please see their research interests.
Does the major focus only on non-Western language literatures?
No. In fact, most majors focus on Western language literatures, with French, Spanish, and Italian being the most common languages of study. Majors should focus on the literatures that interest them, whether Western or non-Western.
How many courses are required for the major?
Nine; three of those must be in comparative literature, the rest may be in other departments. For specific guidelines, please see the Department of Comparative Literature planning your major.
Must majors take comparative literature theory courses?
No. The only specific comparative literature course you are required to take is COM 300: Introduction to Comparative Literature. You are also required to take two other COM courses or courses crosslisted with COM, but they do not have to be on literary theory. Please see planning your major.
1. QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FOUR NON-ENGLISH LITERATURE COURSES
What do you mean by “upper-level” courses in a non-English-language literature? Does that also include 200-level courses in a particular literature?
In general, we require 300- or 400-level courses to fulfill the non-English language course requirement. However, students can ask the director of undergraduate studies for permission to count reading-intensive 200-level courses, particularly in the less commonly taught literatures. Please see planning your major
There are very few 300-level or 400-level courses in my primary language. May I count a 200-level course toward my four non-English literature courses?
If all the readings were in the non-English language, it is possible. Please consult the current Director of Undergraduate Studies explaining why you want to count a particular 200-level course; when you do, please send a copy of the course syllabus.
Does the department require that courses toward the major be in particular historical periods or genres?
At least two of the nine courses taken for the major should address historical periods, literatures, or cultures before 1800 CE. There is no genre requirement; that is, you are not required to take a certain number of courses that address only poetry, for instance, or drama. Most literature courses address a mix of genres. Please see planning your major.
Please also see FAQ about Historical Requirement on this page, below.
May I count towards my four foreign-language-literature courses any upper-level course taught in one of the language departments or must it be devoted to traditional literary genres?
You may count any 300-level course or higher taught in a language department. For instance, you could count a 300-level course taught in the German department about German film, a 300-level course taught in the French department about French philosophy, or a 300-level course taught in comparative literature on Swahili grammar. Please see planning your major.
Must comparative literature majors write their junior papers or senior theses in a language other than English?
No. In fact, they may not write them in a language other than English. All comparative literature papers and theses are written in English. Please also see independent work.
I have a choice in my current French course: I can write my papers in English or French. If I write them in English will the course still count towards my nine required courses for the major?
Yes. Students must read texts in the original language, but they do not need to write about them in that language for the course to count towards comparative literature departmentals.
Are upper level courses in non-English literatures conducted in those languages at Princeton?
Rarely, except in French and Spanish. All texts are read in the language, but sessions of most upper-level courses in non-English literatures are conducted in English at Princeton.
The discussion in my upper-level non-English literature class is in English. May I count it toward my four non-English literature courses?
May I count towards the major any upper-level literature courses in which the literature is taught in translation but I do not know the original language?
No. If it is cross-listed with comparative literature, you may count it as one of your three comparative literature courses, but you may not count it as one of your four upper-level literature courses.
2. QUESTIONS ABOUT THE HISTORICAL REQUIREMENT
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE REQUIREMENT IS CHANGING, EFFECTIVE FOR THE CLASS OF 2014. PLEASE SEE THE APPROPRIATE SET OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR YOUR CLASS.
FOR CLASS OF 2013 ONLY:
Can the historical requirement be fulfilled by a course I took for university requirements that is not one of my nine departmentals?
No. The two historical courses must be two of the courses you count as your departmentals; pre-1800 courses that are not used as COM departmentals will not fulfill the requirement.
Do the historical requirement courses double count as my COM courses, non-English literature courses, or track courses?
Yes. By definition, the historical courses will double-count with your other COM departmentals.
What if the course was only partly about pre-1800 literature or culture?
If the course material is not devoted in its entirety to pre-1800, at least a third of its material should be pre-1800; for permission to count such a course, please send a copy of the syllabus to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Does it matter if both the historical courses are COM courses, non-English literature courses, or track courses?
No. It does not matter which of your departmental courses your use for this requirement (i.e. the historical courses can be COM courses, non-English literature courses, or track courses).
Does it matter if both courses were on the same pre-1800 period, for example, both about antiquity?
No It does not matter which historical periods are addressed (i.e. ancient, medieval, or early modern periods) as long as they are pre-1800.
Do 200-level courses count toward the historical requirement?
It depends. Two of your nine departmentals must fulfill the requirement. If you are counting a 200-level COM class as a departmental, and it addresses pre-1800 material, then you can count it as a historical class. If you are counting a non-English literature course or a track course, then unless you have special permission, these must be 300-level courses.
Do I have to fulfill the historical distribution requirement with courses within the department or within the courses I count toward my major?
The historical distribution requirement must be fulfilled with the courses being counted towards the comparative literature major, but can be in any department. Please see planning your major
CLASS OF 2014 ONLY:
You must take one course that is dedicated in its entirety to a period before 1800, and it does not have to be one of your departmentals (although it may be one of your nine departmentals, in which case it "double counts"). It does not have to be a literature course, strictly speaking, but it must be a study of culture based upon the study of primary sources. Some examples would be: any course (in any language) on literature before 1800 (e.g., from the ancient world, the medieval world, Renaissance and early Modern; the ancient Greek poets and dramatists, Shakespeare, and medieval Spanish literature are all good examples); any course on pre-Enlightenment philosophy or religion (either Eastern or Western); or a course on art or music history in the pre-Enlightenment period. A course on general history that is not specifically cultural (i.e. not specifically about the textual, visual, or musical culture of that period) will not count. Again, the entire course must be about culture in a pre-1800 context. A course that begins in the pre-1800 period and continues through the present will not count. If you are not sure if your course is appropriate, you can email the course syllabus to the current Director of Undergraduate Study for approval.
Will the course count toward my departmental GPA?
If it happens to also be one of your nine departmentals, yes. If not, then no. You simply need to have it on your transcript.
3. QUESTIONS ABOUT EXAMS, CERTIFICATES, AND INDEPENDENT WORK
What languages does the senior comprehensive exam test?
Whichever one you want. At the beginning of that portion of the exam, you will be given passages in every language comparative literature seniors have studied. You will pick one on which to write a short critical essay. It can be your primary or secondary language (or tertiary, etc.), you decide on perusing the passages. Please see the comprehensive exam guidelines.
Do I need to use my secondary language in writing my second junior paper or senior thesis?
You may use your second language in your independent work, but you are not required to do so.
May I major in comparative literature and also get a certificate in French (or German, Russian, etc.)?
So far as comparative literature is concerned, yes, you may. But the university has strict policies regarding language certificates for students concentrating in comparative literature, stating they are only eligible for the language certificate if "the linguistic base for the language and culture certificate is different from the linguistic base of the concentration" in comparative literature and if "the work required for the language and culture certificate does not duplicate the requirements of the major" in comparative literature. This usually means that you cannot count the same courses for both the major and the certificate, and often means that you must do additional independent work. For more information regarding specific languages, please see planning your major.
I would like to switch tracks. How do I go about doing that?
I am a senior comparative literature major and would like to do a creative writing thesis. What do I need to do to switch to Track E?
Please talk to or email the director of undergraduate studies with your new plan. The tracks are meant to reflect the path of the majority of students through the major, but some students arrange different paths through the major. Please see the tracks
It is too late to decide to write a creative writing thesis (poetry, short stories, novel, or translation). You must apply to the creative writing program in the winter of your junior year if you would like to translate a text or write poetry, short stories, a novel, screenplay, or drama for your senior thesis. No proposal to write a creative thesis in the Department of Comparative Literature will be accepted unless it has first been accepted and assigned an adviser by the Program in Creative Writing. It is very important to read the creative thesis guidelines.
Are majors expected to have read all the books on the reading selection list?
No. Majors are expected to have read four of the epics on the list, seven of the lyric works, nine of the dramas, ten of the novels, and ten of the other texts. Students work with their advisors to prepare a suitable individual reading list. Please see the instructions at the comparative literature reading selection list
I would like to write my senior thesis on English-language primary texts (e.g., drama, novels, short stories, poetry) but in the light of secondary texts in another language (e.g., literary criticism, historical analysis, theoretical essays). Will that satisfy the demands of a comparative literature senior thesis?
Yes. So long as texts in a non-English language are substantially interpreted in the thesis, it doesn't matter whether they are primary or secondary texts. Please also see the senior thesis guidelines
I would like to spend part or most of my junior year abroad. How do I complete my junior paper?
You work by email with your advisor. It is wise to have met with prospective advisors by the end of your sophomore year. You will not be assigned advisors until September of your junior year. Please see the junior paper guidelines.
4. QUESTIONS ABOUT DEPARTMENTAL GPA AND GRADUATING
Are the nine required courses for the comparative literature major the same courses that are used to calculate the departmental GPA?
SCORE says that I have not fulfilled my major course requirements and I'm worried that I won't graduate. Help!
Because of the flexible way that the comparative literature concentration is organized, SCORE often does not properly calculate whether you have fulfilled your comparative literature departmentals. So long as you have discussed your plan of study with the director of undergraduate studies
(DUS) and he or she has approved your course selections, you are fine. However, it is always good to check with the DUS each year in case you changed something without the DUS knowing (e.g., dropped a course).
I read on the OIP website for comparative literature that...
No other website has all the correct information except the dedicated Princeton Department of Comparative Literature website, which you are currently on. Do no consult subsidiary websites for information about planning your major.