Requirements for Completing the Major
Students in Comparative Literature select courses from a wide range of offerings throughout the university and are encouraged to construct a program of study to match their individual interests. Nine departmental courses are required of each student, chosen according to the type of comparative work pursued. The required courses are listed below.
Comparative Literature 300 (the Junior Seminar). This seminar counts as one of the nine required courses in the major. It is especially designed to introduce students to the history and methodology of the field, as well as to different avenues of comparative study. Majors must take the course in the fall term of their junior year, unless they are abroad studying, in which case the course may be taken in the senior year instead.
Comparative literature courses. Two other courses must be taken within the Department of Comparative Literature (i.e., listed or cross-listed as a COM course), they can be 200 or higher level (200, 300, 400; or, if you have special permission from the instructor to enroll, 500). To see a list of Comparative Literature courses, please click on Current Courses.
Non-English-language courses. All majors must take four upper-level courses in a non-English-language literature. All readings for the course must be in the original non-English language. Courses in which the readings are in translation cannot be counted. However, the language of discussion and written assignments may be English; it is only the language of the readings that matters. Upper-level courses are 300- or 400- level courses, but reading-intensive 200-level courses may be counted with special permission from the Director of Undergraduate Studies so long as the readings are in the original language.
Any 300-level course or above taught within a language department at Princeton may be used to to fulfill the non-English-language course requirement, even if the course is not strictly about literature. Most students will take four courses devoted to literary genres, but any upper-level course in a language department may be counted as long as the readings are in the original language. Certain other courses may be counted as well, such as courses in film, art, or philosophy that are devoted to reading texts in the original language.
In order to gain a broad knowledge of one literature, students are normally expected to devote three of the four courses to the literature of one language. The other course should also be in a non-English language. Non-English-language literatures most typically studied in the Department of Comparative Literature are French, Spanish and Italian. Students also study Portuguese, German, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, modern or classical Greek, Latin, Swahili, Hindi, Persian, Turkish, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, Syriac and Armenian.
Departmental Historical Period Requirement.
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 reading 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) and not based upon the study of primary sources (texts, music, or art) 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.
Caveats. You may not use Pass/D/Fail courses for the nine courses for the major.
Track courses. The remaining two courses of the nine required courses are taken in appropriate departments throughout the university according to your track. Course selections generally fall into one of five tracks listed below. Each represents the study of literature in a different comparative context.
Please note that each track description below includes all nine of your required courses.
a. Comparative work in literatures. Students choose six upper-level courses in literature (four courses must be in a non-English language literature, two may be in English literature) and three courses listed or cross-listed with Comparative Literature (one of which is Comparative Literature 300). (For example, a student might take four courses in French and two courses in Spanish, or three courses in Chinese and three courses in Arabic, or four courses in Italian and two in English.)
b. Comparative work in literature and a traditional textual discipline (that is, in the humanities [e.g., philosophy, art and archeology, classics, or religion] or social sciences [e.g., anthropology, history, psychology, sociology, politics, economics, or public policy]). Students choose four upper-level courses in non-English-language literature (four courses in one language, or three in one language and one in another); three courses listed or cross-listed in Comparative Literature (one of which is Comparative Literature 300); and two upper-division courses in the relevant textual discipline.
c. Comparative work in literature and another medium (that is, photography, film, art, art history, architecture or music). Students choose four upper-level courses in non-English-language literature (four courses in one language, or three in one language and one in another); three courses listed or cross-listed in Comparative Literature (one of which is Comparative Literature 300); and two upper-division courses in the relevant medium.
d. Comparative work in literature and regional or ethnic studies (that is, African [AFS],African American [AAS], American [AMS], East Asian [EAP or EAS], European [ECS or EPS], Hellenic [HLS], Judaic [JDS], Latin American [LAS], Latino [LAO], Near Eastern [NES], or South Asian [SAS]). Students choose four upper-level courses in non-English-language literature (four courses in one language, or three in one language and one in another); three courses listed or cross-listed in Comparative Literature (one of which is Comparative Literature 300); and two courses in the relevant region or ethnicity. Note: If you are interested in other Princeton programs (e.g., Environmental Studies, Urban Studies, Women and Gender), please contact the director of undergraduate studies to make a plan.
e. Comparative work in literary study and the creative arts (that is, creative writing [poetry, the novel, short stories, drama, memoir], screenwriting, translation, dance, theatrical or musical performance, visual arts, film, or video). Students choose four upper-level courses in non-English-language literature (four courses in one language, or three in one language and one in another); three courses listed or cross-listed with Comparative Literature (one of which is Comparative Literature 300); and two courses in the relevant creative art.
Note: You must apply to take this track in the spring of your junior year and cannot switch to it once your senior year has started. Students entering the department select this program provisionally. Final admission depends upon the formal acceptance of the creative thesis proposal by the Creative Writing program first, which requires the proposal to be submitted much earlier than does Comparative Literature. Please see the information on writing the creative senior thesis. Students wishing to write a screenplay do not need to apply to Creative Writing.
Study abroad students. Students may count courses taken abroad toward the nine required courses for the major. Two courses per semester abroad may be used to fulfill departmental requirements. Since courses taken abroad may not be counted towards the departmental or Princeton GPA, students with one semester abroad will be allowed to choose seven departmentals, one of which must be COM 300, for the calculation of their departmental GPA. Students with two semesters abroad will be allowed to chose five departmentals, one of which must be COM 300. This option applies only to study abroad programs undertaken during the school year and approved by the department. If you would like to talk to majors who have studied abroad, please check the COM Study Abroad Peer Advisors.
Recommended but not required. Students are urged to take courses addressing various genres and theoretical issues, including Comparative Literature 220: Introduction to Literary Theory; Comparative Literature 301: Theory and Methods of Comparative Literature; and Comparative Literature 303: Comparative History of Literary theory. Upper-level courses in theory, methodology, and criticism are offered by other humanities and social science departments as well.
Certificates in Other University Programs. Students in comparative literature frequently choose to combine their major with certificates from Princeton programs and centers. Majors interested in these certificates should consult with the director of undergraduate studies and the director of the relevant program by the middle of sophomore year or the beginning of the junior year. Some programs require only three courses, others six or more, so it is important to start planning early. (Comparative Literature does not itself offer a certificate.)
Certificates in Languages. Please be aware that language and literature departments have strict policies regarding certificates for students concentrating in comparative literature. To see the overarching university policy, go to Program in Languages and Cultures. The departments of German, Italian and French, Spanish and Portuguese, and Near Eastern, for instance, state that students are only eligible for their certificates 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.
Namely, if your primary language in comparative literature is, say, French, you may not pursue a French certificate. If you count any French language courses towards your comparative literature departmentals, you may not count those same courses towards a French certificate. Further, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Slavic, and Near Eastern require separate independent work (in addition to your junior papers and thesis for comparative Literature) often written in the language. These additional papers vary from 2,000 words to 6,000 words. Classics, South Asian, and East Asian studies are supposed to fall under the same overarching university policy but do not have such strict requirements (for instance, they do not require separate independent work). To learn more about the specific departmental certificate requirements, please see German, Italian and French, Spanish and Portuguese, Slavic, Near Eastern, Classics, East Asian, and South Asian. It is best to clarify the requirements with both relevant departments as early as possible.
If it is not possible to complete a certificate in a language department, remember that all comparative literature concentrators are given letters certifying language proficiency.
Departmental Grade Point Average. Majors are given a departmental GPA, which is provided by the department and does not appear on SCORE or on transcripts. It is usually calculated from the grades majors received in the nine required courses for the major (50 percent of GPA) and for their independent work (50 percent of GPA). The total departmental GPA is used only to determine honors in the department; but other grades do appear on your transcript, including one total grade for your junior papers, one for your senior thesis, and one for the comprehensive exams.
The course work grade is calculated in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies. Students who studied abroad cannot count courses taken abroad toward the departmental GPA, so they use fewer Princeton courses to calculate their GPA (only eight if they were abroad for a term; seven if they were abroad for a year).
The independent work grade is calculated by averaging the numerical scores (not the letter grade) received on junior papers (which together count for 25 percent); the senior comprehensive exam (25 percent), and the senior thesis (50 percent). The grades received on the two junior papers are combined to arrive at the junior paper grade but are weighted differently (the second junior paper counts twice as much as the first). A worksheet for calculating GPA is available in the front office.
SCORE. Please be aware that SCORE does not properly calculate whether you have fulfilled your departmentals. It is best to discuss the requirements with the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Departmental Requirements Form. To ensure that you are on track to fulfill your requirements, please contact the Undergraduate Advisor for the form, fill it out, and make an appointment with the director of undergraduate studies to discuss it. Checking in once a year and leaving the form on file will help ensure that there are no last-minute surprises.