Department of Comparative Literature
Director of Graduate Studies
Benjamin Conisbee Baer
Wendy Laura Belcher, also African American Studies
Lecturer with Rank of Professor
The degree of Doctor of Philosophy in comparative literature is offered by the Department of Comparative Literature in cooperation with other departments. The program of study enables students with exceptional training in languages and literatures to profit from the increased awareness and understanding that may be derived from the considered view of more than one literature and of the theoretical presuppositions behind literary study as a whole. The program prepares candidates for scholarship in the field and for teaching in comparative literature, separate departments of literature, and the humanities.
In addition to English, students must have a command of one classical and two modern languages. These may be Western, East Asian, or Near Eastern.
Students must elect one of these languages as their principal foreign language. A firm reading knowledge of the other two languages must be demonstrated either through departmentally administered proficiency examinations or courses.
Course of Study
The curriculum in comparative literature has two major objectives: while training students in one literary tradition, it also requires them to be seriously interested in at least two other literatures as well as in the historical, critical and theoretical problems raised by the study of literature. The course of study over the four to six terms prior to the general examination reflects these objectives, and includes course work in comparative literature and in the student’s major and minor literatures.
Areas of Study
Major Literature. The program of study in the major literature aims at giving students a mastery sufficient enough to enable them to teach it in a national or a comparative context. The historical scope of work in the major literature is flexibly defined, but it may conform to the following patterns:
Classical Literatures. The major in classics includes the study of both Greek and Roman literatures. For a detailed description of the curriculum, see the separate Schedule for the Classics Major in Comparative Literature.
Post-Classical Western Literatures. Students majoring in these literatures choose one from among the following periods: (1) Middle Ages to Renaissance, (2) Renaissance to Romanticism, and (3) Romanticism to the present.
East Asian Literatures. Students majoring in Chinese or Japanese may follow the prescribed curriculum for comparative literature students concentrating in one or both of these literatures. For the detailed curriculum, see the separate Schedule for Chinese or Japanese Majors in Comparative Literature.
Near Eastern Literatures. Students majoring in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish develop individual programs with the assistance of their advisers. These programs generally involve a version of one or more topics of concentration or fields of study required by the Department of Near Eastern Studies.
Additional Literatures. Students are expected to enrich their knowledge of their special fields through work in different languages and literatures. Some of this work is done in comparative literature courses, but at least one minor literature also must be studied in the pertinent department.
Comparative Literature. The program of study in comparative literature combines the students’ work in their major and minor literatures by focusing on a specific area in which these literatures can be fully explored. This area may be a limited segment of literary history (the late Middle Ages, the 16th century, Romanticism) or a particular aspect common to all three literatures (a genre such as lyric or the novel, or a phenomenon such as neoclassicism or the modern). It also may be a critical or a theoretical problem, involving analyses of modes of interpretation; comparisons of genres and themes; questions about the relationship between different art forms (such as painting and poetry); or problems in literary aesthetics or epistemology. In this way, comparative literature functions as the core of the curriculum, exposing students to a range of literary techniques and helping them to organize their work in their chosen literatures.
Examiners are ordinarily chosen at the end of the second year or the beginning of the third in preparation for the general examination. At least one of these examiners must be from comparative literature.
After concluding the examination, students, in consultation with the director of graduate studies, select a primary adviser who directs the dissertation, either from the Department of Comparative Literature, or, occasionally, from another literature department.
A secondary reader is chosen by the student in consultation with the primary adviser and the director of graduate studies before the time of the prospectus defense. A third reader is appointed before the final oral defense.
Practice teaching forms a significant part of graduate education in comparative literature. It is not only a crucial element in a graduate student’s preparation for teaching and research, but it is also an essential credential for future employment, especially if a student wishes to qualify for a position in his or her major literature. As a matter of departmental policy, therefore, all students, after their first year, are normally required to accumulate at least four hours of teaching experience during their time at Princeton.
The general examination tests, as it reflects, the candidate’s course of study. Based on a reading list devised by the student and the student’s advisers, the written examination is divided into two parts. The first concerns the candidate’s major literature, and is comprehensive in nature. It is normally taken at the end of the fourth or fifth term. The second, in comparative literature, is usually taken at the end of the fifth or sixth term. It is intensive in nature and consists of questions based on those areas of study that the candidate has prepared in consultation with his or her faculty advisers, often in anticipation of the candidate’s eventual dissertation topic. Students who have satisfactorily completed the required number of courses plus both parts of the written examination are awarded the Master of Arts. A dissertation prospectus examination, focusing on the proposed dissertation topic, concludes the general examination at a later date.
Dissertation and Final Public Oral Examination
The dissertation should demonstrate the candidate’s competence in writing a substantial work of scholarship and criticism, and his or her proficiency in maturely handling the foreign languages chosen. Under certain circumstances, candidates may be permitted to submit an original translation of a work of particular difficulty. A dissertation based on translation, however, must be preceded by a comprehensive introduction that examines in depth the comparative context of the translated work as well as the linguistic and theoretical problems arising from the translation itself.
A final public oral examination is required after the dissertation has been read and approved by representatives of the faculty. This examination consists of two parts. The first is a 30-minute lecture in which the candidate justifies the subject treated and the methods employed, accounts for any new contributions made to literary history and criticism, and projects plans for future scholarship and publication based upon the dissertation. The second is a series of questions growing out of subjects presented in the lecture and relating to both the criticism and the teaching of literary material dealt with in the dissertation.
Eileen A. Reeves
COM 510/PHI 510 German Philosophy since Kant
COM 512/MUS 515 Topics in the History of Opera
Wendy Heller, Pietro Frassica
COM 516/CLA 513 Ancient Literary Criticism
James I. Porter
COM 521 Introduction to Comparative Literature
Alban K. Forcione
COM 523/ENG 522 The Renaissance in England
COM 530/CLA 536 Ovid
Andrew M. Feldherr
COM 531/EAS 561 Comparative Poetics
Earl R. Miner
COM 533 Literary Criticism: Classicism and Neoclassicism
COM 534 Literary Criticism and Aesthetic Theory: The Ambiguous "Image"
Claudia J. Brodsky
COM 535 Contemporary Critical Theories
COM 537/PHI 530 Philosophy of Art
COM 539/NES 539 Studies in Persian Literature 900 - 1200 A.D.
COM 540/NES 540 Studies in Later Persian Literature 1200 - 1800 A.D.
COM 541/CLA 502 The Classical Tradition. Ancient Greek Prose
Froma I. Zeitlin
COM 542 The Classical Tradition
COM 543 Topics in Medieval Literature
COM 547 The Renaissance
COM 549/ENG 543 The 18th Century
COM 551/HLS 551 The 17th Century in Europe
Marina S. Brownlee
COM 553/ENG 543 The Eighteenth Century in Europe
COM 554 The Romantic Idea
Claudia J. Brodsky
COM 555 Realism and Symbolism
COM 558 The Problematics of Modern Literature
COM 560 The Novel and Romance
COM 561/ENG 561 Idle Talk, The Everyday, and the Novel
COM 562 20th-Century Narrative
Peter P. Brooks
COM 565 Studies in Forms of Poetry
COM 566/ENG 566 Studies in the English Novel
Maria A. DiBattista
COM 568/ENG 568 Criticism and Theory
Zahid R. Chaudhary
COM 572/ENG 572 Selected Topics in Criticism and Theory
Eduardo L. Cadava
COM 581 Topics in Non-Western and General Literature
Benjamin Conisbee Baer
COM 582/FRE 583 Seminar in Romance Linguistics and/or Literary Theory
Thomas A. Trezise
COM 583 Russia and the West
COM 584 Authors in a Comparative Context
David M. Bellos
COM 585 Arts of Imitation
David M. Bellos