Department of Comparative Literature
Director of Graduate Studies
David M. Bellos, also French and Italian
Sandra L. Bermann
Claudia J. Brodsky
Marina S. Brownlee, also Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures
Maria A. DiBattista, also English
Caryl G. Emerson, also Slavic Languages and Literatures
Thomas W. Hare
Daniel Heller-Roazen, also Council of the Humanities
Alexander Nehamas, also Council of the Humanities, Philosophy
Eileen A. Reeves
Michael G. Wood, also English
Ann Smock, Stanley Kelley, Jr., Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching
Wendy Laura Belcher, also African American Studies
Benjamin Conisbee Baer
Lecturer with Rank of Professor
Peter Brooks, also University Center for Human Values
Kwame Anthony Appiah, Philosophy, University Center for Human Values
Eduardo L. Cadava, English
Rubén Gallo, Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures
Simon E. Gikandi, English
Anthony T. Grafton, History
Andras P. Hamori, Near Eastern Studies
Thomas Y. Levin, German
P. Adams Sitney, Lewis Center for the Arts, Visual Arts
Michael A. Wachtel, Slavic Languages and Literatures
The Department of Comparative Literature invites students to approach literature from a broad, cross-cultural perspective. The curriculum encompasses literatures, languages, and cultures from around the world--including those of Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East--as well as interdisciplinary work of many types. While each student in the department is expected to focus his or her studies on a particular foreign language and literature, an interest in the way different literatures illuminate one another, or enter into dialogue with other disciplines, media, or forms of art, is fundamental to our work. Students motivated by a desire to understand literature in the broadest terms, as well as those interested in particular examples of literary comparison, will find an intellectual home in the Department of Comparative Literature.
The flexibility of the concentration has always been one of its strong points. With the guidance of the director of undergraduate studies and the junior and senior faculty advisers, each student creates a program of study tailored to his or her intellectual interests, choosing courses and independent projects that contribute to the whole.
Graduates successfully pursue many diverse careers, including law, medicine, business, foreign service, computing and technology, international investments and banking, creative writing, publishing and journalism, filmmaking, and education at the secondary and university levels. Many comparative literature students have gone on to graduate study in the field and now teach at a wide range of institutions in the U.S. and abroad.
Information and Departmental Plan of Study
Foreign Language Requirement. To enter the department, students must be sufficiently knowledgeable in one language other than English to take an upper-level course in it in his or her junior year.
Plan to read a second foreign language before graduation. Proficiency in only one non-English language is required for admission to the department. However, students who concentrate in comparative literature are also expected to study at least one other non-English language and to be able to read in the language by the time they graduate. Such language study may take place before or during their years as departmental concentrators. Some students demonstrate their competency by taking an upper-level course in the literature of that language. Other students gain this competency by taking three terms of language study at Princeton, or two terms and an intensive language course in the summer, or (especially in the case of languages that are no longer spoken) an intensive language course in the summer. A few pass the AP test or take a foreign language test administered by the relevant department.
Introductory Courses. Students who wish to concentrate in comparative literature are advised (though not required) to take COM 205-206 or HUM 216-219 in their sophomore year or earlier.
Qualified students may elect early concentration and enroll in the department at the beginning of the spring term of sophomore year. They may begin their departmental course of study as well as their independent work, if they wish.
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. COM 300, the Junior Seminar, counts as one of the nine. This course is especially designed to introduce students to the history and methodology of the field, as well as to different avenues of comparative study. Concentrators must take the course in the fall term of their junior year, unless they are studying abroad, in which case the course may be taken in the senior year instead. Two other courses must be taken within the Department of Comparative Literature (i.e., listed or cross-listed as a COM course).
Regardless of the area of study elected, all concentrators must take four upper-level courses in a non-English-language literature department. 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. Foreign-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, Greek, Latin, Swahili, Hindi, Persian, Turkish, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, Syriac, and Armenian. Upper-level courses generally are 300-or 400- level courses, but reading-intensive 200-level courses may be counted with permission from the director of undergraduate studies.
The remaining two courses are taken in appropriate departments throughout the University according to the student's area of study. Course selections generally fall into one of the areas described below. Each represents the study of literature in a different comparative context and includes all nine required courses:
A. Comparative work in literatures in at least two languages. Students choose four upper-division courses in non-English-language literature; three courses listed or cross-listed with comparative literature (one of which is COM 300); and two upper-level courses in literature in any other language (including English).
B. Comparative work in literature and a traditional textual discipline, (that is, in the humanities [e.g., philosophy, art and archaeology, 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 COM 300); and two upper-level 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 COM 300); and two upper-level 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.
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 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 COM 300); and two courses in the relevant creative art. Students entering the department select this program provisionally. Final admission depends upon the acceptance of the creative thesis proposal by the department and by an adviser from the relevant creative arts program.
Departmental Distribution Requirement. At least two of the nine courses taken for the major should address historical periods, literature, or cultures before 1800 CE.
Theory and Methods of Comparative Literature. Theoretical issues naturally arise in the study of comparative literature. They may also function as the main focus of a student's work. Theoretical issues are specifically addressed in two departmental courses: COM 303 Comparative History of Literary Theory and COM 301 Theory and Methods of Comparative Literature: Critical and Literary Theory. Upper-level courses in theory, methodology, and criticism are offered by other humanities and social science departments as well.
Junior Year. Concentrators must write two junior papers. The first paper, some 3,000 words in length, will normally involve the close study of a work from one of the non-English-language literatures in which the student has linguistic competence. Its purpose is to develop the student's basic skills as a reader of complex texts. The second paper should be wider in scope, and might serve as the beginnings of a senior thesis. It will normally be some 8,000 words in length.
Senior Year. Concentrators must write a senior thesis, normally limited to 20,000 words, which is comparative in nature and should reflect the student's ability to relate and analyze materials in the area chosen. Creative theses must be accompanied by a substantial critical essay.
Concentrators must take the senior departmental examination, which tests their ability to analyze texts and make connections among them. The student consults with his or her senior faculty adviser to select specific titles from a broad reading list, reads them, and answers questions based on the student's particular language proficiency and chosen program of study. Students will also be asked to analyze a passage in their primary language.
Summer Study Abroad. There are numerous opportunities for summer study abroad, some partially supported by University funds. A summer abroad can increase fluency in the language of concentration. It may also be an effective way to satisfy the departmental requirement of developing reading knowledge in a second foreign language. For further information about available programs, students should consult the director of undergraduate studies in comparative literature and also in the individual language and literature departments. Some departmental funding is available for summer language study for concentrators.
Summer Work Abroad. Princeton offers some excellent work abroad programs, including Princeton-in-France and the German summer work abroad program, to which qualified students from the department are encouraged to apply. The Office of International Programs also offers a selection of summer internships in Latin America for which comparative literature students may be eligible.
The department strongly encourages its students to undertake a semester, a year, or a summer abroad, in order to gain fluency in the language of concentration and to pursue further study in its literature and culture. Many opportunities are available for study abroad.
Certificate Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication. Since concentrators in comparative literature consider texts from an international and interdisciplinary perspective, and often with an emphasis in the creative arts, questions of translation and intercultural communication often arise. Majors in the department may write translation theses, for instance, or put theoretical problems associated with translation or cross-cultural comparisons at the center of their departmental work. In these cases, they might choose to combine the concentration with a certificate in the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication.
Certificates in University Programs. Students in comparative literature frequently choose to combine their concentration with certificates from Princeton programs and centers. Concentrators interested in these certificates should consult with the director of undergraduate studies and the director of the relevant program.
COM 205 The Classical Roots of Western Literature (also HUM 205) Fall LA
An introduction to the methods and some major texts of comparative literary study. It will focus on the Greco-Roman tradition, asking what it means to call a work a "classic": it will consider the outstanding characteristics of this tradition, how it arose and gained influence and attempt to place it in a global context. Readings will be divided into three topics: Epic Heroes (centering on Homer's Odyssey), Tragic Women (in ancient and modern drama), and the "invention" of modernity (Aeneid). Selected additional readings in non-Western literatures and in influential critical essays. Two lectures, one preceptorial. D. Heller-Roazen
COM 206 Masterworks of European Literature (also HUM 206) Spring LA
This course seeks to discover (or rediscover) a series of significant works in the European tradition, and also to ask once again what a tradition is. The focus will be firmly on the close reading of particular texts, but discussions will also range freely over large questions: What is a classic, what difference does language make, can we think both about world literature, in Goethe's phrase, and about the importance of national and local loyalties? No easy answers promised, but astonishing adventures in reading guaranteed. M. Wood
COM 207 The Bible as Literature (see HUM 207)
COM 209 Thinking Translation: Language Transfer and Cultural Communication (see TRA 200)
COM 220 Introduction to Literary Theory Not offered this year LA
An introductory course in the history of European literary theory. Readings include Plato, Aristotle, Longinus, Boccaccio, Dryden, Corneille, Schiller, Sartre, Lévi-Strauss, Barthes, Derrida. Theories will be related to selected literary texts in an effort to explore how theory illuminates literature while shedding light upon larger human questions. One lecture, one two-hour seminar. S. Bermann
COM 233 East Asian Humanities I: The Classical Foundations (see HUM 233)
COM 234 East Asian Humanities II: Tradition and Transformation (see HUM 234)
COM 300 Junior Seminar: Introduction to Comparative Literature Fall LA
This course serves as an introduction to comparative literature for concentrators in the department. Course work focuses on four general areas: the idea of "world literature"; the potential and the problems involved in comparing texts, literary and otherwise; the relation between word and image;and the (im)possibility of translation. Some attention will be devoted to the preparation of independent work for the major. Both canonical and non-canonical literature will be read, Western and "non-Western," literature will be considered in the context of other types of artistic endeavor, and translation. One three-hour seminar. B. Conisbee Baer
COM 301 Theory and Methods of Comparative Literature: Critical and Literary Theory Fall LA
A course in the formative issues of contemporary critical theory. Questions of the relationships between literature, philosophy, aesthetics, and linguistics will be treated with regard to the rise of modern philology, new criticism, hermeneutics, speech act theory, semiotics, structuralism, Marxism, the Frankfurt School, and poststructuralism. Readings in Auerbach, Spitzer, Brooks, Wimsatt, Schleiermacher, Gadamer, Ricoeur, Austin, Burke, Frye, Propp, Saussure, Jakobson, Lévi-Strauss, Barthes, Jameson, Adorno, Derrida, de Man. One three-hour seminar. C. Brodsky
COM 303 Comparative History of Literary Theory Spring LA
A historical introduction to literary theory from Plato to the present. By reading philosophers, critics, and creative writers, students consider issues such as mimesis, imagination, religion, sexuality, and ethics, noting how each casts light on our understanding of literature and its cultural roles. Past terms and current problems are related to an inquiry into the nature--and the power--of literature through the ages. Students will read critical works from Plato and Aristotle, through Nietzsche, Beauvoir, Benjamin, Derrida, and Achebe, as well as poetry and plays by Sophocles, Shakespeare, Eliot, and Brecht. One three-hour seminar. S. Bermann
COM 304 The East European Novel of the 20th Century Not offered this year LA
Caught between Russia and the West, traded off among European empires, the peoples of Eastern Europe are again independent in the postcommunist era. For them, surviving the 20th century became, literally, an art. After a geopolitical introduction to the region, students will read modern proseworks from the Polish, Czech, and Serbo-Croatian traditions, including novels cast as national epics during times of total war, as fantasy or science fiction, and as the tragicomedy of everyday life. Five films built off these novels will be screened during the course. Two lectures, one preceptorial. C. Emerson
COM 305 The European Novel: Cervantes to Tolstoy Not offered this year LA
The emergence and development of the major forms of the novel as seen in the works of Cervantes, Mme. de Lafayette, Diderot, Laclos, Goethe, Balzac, Stendhal, Gogol, Turgenev, Flaubert, and Tolstoy. Emphasis is placed on the novel as the expression of human relationships with individuals and with society. Two lectures, one preceptorial. M. Wood
COM 306 The Modern European Novel: Joyce, Mann, and Proust Not offered this year LA
Using Flaubert's Madame Bovary as a paradigm of the major thematic and technical preoccupations of the novel, lectures offer detailed interpretations of Ulysses, The Magic Mountain, Swann's Way, and theoretical speculations on symbolism, stream-of-consciousness, linguistic structures, psychoanalysis. Two lectures, one preceptorial. M. DiBattista
COM 309 The Lyric (also ENG 420/SPA 349) Fall LA
The lyric as a form of literary art, as distinct from narrative or drama. Readings encompass a variety of lyrical forms and a number of different cultures. Translations will be used. One lecture, one two-hour seminar. S. Bermann
COM 310 The Literature of Medieval Europe Not offered this year LA
An introductory survey of major representative Latin and vernacular texts in modern English versions, including hagiography, romance, lyric and philosophical poetry, allegory, religious and secular prose, and drama. Special attention will be paid to Christian transformations of classical traditions and to the emergence of the Continental vernaculars of the late Middle Ages. Lecture and preceptorials. D. Heller-Roazen
COM 313 Topics in Literature and Ethics (see ENG 416)
COM 314 The Renaissance (also ART 334) Not offered this year LA
An introduction to the literature of the Renaissance in Europe and in England. Emphasis upon major genres--lyric, drama, pastoral, and prose-fiction--as they arise in Italy, France, Spain, and England. Readings from Boccaccio, Castiglione, Lope de Vega, Sidney, Shakespeare, Erasmus, Rabelais, and Cervantes. Two 90-minute seminars. L. Barkan
COM 315 Cervantes and His Age (see SPA 306)
COM 316 The Enlightenment and Romanticism LA
Close readings of literary works of the Enlightenment and romanticism. Readings will focus primarily on the ways in which these works articulate and represent problems of knowledge. In the course of this exploration, it will be necessary to consider the primary topoi and defining oppositions of Enlightenment thought, with their transformations in romanticism. One three-hour seminar. C. Brodsky
COM 317 Topics in Germanic Literatures (see GER 324)
COM 318 The Modern Period Not offered this year LA
Modern Western literature in the perspective of its development since the Industrial Revolution. The peculiarity of "modernist'' style exemplified by various genres. Significant philosophical trends that define the parallel development of modern art and thought. Texts from English, German, French, and other literatures. Two lectures, one preceptorial. S. Draper
COM 320 Masterworks of European Literature: The Romantic Quest (see GER 320)
COM 321 Communication and the Arts (see ECS 330)
COM 323 Self and Society in Classical Greek Drama (see CLA 323)
COM 324 The Classical Tradition (also HLS 324) Spring LA
Classical mythology in the arts from Ovid to Shakespeare, from Zeuxis to Titian, with a particular emphasis on the subject of love. Introductory discussions on the nature of myth in its relation to the literary and visual arts. Readings will include major literary works from antiquity to the Renaissance integrated with the study of mythological painting, principally from 15th- and 16th-century Italy, including the works of Botticelli, Correggio, and Titian. One three-hour seminar. L. Barkan
COM 325 Experimental Fiction (also ENG 342) Not offered this year LA
A study of the more experimental, self-conscious narratives in modernist literature with emphasis on the major formal and stylistic innovations of representative modern texts. M. DiBattista
COM 326 Tragedy (also HLS 326) Not offered this year LA
The tragic vision as expressed by Greek, Renaissance, and modern writers who dramatize the relationship between human suffering and human achievement. Readings in Aeschylus, Sophocles, the Old Testament, Shakespeare, Milton, Chekhov, Ibsen, Sartre, Brecht, Beckett, and T. S. Eliot. One lecture, one two-hour seminar. Staff
COM 327 Modernism in Fiction (also LAS 327) Not offered this year LA
A study of early to mid-20th century fiction, focusing on the question of modernity both as a literary and a historical-philosophical problem. Attention will be given especially to experimentation with literary form and the relation of narrative forms to specific cultural practices. Authors read in the course include Joyce, Woolf, Kafka, Proust, Beckett, Borges. Students will also study essays reflecting the debates of the period (Brecht, Adorno, Lukács, Benjamin). One three-hour seminar. Staff
COM 328 Modernism in Poetry Not offered this year LA
A study of the relation between the writing of poetry and the question of modernity as a theoretical and cultural problem. The course will take into account the various experimental movements that opted for poetry as their primary medium (imagism, dadaism, surrealism, futurism), as well as the work of certain poets who have indelibly marked the 20th century's poetic landscape (Yeats, Brecht, Neruda, Cavafy, and others). Students are expected to know at least one of the foreign languages involved well enough to read the original texts. One three-hour seminar. M. Wood
COM 330 Literature and Law Not offered this year LA
An introduction to literature as a vehicle of thought about law, morality, and the tensions between them. Readings include ancient legal codes, selected biblical texts, Greek tragedies, Norse sagas, medieval satirical epics, Renaissance drama, 18th-century drama, and modern fiction. Emphasis on revenge codes, the shift from prelegal to legal societies, the Christianization of Germanic law, equity, contract, critiques of law and legal systems. One three-hour seminar. Staff
COM 331 Chinese Poetry (see EAS 331)
COM 333 The Chinese Novel (see EAS 333)
COM 334 Modern Transformations of Classical Themes (see CLA 334)
COM 337 Really Fantastic Fiction Not offered this year LA
Fiction by writers of a fundamentally realist persuasion who nevertheless depict in their work the intrusion of the supernatural and the fantastic into everyday life. Gogol, Kleist, James, Olesha, Nabokov, Bradbury, García Márquez, and Calvino are among the authors read. One lecture, one two-hour seminar. E. Reeves
COM 338 Forms of Short Fiction Not offered this year LA
The short story and other forms of brief imaginative prose as they have developed in English and the European languages during the 19th and 20th centuries. The seminar discussions will examine selected works of such authors as Chekhov, Lawrence, Kafka, Joyce, Hemingway, Faulkner, Borges, Nabokov, W. C. Williams, Welty, Cheever, Flannery O'Connor, Tournier, and Barthelme. One lecture, one two-hour seminar. D. Bellos
COM 340 Literature and Photography (see ECS 340)
COM 344 Postwar Japanese Narrative: Modern to Postmodern (see EAS 344)
COM 346 Modern Latin American Fiction in Translation (see SPA 346)
COM 349 Texts and Images of the Holocaust (also JDS 349) Not offered this year EM
In an effort to encompass the variety of responses to what is arguably the most traumatic event of modern Western experience, the Holocaust is explored as transmitted through documents, testimony, memoirs, creative writing, historiography, and cinema. In this study of works, reflecting diverse languages, cultures, genres, and points of view, the course focuses on issues of bearing witness, collective vs. individual memory, and the nature of radical evil. One three-hour seminar, plus weekly film showings. Staff
COM 354 Topics in Gender and Representation (see SPA 353)
COM 355 Advanced Creative Writing (Literary Translation) (see CWR 305)
COM 356 Advanced Creative Writing (Literary Translation) (see CWR 306)
COM 357 Tales of Hospitality: France, North Africa, and the Mediterranean (see FRE 327)
COM 359 Acting, Being, Doing, and Making: Introduction to Performance Studies (see THR 300)
COM 361 The Cinema from World War II until the Present (see VIS 342)
COM 369 Special Topics in Modern Greek Civilization (see HLS 361)
COM 370 Topics in Comparative Literature Not offered this year LA
Study of a selected theme or topic in comparative literature. Subjects will range from historical and cultural questions (literature and politics, the literature of the avant-garde) to the study of specific literary themes or topics (feminine autobiography, the grotesque in literature). A. Sidikou-Morton
COM 372 The Gothic Tradition (also ENG 303) Spring LA
An exploration of the cultural meanings of the Gothic mode through a study of its characteristic elements, its origins in 18th-century English and German culture and thought, its development across Western national traditions, and its persistence in contemporary culture, including film, electronic media, clothing, social behavior, and belief systems, as well as literature. Films, artifacts, websites, and electronic publications will supplement readings. One three-hour seminar. A. Alliston
COM 393 Nietzsche (see PHI 306)
COM 400 Seminar: Literary Imagination and the Image of History Not offered this year LA
Literary texts from two or more national cultures will be viewed in a historical perspective of a specific period (the Renaissance or the Enlightenment) or a significant event (the French Revolution or World War I) or a social phenomenon (the Industrial Revolution). The mutual relationship between the image of the world created by writers and the impact of writers upon the world they reflect. Staff
COM 401 Seminar. Types of Ideology and Literary Form (also WOM 401) Fall LA
Relationships between conceptions of literary form and developments in intellectual history, spanning different genres and cultural traditions. Some examples: modernism in the context of 20th-century ideological conditions; the rise of the novel traced through philosophies of the 18th and 19th centuries. A. Alliston
COM 403 Seminar. The Aesthetic Movement: Forms of Excitement Not offered this year LA
An examination of selected works of European literature, chiefly around the turn of the 20th century, that provoke distinctive "forms of (literary) excitement." Topics will include decadence, ecstasy, ekphrasis, self-mirroring, asceticism, sadomasochism, dandyism, epiphany, and l'art pour l'art. One three-hour seminar. S. Corngold
COM 404 Literature Across Languages Not offered this year LA
Studies in the international exchange of literary forms and ideas, intellectual and artistic movements. The topic will be drawn from among the following or others similar in scope: the literature of exile, the avant-garde, formalism and structuralism, Byronic hero and antihero, literary relations between East and West, surrealism and its legacy, the international response to individual writers. C. Emerson
COM 405 Senior Seminar Not offered this year LA
The course will deal with a theme, author, or problem in comparative literature studies. Staff
COM 409 Senior Seminar in Translation and Intercultural Communication (see TRA 400)
COM 410 Bakhtin, the Russian Formalists, and Cultural Semiotics (also SLA 410) Not offered this year LA
A survey (in English) of three influential schools of 20th-century Russian literary criticism: the major Russian formalists (1920s); Mikhail Bakhtin (1920s-70s), and the cultural semiotics of Yury Lotman and his "Tartu School" (1960s-80s). The course will include both primary and secondary texts; major essays will be read in conjunction with sample literature that illustrates the critical approach. Two 90-minute seminars. C. Emerson
COM 415 Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, and the Tasks of Literature (also SLA 415) Not offered this year LA
The course is primarily about War and Peace, framed by some earlier and later fiction and by Tolstoy's essays on art and religion. Tolstoy's radical ideas on narrative have a counterpart in his radical ideas on history, causation, and the formation of a moral self. Together, these concepts offer an alternative to "The Russian Idea," associated with Dostoevsky and marked by mysticism, apocalypse, and the crisis moment. To refute this idea, Tolstoy redefined the tasks of novelistic prose. Seminar. C. Emerson
COM 418 Vladimir Nabokov (see SLA 417)
COM 420 Latin American Studies Seminar (see LAS 403)
COM 444 Cinema and the Related Arts (see VIS 444)