Comparative Literature and Society Major

The Major in Comparative Literature and Society (CLS) allows qualified students to pursue the study of literature, culture, and society with reference to material from several national traditions, or in a combination of literary study with comparative study in other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Under the guidance of the director of undergraduate studies, students select courses offered by the various participating departments.

The major is innovatively designed for students whose interest and expertise in languages other than English permit them to work comparatively in several national or regional cultures. The course of study differs from that of traditional comparative literature programs both in its cross-disciplinary nature and in its expanded geographic range, including not just European, but also Asian, Middle Eastern, African, and Latin American cultures. The program includes course work in the social sciences, and several of the program’s core courses are jointly taught by faculty from different disciplines. Students will thus explore a variety of methodological and disciplinary approaches to cultural and literary artifacts in the broadest sense. The cross-disciplinary range of the program includes visual and media studies; the law and the humanities; and studies of space, cities, and architecture. As a major, the program in comparative literature and society can be said to flow naturally from Columbia’s Core Curriculum, and invariably attracts some of Columbia’s most ambitious and cosmopolitan students. Our ICLS students consistently graduate in the top 25% of Columbia College.

Given the wide variety of geographic and disciplinary specializations possible within the major, students construct their course sequence in close collaboration with the director of undergraduate studies. But all students share the experience of the “Introduction to Comparative Literature and Society” seminar in their sophomore year as well as that of the required senior seminar. The major is designed for students interested in the cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural study of texts, traditions, media, and discourses in an increasingly transnational world.

Requirements for the Major

The major in Comparative Literature and Society consists of a minimum of 33 points or 11 courses, distributed as follows. Courses taken to fulfill the application requirements do not count toward the major. Courses fulfilling major requirements must be advanced, discussion-based seminars. Language courses in the Beginner I to Intermediate II stream cannot be counted to fulfill any major requirement. With the exception of courses taken to satisfy the global core requirement, double counting of courses to the CPLS major and another program or university requirement must be pre-approved by the DUS.

  1. Introduction to ICLS (CPLS V3900), taken in the spring of the sophomore year (3 points)
  1. Two courses with a CPLS designator. CLXX courses, i.e. courses cross-listed between ICLS and other departments, may also be counted toward this requirement (6-8 points)
  1. Two seminars in a humanities or social science discipline other than literature (e.g. Architecture, Anthropology, Art History, Economics, Gender & Sexuality Studies, History, Law, Linguistics, Music, Political Science, Race & Ethnicity Studies, Sociology…). The two courses must be grounded in the same disciplinary approach but don’t have to be offered by the same department or program (6-8 points)
  1. Two courses requiring readings in a language other than English. (The two courses don’t have to be in the same foreign language) (6-8 points)
  1. Two courses focusing on a specific national or regional literature or culture, chosen from any discipline (The two courses should focus on the same nation/region) (6-8 points)
  1. One elective course reflecting the student’s intellectual interests. Additional foreign language study may also be counted with DUS approval (3-4 points)
  1. Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature and Society (CPLS V3991)

The senior seminar is taken in fall semester of the senior year. Students  explore three areas of contemporary reflection in the field of comparative literature and society. Topics change yearly and are aligned with current ICLS research projects. Recent examples include: Bandung Humanism; Global Language Justice; A Safer Online Public Square

  1. (Optional) Senior Thesis (CPLS 3995) (3 points)

Students who decide to write a thesis will enroll in a year-long course (CPLS3995) starting in the Fall of their Senior Year. This year-long, 3-credit course (1 credit in Fall, 2 credits in Spring) will allow students to receive academic credits for their thesis, and to count the thesis towards completion of their major requirement when necessary (Requirement #10 of the CLS Course Chart).

Students should consult frequently with the DUS to ensure that their program of study develops in consonance with the intellectual project described in the focus statement that was presented as part of the admissions process. The faculty understands that this statement is itself a work in progress, but also that it serves as a useful guide to the student’s academic pursuits and course selection.

Comparative Literature and Society majors should also consider the Barnard College course offerings in Comparative Literature. They are also strongly encouraged to avail themselves of the opportunity to study abroad.

 The Heyman Center for the Humanities, Room B-101
74 Morningside Drive
New York, NY, 10027
  (212) 854-4541
  (212) 854-3099