Courses of Study 2012-2013 
    Jul 04, 2022  
Courses of Study 2012-2013 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Comparative Literature

In the College of Arts and Sciences .


Course Offerings 

The Department of Comparative Literature provides a broad range of courses in European as well as non-European literatures. Courses devoted to literary studies variously stress significant authors, themes, problems, genres, historical periods, and theoretical perspectives. The Department also offers an array of courses in visual and media studies and enables the study of literature in relation to the history and theory of film, video, and other arts, as well as media. In cooperation with related departments in the humanities, the department encourages the interdisciplinary study of literature—in conjunction with anthropology, history, philosophy, sexuality studies, psychology, sociology, and so forth. The course offerings reflect current theoretical approaches to literature, media, and the arts—hermeneutics, semiotics, deconstruction, cultural criticism, Marxism, postcolonialism, reception aesthetics, feminism, and psychoanalysis.

Russian Literature and the Russian Language Program are now listed under the Department of Comparative Literature.



N. Melas, chair, A. Banerjee, director of undergraduate studies; K. Pinkus, director of graduate studies; F. Ahl, A. Banerjee, M. Balsa Marin, C. Carmichael, C. Caruth, D. Castillo, C. Chase, W. Cohen, J. Culler, B. de Bary, N. Diabate, L. Dubreuil, L. Ferri, P. Hohendahl, G. Holst-Warhaft, W. J. Kennedy, D. LaCapra, B. Maxwell, T. McEneany, T. McNulty, N. Melas, J. Monroe, T. Murray, K. Pinkus, N. Pollak, N. Saccamano, N. Sakai, W. Sayers, G. Shapiro, M. Smith. Emeritus: D. Grossvogel, W. Holdheim, E. Rosenberg, L. Waugh. Also cooperating: R. Brann, P. Fleming, D. Fried, P. Gilgen, E. Hanson, N. Mahowald, A. McClanahan, E. Obodiac, D. Rubenstein, B. Sarkar, G.Waite

The Major:

Requirements for the Comparative Literature Major:

All majors in Comparative Literature are expected to have completed 10 courses, half of which must be devoted to the study of works in languages other than English in their original language. Five of these courses must be taken in the Department of Comparative Literature and must include the following two courses: COML 4999 - Seminar in Theory  and the Core Course, usually taken in the junior or senior year. The designated Core Course changes every year. For 2012–2013, it will be COML 4015 - Passion and Literary Enlightenment . Both courses will be offered once each academic year. Students must earn a minimum grade of C for a course to be counted toward the major. If elected, an honors essay will also count as one of these required five courses.

An honors essay (COML 4930 , COML 4940 ) of roughly 50 pages is optional. It is to be written during the senior year under the direction of a faculty member, preferably from within the department, who has agreed to work in close cooperation with the student. Students are urged to begin research on their thesis topic during the summer preceding their senior year.

Students who elect to do a double major with another literature department may count up to three courses from that major toward their requirements in Comparative Literature.

The department encourages students to study abroad in pursuit of their cultural and linguistic interests, and the number of courses that may be counted toward the major will be determined in consultation with the faculty advisor and with the approval of the director of undergraduate studies.

The major enables students to pursue this commitment to a comparative study that includes a substantial non-English component by offering two tracks.

  1. Comparative Literary Studies. This track is designed for students who wish to place greater emphasis on literary study in their course work. Students who select this track are required to complete:
    1. Five courses in Comparative Literature at the 2000 level and above, including the Seminar in Theory and the Core Course.
    2. Five courses in literature or other areas of the humanities at the 2000 or higher level, to be taken in one or more foreign literature departments. Texts must be read in the original language. A student may offer one advanced-level foreign language course (conversation, composition, etc.) toward fulfilling this requirement.
  2. Literary, Visual, and Media Studies. This track is designed for students who wish to pursue their comparative study of literature and theory by integrating rigorous work on film, video, or other arts and media. Students who select this track are required to complete:
    1. The Seminar in Theory and the Core Course offered in the Department of Comparative Literature must be included among the 10 required courses.
    2. Four courses in literary study at the 2000 or higher level offered by the Department of Comparative Literature or other humanities departments or programs.
    3. Six courses in visual arts or media studies at the 2000 or higher level offered by the Department of Comparative Literature or other humanities departments or programs.

The following guidelines might be used to determine whether a course in Literary, Visual, and Media Studies may be counted toward the five courses in non-English cultural study required of all majors. Where the media involve a large component of speech or writing (such as film, video, or hypertext), the student would need to work with this material in the original foreign language. Where text or speech in a foreign language is peripheral in a course that focuses on visual material (such as art or architecture) from non-English cultures, the student would need to draw on primary and secondary materials in a foreign language for oral reports, papers, and so forth. Because of the flexibility and interdisciplinary range of this track, students who select it should work closely with their faculty advisor to organize a coherent plan of study and to determine, with the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies, which courses satisfy the foreign language requirement of the major.


A student who completes the requirements for the major with a minimum grade point average of B+ is eligible for the degree of bachelor of arts with honors in Comparative Literature. The department bases its decision on the students achieving grades of at least B+ on the senior essay, in course work for the major, and in their overall academic performance at Cornell.

First-Year Writing Seminars:

Most 1000-level courses may be used toward satisfying the first-year writing seminar requirements.  The department offers first-year writing seminars on a wide range of classical and medieval topics. Consult the John S. Knight Institute website for times, instructors, and descriptions.

Russian Language Program:

Course offerings in Russian language and literature are included in the Comparative Literature course offerings  list.

Russian Language Program:


S. Paperno, director of Russian language program; R. Krivitsky, V. Tsimberov.

Study Abroad:

Students from Cornell frequently participate in the Council on International Educational Exchange and the American Council of Teachers of Russian programs for language study, as well as other Russian language programs. Opportunities are available for study during the summer, a single semester, or the full year. Further information is available from Professor Wayles Browne in the Department of Linguistics (220 Morrill Hall) and from the Cornell Abroad Office.