Courses of Study 2022-2023 
    Feb 21, 2024  
Courses of Study 2022-2023 [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 listed under the Department of Comparative Literature.



K. Pinkus, interim chair (fall); N. Melas, interim chair (spring); J. Monroe, director of undergraduate studies; A. Bachner, interim director of graduate studies; A. Banerjee, C. Caruth, D. Castillo, N. Diabate, L. Dubreuil, P. Fleming, A. Fuhrmann, E. Ghanayem, P. Keller, P. Lorenz, T. McNulty, T. Murray, N. Pollak, P. Vaziri. Emeriti: C.M. Carmichael, W.J. Kennedy, G. Shapiro

The Major:

Note: In addition to the major requirements outlined below, all students must meet the college graduation requirements 

Requirements for the Comparative Literature Major:

No prerequisites are required to enter the comparative literature major.

All majors in Comparative Literature are expected to have completed ten, three to four credit courses, with the minimum of thirty credits, half of which must be devoted to the study of works in languages other than English that the student will read in their original language. Five of these courses must be taken in the Department of Comparative Literature and must include the following two courses: a designated course in theory and formerly noted as Core Course, COML 3001 - Methods of Comparison , offered in the fall, usually taken in the junior or senior year. If elected, Honor Majors should complete thirty-eight credits, which include  COML 4930 - Senior Essay  (first semester) and  COML 4940 - Senior Essay  (second semester), one of which will count as one of these required five comparative literature courses.

Students will choose among a number of theory courses designated as fulfilling the requirement every year. For 2022-2023, the designated theory course is offered in the spring: COML 3021 - Literary Theory on the Edge . Students must earn a minimum grade of C for a course to be counted toward the major.

An honors essay (COML 4930  - COML 4940 ) of roughly fifty 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 COML 3001 - Methods of Comparison .
    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  COML 3001 - Methods of Comparison  offered in the Department of Comparative Literature must be included among the ten 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.

How to apply: Interested students are invited to complete the online Major Request Form.


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.

The Minor:

The undergraduate minor in Comparative Literature is open to non-majors enrolled in any Cornell college who are interested in global literary and cultural studies, interdisciplinary and theoretical approaches, visual studies, and media studies. Fulfillment of the requirements for the minor will yield a certification on students’ transcripts.

Students must take a minimum of five courses (3-4 credits) at the 2000 level or higher, passing with a grade of C or higher to complete the minor.  Four of these courses should be offered through Comparative Literature.  In the fifth course, which cannot be a lower level language instruction course, students must work with materials originally in a language other than English and for the study of which proficiency in that language is required.  This course could be offered through Comparative Literature, through a foreign literature and language department, or through a study-abroad program.  Only one course taken as part of a study-abroad program may be counted toward the minor. 

How to apply: Students may file a Minor form over email with the Director of Undergraduate Studies at any time. By the seventh week of the semester before graduation, students must meet with the Director Undergraduate Studies to certify completion of the minor.

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 Office of Global Learning.

Russian Minor:

The Russian Minor in the Department of Comparative Literature is open to undergraduates in all seven colleges. The minor allows students to explore an interest in Russian language, literature, and culture.

Requirements for the minor are proficiency in Russian language, and four non-language courses, as specified below.

Language requirement for the Russian Minor
There are two ways to satisfy the requirement of proficiency in Russian:

  1. complete RUSSA 2204 .
  2. for those who place out of RUSSA 2204 , complete RUSSA 3305  or RUSSA 3306 . Russian language courses taken abroad or at American summer programs may be counted towards this requirement if they are aimed at achieving similar proficiency levels.

Four Additional non-language courses (for 3 or more credits, at the 2000-level or above)

At least two of the four non-language courses must be in Russian literature, and at least one must include reading in Russian. (Note: Reading courses offered by the Russian Language Program cannot be counted towards any portion of the literature requirement.) The two remaining courses may be in Russian literature, or students may choose Russia-related courses in other departments, for example, Linguistics, History, and Government.

How to apply: Use this form to declare the Russian Minor and to keep a record of courses you’re taking to fulfill the minor requirements. By the seventh week of the semester before graduation, students must consult with Professor Nancy Pollak in the Department of Comparative Literature ( to certify completion of the minor.

For further information about the minor, please contact Professor Pollak (

Students who complete the minor requirements will have it represented on their transcript.