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Comparative Literature and the History of Ideas

The program in Comparative Literature and the History of Ideas provides an opportunity for interdisciplinary and comparative study. Like the Humanities major, it brings together courses from many departments, but here the student will choose courses which center in at least two literary, cultural and intellectual traditions and which seek to get at the underlying assumptions and attitudes of different literary and intellectual worlds. The goals of the program are to enable students to see from a variety of viewpoints and perspectives and to encourage independent, critical thinking. Further, by emphasizing the critical analysis of primary texts and cultural comparison, the program seeks to foster a sense of the importance of rigorous methodology in investigation, while revealing the inherent limitations of any particular system of inquiry. As a unique approach to liberal and humanistic studies, the program provides a solid basis for post-graduate study in, for example, law, education, journalism, administration, comparative literature, or discipline-based area studies.

Requirements for the Comparative Literature and the History of Ideas Major (12 Credits)

This program is a contract major in which the student and his/her advisor(s) together establish a program that closely meets the student's needs. Students are strongly encouraged to ground their studies in the literature and thought of a particular foreign language area and to work out their entire program by the end of their sophomore year.

Twelve courses are required for completion of the major, including:

  • CLHI 250 Introduction to Comparative Literature (1)
  • CLHI 497W World Literature Senior Seminar (1)
  • Ten additional courses (10)


The student will take four courses in each of two language/culture areas. At least one area must be from a non-English speaking tradition (e.g., Chinese, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Latin, Russian, or Spanish). The student should attempt, in so far as possible, to enroll in parallel courses in the different areas (i.e., courses that cover the same time period or that have a similar thematic focus). Of the four courses in a non-English area, one can be a course taught in translation. All courses, whether in English or the target language, must cover literary and/or intellectual traditions; upper division language courses (such as Composition and Discussion) will not satisfy the language/culture area requirements.

The student will take two electives, related to either the language/culture areas, or time period, or theme of specialization. These electives will include the history courses most appropriate to the areas.

No more than five courses in the major may be below the 300 level.

Indicators of Achievement

The Student Learning Outcomes of the Comparative Literature and the History of Ideas Program include:

  1. Fundamentals of Literature and Culture
    • Students will develop an active understanding of the terminology, categories and concepts used in literary and cultural studies.
  2. Intellectual Traditions
    • Students will master the literary and intellectual traditions of a particular historical moment in two different cultures. One of the cultures will be non-English speaking.
  3. Linguistic Mastery
    • Students will engage with texts in their original language.
  4. Thinking Comparatively
    • Students will learn to see, question and analyze from a variety of viewpoints and perspectives.
  5. Communication Skills
    • Students will effectively communicate, orally and in writing, their knowledge of intellectual traditions and especially their comparative analysis of those traditions.
  6. Understanding Research
    • Students will demonstrate an ability to conduct comparative research and an understanding of the nature of inquiry.


Course Listings

CLHI 250 (IT) Introduction to Comparative Literature and the History of Ideas (1)

This course will introduce students to the nature of inquiry in comparative literature and intellectual history, emphasizing modes of textual criticism, reading texts in historical and cultural contexts, and reading texts across national, cultural and linguistic boundaries. Students will be encouraged to read works in the original language whenever possible.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Interpreting Texts
  • Offering: Alternate years in spring
  • Instructor: Staff

CLHI 491 Independent Study in Comparative Literature and the History of Ideas (1)

Directed reading and/or research in Comparative Literature and the History of Ideas. Open only to juniors or seniors, and designated specifically as an alternative means for completion of the senior experience in Comparative Literature and History of Ideas when Humanities Senior Seminars useful to a student are unavailable.

  • Offering: Annually
  • Instructor: Staff

CLHI 497W World Literature Senior Seminar (1)

Students compare literary periods, movements, and themes common to world literatures. The course is designed to bring together senior students from programs across Willamette to examine literary works in a comparative light. Students read texts both in English translation and in their target languages. The course is supplemented by guest lectures by literature faculty from the students' home departments. A seminar paper may be accepted as an alternate means of senior evaluation by the student's major department.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing-centered
  • Offering: Annually
  • Instructor: DeLeonibus, Knorr, Fofana, Bishop