Program Information

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 Humanities 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.