Skip to content

Our Undergraduate Program

The Program in Comparative & World Literature at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, offers two major concentrations and one minor. The Major in Comparative Literature provides an engagement with two or more literary and cultural traditions, studied in their original languages. The Major in World Literature retains the comparative and international dimension of comparative literature, but focuses on literature and culture from around the globe in English translation (no foreign language required). A Minor in World Literature introduces students to the study of literature and culture as a discipline, with emphasis on cross-cultural, transnational, and interdisciplinary practices. Study Abroad and work in other disciplines is strongly encouraged.

The majors and minor provide a sound humanities education that can lead in any number of career directions. Some of our majors go on to graduate school in literary and cultural studies, of course, but many more head for other fields: law school, editing and publishing, library science, translation, international studies, diplomacy, medical school, sociology, political science, divinity school, and many other professions. The Program in Comparative & World Literature prepares students to enter the job market with the necessary skills to succeed in a rapidly globalizing world by giving them the critical and analytical tools, profound knowledge of foreign languages and cultures, and superior writing and speaking skills that employers look for. Recent graduates have gone on to graduate school at Harvard and UCLA, postdoctoral fellowships at Stanford, and careers in teaching and filmmaking. We offer small seminars (15-20 students) at both the lower and upper division levels that engage with topics ranging from love and death, to major authors and filmmakers, to critical theory and digital humanities, as well as large lecture courses that cover the globe, from East to West and South to North. Our students receive individualized attention both from the undergraduate advisor and from their professors, who teach the majority of the courses in the program.

A student who elects Comparative Literature as a major must complete 48 hours, including at least 12 hours in courses numbered 300 or above. The major comprises two concentrations, a Comparative Literature concentration and a World Literature concentration (foreign literatures in translation). Besides knowing English, the student who chooses the Comparative Literature concentration must have sufficient linguistic skill in at least one foreign language to participate in 200- to 400-level literature courses offered by the various foreign language and literature departments.

If you are considering a major in Comparative Literature, contact the undergraduate advisor, who will assist you in choosing courses for the major itself that will also support your career goals. Study abroad is encouraged and courses taken abroad can be counted toward the major.