May 29, 2020  
Course Catalog 2018-2019 
Course Catalog 2018-2019 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Comparative Literature

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 Jed Deppman, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and English; Program Director

Comparative literature (CMPL) is the study of literature, theory, and criticism across the boundaries of language, nation, culture, artistic medium, genre, and historical period. Faculty in Oberlin’s program are drawn from the humanities, arts, and social sciences, and the curriculum emphasizes these important areas of the discipline:

•Literary Theory
•Literature and the Other Arts
•East-West Studies
•European Languages and Literatures

Comparative literature enables students to integrate their studies in more than one discipline at once. Because the major requires a combination of depth, breadth, and creativity, students consult with advisors to create individualized curricular pathways that match their specific interests, demonstrate advanced proficiency in at least one other language besides English, and culminate in a capstone or honors project.

Program alumni have attended top graduate programs, received numerous Fulbrights and other fellowships, and gone on to successful careers in such fields as academia, journalism, film, non-profit organizations, publishing, libraries, the arts, and teaching at all levels.

Curriculum Overview 

Comparative literature offers coursework for the major and minor. Students with an interest in the discipline should consult early on with their advisor and the program director to define an individual area of emphasis or inquiry. Majors are able to shape their course of study from a wide range of possible material. Because many different programs and departments contribute courses for the major and minor, advising plays an especially important role in student planning. Be sure to talk with the program director and or department staff if you are interested in this field of study. You may also use our planning sheet to assist in this process.

Students must take at least one 400-level course in a foreign language taught in the original language such as French, Spanish, or Russian. For the following four languages, the required level is 300: Greek, Latin, Chinese, or Japanese. Several courses presented for the major might focus on a specific period or movement (the Renaissance, modernism, surrealism), a genre (tragedy, lyric poetry), a problem (literature and the other arts, translation) or an approach (feminism, post-structuralism).

Outside of the classroom, majors and others may attend our Translation Symposium and Lecture that brings in prominent comparatists to share their works and observations. Guest lecturers are also available to assist you in your study of a wide variety of literary works and learn about challenging, contemporary issues. We encourage students to study abroad for a semester or a year in one of the many Oberlin-affiliated programs. Study abroad will enhance your understanding of literature as it relates to language and culture.


A minimum of ten courses (eleven for Honors) to be distributed as follows:
1. Comparative Literature 200, one course.
2. At least one course at the 400 level in a foreign literature taught in the original language (300 in Greek, Latin, Chinese, or Japanese).
3. A comparative reading course the senior year to be supervised jointly by faculty members from appropriate departments. (Honors students must complete two courses over two semesters.)
4. Six or more total courses in literature, theory, criticism, and cultural studies, chosen to include comparative study within or among courses. Up to three courses in related areas may be counted, e.g. history and theory of art, music, film, theater, and dance.
5. At least six courses counted toward the major must be earned at Oberlin College. Students preparing for graduate work in comparative literature are advised to select at least five courses in two foreign literatures taught in the original languages.

Students must earn minimum grades of C- or P for all courses that apply toward the major.


A minimum of five courses to be distributed as follows:
1. Comparative Literature 200, one course.
2. At least one course at the 400 level in a foreign literature taught in the original language (300 in Greek, Latin, Chinese, or Japanese).
3. Three or more additional courses in literature, theory, criticism, and cultural studies chosen to include comparative study within or among courses.
4. No more than two of the courses required for the minor can also be counted toward requirements for another major or minor. Three of the four courses other than CMPL 200 should have some clear thread of connection: they might be from the same century in different literatures, study the same genre (tragedy, fiction), pursue a single theme or topic, etc. At least three of the courses must be earned at Oberlin College. Under normal circumstances a minor must be declared by the beginning of the second semester of the junior year.


Students who wish to pursue Honors should apply by April 15 of the junior year. Admission will be granted on the basis of the grade-point average in the college and the major, faculty recommendations, and a written proposal. The project will be for two courses during the two semesters of the senior year, normally under the supervision of two faculty members from different departments. Interested majors should consult the director.

I) Requirements

• GPA: Minimum GPA in the major and in the college: 3.5.
• Faculty Support: The student must have support from two faculty members willing to advise the project.

II) How to Apply

By April 15 of the junior year, students must submit a proposal to the Comparative Literature program director. Proposals should be submitted to Jed Deppman, Rice Hall 28, and include the following:

• Name
• Declared major(s) and minor(s)
• Current GPA overall and in CMPL
• Tentative project title
• 4-6 page project narrative
• 1-2 page preliminary bibliography (annotations optional).
• Statement of faculty support from two potential advisors.

III) The Project Narrative

The narrative is the most significant part of the proposal. There is no standard format, but the following questions must be addressed:

• What do you propose to study, and why? (Describe your research topic and how you came to it.)
• What is your background in the areas you propose to study? (Describe relevant coursework, language levels, and other significant experience or training that has prepared you for this project.)
• What are the theoretical grounds for the comparison? (Describe the theories, methodologies, and frameworks you intend to use.)

IV) Statement of Faculty Support

The proposal is not complete unless it includes letters (or emails) from two faculty members in areas relevant to the project. Faculty members must confirm 1) that they consider the project to be valuable and feasible and 2) that they are willing to serve as advisors if it is approved.

V) Completing the Honors Project

Fall Semester:

• “Substantive progress” report. By November 1, advisors must send a brief message to the CMPL director describing whether or not the student has made “substantive progress” on the honors project. If yes, then the student will enroll for 3 credit-hours for the spring semester to finish the project. If not, then the Honors project will revert to the required 3-hour senior project. The November 1st deadline is early enough that the project can be reconceived on a smaller scale.

In each case, the two faculty advisors are responsible for determining what constitutes substantive progress. This may vary depending on the nature of the project, but in all cases the student will have met with both advisors, shown work in progress, and discussed the feasibility of the remaining proposed work.

Spring Semester:

• Students submit a work of approximately 40-60 pages to both advisors by April 25. The advisors and one external reader will conduct a final oral exam of 45-60 minutes and make recommendations for honors. The comparative literature committee will then meet to consider all the honors recommendations together, and forward a list to the College Honors committee. This committee makes the final decisions.

Cross-Referenced Courses

The following courses are taught in English and may be of interest to comparative literature majors. For a more complete listing of cross-listed courses, as well as courses in other languages, see

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