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This archived information is dated to the 2011-12 academic year only and may no longer be current.

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Comparative Literature

Emeriti: (Professors) Joseph Frank, John Freccero, René Girard, Herbert Lindenberger, Elisabeth Mudimbe-Boyi (French and Italian), Mary Pratt; (Courtesy Professors) W. B. Carnochan, Gerald Gillespie, David G. Halliburton, Marjorie G. Perloff

Director: David Palumbo-Liu

Chair of Graduate Admissions: Monika Greenleaf

Chair of Graduate Studies: Hans U. Gumbrecht

Chair of Undergraduate Studies: Amir Eshel (Autumn), David Palumbo-Liu (Winter, Spring).

Professors: John Bender (English, Comparative Literature, on leave Spring), Russell Berman (German Studies, Comparative Literature), Margaret Cohen (Comparative Literature, on leave), Amir Eshel (German Studies, Comparative Literature), Roland Greene (English, Comparative Literature, on leave Spring), Hans U. Gumbrecht (French and Italian, Iberian and Latin American Cultures, Comparative Literature), Franco Moretti (English, Comparative Literature, on leave Autumn), David Palumbo-Liu (Comparative Literature, on leave Autumn), Patricia Parker (English, Comparative Literature), Joan Ramón Resina (Iberian and Latin American Cultures, Comparative Literature), José David Saldívar (Comparative Literature), Ramón Saldívar (English, Comparative Literature), Ban Wang (East Asian Languages and Cultures, Comparative Literature, on leave Autumn)

Associate Professor: Monika Greenleaf (Slavic Languages and Literatures, Comparative Literature)

Assistant Professor: Dominic Brookshaw (Persian and Comparative Literature)

Courtesy Professors: Nancy Ruttenberg

Lecturers: Petra Dierkes-Thrun, Kimberly Lewis (Humanities Fellow), Bulbul Tawari (Humanities Fellow)

Department Offices: Building 260, Room 108

Mail Code: 94305-2031

Phone: (650) 723-3566


Web Site:

Courses offered by the Department of Comparative Literature are listed under the subject code COMPLIT on the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site.

The Department of Comparative Literature offers courses in the history and theory of literature through comparative approaches. The department accepts candidates for the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy.

The field of Comparative Literature provides students the opportunity to study imaginative literature in all its forms. While other literary disciplines focus on works of literature as parts of specific national or linguistic traditions, Comparative Literature draws on literature from all contexts in order to examine the nature of literary phenomena from around the globe and from different historical moments, while exploring how literary writing interacts with other elements of culture and society. The field studies literary expression through examinations of genres such as novels, epics, drama, and poetry, and new aesthetic forms such as cinema and electronic media. Although Comparative Literature does not restrict its focus to single traditions or periods, it does investigate the complex interplay of the literary imagination and historical experience. Attention is also paid to questions of literary theory, aesthetic philosophy, and cultural interpretation.

Along with the traditional model of comparative literature that juxtaposes two or more national literary cultures, the department supports teaching and research that examine literary phenomena with additional tools of inquiry such as literary theory, the relationship between literature and philosophy, and the enrichment of literary study with other disciplinary methodologies. Comparative Literature also encourages the study of aspects of literature that surpass national boundaries, such as transnational literary movements or the dissemination of particular genres. In each case, students emerge from the program with enhanced verbal and writing skills, a command of literary studies, the ability to read analytically and critically, and a more global knowledge of literature.


The mission of the undergraduate program in Comparative Literature is to enhance students' verbal and written communication skills, their ability to read analytically and critically as well as to develop their global knowledge of literature. The program provides students with the opportunity to study imaginative literature in all of its forms, investigating the complex interplay of the literary imagination and the historical experience. Courses in the program focus on literary theory, aesthetic philosophy, and cultural interpretation. The program prepares students for a variety of career paths as well as for further study in graduate or professional schools as students learn to think, adapt, and communicate effectively.

The department's undergraduate programs are designed to enhance students' appreciation of literature in all its diversity, particularly through introductory courses that include treatments of the primary literary genres. The course of study at intermediate and advanced levels is flexible in order to accommodate student interest in areas such as specific geographical regions, historical periods, and interdisciplinary connections between literature and other fields such as philosophy, music, the visual arts, and the social sciences. A Comparative Literature major prepares a student to become a better reader and interpreter of literature, through enhanced examination of texts and the development of a critical vocabulary to discuss them. Attention to verbal expression and interpretive argument serves students who plan to proceed into careers requiring strong language skills. In addition, the major in Comparative Literature provides preparation for students who intend to pursue an advanced degree as a gateway to an academic career.


The department expects undergraduate majors in the program to be able to demonstrate the following learning outcomes. These learning outcomes are used in evaluating students and the department's undergraduate program. Students are expected to demonstrate:

  1. the ability to interpret a literary text in a non-native language or to compare literary texts from different linguistic traditions, which may be read in translation.
  2. a self-reflective understanding of the critical process necessary to read and understand texts.
  3. skills in writing effectively about literature.
  4. skills in oral communication and public speaking about literature.

Graduate Programs in Comparative Literature

The department offers a Doctor of Philosophy and a Ph.D. minor in Comparative Literature.

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