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College of Letters & Science

Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies

Note: Effective fall 2016 the name of the undergraduate major in comparative literature will change to Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies. Student transcripts will reflect the new name for all degrees completed after December 1, 2016.

Requirements for the Major in Comparative Literature
Requirements for Honors in the Comparative Literature Major
Additional Program Information
Certificate in Folklore
Comparative Literature Courses
Folklore Courses

2402 Sterling Hall, 475 North Charter Street, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-3059; complit.lss.wisc.edu

Professors Adler (also German), Dubois (also Scandinavian Studies), Layoun; Associate Professors Livanos, Statkiewicz; Associate Faculty Associate Grunewald

Affiliates: Professors Casid (Art History), De Ferrari (Spanish & Portuguese), Goodkin (French and Italian), Livorni (French and Italian), Longinovic (Slavic), Rosenmeyer (Classics), Santos (University of Coimbra, Portugal); Associate Professors Garlough (Gender & Women's Studies), Gilmore (Landscape Architecture, Guyer (English), Kern (East Asian Languages and Literature), Schenck (Life Sciences Communication), Academic Staff: Scott Mellor (Scandinavian Studies), Ruth Olson (Center for the study of Upper Midwestern Cultures).

Honorary Affiliates: Professors Brenner (Hebrew and Semitic Studies), Bühnemann (Languages and Cultures of Asia), Gross (German), Kaplan (Law), Klug (Law), Scheub (African Languages and Literature)

Director of undergraduate studies/advisor for the comparative literature major and folklore certificate: Ralph Grunewald, 2408 Sterling Hall, 608-262-1158/608-262-3059, grunewald@wisc.edu

Faculty diversity liaison: Mary Layoun, 2412 Sterling Hall, 608-262-9767/608-262-3059, layoun@lss.wisc.edu

The Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies offers a major in comparative literature and a certificate in folklore.

Comparative literature is the study of literatures in their original languages from a transnational, cross-cultural perspective. The program welcomes students with a diverse range of backgrounds and interests, and with literary reading competence in a language in addition to English. Literary fluency in a language other than English is the basis for work in the comparative literature major.

Comparative literature students and majors study texts from a range of historical periods, geographical and cultural areas, and literary and artistic movements. They learn to critically pose and respond to fundamental questions about the place of literature in society and in cultural and historical traditions.

Majors are introduced to specific modes of literary analysis as well as to general concepts of "literariness." They explore the interaction of literature with other arts and disciplines as well as with the political, social, and intellectual contexts of literature. In this way, students acquire important intellectual skills in critical comparative reading, thinking, and writing.

The small size of most comparative literature classes allows ample opportunity for the discussion and exchange that are essential to the development of such skills. Comparative literature classes also offer challenging research and writing projects that can be carried out individually and in small groups.

A major in comparative literature is valuable preparation for a career in a wide range of fields that demand careful analysis, clear writing, the presentation of logical arguments, and the critical assessment of the written and oral opinions of others—law, business, communications, politics and diplomacy, journalism, technical writing, or publishing. It is ideal for students interested in teaching at the secondary level or in pursuing graduate degrees.

To declare the major in comparative literature, students must have sophomore standing, have taken at least one 200-level course in the department, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and have established the foundations of literary fluency in a language other than English.

Prospective majors are strongly encouraged to meet with the director of undergraduate studies to discuss the requirements in advance of declaring the major. Declared majors are strongly encouraged to meet with the director of undergraduate studies in planning their courses each semester. Juniors should arrange a meeting early in the spring semester to assess whether they will have met all requirements for graduation.

Folklore is a multidisciplinary field of study concerned with the documentation and analysis of verbal, customary, musical, material, and performance traditions, primarily as they are practiced within cultures, but also as they are revived, modified, even invented by artists, educators, entrepreneurs, activists, communities, and states. The program offers courses on folklore forms, practitioners, performances, theory, methods, and public presentation, with an emphasis on cross-cultural and interdisciplinary approaches. Students interested in folklore as an area of concentration typically major in an arts, humanities, or social science discipline. No formal undergraduate major is offered in folklore, but by planning a course of study with the undergraduate advisor, a student may design an individual major with a folklore concentration. Undergraduate students may also earn a certificate in folklore.

Requirements for the Major in Comparative Literature

The major requires a total of 30 credits in Comparative Literature (Comp Lit), plus 9 credits in literature in a single foreign language for a total of 39 credits. The 30 credits in the department must include:

  • 6 credits (two classes) from the 200-level sequence (Comp Lit 201, 202, 203, 205);
  • two courses in literary criticism and theory (Comp Lit 310, 371, or 475);
  • the Comparative Literature Proseminar, Comp Lit 690;
  • 9 credits in literature courses in a single foreign language, taken in the relevant foreign language department, with a final grade of B or better in each course. Independent study or literature in translation courses will usually not count toward this requirement.

The Senior Thesis (Comp Lit 691–692, for a total of 6 credits) is strongly recommended (though not required) for non-honors majors.

Introduction to Literary Criticism (Comp Lit 310) is strongly advised as a bridge between the 200-level courses and the 300- and 400-level courses.

Work in the major must show a degree of continuity. The exact configuration of courses in the major will be determined individually for each student in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies.

All students are required to fulfill the L&S requirement of at least 15 credits of upper-level work in the major completed in residence. Any course in the department numbered 300 or above will count toward this requirement.

Majors are strongly encouraged to maintain an average GPA of 3.25 for coursework in the major.

Requirements for Honors in the Comparative Literature Major

The Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies encourages students to consider graduating with Honors in the Major. Honors in the Comparative Literature Major provides students with an opportunity not only to deepen their understanding of questions of comparative literatures and cultures but also to develop and practice their skills in critical comparative reading, thinking, and writing.

Honors in the Major in Comparative Literature requires a total of 39 credits with an average GPA in the major of 3.5.

In addition to the general requirements for the major (please see Requirements for the Major), students who wish to qualify for Honors in the Comparative Literature Major must take 9 credits of Comparative Literature at the 300 level or above for honors credit.

Honors in the Comparative Literature Major also requires the Senior Honors Thesis (Comp Lit 681–682) for a total of 6 credits.

The remaining 24 credits are distributed as stipulated for all undergraduate comparative literature majors in Requirements for the Major.

Additional Program Information

Courses in comparative literature fall into four general classes:

Introductory courses (201–299) are based entirely on English-language texts or English translations of foreign language texts. These courses are open to first-year students and restricted to undergraduates.

General courses (300–400) are open to undergraduates. The course texts are in English, but majors and other students who are able to do so are expected to work with one foreign literature in the original language.

More specialized courses (400–699) are open to both undergraduate and (with the exception of the proseminar, Comp Lit 690) graduate students. Texts used in these courses typically require the knowledge of at least one foreign language.

Graduate courses (700–999) involve increasing use of foreign literatures both in the classroom and in individual work.

Certificate in Folklore

Note: Effective fall 2016, students will not be allowed to complete both the major in comparative literature and folklore studies, and the undergraduate certificate in folklore studies.

The certificate in folklore is available to students working for a baccalaureate degree in any UW–Madison school or college, and to Special students. The purpose of the certificate is to acquaint students with the nature of folklore, its study, its public presentation, and its relations to a range of human experiences, intellectual currents, and professional endeavors.

The certificate requires 15 credits, including at least one course from each of the following four clusters:

  1. Introductions to the Field: 100, 230
  2. Genres of Folklore: 103, 211, 220, 237, 339, 352, 359, 450, 451, 460, 539, 655
  3. Folklore and Cultural Areas: 102, 210, 270, 279, 320, 326, 329, 342, 345, 346, 347, 353, 370, 374, 401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 411, 431, 436, 437, 440, 443, 444, 445, 450, 453, 517, 518, 521, 535, 540, 612, 630, 640
  4. Issues, Theories, Methods: 344, 410, 428, 471, 490, 491, 510, 512, 515, 520, 530, 560, 639

At least four courses must be at the 300 level or above. Directed Study (399) may be used to satisfy one cluster requirement, but only with the approval of the certificate advisor and the director of the certificate program. Certificate seekers are urged to consult the undergraduate advisor at the earliest possible opportunity.

This page was revised 8/24/15.