Comparative Literature is about exploring connections — connections among various literary, visual, and cultural traditions in a global world; connections between past and present; and connections across different academic disciplines and modes of intellectual inquiry. We train students in the critical analysis of texts, seeking to understand how the rhetorical and aesthetic features of those texts—whether literary, visual, or theoretical—negotiate and shape social values, attitudes, and beliefs. International in scope and interdisciplinary in orientation, our field emphasizes intellectual breadth and fosters intellectual initiative by maximizing students’ opportunities to design their own courses of study.
Undergraduate students can pursue either a literary studies or a cinema studies track. Graduate students can obtain certificates in theory and criticism, textual studies, or cinema and media studies along with their primary degree. While students choose a concentration in one national tradition, they also work on exploring the place of that tradition within an international setting.
The Department of Comparative Literature offers an interdisciplinary program of study in Paris, France during autumn quarter each year. Students can earn 15 UW credits while living and studying in one of the most vibrant and beautiful cities in the world.
In collaboration with the Comparative History of Ideas Program, our faculty have developed new intensive summer programs in Beijing, China and Chiapas, Mexico. Students from the UW and other universities can earn up to 12 credits for four weeks of immersion at the Beijing Film Academy studying Chinese film history and criticism, or in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas examining history, literature, and cinema associated with the movement for indigenous autonomy in Mexico.
Awards received by Department of Comparative Literature faculty include:
- 4 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships
- 3 Lockwood Professorships in the Humanities
- 1 Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Fellowship
- 1 UW Jewish Studies Program Award
- 1 Woodrow Wilson Fellowship
- 1 Distinguished Visiting Professor, Rutgers University
- 2 Alexander Von Humboldt Fellowships
- 1 Residency, Bellagio Study Center, Rockefeller Foundation
- 1 Stanford Humanities Center Fellowship
- 1 National Humanities Center Fellowship
- 4 UW Royalty Research Fund Awards
Departmental research reflects the diversity of our faculty and students, with a wide range of scholarly, editorial, and translation projects underway. Recent faculty publications include book-length studies of Freud and psychoanalysis, Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, the Gothic text, hypertext, and historical trauma in 20th Century Chinese literature and film; a feminist reader on early cinema; and editions of two novels by William Godwin and of the works of Northrup Frye.
Recent dissertations have explored a wide range of topics—including naturalism, power and representation, Romantic hermeneutics, and theories of identification—in literature and cinema from England, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, Taiwan, the West Indies, and Egypt.
Graduate students have participated in language study and research throughout the U.S. as well as in China, Denmark, Russia, Romania, Turkey, Poland, Japan, Taiwan, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Mexico, and Switzerland. Undergraduate students have helped design an environmental studies humanities course, translated contemporary Mexican writers, and participated in other projects with support from Mary Gates Scholarships and College of Arts and Sciences funding.
Outreach in Academia
UW Texts and Teachers is a long-term, collaborative partnership in education among UW and high school teachers and students, currently linking on-campus courses with classes at Roosevelt, Eastlake, Lake Washington, and Henry M. Jackson High Schools in the Seattle area.
In recent years we have sponsored an international conferences on Italian filmmaker Federico Felini and another on “Cinema on City’s Edge.” The latter, devoted to the new urban spaces under construction in East Asia and their representation in film and other media, brought together scholars from cinema, architecture, and urban studies from throughout the U.S. and Asia.