Jonathan Monroe Teaching a class
Gain a critical and historical perspective on world literature and cultures


The Department of Comparative Literature provides a broad range of courses in European as well as non-European literatures. Courses variously stress significant authors, themes, problems, styles, genres, historical periods, and theoretical perspectives. In cooperation with related departments in the humanities, the departmental offerings reflect current interdisciplinary approaches to literary study: hermeneutics, semiotics, deconstruction, cultural criticism, Marxism, reception aesthetics, feminism, psychoanalysis. 

Explore Academic Opportunities

Student in a comparative literature class

Undergraduate Major

As a comparative literature major, you’ll gain a critical and historical perspective on world literature and cultures, with the choice of two tracks. If you want to emphasize literature in your course work, take the comparative literary studies track; if you’re interested in studying literature and theory by integrating rigorous work in film, video or other arts and media, take the literary, visual and media studies track. The major’s broad range of courses provides a critical and historical perspective on world literature and cultures.

Learn more about the major

The Comparative Literature Major emphasizes individuality and interdisciplinary study; as such, it can be helpful to understand how different students have chosen their courses and program of study. Take a look at some of our student profiles to get an idea of how Comparative Literature can work for you:

Planning a Program of Study: Eliana Rozinov

Planning a Program of Study: John Yoon

Big Red Barn in fall

Graduate Program

The graduate program in Comparative Literature emphasizes flexibility and creativity. Our students tend to thrive under Cornell's graduate field system.  The program imposes no required courses, thus allowing the student maximal latitude in composing a program of study.

We understand "comparison" in a very generous sense and we encourage work that is theoretical, anthropological, critical, or historical as well as grounded in the study of particular cultural or linguistic traditions and in different media. Normally students to have the ability to do advanced work in at least two languages as well as having reading knowledge of a third language.  Recently, students and faculty have worked reading literature with trauma theory, cognitive science, environmental humanities, new media studies, and many more.

Learn more about the graduate program