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LordCirque
12-23-2010, 08:38 AM
Has anyone here majored in Comparative Literature or taken classes in comparative literature that could provide more insight into the major/degree and what separates it from a standard English degree and what advantages/disadvantages this degree might have.

gkelly
12-23-2010, 03:51 PM
Depends what kind of literature you want to study.

I've only taken one course in a Comparative Literature department.

I've also taken many dramatic literature courses in various departments that span different nationalities/language groups.

I think you'll find that many English departments focus on literature written in English.
This will limit you if anglophone literature is not where you want your primary emphasis.

If you wanted to focus on literature from a different specific language tradition, you would probably major in that language and read the works in the original language.

But if you want to study literature from a variety of language traditions, in translation where necessary, and to look at similarities and differences across the different traditions, Comparative Literature might be the place to do so, if such a department is available. Otherwise you might need to develop a cross-disciplinary major using courses from departments that teach the kinds of literature you want to study.

Also, at a graduate level, you'd probably be reading a lot of theory, from a lot of different sources. And you'll probably want to read it translated into your native language (English?) rather than try to slog through unfamiliar ideas in an unfamiliar language.

Check out specific Comp Lit departments -- they will probably require a reading knowledge of several foreign languages at a graduate level, but make sure they would include the languages you already know or want to learn and that they offer courses in the kinds of literature you want to study.

Kykla
12-23-2010, 05:01 PM
I majored in Comparative Literature at UCI. Loved it! Here's an example of what you would cover as a comp lit major:

Comparative Literature at UC Irvine is especially strong in critical theory and postcolonial studies, and also offers the whole array of comparative fields and periods. The Department is committed to its historic strength in theory, and is like no other department nationally in the number and richness of theory courses we offer. Many seminars in psychoanalysis, political theory, queer theory, and narrative theory, for example, are taught each year (please browse some of these course descriptions). Our postcolonial faculty includes eminent senior scholars such as Ackbar Abbas (whose research has focused on Hong Kong and globalization) and Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Africa and the Caribbean, minority discourse, and translation). At the same time, we pursue comparative European studies, literary, film, and media studies, and the history of ideas. We encourage interdisciplinary work, and place no restrictions on the kinds of courses that students can take as part of their coursework. Area studies are fostered by collaborative Ph.D. programs with other departments such as Spanish and Portuguese and French and Italian: students emerge from such programs with, for example a Ph.D. in Spanish and Comparative Literature. Emphases within the Comparative Literature Ph.D. are available in several areas, including critical theory and feminist studies. Across the program, we integrate theory with inquiry into historical and contemporary sociopolitical problems.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I didn't pursue a Ph.D. Got a JD instead.

Rob
12-23-2010, 05:50 PM
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I didn't pursue a Ph.D. Got a JD instead.

HaHa, this classics major, who took some comparative lit, also got a JD.

LordCirque
12-23-2010, 06:54 PM
Thanks! I've done a lot of reading on various schools websites about programs but figured it'd best to get personal accounts from people that have been there before, since those websites are designed to attract students, not give you the cold facts of life in their department/major.

Garden Kitty
12-23-2010, 08:09 PM
Comparative Literature at UC Irvine is especially strong in critical theory and postcolonial studies, and also offers the whole array of comparative fields and periods. The Department is committed to its historic strength in theory, and is like no other department nationally in the number and richness of theory courses we offer. Many seminars in psychoanalysis, political theory, queer theory, and narrative theory, for example, are taught each year (please browse some of these course descriptions). Our postcolonial faculty includes eminent senior scholars such as Ackbar Abbas (whose research has focused on Hong Kong and globalization) and Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Africa and the Caribbean, minority discourse, and translation). At the same time, we pursue comparative European studies, literary, film, and media studies, and the history of ideas. We encourage interdisciplinary work, and place no restrictions on the kinds of courses that students can take as part of their coursework. Area studies are fostered by collaborative Ph.D. programs with other departments such as Spanish and Portuguese and French and Italian: students emerge from such programs with, for example a Ph.D. in Spanish and Comparative Literature. Emphases within the Comparative Literature Ph.D. are available in several areas, including critical theory and feminist studies. Across the program, we integrate theory with inquiry into historical and contemporary sociopolitical problems.


It's a good thing I was a business major, because it hurts my head just to read that description. :slinkaway

IceAlisa
12-23-2010, 08:55 PM
When I was dusting off my French at the local Alliance Française, our instructor had a degree in comparative French and Mexican lit. I thought that was very intriguing.

barbk
12-24-2010, 01:55 AM
Garden Kitty -- Me too. I think I'm still damaged from reading Bruno Bettelheims deconstruction of fairy tales years ago. I think I'm way too literal to survive modern English departments. A friend of mine is an older and very respected English professor -- she despaired of what was happening in the English department and removed herself to the school of Music at the same university where she now happily analyzes texts of musical works and helps graduate students hone their theses.

Prancer
12-24-2010, 02:16 AM
Has anyone here majored in Comparative Literature or taken classes in comparative literature that could provide more insight into the major/degree and what separates it from a standard English degree and what advantages/disadvantages this degree might have.

The main disadvantage of getting an undergraduate degree in comparative lit is this: what are you going to do with it?

If you intend to become an academic, be aware that you are going to have to be very, very good at your field to progress far enough through school to get a Ph.D, and then you are going to have to be very, very good in comparison to other Ph.Ds to even be considered for a tenured position.

If you don't intend to become an academic, what DO you want to do with a comparative lit degree?

There will be people who follow me and say that education for its sake has value, and I won't argue that particular point. But it seems to me that only those who have no worries about income have the luxury of thinking that way--and if you ask, you will find that that advice nearly always comes from either students, who really don't know (sorry, students, but you don't) or people who graduated years ago when getting a degree was enough all by itself to ensure your future. Those days are gone.

Majoring in liberal arts doesn't doom you to working at McDonald's, but you have to have a very clear vision of what you want to do. If you know exactly where you are going and how you are going to get there, you can make a liberal arts degree work for you. But if you are just floating into LA because you like it and will worry about what comes after when you get there, the economy will not be kind to you.

And someone is also about to post and say that depends--if you go to a top school, you can still get a job. That's fine--if you are going to a top school. Then maybe, as there are a lot of graduates from the top schools who are struggling to find jobs now, too. But if you aren't going to one of the top schools, then the point is moot.

Angelskates
12-24-2010, 02:35 AM
LC - you seem to have a lot of strong interest in many areas - cooking, dance, writing etc. Have you thought of seeing a careers counsellor or someone similar to try and get some more direction in what your marketable/career skills are that also work with your interests?

I changed my mind several times before I chose my career path (or it chose me) and I'm only 31. While I was in the last year of high school and the four years of my first degree, I changed my mind so many times - both within my areas of interest and in line with what I thought I should do, and what I thought I could make a living in with my skill set.

It was only once I really sat down and thought about it myself, and with an independent person (not my family or friends, who all, as much as they loved me, had a agendas), that I started forging a path. It took ages, and I fiddled with it along the way to suit current circumstances. I think my career path with continually progress as I learn more and gain more experience.

There comes a time where you do have to choose a focus, and follow through. It's not easy thinking current, short term and long term, but it is important in becoming both independent and financially okay.

numbers123
12-24-2010, 02:39 AM
Even if you think you have a job market, by the time you complete your degree the market may (probably will) change greatly. Unless you have a degree that has a potential of continuing employment, you are taking a risk if you don't know what you are going to do with it.

Viable job market - most healthcare professions (I do say most, rfisher can give some areas that there is not growth).
Viable job market - some tech professions, although that is risky too as more gets outsourced
Academia tract - as people have to default on student loans because there are no jobs, then enrollment rates at colleges/universities will drop. Need for academia may (I did say may) drop dramatically.
Law - maybe. My brother has been unable to find a job for 5 years now. He has had experience in real estate law, labor relations law, divorce, etc. Just not hiring in his locale and his wife is not willing to move.

Check out what you will do with any degree, and not major in something that you have an interest in without knowing what you will do with it.

Anita18
12-24-2010, 02:49 AM
The main disadvantage of getting an undergraduate degree in comparative lit is this: what are you going to do with it?

If you intend to become an academic, be aware that you are going to have to be very, very good at your field to progress far enough through school to get a Ph.D, and then you are going to have to be very, very good in comparison to other PhDs to even be considered for a tenured position.

If you don't intend to become an academic, what DO you want to do with a comparative lit degree?

There will be people who follow me and say that education for its sake has value, and I won't argue that particular point. But it seems to me that only those who have no worries about income have the luxury of thinking that way--and if you ask, you will find that that advice nearly always comes from either students, who really don't know (sorry, students, but you don't) or people who graduated years ago when getting a degree was enough all by itself to ensure your future. Those days are gone.

Majoring in liberal arts doesn't doom you to working at McDonald's, but you have to have a very clear vision of what you want to do. If you know exactly where you are going and how you are going to get there, you can make a liberal arts degree work for you. But if you are just floating into LA because you like it and will worry about what comes after when you get there, the economy will not be kind to you.

And someone is also about to post and say that depends--if you go to a top school, you can still get a job. That's fine--if you are going to a top school. Then maybe, as there are a lot of graduates from the top schools who are struggling to find jobs now, too. But if you aren't going to one of the top schools, then the point is moot.
My sister went to a top school with stellar recs from all of her professors (with multiple thesis awards) and even got a master's at the same time she did an undergrad major in sociology, and it still took her half a year to find a job. I have an equally brilliant (although less overachieving :lol: ) friend who graduated with honors in English from a great school, went to law school, passed the bar, and finally got a job after months of searching...through her father's connections. The job market sucks major major butt. Sure you can hope that it'll get better when you graduate, but you can't count on it.

I agree that education for its own sake has its merits, but you've got to have the money for that luxury! Otherwise you should have an idea of what you want to do (or CAN do) with the skills you'll gain with that major. I'm not up-to-date with LC's current financial situation, but IIRC it was very precarious not too long ago. It's something you'll have to consider.

LordCirque
12-24-2010, 04:41 AM
I've thought a lot about trying to get jobs in editing/publishing, and I often have seen that listed as a potential field for Compar. Lit majors, as well as Creative Writing majors (what i'd LIKE to major in but that's highly unpractical, even my unpractical self knows that). I'm not a corporate suit and tie type of person though, but that is one area I'm looking at. I'm going to join the Literary Magazine on campus next semester to get a look at that.

Journalism is another, it's rather dry and boring for my taste, I took a News Writing class and got an A, but was MEH on the class and assignments, but it's something. I'm not ruling that out yet.

I'd been looking at Comparative Lit as a possible major because it seems very all encompassing in it's course work, some departments allowing for classes in writing, anthropology, history, drama/theater, cinema/film, etc... Which on paper is PERFECT for me.

I'd love to get a job as a Book or Theater/Dance critic for a newspaper or magazine, but I know how difficult that is as well.

I'm looking into other fields as well, Social Sciences mostly. I'm not a math/science oriented person, but the fields I'm looking at again are very very specific and difficult to get into.

I have considered being an Academic as well, not at the top of my list but on my list.

I am definitely trying to narrow my focus and develop the skill sets I have, as well as bring out new ones.

Quintuple
12-24-2010, 09:28 AM
Yeesh. Sorry to be a beyotch, but you'd have to have less problems with your diction and syntax (or at least edit before you publish) to be an editor. Then again, I find that more editors have less language skills, as corporate publishing has less to do with actual editorial work than acquisitions and paper pushing. Trade/arts publishing - different world, but quickly-paced and very competitive.

I was semi-kidding about the criticism. Yes, you're just typing thoughts on a message board; not meant to be a formal paper. But I would definitely say that you can be in a general "publishing" position without having to formally major in journalism, creative writing, or even having evidence of good work in a literature major. As tough as the job market is in general, I think most publishing houses hire editorial assistants with any BA and good-enough office skills. Arts/fashion magazines, different story.

Sounds like you should search for general liberal arts majors. Or "humanities" majors. Even within the UCs, flexibility of courses vary greatly. For example, at Cal and UCLA, you'd barely have the time or allowance to venture outside your major. But at UCSB, you can take all that you mentioned above, and hell, have some of it count towards your major.

Overall, two comments: You can be focused, maybe even picky, but not dismissive of entire fields of writing/publishing. Journalism's dry and boring? Good luck getting a job as a critic. Secondly, within journalism: you can also take the route of just writing, writing, writing amazing stuff on your own that publications would want, and getting out in the field, rather than specifically going to school for journalism. Just know what you're doing, and copyedit before you submit.

Not all classes within a field, or teachers within a school's program, or material within a major are the same. If you're planning on doing all this in SD, you should sit in on classes and lectures at all the schools in your area that you're considering, and read the requirements carefully. And write!

heckles
12-24-2010, 03:21 PM
I'm not up-to-date with LC's current financial situation, but IIRC it was very precarious not too long ago. It's something you'll have to consider.

It's a good idea to pay off existing debts before taking on new ones.