1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Comparative Literature Major

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by LordCirque, Dec 23, 2010.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. LordCirque

    LordCirque Well-Known Member

    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.
  2. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    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.
  3. Kykla

    Kykla New Member

    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 ThiongÂ’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.
  4. Rob

    Rob Beach Bum

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

    LordCirque Well-Known Member

    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.
  6. Garden Kitty

    Garden Kitty Tranquillo

    It's a good thing I was a business major, because it hurts my head just to read that description. :slinkaway
    skipaway and (deleted member) like this.
  7. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    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.
  8. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

    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.
  9. Prancer

    Prancer Cursed for all time Staff Member

    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.
    millyskate and (deleted member) like this.
  10. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    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.
  11. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

    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.
  12. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    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.
  13. LordCirque

    LordCirque Well-Known Member

    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.
  14. Quintuple

    Quintuple papillon d'amour

    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!
  15. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

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

    Prancer Cursed for all time Staff Member

    The academic job market can and will get worse, but I hope not dramatically worse. More than half of all college courses in the US are now taught by adjunct faculty. Most adjuncts make less per hour than fast food workers.

    ALL of the jobs you listed are extremely competitive. You want to work in publishing? So does every other liberal arts major. A lot of them end up doing unpaid internships in the hopes that they will be hired on at some point. You are thinking maybe journalism? Well, so are a lot of other people, and they are thinking this as newspapers are fighting a losing battle for survival. One of my friends is a journalism professor; his most talented student ever now works as a regional manager for Pizza Hut because the pay is better.

    Journalism is one of the best ways to learn how to write for a living and is nearly always the gateway to critical reviewing. You think journalism is boring? Wait until you find out how boring most editing work is. Not only is it usually boring, but it's also demanding--editing (as opposed to copyediting, which is something else entirely) requires a lot of focus and concentration.

    If you want to write, write. As Quintuple said, you don't need to go to school to write; you just have to do it. Very few people make a living writing; most do something else for their income and write on the side. If you want to be a creative writer, then you are actually better off working in something that doesn't require a lot of writing, as writing is hard work. You will get burnt out after a day of writing at the office and then you won't write when you get home; it will be your job, just like any other.

    I know a lot of writers; some of them have written multiple books, have great reviews and are considered successful in the field. None of them can support themselves with their writing. They all have other jobs. There are reasons for this; you might find this enlightening, if depressing: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/04/cmap-8-lifestyle-or-job.html

    If all this sounds discouraging, it's meant to be. Again, a liberal arts degree is not a waste of time, but you have to have a very good idea of what you want to do and how you are going to get there if you want to make it work for you.

    Money isn't everything, but it's something. Student loan debt in the US now exceeds credit card debt and the default rate on those loans is going up; don't kid yourself that the degree will be a good investment unless you have solid reasons for believing it.
  17. LordCirque

    LordCirque Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I've never expected to be able to making a living as a creative writer, I know that (and thought I already said). I've been trying to look up programs/careers that would help enhance my writing while giving me a means of support and time to work on my writing. I have a lot of support for the Creative Writing department at school but the chances of me becoming Stephen King or Terry Pratchett, well, I know those odds.

    I've been looking into the science fields as well, I've never been a math or science person, but I am a lot older now than I was the last time I took a serious math or science class. Culinary School did help develop the analytical part of my brain, so maybe that's something worth looking at now.

    My talents lie in the creative world, but that's not the easiest world to make a living in, even as an academic in the creative world.

    Journalism is still one of the biggest considerations, because of the broad spectrum of it. I think a lot of it just had to do with a boring professor. All of our assignments came from taking "raw information" from the textbook assignments, and turning those into real stories. It was neat in terms of learning what to do and how to do it, but it got old after a while, the class itself was not an academically strong class, so we never went all that far in terms of difficulty or finding our own stories to write, and those of us that were reading and wanting to go further, got left out in the cold so to speak.
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2010
  18. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

    Lord Cirque -- Maybe as a cook/writer for Cook's Illustrated /America's Test Kitchen? Combining two interests?
  19. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    That's the thing about writing - anyone can do it anywhere. Which makes it easy and difficult, because it's easy to pick up, but in order to be successful you have to somehow find an audience with the millions of other writers out there.

    In the day and age of the internet, blogging is becoming pretty popular and you can make some advertising money doing it. Again, it's very rare that you can make a living out of blogging, but it's easy and cheap to try out if you like to write. I find that for even popular blogs, you don't have to be the best writer, but you have to come up with material regularly and your writing has to be very clear. If you find a specific niche then it's easier.

    Definitely. If you're going to go back to school, you have to be smart about it.

    I'm going back to school for graphic design, but at the community college because I still have some HS scholarship money I can use for it. (Free edumacation! :cheer: ) And it turns out there are instructors there who also teach at Art Center, so I'd be getting a great education as well. At the same time, I'm building a web portfolio so I can get started on networking.

    Like LC, I'm normally of the "I'll never be good/educated enough!" mindset, but at some point you've got to stop worrying and start doing. :)

    You don't necessarily have to take a class for writing. You just have to write, and find like-minded people who want to help each other out. Around here, there are a bazillion screenwriters trying to make it and you can find online writing partners on Craigslist. Not sure if there's anything like that in SD, but it's something to consider.

    To get certified in something health/science-related certainly isn't as difficult as getting a 4-year science degree. If you're not a math or science person, I wouldn't recommend the 4-year degree. I was always good at math and science in high school, and I SUFFERED through calculus, physics, and chemistry in college, just for a general biology degree. (I suffered through biology too since I'm not very smart analytically, but at least I liked it better than calculus and chemistry. :lol: )
  20. LordCirque

    LordCirque Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I'm at Community College right now and have a Board of Governors fee waver due to my lack of funds.

    No, I probably don't need to take the classes, but they've actually been very helpful and the professors in the program I'm in are very good and guiding you and connecting you. I found a great Creative Writing program so I'll take advantage of it while I can. I took Intro to Creative Writing last semester and really ended the class a better writer and got lots of great feedback, and am taking some genre specific stuff next semester, including Playwriting/Screenwriting.

    I've been very curious about Forensic and Paleo Anthropology, but those are very very specific fields, and require a very high degree of knowledge and education. I took the lecture for Intro to Physical Anthropology last semester as a GE and it ended up being my favorite class. I'm taking the lab next semester and seeing how that goes before exploring that option further, but I know how difficult and competitive those fields are as well. PhDs are the norm, which doesn't bother me but those take a while.

    For some things I'm not worried so much about the education and being smart enough to do something, it's more an insecurity of being able to make someone else see that I'm smart enough and capable.
  21. Lanie

    Lanie Well-Known Member

    LC, if you want to know about anthropology, PM me or I can PM you. My cousin works at a museum and is also a professor of anthropology and he kept telling me never to touch those fields: little work, lots of schooling, lots of loans! But he loves it.

    I'd keep doing what you were doing, dabbling and seeing what really piques your interest. I got my BA in Political Science and History. I'm unemployed. I'll be going back to school to get a Master's in History (at UC Irvine). Not sure what I want to do with it, but it's my big passion so I figure I ought to pursue it while I can.
  22. LordCirque

    LordCirque Well-Known Member

    That's what I've been hearing too, especially in regards to Forensic Anthropology specifically, I've always had an interest in bones and observing/studying them, but most Forensic Anthropologists end up as Academics at Universities and do field work on the side. I will definitely PM you though, thanks!

    Also thought a European History Degree, with emphasis in either Ancient Europe or , which was bar none my best K-12 subject, but once again, what do I do with it besides teach?
  23. rfisher

    rfisher Will you rise like a phoenix or be a burnt chicken

  24. rfisher

    rfisher Will you rise like a phoenix or be a burnt chicken

    I can flat out tell you to look elsewhere unless you are independently wealthy. I have a PhD in anthropology. Paleoanth is fascinating and there are 20 PhDs for every research position. There are no other jobs and money for research is not going to go to anybody unless you get into Stoneybrook which, I'm sorry to say, simply won't happen for you. Forensic anthro is also very limited in job opportunities and you also have to attend a handful of programs. The days of majoring in anthro without a good source of funding are over unless you are an exceptional student. Both of these fields require a PhD. There are no jobs in the field for someone with a BS. Take the classes, enjoy them and look elsewhere for a career.
  25. LordCirque

    LordCirque Well-Known Member

    I'm looking at Stony Brook now, it doesn't seem like that difficult of a school to get into, the only disadvantage I would have is not being from NY, but I've got a decent GPA, 3.5, that should be able to get me in to most Non-Ivy League schools, despite popular opinion of me, I am a very good student.

    Anthropology is not really at the top of my list anymore, I don't think I'd enjoy digging in fields in the middle of no where for hours on end, not my thing, but the academic side of it does greatly interest me.
  26. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    A 3.5 gpa isn't considered competitive for top-tier doctoral programs.* That alone would disqualify an applicant. I realize that doctoral programs are down the road, but if the only payout for the undergrad degree is getting into a doctoral program, then that's something to consider. A competitive applicant needs to be in the 3.9-4.0 range with 700's across the board on their graduate exams (in some cases, mid-upper 700's). A 3.5 is considered mediocre. If that 3.5 is earned at a lower-tiered school, it's considered below mediocre.

    Not trying to be mean here--but academia is extremely competitive, and this is how people are weeded out of consideration. Where you go matters, your grades matter, the difficulty of your program and coursework matters, your recommendations *really* matter, and your test scores matter. If you have no clue as to whether you should be pursuing anthropology, journalism, European history, or comp lit, then you're basically going to school as a hobby. Hobbies do not a career make.

    * To clarify, top-tier doesn't equal Ivy-League. Each discipline has top departments throughout the country. Some of the departments are located in Ivy-League schools--others are not. It depends on the individual program and discipline.
  27. LordCirque

    LordCirque Well-Known Member

    Which is why I'm still in community college and not a University yet, I haven't figured out what I need to do and where I want to go and what I want to do. I guess it is a hobby right now, but it is with a purpose that I am trying to figure out things and pursue something to actually make myself a worthwhile member of society.

    I am aware that I need to bring up my GPA, especially when I get to my Upper Division classes, I'm still in my undergrad lower division. I unfortunately have classes from way back in my first time around in community college when I really wasn't ready for college and the grades (mostly B's and C's reflect that), but I am now.

    I wasn't aware of the board scores though, which is good to know down the line, still at least 2-3 years away from that, but I don't think that is something that will change in that short amount of time.
  28. Allen

    Allen Glad to be back!

    Stony Brook can be very difficult to get into depending on the program. While it may not be Harvard or Cornell, the graduate programs at Stony Brook are incredibly well regarded. A 3.5 GPA is good for some STATE school graduate program, but not even always then. You have to think that people who went to top tier undergraduate schools with GPAs in the 3.0-3.5 range take up a lot of the spots at very good, but not the highest programs. The fact of the matter in general is that because of the bad economy, EVERYONE wants to go back to graduate school. A 3.5 IS a good GPA, but you have to think that a lot of students have an equal or better GPA. On top of that, many universities have had major funding cuts. So there are less spots with far more students competing.

    I had a 3.9 GPA coming out of undergrad from one of the top schools in the country and I got turned down by two top-tier graduate programs. I ended up in a top program, but there are no guarantees no matter how good your GPA or test scores may be. A lot of graduate school applications depend on the demonstration of your ability to succeed in a graduate setting.

    These academic careers that you have listed are not to be taken lightly. You do not just decide to become an anthropologist or historian on a whim. You have to have a lot of dedication and very thick skin to survive. I often relate academia to modeling in the sense that you are constantly getting criticized and judged, but you have to suck it up and push through. The other hand of any academic job or graduate school is that you will be teaching. If you are not committed to your field, you do not need to be teaching undergraduates.

    The moral here is that whatever you do, pick something you love or something marketable that you excel at and do that.
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2010
  29. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    I had a 3.6 in undergrad and I wasn't even in the top half of my class GPA-wise. College was such a hit to my intellectual self-esteem. :lol:

    I think it's definitely necessary to major in something you at least like, but your life will take a lot of twists and turns, so having the pressure of finding your "perfect" major is rather unnecessary.

    I majored in something I liked but wasn't completely passionate about. I certainly like biology and I'm pretty good at lab work, but I'm certainly not passionate enough to get a PhD in it, no way. But my degree led me to my currently very stable job, which pays the bills. It isn't lucrative, but my work group is fantastic and I couldn't have asked for a nicer boss who understands that I've got other interests other than academic research. (I mean, my experiments work so I guess he can't complain much. lol: )

    Actually, I don't think I'm really passionate about any ONE thing - like you, I have a ton of interests I rotate through. So you can actually think of your flexibility as being a good thing. There's so many more options for you to pursue. :) It's something that I learned from my mom, who was very good at her job but didn't think of it as her life. It was something she did, and her true interests lay in the hobbies she did in her free time. I think a job should be something you're willing to do for other people without complaint, but once it gets very personal (as in, something you're super-duper interested in), it gets tougher to make it your living. Or at least it would be for me because I'm a perfectionist in things I'm super-duper interested in. :lol:
  30. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    I agree with you, Anita18. I double-majored in psychology and French, focusing on personality psychology. Both have little bearing on what I do (OK, psychology does have a bearing on chronic pain management but that's not my department, I am certainly not a psychologist specializing in chronic pain).

    But hey, I can go to France or a Francophone country and chat with the locals. And I can cite curious findings in psychological experiments and throw around some terminology such as the Milgram's experiment, the bystander effect and my absolute favorite, the Dunning-Kruger effect ;). And I am aware of the existence of the DSM 349,432 or whatever edition they are on these days. But that's all.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.