FAQs

Do I need to know two foreign languages to join the department?

By the fall of your junior year, you need to have the ability to take upper-level courses in a non-English language literature. You do not need a second language at the time you declare the major, but rather, you need to establish reading proficiency in a second language by the time you graduate.

What do you mean by "reading proficiency?

The Department understands proficiency as the ability to read short texts (such as a short story, poem, essay, or newspaper article) with the aid of a dictionary. The determination will be made at the discretion of the Director of Undergraduate Studies, but typically proficiency may be established through completion of three semesters in a language sequence at Princeton, which for many languages will culminate in a course numbered 107 or 108, or by taking 200-level courses in the language. Certain approved summer programs will also meet the requirement. Students interested in this latter option should confer with the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

What do you mean by “upper-level” courses in a non-English-language literature?
In general, 300- or 400-level courses fulfill the non-English language course requirement as long as all readings are in the original non-English language.  However, students can also count reading-intensive 200-level courses as long as all readings are in the foreign language.

May I count towards the major any upper-level literature courses in which the literature is taught in translation but I do not know the original language?
No.  If it is cross-listed with Comparative Literature, you may count it as one of your three Comparative Literature courses, but you may not count it as one of your four upper-level literature courses.  If you are completing track A, you may count it towards that requirement.

May I count towards the an upper-level literature courses in which the literature is taught in the original but the language of instruction, discussion, and writing assignments is English?

Yes. The primary requirement is that the readings are in the original non-English language. 

How are advisers assigned?
If you're interested in working with a particular professor on your junior paper or senior thesis, you can confer with him or her informally in the summer or semester before you begin your independent work, and you can also list the professor's name on the department's online form.  Most advisers are professors from Comparative Literature, but exceptions can be made in some cases. Alternatively, you can list your interests when you complete the online form, and the Director of Undergraduate Studies will select the most appropriate adviser. The DUS makes the final determination about advising, and informs students and faculty on the first day of the relevant semester.

Does the second junior paper or senior thesis necessarily involve comparison between two languages; do I have to use my second language in my JP2 or ST?
No. You may use your second language in your independent work, but you are not required to do so. 

I would like to spend part or most of my junior year abroad. How do I complete my junior paper?
You work by email with your adviser.  If possible, you should try to meet with prospective advisers by the end of your sophomore year, but you will not be assigned advisers until September of your junior year.

Must Comparative Literature majors write their junior papers or senior theses in a language other than English?
No.  In fact, they may not write them in any language other than English.  All Comparative Literature independent work must be written in English.

I would like to write my senior thesis on English-language primary texts, but with a focus on secondary texts in another language. Will that satisfy the demands of a Comparative Literature senior thesis?
Yes.  So long as texts in a non-English language are substantially interpreted in the thesis, it doesn't matter whether they are primary or secondary texts.

Which languages does the Senior Comprehensive Examination test?
Whichever one you want.  At the beginning of the second day of the exam, you will be given passages in every language that current Comparative Literature seniors have studied.  You will pick one passage to analyze in short critical essay, and you can consult a foreign language dictionary throughout this exercise.  It can be your primary or secondary or tertiary foreign language; you don’t need to decide until you’ve seen the passages.

Are majors expected to have read all the books on the reading selection list?
Certainly not!  Majors are expected to have read four of the epics on the list, seven of the lyric works, nine of the dramas, ten of the novels, and ten of the other texts.  Film is optional.  Seniors work with their advisers to prepare a suitable individual reading list of forty titles.

SCORE says that I have not fulfilled my major course requirements and I'm worried that I won't graduate. Help! 
Because of the flexible way that the Comparative Literature concentration is organized, SCORE often does not properly calculate whether you have fulfilled your departmental requirements.  As long as you have discussed your plan of study with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and he or she has approved your course selections, there should be no problem.  However, it is advisable to verify your progress with the DUS at the beginning of each year to make sure you are on track.