Independent Work

GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR INDEPENDENT WORK: Department of Comparative Literature
**Updated August 2023**

Table of Contents:


Introduction: Goals for student learning








The Department of Comparative Literature trains students in the analysis and interpretation of texts. That may seem an overly broad definition, but since its founding at Princeton, first as a program and then as a department, it has witnessed a series of important changes in what constitutes the discipline of Comparative Literature. Historically, it was a place where students used linguistic proficiencies in different languages, English among them, to compare “literary” artifacts in diverse cultures. In addition to English, the proficiencies of most early academics in the discipline were usually focused on Western European languages such as French, Italian and German. Our students often attain high proficiencies in these languages, but they and their professors’ specializations now reach far beyond this range to include texts in East Asian languages, Chinese, Japanese, and increasingly Korean; Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew; and classical languages, Latin, Greek, Classical Chinese and so on. Mention of linguistic proficiency comes first in this account because it remains the backbone of the training the department offers our students. But we return to the word “texts” and “literary” here because the historical definition of the discipline is now in some ways outmoded. Our students still work, of course, with literary texts, i.e. narrative, drama and poetry, but one of the major accomplishments of the discipline has been to consider as texts, objects of study that are not primarily “literary.”
         We train students in all the above approaches to the study of texts and we have seen increasing interest in work that didn’t originate in Western Europe. Latin American Spanish texts have a high prominence in the discipline and work in Portuguese, both Peninsular and South American is now prominent in students’ work. We have also seen increasing interest in South Asian texts (notably in Bangla and Urdu)


The Department of Comparative Literature aims to provide you with rigorous training in the study of languages and literatures outside the confines of a specific nation, language, or discipline. The goal is that you learn to develop critical and analytical skills in order to interpret a variety of literary traditions from different historical periods, and to learn about critical and theoretical approaches to literatures and cultures. In order to carry out this comparative analysis you are expected to be proficient in reading at least two languages other than English, modern or classical.

To complete your independent work, you will write two papers over the course of your junior year and will devote yourself to a thesis for the better part of your senior year.  These essays grow in length, and more importantly, in intellectual complexity, reflecting both your increasing acquaintance with particular non-English languages and literatures, and the more ambitious critical agendas the major provides.You can choose to write a regular Senior Thesis in which you are evaluated on your level of excellence in carrying out textual and cultural analysis, or a Creative Senior Thesis in which you are evaluated on your ability to produce works of fiction (poetry, short story or novel) or to carry out a translation project.

As a major in Comparative Literature, you are expected to demonstrate the following abilities:

  • Ability to conduct original work in your area of study, making use of appropriate analytical and critical tools for comparative research.
  • Ability to express complex ideas clearly in a well written, organized, and well researched argumentation.
  • Show expertise in analyzing literary works in the non-English languages chosen.
  • Ability to carry out an original work of comparative analysis, meaning originality in analyzing literatures from different linguistic, regional, or cultural backgrounds.
  •  Use analytical and critical tools to provide a critically informed narration on the topic; demonstrate the ability to cope with a considerable corpus of secondary works on the topic.


The first COM junior paper is an explication de texte; that is, a focused, close reading, textual analysis paper. You write this in the fall term of their junior year (unless you are an early concentrator, in which case you write it in the spring term of your sophomore year). The essay should be around 3,000 to 3,500 words (about 12 double-spaced pages).  The object of attention should be a single, short, non-English language text that you can read in the original. A text dense with meaning and literary devices, such as a poem, often works best, to sustain focused analysis. The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate facility in reading and interpreting the work(s) in the original language(s) and in developing a critical idiom for discussing the most relevant features of the text(s).  While you may refer to general works that allow you to contextualize your argument, many students do not use or cite any other sources than the text at hand.  


The second COM junior paper is a comparative research paper of about 6,000 to 8,000 words (about 25 to 30 pages, double-spaced) that you will write in the spring term of your junior year unless you are an early concentrator, in which case you write it in the fall term of your junior year. As opposed to the first junior paper, this second essay must discuss more than one literary text and must cite secondary sources. The comparative dimension of the second junior paper most often involves comparison across different languages but may range from an examination of texts from the two different national literatures in which you specialize, to an analysis of literary and political texts arising from the same historical circumstances to an investigation of the particular intersection of literature with another artistic medium, or to a theoretical approach to the practice of translation.  In all cases, you are expected to refine your original comparative agenda over the course of the semester, to use research tools in order to acquire robust contextual knowledge of the cultural phenomena under scrutiny, and to work with the original language(s) of the relevant text(s).  You should confer with your advisers in order to determine the extent to which your own essays need address prior critical approaches. As the second junior paper involves not just a greater number of variables, but also more types of background information, more evidence for and against a particular argument, and more phases in the articulation of an agenda and in the progression towards a persuasive conclusion, crucial features of this essay include correct bibliographic documentation, deployment of a clear and flexible critical vocabulary, proper pacing, and logical organization.


The senior thesis is naturally the culmination of your comparative work, and typically results in an essay of 20,000 words (not including appendices or the bibliography), usually about 80 double-spaced pages in total length (although there is no upper limit in words or pages).  This yearlong project involves, like the second junior paper, a comparative approach to the two or three different national literatures in which the student specializes, or to literary and non-literary texts arising from the same or related cultural ambits, or to related instances of literature and another medium of artistic expression. Given the relative length of the thesis, the ample time and resources allowed for research, writing, and revision, and your increasing familiarity with both particular languages and literatures and with larger critical questions animating the entire discipline, you are expected to formulate sophisticated comparative questions, and to answer them in a nuanced and persuasive fashion. 

In the Senior theses you expect you to articulate a clear critical and methodological agenda in the opening chapters, and both engage with prior critical traditions and offer original approaches to the works under scrutiny.  As with the prior independent work, a premium is placed on a well-developed intellectual agenda for the entire work, on careful research and bibliographic completeness, on clear and nuanced expression, and on logical organization of the many components of the argument.


With sufficient preparation in and approval from the Program in Creative Writing, you may also write either a creative thesis or a translation thesis under the joint auspices of CWR and the Department of Comparative Literature.  Applications for such theses must be made in the spring of your junior year; successful applicants will be assigned one adviser from CWR, and a second from COM. 

All creative and translation theses must be accompanied by a rigorous critical frame. It is generally around 5,000 to 6,000 words (or about 20 double-spaced pages) and is worth 50% of the final grade. In it you will be able to address the literary precedents and particular aims of your creative work, or the relationship and pertinence of your translation to historical and current theories of translation. You will follow the CWR deadline to submit your creative work and will follow the COM general senior thesis deadline to submit your creative work with the addition of your critical introduction. 


 For Juniors

            First Junior Paper:

  • Thursday, May 4, 2023, Complete online questionnaire
  • Friday, September 8, 2023, Advising Assignments Published
  • Wednesday, October 11, 2023, 2 ½ page prospectus due
  • Wednesday, January 10, 2024, First Junior Paper due.

            Second Junior Paper

  • Friday, January 26, 2024 Complete online questionnaire concerning topic
  • Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024, Advisor assignments published
  • February to April, Library Research Sessions (Please contact John Logan, Bibliographer, [email protected], for appointments
  • Friday, February 23, 2024, Five-page prospectuses due
  • Wednesday, April 17, 2024, Second Junior paper due
  • Thursday, May 16, 2024, Senior Thesis statement due
  • Friday, May 17, 2024, Second Junior Paper returned

For Seniors

Senior Thesis

  • Thursday, May 4, 2023, Complete online questionnaire concerning topic
  • Friday, September 8, 2023, Advising Assignments Published
  • September 17, 2023,  127 East Pyne, 5:00-6:00, Library Research Sessions (Please contact John Logan, Bibliographer, [email protected], for further appointments)
  • Thursday, October 12, 2023, 8-page prospectus due
  • Friday, December 2, 2023, Draft of first chapter due
  • Friday, December 15, 2023, Draft of first chapter returned
  • Thursday, April 18, 2024, Thesis due
  • Thursday, May 17, 2024, Thesis grades returned
  • Wednesday, May 8, 2024, Senior Comprehensives, 9:00am to 1:00pm, East Pyne 010

Proper management of the time allotted for research, writing, and revision is crucial to successful junior papers and senior theses.  Departmental deadlines are helpful ways to maintain momentum over the course of a semester or an academic year, but the intellectual experience of independent work and the eventual outcome depend, in large part, on the ways in which the entire process is addressed.  This section focuses on the major phases and goals of that process. 


While seminars generally provide an implicit intellectual framework for the sorts of questions one might pursue when writing a course-related paper, independent work comes with little such context.  From the outset of each project, you must work both on your own and with your advisers to establish the parameters of your inquiries.  Important considerations include the feasibility of the project, the proper balance of originality and responsible treatment of previous scholarly literature on the subject, your own interest in particular literary questions, and your ability to formulate persuasive answers. It is important to contact your advisers as soon as you can in order to schedule an appointment and talk about your interests and ideas and set up a plan for regular communication and exchange.

In order to complete the online questionnaires associated with each junior paper and the senior thesis, you need to identify a general area of endeavor, and to indicate your current level of scholarly preparation.  These forms provide the Director of Undergraduate Studies with relevant information about your linguistic background, familiarity with given topics, and acquaintance with possible advisers.  As independent work offers both the opportunity to develop issues encountered in passing in seminars and to venture into new literary territory, you should generally steer a middle course between returning to familiar works and embarking on a project for which you have no preparation at all. 

One helpful way of identifying very general areas with the appropriate balance of novelty and prior acquaintance is to conduct a preliminary investigation of other works by a preferred author, or of the same genre, or emerging from the same cultural movement, or associated with the same literary problem.  A second approach, if a previous seminar serves as a general point of departure, would be to ask the professor for titles of other works that might be included on a future syllabus for the same course.  The better you are able to identify the sorts of literary features, issues, or contexts you would like to investigate further, the easier it will be for the professor to provide appropriate titles.


Assignments for advising for Comparative Literature students are made by the Director of Undergraduate Studies in consultation with the departmental faculty, sometimes including Associated Faculty from other departments. The first junior paper and the senior thesis assignments are finalized and published at the beginning of the fall semester; those for the second junior paper are disclosed at the beginning of the spring semester.  Since the prospectus is due within several weeks of the beginning of each semester, you should schedule the first available appointment in you advisers’ office hours.  Whether the project is a junior paper or a senior thesis, this initial meeting allows you and advisers to address the constraints and the feasibility of particular lines of inquiry.  Advisers can, moreover, suggest time-saving research tools, and can help you narrow or broaden the focus of their inquiries as needed.  This first meeting also serves to establish general expectations about writing and revisions. 

Juniors, whether engaged in the first or the second independent work project, have only one adviser per semester.  In general, the Director of Undergraduate Studies does not assign the same adviser for both projects; it is more useful that you experience a slightly different set of expectations and several areas of expertise.  That said, juniors often encounter one or both advisers again when they undertake the senior thesis, especially if they request such an arrangement.  Seniors have two advisers, one of whom must be a member of Comparative Literature.  Though one is designated as the “primary” adviser, and the other “secondary,” you are encouraged to consult with both throughout the year.  At a minimum, both advisers should initial the prospectus, and both should feel free to raise particular concerns at this relatively early moment in the thesis-writing process.

Working closely with one’s advisors is one of the greatest strengths of the Princeton experience, and it behooves students to develop close working relationships with their advisors early in the two semesters of the Junior year, for JPs, for Junior Papers, and early in the senior year, for Senior Theses.

Advising arrangements for the first junior paper and for the senior thesis are finalized and published on the first day of the fall semester; those for the second junior paper are disclosed on the first day of the spring semester.  As the prospectus is due within several weeks of the beginning of each semester, you should schedule the first available appointment in your advisers’ office hours. 


Among the adviser’s initial recommendations, particular editions of the text(s) under scrutiny and general background works figure prominently.  You should make every effort to secure or at least to consult these primary and secondary texts promptly; it is sometimes the case that the appropriate works are not available in Princeton’s libraries and need to be ordered through Interlibrary Loan.   In the event that you encounter particular difficulties in securing the proper texts, you should contact Literature Bibliographer John Logan, based in Firestone Library. 

In your second meeting with you adviser, you should compile an initial bibliography.  For the first junior paper, this will in all likelihood be a brief list consisting of the primary text(s) you plan to analyze and a few contextual books and articles; for the second junior paper and especially for the senior thesis, the bibliography will undergo considerable evolution as the project develops, but will invariably start with the appropriate edition(s) and basic background works.


When writing your first junior paper, you will be taking the Junior Seminar (COM 300) that is offered in the Fall of your Junior year and helps to give you some initial expertise in research during the course of the Junior Seminar. If you need additional help in Firestone or other Princeton libraries, you should contact Mr. Logan, Literature Bibliographer based in Firestone Library.  Mr. Logan will meet with seniors in September and with juniors in February.  These mandatory meetings normally take place about a week before the prospectus is due; they serve to introduce you to the relevant research tools, help you locate materials by identifying the descriptors used by the Library of Congress, and demonstrate the different sorts of bibliographic manager programs available to you.  As Princeton’s libraries often possess rare books or unique archival material pertinent to independent work in Comparative Literature, these research sessions are also a valuable means of identifying and using such items.  Finally, Mr. Logan helps students, especially those working on interdisciplinary questions, to navigate between differing scholarly and bibliographic conventions in order to identify the critical sources and authorities most relevant to their projects.


The prospectus is an important component of both junior papers and the senior thesis.  In this document, you formulate the critical problem as you see it in this early stage, describe the preliminary work you have already undertaken, and articulate the basic components of the project.  For juniors, these components will be subheadings of the junior paper, whereas for seniors, the relevant units are the three to five chapters of the thesis.  While much of the prospectus will undergo modification, it should articulate not simply a preference for a particular topic, but rather a general argument about why that topic is worth investigation in a comparative fashion, the types of supporting evidence and arguments you envision using, and the kinds of contextual information you anticipate including.  The prospectus should also include a working bibliography.  Various elements of the prospectus are taken up as research and writing exercises in the Junior Seminar.

You should use the prospectus to address and sustain a crucial initial consideration.  This document and the subsequent independent work should make explicit what kind of literary investigation is being undertaken, and why.  If the first junior paper is a close reading of single non-English text, it may not have a comparative agenda.  In your analysis of that text, however, you will necessarily be articulating a hierarchy of sorts between, for example, ideological and aesthetic elements of the work, or between its original and subsequent impacts, or between biographical information and generic conventions; these relational considerations, and the need to explain why one kind of interpretive approach is privileged over another, or why some textual feature correlates with another, are often the groundwork for subsequent work of comparative nature. 

 If the first or second junior paper involves two closely related works—a vernacular version of a classical text, a novel and its cinematic adaptation, an original and its translation—the comparative dimension is generally straightforward, but rarely simple.  Rather than merely presenting common denominators or reducing the pairing either to a glorious archetype and a derivative copy, or conversely to a primitive forerunner and its evolved successor, such studies must identify and explain the differences between the two works, treating both as autonomous and fully developed cultural productions. 


In general, the senior thesis prospectus should have a title, an introduction of about 1,500 to 2,500 words (around five to ten pages) with a statement of the argument, a chapter outline, and a list of sources.

In preparing the prospectus, you must consider whether the sort of comparison you are conducting involves, for instance, questions of literary influence and reception, as in the cases above, or an analytical framework of the student’s own creation, as for example, a study of memoirs written during the French, American, and Russian Revolutions.  The latter sort of comparison would likely invoke little or nothing in the way of transmission and influence but would seek to explain both differences and similarities in a certain class of texts produced under revolutionary circumstances.  Alternatively, you might use the prospectus to articulate your resistance to a generally accepted model of transmission and influence, as for example between a capital and its provinces, or between an empire and its colonies, or between highbrow and popular culture; in this kind of work, you would be reversing the unidirectional trend of the conventional comparison or proposing a model of exchange and mutual influence.  While it is expected that your approach to the comparative nature of the project will be modified over the course of you senior year, this dimension of the thesis should be articulated from the outset.


Advisers see the prospectus both as an overview of the entire project and as a valuable gauge of the student’s ability as a reader and writer.  While it is almost inevitable that early formulations of any project gesture toward critical paths that will later be abandoned, or that they give short shrift to areas worthy of greater development, the itinerary proposed by the prospectus must be of sufficient clarity that the adviser can initial the document, offer feedback, propose alternatives, and, in many cases, suggest additional reading.  In the event that the adviser does not feel that the prospectus describes a viable project, you will contact the student and the Director of Undergraduate Studies with suggestions for improvement.

Once the prospectus has been approved, you and your advisers should work out mutually acceptable schedules for meetings, submission of drafts, feedback, and revision.  Though the writing process differs with the individual, in general students find it easiest to begin not with the introduction or preface, but rather with the critical issue that most interests them.  As the hypothesis evolves, a student should expect to incorporate new material and to adjust crucial features of the original argument.  Such evolution cannot take place, however, without writing: notes, highlighted passages, and other isolated fragments, however copious, will not lead to a refined and persuasive argument unless they are converted to critical prose.  Advisers can rarely judge the full force of any argument, moreover, if they see nothing but outlines or shorthand redactions of the project, or if they only hear an oral version of it; they are best able to offer feedback and to make crucial interventions when presented with polished prose.


Given the range of topics and comparative dimensions of independent work in Comparative Literature, there are various stylistic and structuring approaches that may be successful. Clarity is an important priority for all, and formatting consistency is valuable, and most efficiently approached near the beginning of the writing stage of the project. The department accepts both Chicago Manual and MLA style conventions.

The different types of materials that compose junior papers and the senior thesis require careful management if they are to form the basis of a persuasive and original argument.  As even the first junior paper will probably involve a few books or articles providing context, as well as a certain amount of textual evidence drawn from the work(s) under scrutiny, you will need to attend closely to proper forms of citation and to offer succinct paraphrases of background works.  Put differently, the paper should not feature large blocks of quotations; direct citation is most effective when it is kept to a minimum.  While close readings invariably involve some quotation of the primary text(s), citations should be balanced by sustained analysis.  Unless a particular phrase from a background text is worth discussion, there is no need for direct citation; paraphrase and careful documentation of such sources are better practices.  Students in Comparative Literature are expected to follow either The Chicago Manual of Style or The MLA Style Manual for bibliographic documentation.

When second-semester juniors and seniors begin to engage with a critical tradition, the art of paraphrase becomes even more useful.  In order to demonstrate familiarity with relevant previous scholarship but to avoid being drowned out by such a chorus, you must present effective syntheses of other critics’ views.  As it is often difficult to reconstruct those perspectives months later and under pressure, it is best to write up short synopses of each argument immediately, and to consider their common denominators and shared agendas; even critics with disparate views and incommensurable conclusions often hold the same unstated assumptions.  The ways in which this criticism might be deployed in the thesis will probably shift over the course of the semester or year, but having such synopses already formulated and footnoted will make the logic of such modifications more obvious and easier to manage.  Finally, it is important that you address both critical silences surrounding your area of interest and critical evidence against your claims; thoughtful explanations of why some areas of literary inquiry are characterized by neglect, or just where and why others’ interpretations are invalid can serve to strengthen and to nuance one’s own hypothesis.


It is important, of course, to maintain a rigorous schedule for all independent work.  At stake here is not just your schedule, but that or those of your adviser(s), who cannot always offer immediate and detailed feedback.  In general, you should submit significant portion of your drafts to your advisers directly after the mid-semester break. 

If you are a senior, you should submit at least half of the first chapter directly after the fall break, the first chapter by the end of fall semester classes, and a rough draft of the entire thesis, except for the preface or conclusion, directly after the spring break.  Advisers who have seen and commented on previous versions of your work will in general be able to respond more quickly and will likely have less drastic and less urgent proposals for its improvement.  Because of the relative complexity of independent work, and the premium placed on polished critical prose throughout, careful management of non-English terms and phrases, thorough bibliographical documentation, close engagement with the relevant contextual and scholarly literature, and proper formatting, students should allow more time than that allotted to seminar papers, even those comparable in length to junior papers or individual chapters of the thesis.

Feedback from the adviser(s) provides a crucial way to improve the rough draft.  Criticism might involve stylistic, rhetorical, factual, structural, bibliographical, or methodological issues, and will sometimes include suggestions for more research, reading, or documentation.  Given that revisions can be time-consuming, it is best to seek out the relevant material and to begin as much rewriting as is feasible as soon as possible.  In many cases, the questions and suggestions offered by the adviser(s) at this final stage help you make valuable adjustments to the original hypothesis.  These modifications are especially useful to the senior as he or she addresses the preface or conclusion of the thesis; a persuasive and sufficiently nuanced overview of the entire project is normally the last element of composition.


Your best and closest guide to independent work is naturally the adviser, but several other resources are available here.  The Director of Undergraduate Studies should be contacted if you experience problems in getting timely feedback, or if the project has changed so much that the original adviser is no longer the appropriate mentor. 

The Junior Seminar, COM 300, encourages you to consider a range of comparative approaches, and focuses on particular types of writing pertinent to independent work in this department.


In the spring of their junior year, you are also encouraged to apply for funding, both within and outside of the Department of Comparative Literature, to conduct thesis research. 

Comparative Literature research funding is awarded on a competitive basis and rarely covers all costs.  To apply for such support, you must submit a robust research proposal and a detailed budget via SAFE. Some applications also require a letter of support from a potential adviser.  If you received funding, you will need to complete a brief online form evaluating your experience at the end of the summer.

We encourage you to also look for outside funding. Note that the Office of Undergraduate Research runs three senior thesis research funding cycles for seniors (summer, fall semester, winter break) open to all A.B. students; a list of allowable expenses is provided for students to consult when developing their budgets.

Look at the Office of the Dean of the College to check more sources of funding.

All applications must be submitted on SAFE. The department strongly encourages its students to undertake a semester and / or a summer or more abroad, in order to gain fluency in their primary non-English language, to learn another language, or to pursue further study in the literatures and cultures of these languages.  Many opportunities are available for study abroad; it is wise to devote real time to reading all of the information assembled by the Office of International Programs

Most students choose to study abroad for a single term during the junior year, but a full year abroad is also possible.  Two courses per semester abroad may be used to fulfill departmental requirements.  Guidelines are available in Princeton’s Office of Study Abroad.

There are numerous opportunities for summer study abroad, some partially supported by University funds.  A summer abroad can substantially increase fluency in the language of concentration, and on occasion satisfy the departmental requirement of reading knowledge in a second non-English language.  More detailed accounts of funding sources and procedures are listed on the department’s website at….


Library Tours

As mentioned above, juniors beginning the second independent project and seniors embarking on the thesis have special sessions on research techniques please use Reference Services - and Literature Bibliographer John Logan.  Individual follow-up appointments can be made with either Reference Services or Mr. Logan in Firestone Library; where relevant, they can also put the student in contact with specialist librarians managing individual collections around campus. You will receive the date-time of the library tour via e-mail.

Writing Center:

The Writing Center is an excellent way to address difficulties in refining introductory arguments and in structuring the entire essay or thesis.  Located in Whitman College, the Writing Center offers free one‑on-one conferences with experienced fellow writers trained to consult on assignments in any discipline. Special 80-minute conferences are available for JP and Senior Thesis writers at any stage in the writing process, who may sign up to work with a graduate student fellow from the department of their choice at

Additionally, Independent Work Mentors from the Writing Center prepare workshops and programming to aid juniors and seniors in their research.

We recommend that you regularly check or subscribe to the Princeton Undergraduate Research Calendar (PURC) for upcoming programing, which cover topics ranging from preparing funding proposals to note taking, and from making an argument to draft review.

COM Writing Bootcamp

In Spring, we offer a weekly Writing Bootcamp as a space where you can meet with other majors and a writing adviser. This is optional and can be helpful to focus on your writing and receive guidance. An email with the specific information is sent in late January.


All independent work is expected by 3:00 p.m. on the due date; see the calendar of deadlines. 

Juniors: you should send your independent work to the department’s undergraduate administrator Ann Marie Bramble Elliott via email as a PDF attachment.  Late submissions are penalized three points a day, including weekends.  No late submission is eligible for the Junior Paper Prize.

Seniors: No later than 3:00 p.m. on the due date of the senior thesis, you are expected to submit one PDF to the departmental office.  The electronic copy in PDF must be submitted sent via email to Ann Marie Bramble Elliott at [email protected]  AND also uploaded via a centralized Senior Thesis Submission Site The electronic copy will be archived in Mudd Manuscript Library. 

Late senior thesis submissions are penalized three points a day, including weekends.  No late submission is eligible for the Senior Thesis Prize. 


JPs and Senior Thesis

The evaluation criteria for the junior papers and the senior thesis reflect the goals of the Department of Comparative Literature, measuring your ability as an independent thinker, an analyst of various cultural materials, an expert in the relevant non- English languages and literature, and a writer of critical prose. 

You are expected to demonstrate the ability to formulate projects of scholarly significance, and to conduct original work in your area of study, making use of appropriate analytical and critical tools for comparative research. 

You must also be able to express complex ideas with clarity, rigor, and persuasive fashion in English.  Finally, the overall structure and organization of the second junior paper and the senior thesis should reflect your mastery of a considerable corpus of secondary works on your chosen topic.

Grading criteria for Creative and translation Theses
If you embark in a creative or translation theses, you are expected to demonstrate the same abilities in the critical introductions framing their work. The final grade is the average of the equally weighted assessments of both the creative work / translation and of the critical frame offered by readers in the Program in Creative Writing and in the Department of Comparative Literature.  While the goals of creative work and translation projects differ across genres, the A range is still associated only with outstanding work.

Grading Scale

Like many departments, the Department of Comparative Literature has its own grading scale. It is as follows:

Grade Scale










Standards for the Grading of Independent Work

  1. The A range reflects an outstanding work of analysis in comparative literature. The work shows originality in conceiving the topic and an ability to develop the argument in a well-organized and elegant manner. The text is well written and offers a critical and creative approach to the subject, demonstrating excellence in literary analysis, language proficiency, and critical awareness. It copes with a pertinent and vast list of secondary works, showing excellent skill in carrying out independent research and quality of independent thought. An A thesis reflects clarity of expression and elegance in the writing style.

    The mark of A+ is rarely awarded and must be supported by a written explanation and endorsement by the faculty member. It should be reserved for independent work that satisfies all of these criteria to a high degree. The mark of A- should be given to independent work that shows originality but does not meet in a fully satisfactory way one or two of the requirements of independent work in the A range.
  2. Independent work in the B range is a better than adequate treatment of a significant subject in comparative analysis. It reflects a very good treatment of the chosen topic, and a good use of critical and analytical skills for carrying out literary and cultural analysis. The reader feels that the work could yield further insights and excellence in the treatment of the subject, and that the argument could be developed in a more organized fashion.

    A B+ is an appropriate grade for a sensibly conceived, well-executed, well-written project that shows little originality. A B- is appropriate for well-conceived projects that have some significant flaw in execution or a number of less-important shortcomings.
  3. Independent work in the C range reflects poor treatment of a subject. The argument is not well organized and lacks clarity in the expression of ideas. The literary analysis lacks complexity and insight. A C+ should be given to the most informative of independent work in the C range, a C- to those that meet the basic requirements of the category but have several serious flaws.
  4. To be given the grade of D, independent work must show lack of critical and analytical skills and a very poor treatment of the chosen subject. Beyond that, little can be said in praise of independent work in the D range.
  5. Independent work that does not meet the minimal requirements for the grade of D should be given an F and must be supported by a written explanation and endorsement by the faculty member.