Requirements for Completing The Major

Students in Comparative Literature select courses from a wide range of offerings throughout the university and are encouraged to construct a program of study to match their individual interests.  Nine departmental courses are required of each student, chosen according to the type of comparative work pursued.  These courses must be taken for a grade; no P/D/F course can be counted as a departmental requirement, with two exceptions: for the track courses only, you may use approved courses that are not offered for a grade, such as CWR and THR courses; or the Historical Requirement course, if it is not one of the nine departmentals. The three COM courses and four reading courses must be graded. The three main rubrics and various tracks are listed below, as well as a description of the Historical Requirement.

(1) Comparative Literature courses.  All majors must take COM 300 (the Junior Seminar), and two other COM courses.  Majors must take COM 300 in the fall term of their junior year, unless they are studying abroad then, in which case the course may be taken in the senior year instead.  The other two COM courses can be 200-, 300-, or 400-level; with the professor’s permission, advanced students may enroll in 500-level COM courses.   Any course cross-listed with COM will also fulfill this requirement. These must be Princeton COM courses; no exceptions.

(2) Non-English-language reading courses.  All majors must take four 200-, 300- or 400-level non-English-language reading-based courses. Any course at the 200-level or above taught within any language department at Princeton that is not part of a language instruction sequence may be used to fulfill the requirement, so long as it is based on the reading of texts or viewing of films exclusively in a non-English language.  Courses that are part of a language-instruction sequence as well as grammar-review courses are normally excluded; students studying languages with fewer course offerings such as Arabic or Hindi-Urdu may petition the Director of Undergraduate Studies for permission to allow a reading-based course that is part of the language-instruction sequence.  Courses do not need to be about literature; courses in film, art, history, philosophy, or the social sciences that are devoted to reading texts in the original language will also fulfill this requirement.  All readings for the course must be in the original non-English language. Courses in which the readings are in translation cannot be counted, but those where the language of discussion and written assignments are in English are allowable.  

As long as all four reading courses are in non-English languages, this requirement can be fulfilled through any distribution of languages. The courses can be evenly split between two foreign languages, divided with three courses in one foreign language, and one in the other, or even distributed among three or four different languages. Students also have the option of taking all four reading courses in one foreign language, and simply demonstrating reading proficiency in the second foreign language. 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 and higher 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.

(3) Track courses.  The remaining two of the nine required courses are taken in appropriate departments or programs throughout the university.  Course selections generally fall into one of five tracks listed below.  Each represents the study of literature in a different comparative context. 

a. Comparative work in literatures: two 300- or 400-level courses in any literature, including English.  These courses need not be taken in the same department; a pairing such as ENG 320 and SPA 354, for example, would fulfill the requirement.

b. Comparative work in literature and another textual discipline: two 300- or 400-level courses in philosophy, art and archeology, classics, religion, anthropology, history, psychology, sociology, politics, economics, or public policy.  In general, these courses represent a consistent intellectual approach and have the same prefix (REL, for example); students intending to pair courses with related content, but offered in different departments (HIS and POL, for example) should obtain written permission from COM’s Director of Undergraduate Studies.

c. Comparative work in literature and another medium: two 300- or 400-level courses in photography, film, art, art history, architecture or music.  In general, these courses involve the same medium (photography, for example); students intending to pair courses involving different media with related content (photography and painting, for example) should obtain written permission from COM’s Director of Undergraduate Studies.

d. Comparative work in literature and regional or ethnic studies: two 300- or 400-level courses in AFS, AAS, EAP, EAS, ECS, EPS, HLS, JDS, LAS, LAO, NES, or SAS. These two courses normally emerge from a single program, and have the same prefix (AFS, for instance).  Alternatively, students on this track might take two 300- or 400-level courses in either ENV, GSS, or URB; as elsewhere, courses should emerge from a single program, and have the same prefix.  Those interested in these options should consult with COM’s Director of Undergraduate Studies to plan a course of study.

e. Comparative work in literary study and the creative arts: two 300- or 400-level courses in creative writing, screenwriting, translation, dance, theatrical or musical performance, visual arts, film, or video.  These two courses normally emerge from a single program, and have the same prefix (DAN, for instance).  Students entering COM must select the creative option provisionally, as final admission depends upon the formal acceptance of the creative thesis proposal by the Creative Writing program.  Applications for the creative thesis are due in the spring of the junior year; interested students should be look over additional information on writing the creative senior thesis.  

Departmental Historical Period Requirement.  Students must take one course, 200-level and above, dedicated in its entirety to a period before 1800.  It does not necessarily have to be one of their nine departmentals.  Nor does it have to be a literature course, strictly speaking, but it must be a study of culture based upon the reading of primary sources. Some examples would be: any course on literature before 1800; any course on pre-modern or early modern philosophy or religion; any course on art or music history before 1800.  A course on general history that is not specifically cultural in focus and not based upon the study of primary sources such as texts, music, or art will not count.  Students unsure whether a particular course will meet the historical requirement should email the syllabus to COM’s Director of Undergraduate Studies for approval. If the pre-1800 course is not one of the nine departmentals, it may be taken P/D/F. If it is one of the nine departmentals, it must be taken for a grade.

Study abroad. Students may count courses taken abroad toward the nine required courses for the major; this option applies only to study abroad programs undertaken during the school year and approved by the department.  Two courses per semester abroad, once approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies, may be used to fulfill departmental requirements; the grades themselves are not part of the departmental GPA.  Students considering study abroad should consult COM Study Abroad Peer Advisers.

Departmental Grade Point Average. The departmental GPA is used to determine honors for graduating seniors in COM.  It does not appear on SCORE or on transcripts, and is a relative rather than absolute value.  This average is based on the student’s nine departmental grades, independent work, and senior comprehensive examinations.  Because students who studied abroad cannot count grades from their non-Princeton courses in this average, they use fewer Princeton courses to calculate their GPA: if it is to their advantage, they may count only eight if they were abroad for a semester, and seven if they were abroad for a year.  The coursework grade is determined in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and a worksheet for calculating the departmental GPA is available here.