Among liberal arts colleges, Williams has a particularly vibrant and exciting program in comparative literature, characterized by a range of course offerings and by an energetic and collegial group of faculty who cooperate across departments to support the program.
Comp Lit at Williams involves the study of literature from multiple cultural traditions in order to appreciate the variety, the complexity, and the breadth of what literature can be and do. Our courses are geared to students who are interested in literature and culture and who want exposure to a range of texts and cultures from both inside and outside the English-speaking world: from Imperial Russia to contemporary Latin America, from Victorian London to postmodern Tokyo. The critical approaches we use link us with a wide range of other disciplines, including art, anthropology, history, and psychology, to name a few. And the program emphasizes critical thinking and writing skills that serve students across departments and divisions.
Comparative Literature brings together faculty appointed specifically in the program with faculty in a range of other departments and programs, including the foreign language and literature departments, English, Africana Studies, Latino/a Studies, American Studies, Religion, and Theater, among others. Classes are typically small, and students enjoy close attention from professors who work to meet their individual needs and interests.
For majors, the program offers two distinct tracks: in one, students focus on a specific language tradition and take literature courses in the original language. In the other track, students take a wider range of national literature courses, with more courses taught in English. Both tracks supplement this work in national literatures with additional core courses specifically geared toward comparative study. These include the program’s gateway courses in world literature, The Nature of Narrative and Introduction to Comparative Literature, plus a range of courses that juxtapose writings from different cultures and epochs in a variety of ways: courses in specific media, themes, or genres, as well as courses in literary and critical theory. Seniors take a capstone seminar that permits them to synthesize and apply what they have learned in the program, and a number of students each year have the opportunity to write an honors thesis–a year long project that involves advanced original research in multiple national literatures, in literary theory, or in literary translation.