Letter from the Director of Undergraduate Studies

Director of Undergraduate Studies, David Gabriel, sitting behind a desk

Fall 2017

Welcome back to campus! I hope your summer break was a very good one. In this letter, I’d like to explain some of the important changes to the Major that have been put in place since the spring.

At the end of the spring term, the department instituted a number of changes affecting the structure of the Major. I encourage you to read the new description posted in the Yale College Programs of Study, which details all the changes. Please note that any students who declared their major by last spring will be able to complete their major under the old requirements, but you will also have the opportunity to complete the major under the new rules.

In what follows, I’ll explain the central modifications and suggest how they might affect you, but it’s especially important that each of you meet me early in the semester so that we can go over any individual concerns (I can also sign your course schedules). I will have extensive office-hours during the first two weeks of the semester, with plenty of spaces available. Please make an appointment by calling Mary Jane Stevens (2-4750) or stopping by the Comparative Literature office.

We believe that the new structure of requirements better reflects the changing interests of both teachers and students, that it usefully simplifies some of the requirement policies, and that it clarifies the rationale of the Major. The most obvious change to the Major is its name. We now have two distinct majors: 1) Literature and Comparative Cultures, and 2) Comparative Literature. The main difference between the two—as with the previous standard and intensive tracks—is that the Comparative Literature major requires that you work in two foreign languages rather than one (however, Comparative Literature majors now need only take two literature courses in the second foreign language, rather than three as was previously the case in the intensive track).

Another important change relates to the required courses. LIT120 and LIT122 will no longer be taught and will not be required for future majors. These lecture courses will be replaced by two junior seminars: LIT130, “How to Read,” and LIT140, “How to Compare.” These seminars will be taught every year in the fall and spring terms, respectively. If you’ve already taken LIT 120, you do not need to take LIT130; if you’ve already taken LIT122 (or LIT143 or LIT348), you do not need to take LIT140. If you haven’t taken LIT120, you will need to take LIT130; if you haven’t taken LIT122, you will have to take LIT140 (or LIT143 or LIT348).

You need not be a junior to enroll in these new courses—you can be a sophomore or a senior—but the seminars are not designed as introductions to literary study so much as they are meant to teach the skills that make this department distinct.

“How to Read” will be a critical reading course focused on literary forms. Its purpose is to teach students how to approach texts through specifically literary structures and strategies: rhetoric, genre, narrative. This fall, LIT130 will be taught by Professor Katie Trumpener.

“How to Compare” will be a course focused on acts of cultural and literary comparison, taken in a broad sense. The course will cover topics such as world literature, translation, exoticism, adaptations across media, cross-historical comparison, and comparison through genre. “How to Compare” will be taught this spring by me and Professor Figlerowicz.

We have dropped LIT300 as a requirement for the major and the course will no longer be regularly taught. We do remain committed to the importance of studying literary theory, however, and all majors will be required to take one course during their course of study that devotes significant time to theoretical or methodological matters. Some examples of courses being taught this fall that will satisfy this requirement are “Japanese Poetry and Poetics” (LIT181), “Selfhood, Race, Class and Gender” (LIT319), “Animals in Literature and Theory” (ENGL237), “Feminist and Queer Theory” (LIT426/ENGL357), “World Literature” (LIT406), and “Marx, Nietzsche, Freud” (LIT441). I’m happy to discuss any questions you may have about whether a given course might satisfy the theory requirement, including a course you may have taken in the past (it’s always helpful to bring along a syllabus from the course). If you have already taken LIT300, you have satisfied the theory requirement.    

The poetry and drama requirements have also been dropped. Instead of these, we will require future majors to take courses in three of five historical periods (antiquity, medieval, Renaissance, 17th-18th centuries, and modern). If you intend to complete the major under the old structure of requirements and have not yet taken a poetry and/or drama course, you will still need to do so.

The Core seminars have also been dropped as requirements. If you have not taken one or both of these courses, you will be required to take an advanced literature course from among the department’s offerings in their stead (in effect, a fourth or fifth elective course).   

The senior essay requirements are unchanged. Professor Skorupa, the Senior Essay Coordinator, will be sending you a note in the coming weeks about the calendar and deadlines for the writing of your essay. You should plan to meet with Professor Skorupa sometime at the beginning of term to discuss your plans with her.

Please note that Professor Dudley Andrews will be on leave for the fall term. Professors Hagglund, Quint, and Clark will be on leave in the spring.

The faculty of the Comparative Literature department are very excited by the new curriculum, which we believe will strengthen the major in ways large and small. I expect that many of you will have questions about how these changes relate to your own course of study and I’m happy to talk with you about that—as well as whatever else may be on your mind as we begin the fall term. I do want the transition to be as smooth for all of you as possible, and I look forward to meeting with you soon.

With very best wishes,

Robyn Creswell

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Literature and Comparative Cultures