Letter from the Director of Undergraduate Studies

The Comparative Literature Major

April 2024

Dear Comparative Literature Majors,

With the semester well past the halfway mark, I hope you are enjoying your classes, and not too overwhelmed. Following a series of conversations with you all, I have worked with department faculty on a few important changes to our undergraduate course offerings, which will hopefully make our major work better for you and for the classes that come after you. These changes have included an overhaul of LITR 130 and 143, a revival of our theory lecture survey LITR 300, and expanded availability of LITR 143 and 348 (details below). We have also re-parsed the historical periods in our period requirement (again, details below).

As I write, we’re gearing up for pre-registration week. The start of pre-registration is staggered based on your class: ’25 begin registering on Apr. 15, ’26 on Apr. 16, and ’27 on Apr. 17. Pre-registration closes on May 17, but you will have the opportunity to revisit your schedule during the add-drop period at the beginning of the fall semester. In this letter you’ll find some information about the exciting changes to our core undergraduate offerings, a survey of the classes on offer for next fall, and a few reminders about requirements for the major.

I ask that you check in with me at some point before or during pre-registration, either by sending your plans to me at samuel.hodgkin@yale.edu or by signing up for my office hours in HQ 331, using my usual Calendly link (please only sign up for a 15-minute appointment to begin with, to make room for others). Send me any specific questions by email in advance, and if possible, bring your up-to-date requirements worksheet (here are the worksheets: literature and comparative cultures; intensive language; translation; and film).

As questions come up, you can also email me, or, to discuss any practical questions, our department registrar, Sabrina Whiteman, sabrina.whiteman@yale.edu. If you need to contact any member of the Comparative Literature department, you can find their email address or check their virtual office hours here. The default method of contact is to email faculty directly.

If you are a senior, writing a full-year or spring senior essay, you have already heard from both me and the senior essay coordinator, Ryan Hintzman (ryan.hintzman@yale.edu). Please review carefully the section of our website that discusses the senior essay, and keep in mind all relevant deadlines. Responding promptly to any questions from Ryan and me will help us to keep you on track for graduation. If you are a junior, you should be looking at those deadlines already, as you will want to find a senior essay advisor by the end of this semester. If you are writing a fall or full-year thesis, the deadline for your senior essay proposal is fast approaching!

Of our core required courses, LITR 130 and 348 will be taught in the fall, while LITR 140, 143, and 348 will be taught in the spring. LITR 130, formerly How To Read, has been reworked by the brilliant Prof. Ramachandran, and will be offered starting this coming fall under the new title Fundamentals of Comparison. Due to high demand, LITR 348, The Practice of Literary Translation, will be offered next year both in the fall (by Prof. Creswell) and in the spring (by Prof. Cole). Lastly, beginning next year, our staple film class LITR 143, formerly entitled World Cinema but recently overhauled by Prof. Figlerowicz under the new title Cinema in the World, will be taught every year rather than every other year; next spring, its instructor will be Prof. Fradinger.

All majors are required to take one class during their course of study that devotes significant time to theoretical or methodological matters, whether in our department or in another humanities department. Prof. Hägglund has revived the departmental theory survey, LITR 300, Introduction to Theory of Literature, which provides a great option for fulfilling this requirement. Other courses next fall that will satisfy this requirement include: LITR 317, Marxist Theory of Literature; GMAN 205, The Question of Technology in Continental Theory; FILM 333, Early Film Theory and Modernity; GMAN 331, Paper: Material and Medium; and ITAL 337, Feminism Without Women. (None of these lists are exhaustive: there are many courses that fulfill any requirement.)

As mentioned above, our division of historical periods for the major’s period requirement has changed: the Renaissance and 17th-18th centuries are now combined into the Early Modern period, while the 19th century is now treated as a separate period. The new division requires you to take courses from three of the following five periods: Antiquity, Medieval, Early Modern, 19th Century, and 20th-21st Centuries. Please note: for everyone currently in the major, you may choose to distribute your courses according to either the old division of periods or the new one.

For those looking for courses next fall that fulfill period requirements in our department or in a languages-and-literatures department:

Antiquity courses include: NELC 128, Gilgamesh to Persepolis; EALL 200, The Chinese Tradition; CLCV 161, Art and Myth in Greek Antiquity; NELC 161, Visible Language: The Origins of Writing in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt; and RLST 158, Jesus to Muhammad.

Medieval courses include: NELC 135, Masterpieces of Arabic Literature; EALL 221, Introduction to Chinese Buddhist Literature; SPAN 261, Critical Contexts in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia; ENGL 154, The Multicultural Middle Ages; ITAL 310, Dante in Translation; and ENGL 205, Medieval Songlines.

Early modern courses include: LITR 318, The Arabian Nights, Then and Now; SPAN 266, Critical Contexts in Colonial Latin America; SPAN 360, Our Guinea: Locating Africa in Early Iberian Archives; ENGL 160, Milton; and FREN 331, The French Enlightenment and the Pursuit of Happiness.

19th-century courses include: FREN 365, Haiti in the Age of Revolutions; AFAM 305, African American Autobiography; ENGL 250, Romanticism and Anti-Romanticism; ENGL 321, Austen and Brontë and the New Woman Novel; and JDST 346, Making European Culture Jewish.

And 20th-21st-century courses include: EALL 234, Japanese Detective Fiction; EALL 269, Topics in Modern Korean Literature; ER&M 295, Caribbean Diasporic Literature; ER&M 333, Mexico and the Migratory Lyric; RSEE 313, Art and Resistance in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine; PORT 352, Clarice Lispector; RUSS 316, Socialist ’80s: Aesthetics of Reform in China and the Soviet Union; LITR 360, Radical Cinemas of Latin America; ENGL 368, The Novel and the Nation; LITR 397, After the War, Novels after 1945, French and German; and so many more.

I’m happy to discuss any questions you may have about whether a given course might satisfy requirements, including a course you may have taken in the past (it’s always helpful to bring along a syllabus from the course). The sooner you declare your major, the sooner we will be able to see and correct your Degree Audit (which we are still in the process of automating.

Let me also remind you that that any literature class, in any department (including English), is potentially eligible for general credit in the Comparative Literature Major, whether or not it carries an LITR number. To discuss whether a particular class qualifies, please contact me.

I look forward to discussing course registration with all of you soon (if we haven’t talked already). If you need assistance during the pre-registration period please sign up for a meeting or email me at samuel.hodgkin@yale.edu.

With best wishes for the rest of the spring semester,

Samuel Hodgkin

Director of Undergraduate Studies

The Comparative Literature Major