Major Requirements

The Comparative Literature Major requires twelve term courses, including 2 required departmental introductory courses , 2 - 3 courses in a foreign literature, three period courses, one theory course, 2 - 3 electives, and The Senior Essay.  Except the 2 introductory courses and the senior essay, the remaining requirements can be met with courses across all the departments that teach literature and film.

The major includes 4 possible tracks:

  1. Literature and Comparative Cultures
  2. Intensive Language
  3. Film
  4. Literary Translation

The exact composition of the requirements depend on the track. LCC is the most flexible option and the default, while the Intensive Language, Film, and Literary Translation tracks limit which introductory courses and electives can be used, in order to focus your studies further. This page describes the general shape of the requirements, but each track also has a separate page (linked above) that gives more precise instructions for that set of requirements and provides a link to a worksheet that you can use to keep track of which requirements you have fulfilled.

The following sections provide more details on each of the available tracks.

 You may download a checklist with the major requirements here.

Required Courses

LITR 130 is a required introductory course for all four tracks in the Comparative Literature major and it is normally offered every year in the fall. There are three other introductory courses, each of which is required for a specific track, and all of which are normally taught every year in the spring. Intensive Language concentrators must take LITR 140; Film concentrators must take LITR 143; and Literary Translation concentrators must take LITR 348. Literature and Comparative Cultures concentrators may choose any of these three courses. Majors are encouraged to take these courses as early as possible, as they introduce reading and writing skills and toolkits of theory and criticism that students can continue to use throughout their studies.

Foreign Literature Requirement

The experience of reading a foreign literature in the original language enables us to understand the nature of both language and literature more fully. Prospective Comparative Literature majors are strongly encouraged to begin the study of a foreign language and literature as early as possible in their academic careers and to continue such study throughout their time at Yale.

All majors are required to take at least 3 term courses in an ancient or modern foreign literature, in which the literature is read in the original language (for Film concentrators, the requirement is 2 courses). Such courses will have a prefix indicating the language (FREN, RUSS, CHNS, etc.), and it will either be listed as LF or it will not have a listed level (if the students will read in-language but will dicuss and write in English). All three courses must be in the same language. Normally, such courses will have titles indicating a topic in literature, theory, or film (e.g. “Introduction to Italian Literature” or “Cervantes and Don Quijote,” not “Advanced Oral and Written Communication in Spanish” or “Medical French”). It should be noted that certain smaller language programs at Yale do not have courses specifically devoted to literature. If a student wishes to fulfill their requirements in this language, the DUS will work with them to find suitable upper-level courses.

Sometimes the most suitable foreign literature course for a particular student will be one that is offered in translation. In such cases, Comparative Literature majors are expected to request additional assignments from their instructors in order to enable them to work with texts in the original language. They should request a form from the DUS attesting to their intent to do so, then obtain a signature from the instructor at the beginning and end of the semester to confirm that they did the readings in-language. 

Non-native speakers of English who are granted permission by Yale College to complete the language requirement by taking ENGL 114a or b, 120a or b, or 450b may take three additional English literature courses to fulfill the foreign literature requirement of the Comparative Literature Major or may fulfill the Major requirements in a third language.

Students interested in graduate study in literature should be aware that many programs require reading knowledge of two or three foreign languages.

Period Requirement

Because both genres and individual works of literature refer to, emulate, challenge, and even rewrite older works and generic conventions, students benefit from acquiring a degree of historical perspective. The Comparative Literature major requires that all students take one course in three of five historical periods: Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Early Modern Period (roughly 15th-18th centuries), the 19th Century, and the 20th-21st centuries. These courses may be drawn from any department in the University (they need not be in your language of specialization), but they must focus on literature or film. Some courses fulfilling the requirement for each period are marked with the relevant attribute (YC CPLT: Medieval, Antiquity, etc.) in Course Search. However, if you believe another course should fulfill the requirement, contact the DUS for confirmation.

Theory Requirement

One course in the major must include a significant component of literary or cultural theory. This course may be drawn from any department in the University, and it may deal with any body of theory that you intend to use extensively in your study of literature and film. Some courses fulfilling this requirement are marked as such in Course Search (YC CPLT: Theory). However, if you believe another course should fulfill the requirement, contact the DUS for confirmation.


For Literature and Comparative Cultures concentrators, the remaining course credits (other than the Senior Essay) may be fulfilled by any course dealing with literature or film in any language (including English), with exceptions noted below. Each of the other tracks imposes limits on which courses may be used as electives. An Intensive Language concentrator must take 2 more foreign literature courses in which they read works in a second language of specialization, subject to the same constraints as the Foreign Literature requirement. A Literary Translation concentrator must take 2 courses that deal with questions of translation in some way (to confirm whether a course may count, contact the DUS). A Film concentrator, who has 3 electives (because one fewer Foreign Literature course is required), must take electives with the FILM prefix. For all majors, only one elective may be a composition or creative writing course.

ENGL 114, 115, and 120 may not be counted toward the major. If a student participated in the Direct Studies (DS) program, only one course from that program may be counted towards the major, whether it is used for the Period requirement or as an elective.

Senior Essay

The final required credit in the major is the senior essay, which should be written while enrolled in LITR 491 (if a one-semester essay) or LITR 492-493 (if a two-semester essay).