Comparative Literature B.A.

Are you an adventurous and creative person with a passion for literature and the arts? A Comparative Literature B.A. will encourage you to think in original and exciting ways about the relationships among literature, art, culture, and the environment. You will have the opportunity to make compelling connections among a diverse array of human arts and experiences. The Department of Comparative Literature is part of Indiana University Bloomington's College of Arts and Sciences.

When pursuing a major in Comparative Literature, you will study in the company of award-winning faculty with diverse backgrounds in comparative literature, literary translation and a variety of other academic disciplines.

The requirements for the degree include courses in which you can explore relationships between the literatures of many cultures, and among literature, film, the visual arts, architecture, music and other performance arts. You will also explore connections between comparative literature and other academic disciplines such as philosophy, history, religious studies, cultural studies, the sciences, and more.

Study in comparative literature trains you in fundamental skills that can lead to success in nearly any career path. Courses will teach you how to express yourself effectively, how to write clearly, how to solve problems in creative and innovative ways, and how to understand and relate to people with differing opinions or backgrounds from yourself.

The Department of Comparative Literature offers two undergraduate minors for students majoring in other fields: a minor in Comparative Literature and a minor in Comparative Arts.

Coursework

Getting started

Students beginning their major in Comparative Literature usually start with CMLT-C 205 Comparative Literary Analysis. Students also usually take another 100 or 200 level Comparative Literature course.

Additionally, majors should start studying a chosen foreign language as early as possible during their academic career at Indiana University Bloomington.

Tracks and concentrations

Students majoring in Comparative Literature will choose one of the following options for advanced study.

Option A - Language and Literature: You may take one advanced course in foreign language literature study in the original language at the 300 or 400 level.

Option B - Interdisciplinary Study of Literature: You may take one 300 or 400 level interdisciplinary comparative literature course along with a 300 or 400 level course offered by a corresponding department and approved by the Comparative Literature Department. Examples of suitable departments include Anthropology, Fine Arts, History, Political Science and Religious Studies to name a few.

Upper level coursework

The Comparative Literature major allows you to personalize your curriculum with 300 and 400 level courses relevant to your interests.

You can build upon concepts of literary criticism through comparative close readings of texts in a variety of genres, such as narrative, drama, satire, or lyric poetry, or from a wide range of literary periods, such as Renaissance, Romanticism, and 20th century literature. Some elective courses explore the interrelationship between literature and the arts while other courses focus on cross-cultural studies.

You can also strengthen your use of modern critical theory through advanced thematic literature courses in areas such as politics, religion, science and philosophy. In addition, numerous courses in literature and film are offered.

Overseas study is an excellent option if you wish to enhance your studies in foreign language literature.

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

Your major represents about one quarter of your degree requirements. With the help of your academic advisor, the major can be combined with many other areas of study. The most common recently paired majors with Comparative Literature include History, English, Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, French, and Spanish.

The most common minors include Gender Studies, English, Anthropology, History, Political Science, Psychology, and a variety of foreign language studies.

Check your bulletin for more information about these majors and minors.

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

When pursuing the Comparative Literature major, you work with faculty who have expertise and experience in the field. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals. 

If you are interested in independent study options, you may have the opportunity to take an individual readings course or a foreign study course in comparative literature with a faculty sponsor.

Teaching internships may also be available within the department. Students should discuss the possibility with individual instructors and then make a formal request through the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the department chair.

Talk with your academic advisor, faculty and instructors about these possibilities.

Honors

Outstanding students may qualify for the Comparative Literature Honors Program. Honors students engage in advanced, independent work and focus on topics of special interest. This is an excellent opportunity for students who plan to go on to graduate study.

High-achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

Comparative Literature faculty recognize outstanding students with a variety of awards:

  • The Annie Geduld Memorial Prize
  • The Comparative Literature Service Award
  • The Ilinca Zarifopol Johnston Award
  • The Outstanding Senior Award
  • The Wertheim Awards in Comparative Drama

More scholarships and awards related to Comparative Literature include:

Other scholarships and awards are available through the College of Arts and Sciences.

Internships

Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their freshman year.

Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you'll find many resources for both domestic and international internships. It may be possible to earn academic credit for an internship by enrolling in ASCS-X 373.

Foreign language study

The Department of Comparative Literature encourages majors pursuing the Language and Literature option to continue work in a foreign language and literature for three to four consecutive years. Students intending to do graduate work in comparative literature are advised to begin a second foreign language.

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 60 languages.

Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington:

Overseas study

Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in our increasingly interconnected world. Comparative Literature students often pursue language study and other coursework through the following exchange programs:

  • Bologna-IU - Italy
  • Canberra - Australia
  • Canterbury-IU - England
  • Cape Town-CIEE - South Africa
  • Madrid-IU - Spain
  • Perth - Australia
  • Rome-IES - Italy
  • Wollongong - Australia

The College of Arts + Sciences also directly hosts a variety of study abroad programs, some even featuring IU faculty, that might be right for you. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with Comparative Literature faculty, your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

Participation in a student group is a good way to make connections between your coursework and co-curricular activities. Student organizations that are relevant to Comparative Literature include:

Some of the following learning communities may be of interest to Comparative Literature students:

For a complete list of Living Learning Centers, Academic Communities, and Thematic Communities, visit the Residential Programs and Services website.

Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one. Involvement in student groups allow you to take advantage of opportunities to further develop your leadership, communication, organizational and teamwork skills.

Volunteer opportunities

There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.

Professional organizations

Students pursuing the Comparative Literature degree might be particularly interested in the following professional organizations:

Use the Indiana University Library system to search for Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, non-profit organizations, and much more.

Build your skills

Through the major

The major in Comparative Literature provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:

  • Specific disciplinary skills: think in original ways about the relationship between literatures, arts, cultures, and environments and make innovative connections among a diverse array of human arts and experiences
  • Language competence: communicate, read and write in at least one foreign language
  • Critical reading: read, analyze, and interpret texts of all kinds, with an appreciation for complexity and nuance
  • Critical thinking: understand and apply various methods and theories related to the study of literature, rhetoric, and culture
  • Literary expertise: understand and analyze the major historical and cultural frameworks of literature as well as the conventions and features of various literary genres
  • Research and source analysis: conduct research, evaluate appropriate methods and sources for that research, develop effective written arguments and make informed oral presentations
  • Communication and leadership: inform and interact, both orally and in writing, with experts and non-specialists

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path: 

  • Question critically
  • Think logically
  • Communicate clearly
  • Act creatively
  • Live ethically

These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your worklife. Not only are these skills that employers say they most value in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change. 

Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what key skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Analytical and quantitative skills
  • Ability to take initiative
  • Being detail oriented
  • Demonstrating adaptability
  • Technical skills relevant to the field
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Computer skills
  • Organizational ability

As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.

Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good career exploration starting point is an appointment with your career coach.

The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation, and prepare for job interviews, too. 

Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.

You might want to take a career course to help you maximize your time at IU. Comparative Literature B.A. students should consider taking ASCS-Q296: College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. In this course, students explore interests, values, skills, and personality to see how they relate to different careers and occupational environments.

The job market

The employment outlook for students with a degree in Comparative Literature is varied. Comparative Ltierature students develop a diverse skillset that prepares them for careers that rely on research, strong communication, critical thinking, and human relations.

Students with the Comparative Literature B.A. degree take their education in many directions. Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: editorial/publishing/writing, public relations, government, international business, education, advertising/marketing, entertainment, online market research, public health, consulting, translation, sales, law, and technical communication.

Comparative Literature majors can become teachers, editors, journalists, market researchers, advertising sales managers, foreign services officers, public relations representatives, public health officers, entertainment leaders, studio owners, translators, authors, lawyers, and consultants.

Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center's First Destination survey!

Need more ideas? The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.

Talk with faculty, your academic advisor, and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of the Department of Comparative Literature and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Post-graduate short-term experiences

The beginning of your post-graduate career might be an ideal time to explore an international internship or other short-term experience through organizations such as these:

Teaching positions give you a chance to hone language and communication skills. Find international English teaching jobs through organizations such as Center for International Education Exchange, Institute of International Education, and LanguageCorps.

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profit, and government organizations.

Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:

Graduate and professional study

When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.

A Comparative Literature B.A. degree will prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as teaching, library science, business, government, and law.

With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other programs in the health professions.

Students who pursue graduate studies in Comparative Literature have gone into careers as writers, professors, librarians, K-12 teachers, lawyers, and business leaders.

Here are examples of graduate programs offered at IU:

Alumni connections

The Comparative Literature department offers an alumni page. Catch up on alumni paths through Encompass, the Comparative Literature department newsletter.

Talk with Comparative Literature faculty, the academic advisor, career coach and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of this degree.

The IU College of Arts + Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts + Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.


Is it for you?

The Comparative Literature B.A. attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. Students typically have one or more of the following qualities:

  • Interest in broadening their general cultural background
  • Desire to develop proficiency in skills necessary for success in a globalized world
  • Passion to study in an environment that encourages development and sharing of original thoughts and ideas
  • Academic interest in literature, arts and writing
  • Intellectual curiosity and imagination
  • Interest in deepening your knowledge of cultures and regions where you may plan to work

Learn more

Contact the Comparative Literature academic advisor to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address
cmltadv@iu.edu