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Comparative Literature

The goal of Hamilton's Comparative Literature Department is to expose students to traditional literary analysis while they learn to question familiar assumptions and recognize the complex ways in which literature interacts with culture and politics.

A work of literature always makes connections. It not only reaches individual readers; it can invoke other literary works and traditions, it can challenge or embrace scientific or historical knowledge, it can be translated into another language or transformed by film. Comparative literature explores this rich tapestry of relationships. At Hamilton, comparative literature is the study of literary and cultural texts from around the globe.

This is the study of literature in the broadest sense. Courses in the comparative literature program focus on canonical texts, popular literature, film, and opera from diverse national traditions. They range from in-depth study of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time to an overview of Queer Theory, and from an examination of the way tragedy has been redefined in different cultural contexts to an exploration of how the detective story is used by avant-garde novelists.

The concentration in comparative literature is extremely flexible and is built around each student’s individual interests. But it is held together by a core of required courses in literary history and literary theory as well as an intensive senior seminar. Much of each student’s work is done in other literature departments and involves reading in foreign languages. The minor includes five courses, one of which is a required survey of either literary history or literary theory; foreign language work is recommended, but not required, for the minor.

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