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Comparative Literature (NCHEN612)

30 Credits

This course embraces the College’s interdisciplinary nature by questioning, and inviting students to look beyond, the linguistic and disciplinary barriers suggested by the subject title: English.

The lectures investigate comparative literary practice of a range of kinds, as well as surveying the history and nature of the discipline of comparative literature, in order to provide students with a grounding for the critical dissertation on which they are examined for this course, in which they will be required to bring an Anglophone work of literature into comparison with at least one other work of literature or work of art in another form.

It should be noted that the remit of ‘comparative literature’ used for this course is considerably broader than that involved in much ‘comparative literature’ as institutionalised. Not only may different art forms be brought into relation with each other, but so may any two works of literature – provided that they are treated within the spirit of comparativism.

The course is predicated on, and seeks to inculcate, several ethical principles and practices that are inherent in comparative practice. Impartiality, empiricism, openness to less familiar modes of thinking and feeling, the ability to mediate between different cultures and languages (taking those terms both more and less literally – as a novel, for example, may have a ‘culture’and a ‘language’ of its own), the tendency to place everything in context, the ability to perceive both commonality between things which are apparently different and differences between things which are apparently similar, and the disposition both to celebrate commonality and to respect difference, whilst holding in balance a simultaneous sense of both.