Comparative Literature at UC Santa Barbara

On The Art and Joy of Reading Together

What is Comparative Literature? What are its methodologies and the scope of its critical inquiry? What roles do language study and translation play in the discipline? How is the work of comparison being achieved? Such questions have been the subject of much debate and lively discussion as soon as the discipline emerged in the nineteenth century. Ali Behdad and Dominic Thomas (UC Los Angeles) recently defined Comparative Literature as an “inter-disciplinary, cross-cultural, and trans-national endeavor" (A Companion to Comparative Literature [Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011] 1). Twenty years ago, Roland Greene (Stanford University) offered an inspiring definition that is still relevant in today's age of expanded multiculturalism and globalization: "Comparative Literature [...] is the laboratory or workshop of literary studies, and through them, of the humanities. Comparative Literature compares literatures, not only as accumulations of primary works, but as the languages, cultures, histories, traditions, theories, and practices with which those works come" (Comparative Literature in the Age of Multiculturalism [Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995] 143-44).

Watch our short video and discover testimonials by our graduate and undergraduate students who share their perspectives on Comparative Literature as an inspiring field of studies and the relationships they have forged between literature across cultures and other spheres of artistic and scientific endeavors.