About Comparative Literature

Founded in 1917, just after Harvard and Columbia's programs, UNC's Comparative Literature Program is the third oldest in the country. In its initial decades, the program helped shape a distinctly American form of Comparative Literature distinct from its European prototypes.

While accomodating a variety of approaches to the discipline, UNC's Comparative Literature Program now offers students flexibility to develop creative approaches to international literature and film, while retaining a commitment to foreign language learning and training in theory. The CMPL program encourages students to develop rigorous analytic skills, pursue original research, and develop excellent communication skills. In addition, the program's faculty is becoming increasingly diverse in the geographical areas, languages, and historical periods that it represents.

The undergraduate majors who have graduated from our program go on to excel in a variety of areas, pursuing successful careers in law, medicine, education, or international business, as well as going on to distinguished programs for graduate degrees in Comparative Literature, such as the University of Michigan and Cornell.

Recipients of PhDs from our graduate program have received teaching positions in Comparative Literature, as well as in Foreign Language Departments and English departments world wide.

As of 2007, we have changed our undergraduate curriculum to offer two separate tracks in the major: students may choose to pursue either the International Studies in Literature track or the Literature and Film track for their major in CMPL. The program also hopes to add an Interdisciplinary Approaches to Literature track soon.

We have a vibrant intellectual community, with an annual international film series, various lecture series (Furst Forum and Cult Lit Classics), discussion groups, workshops, and independent research opportunities. We have a commitment to study abroad programs, and have been chosen as a partner program by King's College of London. We hope you will come and discover the world of Comparative Literature.

For questions regarding the Undergraduate or Graduate Program, contact Professor Jessica Wolfe, Director, Program in Comparative Literature and Director of Undergraduate Studies (International Literature Track, CMPL).

To read more about the role of UNC faculty in shaping American comparatism, read this article by Professor Diane Leonard.


Read what undergraduates are saying about Comparative Literature at UNC:
"Under the Comparative Literature Department…I have been able to witness and contribute to the conversation about literature as it reverberates around the globe.”
Sarah Morris, B.A. CMPL 2012
“You know, that’s also what I loved about the Comp Lit department. The instructors were amazing: I really liked the fact that they were all or in large part, teaching classes based on what they were working on. What they really loved the most was what they were teaching.”
Graham Sharp, B.A. CMPL 1999
“I intend to approach the responsibility of being a doctor with the humanistic mindset that my undergraduate work developed and reinforced.”
John Meyer, B.A. CMPL 2009
“The highlight of my time in the department was getting to use the complex analytical techniques I learned in the Comp Lit core curriculum to create and carry out an unorthodox honors thesis….In terms of internationalism and bringing together different disciplines, it was exactly the type of experience that I wanted my senior year in college, and the type that comparative literature, by its creative nature, encourages.”
Thomas McElwee, B.A. CMPL
“The study of literature trains one to concentrate, to make judgments – critical judgments. There’s a great deal of relativism about in the world, especially the academic world.” 
Dr. Michael Silk
“I was drawn to Comp Lit because (1) it requires students to study literature in a different language and (2) there is great flexibility in the types of courses you can take….Choosing Comparative Literature suddenly opened up a variety of music, art, architecture, and other classes that I could take and use towards completing the curriculum.”
Thomas McElwee, B.A. CMPL 
“I became a Comparative Literature major for two reasons: I love literature and I love languages. It has always seemed to me to be a logical choice and a pure delight to pursue where they intersect” 
Sarah Morris, B.A. CMPL 2012 
“UNC has a lot of opportunities and a lot of funding for people to do a lot of worthwhile, neat things to learn outside of the classroom, to travel wherever. I don’t think people take advantage of it enough, and I think that they should.” 
Sarah Booker, B.A. CMPL 2011
“I think I’m the only one there who still likes to read tomes, treatises, and tragedies in his minimal free time.” 
Bill Dworsky, B.A. CMPL 2010 
“I fell in love with Comparative Literature immediately just cause – the tiny classes, I loved the classes.  You really felt like you were in a real learning environment, at least I did. You go into a class that’s twelve people sitting around a table talking about books.” 
Graham Sharp, B.A. CMPL 1999 
“Comp Lit is the root of all of my studies, because it allowed me the freedom to merge my interests in medicine and literature into a substantial project that would frame my professional perspective.”
John Meyer, B.A. CMPL 2009
“I chose the minor because it allowed me to explore the great works of literature, something that the English major doesn’t really provide.  If it weren’t for CMPL I would have never read great writers like Kafka, Proust, Dostoyevsky, Borges, and other pillars of world lit.  The English major does not incorporate a huge amount of lit theory, which in turn does not produce budding scholars.  The CMPL program’s emphasis on theory, specifically philosophy, was THE MOST valuable portion of my education at Carolina.  It helped me learn about the scholarly field and hermeneutic options, and I am grateful for it.”
Clark Meshaw, B.A. ENGL 2012, CMPL minor