Harvard's Comparative Literature Department

Next, I'll look into Harvard's deparments related to "Area Studies," broadly speaking all Humanities and Social Sciences departments. In practice, I'll start from "near" to "far" in terms of "distance" between the department and Area Studies in general. The first two I will look at are "Comparative Literature" and "Linguistics."


For "Comparative Literature," I have the following observations:

1. Looking through the list of Faculty, it is essentially staffed by Professors of various strands of Western literatures - the only exception are some who also doubles in African and African American Studies (but in this case they could be focusing on English or Francophone literatures for example), and one adjunct who seems to focus on Arabic literature.


2. In terms of courses offered, often the classes are European, sometimes Western (i.e. including Americas, or post-colonial authors writing in a European language, like Rushdie), less frequently includes the Middle East (Jewish, or including Arabic / Islamic), and some very few truly as World Literature (including Chinese / Japanese authors). Now of course, David Damrosch, possibly the "founder" of "world literature" as a discipline in the past decade or so, is a prominent professor here.


3. Names of authors / works in course titles: St. Augustine, Jean-Paul Sartre, 1001 Nights, Shakespeare, Saul Bellow, E.T.A Hoffman, Balzac .


4. "Our PhD program is designed to provide for the needs of students who wish to develop a unified program of study that involves literature in three or more languages."


5. Language Requirements: "Candidates should have knowledge of at least four languages variously related to their course of study and long-term interests. One language may be studied for instrumental reasons and at least one must be studied because it stands in a useful “cross-cultural” or “diachronic” relationship to others." Here, I am actually not sure if English is counted as one of the 4 or not. "One of the four languages must be either premodern (diachronic) or cross-cultural." In effect, assuming English is counted as one of the 4 languages, and that most students in this department focuses on western literature (not much other choice given the faculty and courses offered), then this diachronic or cross-cultural language would be either one of the following: "classical Latin and Greek, biblical Hebrew, classical or modern Arabic, Chinese, Armenian and Sanskrit." It is interesting to me that Armenian is included, while Japanese is not listed explicitly. But otherwise this list makes sense, for contrast to western literatures, the best languages to learn are really Arabic, Chinese or Sanskrit, as I counted based on my World Canonical Texts List of 150 in this blog.


6. Altogether, excluding cross-listed courses, there are 84 courses on the catalog in this department.



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