What is Comparative Literature?

The "comparative" in "comparative literature" has traditionally denoted an approach that emphasizes relations between different national literatures or the literatures of different ethnic groups. This approach has always placed a strong emphasis on theoretical inquiry and historical understanding (partly because comparative literary study inevitably leads to questions about the nature of literature itself), and has proven particularly receptive to the theoretical inquiry that has swept through the humanities in recent years. Thus, "comparative" has also come to designate an openness to disciplinary crossings as much as an attention to movements across cultural and linguistic borders.

Comparative Literature at Binghamton University

The Department of Comparative Literature at Binghamton has a long-standing reputation for its progressive approach to literary studies and is especially known for its strengths in modern literature, literary theory, relations between literature and other arts (particularly film), and relations between literature and philosophy. It is also known both nationally and internationally for its leadership in the area of translation studies.

According to a recent US News report, Binghamton University ranks 12th in the top 104 smartest public colleges in the country, measured by "general cognitive ability" and "brainpower level"


The Department of Comparative Literature at Binghamton University offers a distinctive undergraduate major and three avenues of graduate study with M.A. and Ph.D. options. It features, in addition to its primary M.A. and Ph.D. programs in Comparative Literature, an M.A. in Translation Studies, a unique interdisciplinary doctoral program in Philosophy, Literature, and the Theory of Criticism, as well as a Ph.D. in Translation Studies through the internationally recognized Translation Research and Instruction Program. For a sample of graduate courses that have recently been offered by our distinguished faculty, please click here. 


•The Department is proud to present a Dean's Speaker series in 2016-17. The second speaker, Robert Doran (Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Rochester), will present a paper "How Theory Became Ethics" on Friday, December 2, 11:30 a.m., in the IASH conference room (LN 1106). All are welcome. 

•Congratulations to our alumna Amy C. Smith, Associate Professor of English at Lamar University.  Amy has been appointed director of faculty development in the Center for Teaching and Learning Enhancement.

 • Congratulations to David Spitzer on his book,  A Heaven Wrought of Iron: Poems from the Odyssey, forthcoming from Etruscan Press.

 • The Fernand Braudel Center and the Department of Comparative Literature presented World Literature: Premises and Problems, a colloquium, last April 8-9. Read the Pipe Dream report.

Last Updated: 11/16/16