Comparative Literature is the study of literature, time periods, languages and genres, and crosses the boundaries between literature and other forms of human expression, including film, visual arts and popular culture.
The Department of Comparative Literature at Kent was one of the first of its kind in the country. Our research feeds into our teaching, and creates an inclusive and stimulating environment.
You will engage with the study of literature through lectures which introduce you to new perspectives, and seminars where you will be able to contribute your own ideas. You will also have the opportunity to gain practical skills designed to enhance your career prospects. You could choose to add a Year in Journalism to your degree, and may also have the opportunity to contribute to conference organisation, creative writing and review writing, all of which will enhance your CV and develop your understanding of world literature.
Our degree programme
Discover works from Europe and the Americas, Asia and Africa, looking at genres including the novel, the short story, poetry, autobiography, drama, and the epic, with a particular emphasis on how literary forms have evolved in different cultures and linguistic traditions.
Explore questions such as: How have writers such as James Joyce engaged with Greek mythology? What is the evolution of the fairy tale from Charles Perrault to Walt Disney? In what ways might an English nineteenth-century novel of female adultery relate to a French, German, or Russian one?
Comparative Literature covers works from the ancient classics of Greece and Rome to the modern age, offering you the opportunity to develop an understanding of historical and cross-cultural literary traditions and the ways in which they interact, while broadening your critical knowledge of literature and culture.
Themes and areas you will explore include fiction and power; sex and gender; childhood and adolescence; crime fiction; literature and testimony; literature and seduction and creative writing.
You do not need to be able to read a foreign language to take a degree in Comparative Literature. While we encourage you to engage with foreign languages, you study translated works alongside literature originally written in English.
Michael talks about his Comparative Literature course at Kent.
Year abroad/placement year
You have the opportunity to broaden your education by spending a year studying abroad at one of our many partner institutions in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. This chance to immerse yourself in another culture not only enriches your literary studies but is also a wonderful opportunity for personal and career development. Alternatively, you can spend a year on a work placement, gaining valuable experience and enhancing your employability.
You can get involved with student societies such as the Film, Creative Writing and Modern Languages societies. The Gulbenkian has a theatre hosting work by theatre companies and a cinema showing contemporary, classic and independent films.
For most modules, you have one two-hour seminar per week. The Final-Year Dissertation is based entirely on your private research but is supervised by a tutor and includes workshops and the chance to participate in an undergraduate conference.
Assessment varies by module, from 100% coursework to a combination of examination and coursework, usually in the ratio 50:50 or 40:60.
Knowledge and understanding
You gain knowledge and understanding of:
- a wide range of authors and texts from different periods and cultures, from Ancient Greece to the present day
- the cultural and historical contexts in which literature is written, transmitted and read
- concepts such as genre, theme or literary movement
- the problems inherent in interpreting 'the translated text'
- traditions in literary criticism
- critical theory and its applications, understood within its historical contexts
- the study of literature in its relation to other disciplines.
You gain the following intellectual abilities:
- listen to and absorb the oral transmission of complicated data
- careful reading of literary works and theoretical material
- reflect clearly and critically on oral and written sources, using power of analysis and imagination
- to marshal a complex body of information
- remember relevant material and recall it when needed
- construct cogent arguments
- formulate independent ideas and defend them in a plausible manner
- present arguments in written form in a time-limited context, such as examinations.
You gain subject-specific skills in the following:
- the close critical analysis of literary texts
- informed understanding of the variety of critical and theoretical approaches to the study of literature
- the ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of texts, concepts and theories relating to literary studies
- sensitivity to generic conventions in the study of literature and the problems of translation and cultural differences
- well-developed language use and awareness, including a grasp of standard critical terminology
- the ability to articulate responsiveness to literary language
- scholarly practice in the presentation of formal written work, in particular bibliographic and annotational
- understanding of how cultural norms, assumptions and practices influence questions of judgement
- appreciation of the value of collaborative intellectual work in developing critical judgement.
You gain transferable skills in the following:
- communication: produce focused, cogent written presentations, summarise information and assess arguments, give presentations with visual aids where appropriate
- problem-solving: identifying problems, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of different solutions, defending the preferred solutions with cogent arguments
- improve your learning, identify your strengths and weaknesses, assess the quality of your own work; manage your time and meet deadlines, and learn to work independently
- work with others, participating in seminar discussions, responding to the views of others and to criticisms of your own views without giving or taking offence
- use information technology effectively, such as word-processing essays, using online information sources and responding to communications by email.
The programme aims to:
- offer an opportunity to study literature within a strongly multidisciplinary and modular context
- widen participation in higher education by offering a variety of study routes
- produce graduates with a good knowledge of a comprehensive range of literary works from across Europe and beyond, from the Classics to the present day
- teach the comparatist approach to literary studies
- give students the ability to approach any text in a critical and analytical manner
- produce intellectually independent and self-motivating graduates
- give students the skills and abilities generic to study in the humanities
- offer students the opportunity to develop more general skills and competences so they can respond positively to the challenges of the workplace or postgraduate education.