Mission & Learning Outcomes
The Program in Comparative Literature and Translation Studies at Barnard enables students to study literature across languages, historical periods, national boundaries, and cultural traditions, as well as in relation to other arts (such as painting, photography, theater, and film) and other disciplines (such as philosophy, history, and anthropology). We promote the intensive study of languages and require majors to work at the advanced level in two literary and cultural traditions in their original languages. Our teaching emphasizes close attention to language: how language changes over time and space; how rhetorical devices enhance and inflect the meaning of what is said; how narratives tell stories and help us make sense of the world. Resisting a homogenizing globalism, students learn about how literary genres, ideas, and aesthetic forms travel across borders and change in doing so, and they study also diverse cultural practices and aesthetic forms that defy easy translatability. We regard the study of poetics, the art or technique of writing, as fundamental for and inseparable from the study of theory, or critical and philosophical approaches to language and discourse. We teach students the critical skills and research methods needed to perform conceptually precise, aesthetically sensitive, historically-informed, and culturally-attuned analyses and interpretations of texts.
In this way, our program provides students with a humanistic education like none other. It prepares them for the challenges, responsibilities, and pleasures of understanding and acting in a complex, richly textured, and multi-lingual world. It helps them become world citizens whose cosmopolitan outlook is not only world-wide but also world-deep.
Core faculty members teach the required courses in Comparative Literature and Translation Studies and provide close mentoring. Students have access also to a wealth of faculty expertise in Classics, French, German, English, Spanish, Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Italian, Russian, Africana Studies, and Medieval and Renaissance Studies, among other departments and programs at Barnard. Faculty who teach and advise senior theses offer courses on topics that range from sexuality and the body in Greek tragedy to the novella from medieval to modern times, from studies of the novel to comparative lyric poetry and poetics, from the writing of utopia to literature and philosophy, from translation and theories of translation to adaptation and transmediality, from global long-form photography to ecological criticism, performance studies, and animal studies. Students who major in Comparative Literature and Translation Studies are matched with an advisor or co-advisors for specialized guidance in selecting courses and designing a curriculum of breadth and depth. Students who minor in Translation Studies are also matched with an advisor who guides them in choosing courses most suitable for the language(s) they work on and in relation to particular interests (such as theater or the history of science). Students benefit also from the array of resources in language and literature departments at Columbia. We strongly encourage majors to take advantage of study abroad opportunities to immerse themselves in the study of languages and cultures.
Our graduates have embarked upon a variety of career paths, in fields including law, journalism, publishing, theater, television, film, teaching, education consulting, medicine, gastronomy, public policy, international relations and foreign policy, technology design, and international business. They have received prestigious fellowships, such as the Fulbright and the Mellon-Mays, to teach and conduct research in Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia, and they have gone on to graduate study in political science, comparative literature, East Asian Studies, law, history, film-making, creative writing, and translation and interpretation, among other subjects, in leading programs all over the world. Our graduates work as translators, editors, journalists, writers, middle school and high school teachers, college professors, filmmakers, lawyers, consultants, technology designers, and public policy advocates in the U.S., South America, Europe, and Asia.
Students who wish to learn more about the major and meet faculty members should attend our program planning meetings, which take place every fall and spring during the program planning meeting periods at the College. Students can also contact the chair of the program to meet during office hours or to set up an appointment.
Student Learning Outcomes
• The ability to discern and analyze how formal and rhetorical features of language (diction, metaphor, imagery, hyperbole, litotes, rhyme, parallelism, structures of repetition, etc.) enhance, inflect, and complicate seemingly straightforward processes of communication in literary texts but also in non-literary discourse, e.g., psychoanalytic case studies, historical narratives, philosophical writing.
•The ability to analyze literary texts and uses of language in historical periods, cultural contexts, and social systems that are different from one’s own and that can thus help one see and re-evaluate one’s own customary and contemporary context in productive ways.
•Knowledge about the dynamics of the global circulation of literary genres, aesthetic practices, and ideas through processes of translation and adaptation and by means of various media and technologies
•Knowledge about histories of writing practices, genres, relations between script and orality, logics of periodization, and ethical systems in traditions and lifeworlds beyond the West.
•The ability to craft well-reasoned and cogent arguments substantiated by careful attention to textual evidence and knowledge of historical contexts.
•The ability to use literary and critical theoretical approaches to analyze and interpret texts with deftness and agility, with attention to what remains inevitably literary within theoretical discourse itself.
•The ability to do the above–and playfully–in relation to more languages than one.