Comparative & World Literature

Program Definition

World Literature or Comparative Literature?

Harry Levin, a notable professor in the field of comparative literature, once had a dream in which two workmen knocked on his door and announced that they “had come to compare the literature.” Many explanations of what comparative literature is, begin with this anecdote, which raises the central issue: just how does one compare literature?

The terms “Comparative Literature” and “World Literature” are often used to designate a similar course of study. Comparative Literature is the more widely used term in the United States, with many universities having Comparative Literature Departments or Comparative Literature Programs. There are also scholarly associations such as the International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA), the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), whose secretariat has been housed at The University of Alabama since August 1998, and the Society for Comparative Literature and the Arts (SCLA). The latter two organizations sponsor annual conferences and publish journals, Comparative Literature, and The Comparatist respectively.

Other well-known comparative literature journals published in the United States areĀ Comparative Literature Studies (Penn State University), World Literature Today (University of Oklahoma), and Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature (Indiana University).

At The University of Alabama, the Comparative & World Literature Program is directed by Dr. Emily Wittman (English).