The Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies offers a major in comparative literature and a certificate in folklore.

Comparative literature is the study of literatures in their original languages from a transnational, cross-cultural perspective. The program welcomes students with a diverse range of backgrounds and interests, and with literary reading competence in a language in addition to English. Literary fluency in a language other than English is the basis for work in the comparative literature major.

Comparative literature students and majors study texts from a range of historical periods, geographical and cultural areas, and literary and artistic movements. They learn to critically pose and respond to fundamental questions about the place of literature in society and in cultural and historical traditions.

Majors are introduced to specific modes of literary analysis as well as to general concepts of "literariness." They explore the interaction of literature with other arts and disciplines as well as with the political, social, and intellectual contexts of literature. In this way, students acquire important intellectual skills in critical comparative reading, thinking, and writing.

The small size of most comparative literature classes allows ample opportunity for the discussion and exchange that are essential to the development of such skills. Comparative literature classes also offer challenging research and writing projects that can be carried out individually and in small groups.

A major in comparative literature is valuable preparation for a career in a wide range of fields that demand careful analysis, clear writing, the presentation of logical arguments, and the critical assessment of the written and oral opinions of others—law, business, communications, politics and diplomacy, journalism, technical writing, or publishing. It is ideal for students interested in teaching at the secondary level or in pursuing graduate degrees.

To declare the major in comparative literature, students must have sophomore standing, have taken at least one 200-level course in the department, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and have established the foundations of literary fluency in a language other than English.

Prospective majors are strongly encouraged to meet with the director of undergraduate studies to discuss the requirements in advance of declaring the major. Declared majors are strongly encouraged to meet with the director of undergraduate studies in planning their courses each semester. Juniors should arrange a meeting early in the spring semester to assess whether they will have met all requirements for graduation.

Folklore is a multidisciplinary field of study concerned with the documentation and analysis of verbal, customary, musical, material, and performance traditions, primarily as they are practiced within cultures, but also as they are revived, modified, even invented by artists, educators, entrepreneurs, activists, communities, and states. The program offers courses on folklore forms, practitioners, performances, theory, methods, and public presentation, with an emphasis on cross-cultural and interdisciplinary approaches. Students interested in folklore as an area of concentration typically major in an arts, humanities, or social science discipline. No formal undergraduate major is offered in folklore, but by planning a course of study with the undergraduate advisor, a student may design an individual major with a folklore concentration. Undergraduate students may also earn a certificate in folklore.

Additional Program Information

Courses in comparative literature fall into four general classes:

Introductory courses (201–299) are based entirely on English-language texts or English translations of foreign language texts. These courses are open to first-year students and restricted to undergraduates.

General courses (300–400) are open to undergraduates. The course texts are in English, but majors and other students who are able to do so are expected to work with one foreign literature in the original language.

More specialized courses (400–699) are open to both undergraduate and (with the exception of the proseminar, COMP LIT 690 ) graduate students. Texts used in these courses typically require the knowledge of at least one foreign language.

Graduate courses (700–999) involve increasing use of foreign literatures both in the classroom and in individual work.

To declare the major in comparative literature, students must have sophomore standing, have taken at least one 200-level course in the department, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and have established the foundations of literary fluency in a language other than English.

Prospective majors are strongly encouraged to meet with the director of undergraduate studies to discuss the requirements in advance of declaring the major. Declared majors are strongly encouraged to meet with the director of undergraduate studies in planning their courses each semester. Juniors should arrange a meeting early in the spring semester to assess whether they will have met all requirements for graduation.

Students interested in comparative literature and folklore studies should contact the department via email at or by calling 608-262-3059 to schedule an appointment with the undergraduate advisor. Students can also go to 2402 Sterling Hall at 475 North Charter Street to get general information about the major.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of science degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.


Mathematics Two (2) 3+ credits of intermediate/advanced level MATH, COMP SCI, STAT
Limit one each: COMP SCI, STAT
Foreign Language Complete the third unit of a foreign language
Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
L&S Breadth
  • Humanities, 12 credits: 6 of the 12 credits must be in literature
  • Social Sciences, 12 credits
  • Natural Sciences, 12 credits: must include 6 credits in biological science; and must include 6 credits in physical science
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework 108 credits
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work 60 intermediate or advanced credits
Major Declare and complete at least one (1) major
Total Credits 120 credits
UW-Madison Experience 30 credits in residence, overall
30 credits in residence after the 90th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison


Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above.

Requirements for the Major

The major requires a total of 30 credits in Comparative Literature (COMP LIT), plus 9 credits in literature in a single foreign language for a total of 39 credits.

Comparative Literature Courses
Two courses (6 credits total) from the following 200-level courses:
Introduction to Pre-Modern Literatures/Impact on the Modern World
Introduction to Modern and Contemporary Literature
Introduction to Cross-Cultural Literary Forms
Intro to Comparative Study of Race & Ethnicity, In & Beyond the U.S.
Two courses (6 credits) from the following literary criticism and theory courses:
Introduction to Literary Criticism
Literary Criticism
Poetics and Literary Theory
Must also include (3 credits) proseminar:
Foreign Language
9 credits in literature or culture courses in a single foreign language, with a final grade of B or better in each course. Independent study or literature in translation courses will not count toword this requirement.
Select 15 additional credits at the Intermediate or Advanced levels (300 level and above) to reach 39 credit minimum for the Major:
Problems in Comparative Literatures and Cultures
Fantasy and Science Fiction
Literature and Ideas
Literature and Related Disciplines
Literature and Ethnic Experience
Problems in Transnational Genre and Mode
Comparative Problems in Periods and Movements
Literature , Media, the Arts
The Comparative In and Beyond Comparative Literature
Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Thesis
Senior Thesis
Directed Study
Directed Study

The Senior Thesis (COMP LIT 691 Senior ThesisCOMP LIT 692 Senior Thesis, for a total of 6 credits) is strongly recommended (though not required) for non-honors majors.

Introduction to Literary Criticism (COMP LIT 310 Introduction to Literary Criticism) is strongly advised as a bridge between the 200-level courses and the 300- and 400-level courses.

Work in the major must show a degree of continuity. The exact configuration of courses in the major will be determined individually for each student in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies.

Majors are strongly encouraged to maintain a GPA of 3.250 for coursework in the major.

residence and quality of work

2.000 GPA in all COMP LIT courses and courses counting toward the major

2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level major credits, taken in residence1

15 credits, in COMP LIT, taken on campus


 COMP LIT 300 through COMP LIT 699, that carry the intermediate or advanced designation, are considered upper level in the major.

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies Major in consultation with the undergraduate advisor in the department.

Honors in the Comparative Literature and Folklore studies Major Requirements

To earn a B.A. or B.S. with Honors in the Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies Major students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 overall university GPA
  • Earn a 3.500 GPA for all COMP LIT courses, and all courses accepted in the major
  • Complete 39 credits in COMP LIT, to include:
    • 9 credits of COMP LIT, taken for Honors, at the 300 level or above
    • A two-semester Senior Honors Thesis in COMP LIT 681 Senior Honors Thesis and COMP LIT 682 Senior Honors Thesis, for a total of 6 credits.

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.

Students are encouraged to begin working on their career exploration and preparation soon after arriving on campus. We partner with the L&S Career Services office to help students leverage the academic skills learned in the major and liberal arts degree, explore and try out different career paths, participate in internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers).

Letters & Science graduates are in high demand by employers and graduate programs. It is important to us that our students are career ready at the time of graduation, and we are committed to their success.



Professors Dharwadker, DuBois (also German, Nordic, & Slavic), Gilmore (also Landscape Architecture), Layoun, Livorni (also French and Italian), Rosenblum (Center for Jewish Studies)

Associate Professors Livanos, Statkiewicz

Assistant Professors Fielder, Grunewald (also Legal Studies), Neyrat, Wells

Academic Staff Beatriz Botero


Professors Adler (also German, Nordic, and Slavic), Casid (Art History), De Ferrari (Spanish and Portuguese), Garlough (Gender and Women's Studies), Goodkin (French and Italian), Guyer (English), Kern (Asian Languages and Cultures), Longinovic (German, Nordic, and Slavic), Rosenmeyer (Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies), Santos (University of Coimbra, Portugal)

Academic Staff: Scott Mellor (German, Nordic, and Slavic), Ruth Olson (Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures)

Honorary Affiliates

Professors Brenner (Center for Jewish Studies), Bühnemann (Asian Languages and Cultures), Gross (German, Nordic, and Slavic), Klug (Law)