Admissions to the Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies B.A. have been suspended as of summer 2018. If you have any questions, please contact the department.


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.

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.

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.

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 should meet with the undergraduate advisor to discuss the requirements in advance of declaring the major. Declared majors are strongly encouraged to meet with the undergraduate advisor 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 (COMP LIT) 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.

Admissions to the Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies major have been suspended as of Summer 2018. Questions may be directed to the department.

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 Arts (B.A.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of arts 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.

Bachelor of Arts degree requirements

Mathematics Fulfilled with completion of University General Education requirements Quantitative Reasoning a (QR A) and Quantitative Reasoning b (QR B) coursework. Please note that some majors may require students to complete additional math coursework beyond the B.A. mathematics requirement.
Foreign Language
  • Complete the fourth unit of a foreign language; OR
  • Complete the third unit of a foreign language and the second unit of an additional 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 one 3+ credit course in the biological sciences; must include one 3+ credit course in the physical sciences
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 86th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major

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.  Please note that the following special degree programs are not considered majors so are not available to non–L&S degree-seeking candidates:  

  • Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics (Bachelor of Science–Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics)
  • Journalism (Bachelor of Arts–Journalism; Bachelor of Science–Journalism)
  • Music (Bachelor of Music)
  • Social Work (Bachelor of Social Work)

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
Complete two courses from the following:6
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.
Literary Criticism and Theory (complete two): 6
Introduction to Literary Criticism
Literary Criticism
Poetics and Literary Theory
Proseminar (required):3
Foreign Language9
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 (LITTRANS) courses will not count toword this requirement. 1
Complete 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
Problems in Transnational Genre and Mode
Literature and Ideas
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
Total Credits39

Foreign language courses with Literature breadth:1

GREEK 306 Intermediate Greek3
AFRICAN 445 Advanced Readings in Arabic Texts3
ASIAN 355 Modern Japanese Literature3
ASIALANG 311 First Semester Classical Chinese3
ASIALANG 312 Second Semester Classical Chinese3
ASIALANG 313 Classical Japanese3
ASIAN 351 Survey of Classical Chinese Literature3
ASIAN 352 Survey of Modern Chinese Literature3
ASIAN 353 Lovers, Warriors and Monks: Survey of Japanese Literature3
ASIALANG 401 Seventh Semester Chinese3
ASIALANG 402 Eighth Semester Chinese3
ASIAN 563 Readings in Modern Japanese Literature3
ASIAN 573 Readings in Classical Japanese Literature3
FRENCH 271 Introduction to Literary Analysis3-4
FRENCH 321 Introduction to Medieval, Renaissance, and Early Modern Literature3
FRENCH 322 Introduction to Literature of Modernity3
FRENCH 430 Readings in Medieval and Renaissance Literature3
FRENCH 431 Readings in Early Modern Literature3
FRENCH 433 Readings in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature3
FRENCH 461 French/Francophone Literary Studies Across the Centuries3
FRENCH 462 French/Francophone Cultural Studies Across the Centuries3
FRENCH 472 French/Francophone Literature and Women3
FRENCH 595 Theory and Practice of French/Francophone Drama4
GERMAN 258 Intermediate German-Reading3
GERMAN 303 Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts3-4
GERMAN 305 Literatur des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts3-4
GERMAN 325 Topics in Dutch Literature3
GERMAN 367 Study Abroad in German Literature2-5
GERMAN 377 Study Abroad in Dutch Literature2-5
GERMAN 625 Letterkunde der Lage Landen3-4
GERMAN 632 A Theme in German Literature3
GREEK 401 Greek Drama3
GREEK 402 Greek Drama and Lyric Poetry3
GREEK 511 Hesiod3
GREEK 512 Greek Lyric Poets3
GREEK 520 Greek Comedy3
GREEK 521 Greek Tragedy3
GREEK 532 Thucydides3
GREEK 551 Attic Orators3
GREEK 560 Hellenistic Greek3
JEWISH/​HEBR-MOD  301 Introduction to Hebrew Literature3
HEBR-MOD/​JEWISH  301 Introduction to Hebrew Literature3
HEBR-MOD/​JEWISH  401 Topics in Modern Hebrew / Israeli Literature and Culture I3
HEBR-MOD/​JEWISH  402 Topics in Modern Hebrew / Israeli Literature and Culture II3
HEBR-BIB/​JEWISH  513 Biblical Texts, Poetry3
HEBR-BIB/​JEWISH  514 Biblical Texts, Poetry3
ITALIAN 321 Studies in Italian Literature and Culture I3
ITALIAN 322 Studies in Italian Literature and Culture II3
ITALIAN/​MEDIEVAL  659 Dante's Divina Commedia3
ITALIAN/​MEDIEVAL  660 Dante's Divina Commedia3
ITALIAN/​MEDIEVAL  671 Il Duecento3
LATIN 301 Latin Literature of the Roman Republic3
LATIN 302 Latin Literature of the Roman Empire3
LATIN 515 Vergil3
LATIN 519 Latin Poetry3
LATIN 520 Roman Drama3
LATIN 521 Roman Elegy3
LATIN 522 Roman Lyric Poetry3
LATIN 523 Roman Satire3
LATIN 524 Roman Novel3
LATIN 539 Latin Historical Writers3
LATIN 549 Latin Philosophical Writers3
LATIN 559 Latin Oratory3
LATIN/​MEDIEVAL  563 Mediaeval Latin3
PORTUG 221 Introduction to Luso-Brazilian Literatures4
SCAND ST 251 Readings in Norwegian Literature3-4
SCAND ST 261 Readings in Swedish Literature3-4
SCAND ST 271 Readings in Danish Literature3-4
SCAND ST 373 Masterpieces of Scandinavian Literature: From the Middle Ages to 19003-4
SCAND ST 374 Masterpieces of Scandinavian Literature: the Twentieth Century3-4
SCAND ST 375 The Writings of Hans Christian Andersen3-4
SCAND ST 419 Scandinavian Children's Literature4
SCAND ST 420 The Woman in Scandinavian Literature4
SCAND ST 422 The Drama of Henrik Ibsen4
SCAND ST 423 The Drama of August Strindberg4
SCAND ST 424 Nineteenth-Century Scandinavian Fiction3-4
SCAND ST 426 Kierkegaard and Scandinavian Literature4
SCAND ST 427 Contemporary Scandinavian Literature4
SCAND ST 433 The Scandinavian Tale and Ballad4
SCAND ST 434 The Art of Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen4
SCAND ST 435 The Icelandic Sagas4
SLAVIC 302 Zarys historii literatury polskiej3
SLAVIC 321 Fourth Year Russian I4
SLAVIC 322 Fourth Year Russian II4
SLAVIC 420 Chekhov3-4
SLAVIC 421 Gogol3-4
SLAVIC 422 Dostoevsky3-4
SLAVIC 424 Tolstoy3-4
SLAVIC 440 Soviet Literature3-4
SLAVIC 472 Historia literatury polskiej po roku 18633
SPANISH 224 Introduction to Hispanic Literatures3
SPANISH 417 Literatura del Siglo de Oro3-4
SPANISH 435 Cervantes3
SPANISH 453 Literature of the Twentieth Century3
SPANISH 460 Literatura Hispanoamericana3
SPANISH 461 The Spanish American Short Story3
SPANISH 462 Spanish American Theater and Drama3
SPANISH 463 The Spanish American Novel3
SPANISH 464 Spanish American Poetry and Essay3
SPANISH 466 Topics in Spanish American Literature1
SPANISH/​CHICLA  467 US Latino Literature3

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

Though not required, COMP LIT 310 is strongly recommended as a bridge between the 200-level courses and the 300- and 400-level courses.

residence and quality of work

  • 2.000 GPA in all COMP LIT courses and all major courses
  • 2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level major credits, taken in residence1
  • 15 credits, in COMP LIT, taken on campus

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the Major in consultation with the undergraduate advisor in the department.

Honors in the Major Requirements

To earn Honors in the Major, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 University GPA
  • Earn a 3.500 GPA for all COMP LIT courses, and all courses accepted in the major
  • Complete 39 total 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 and COMP LIT 682, 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.
  1. Literary fluency in a language other than English.
  2. Comparative understanding of a selected range of literary and cultural texts.
  3. Critical intellectual familiarity with concepts and theories of the literary and of the comparative.
  4. Ability to engage in the comparative analysis of literary and cultural texts.
  5. Critical reading, thinking, writing, and speaking skills to express and communicate the above.

The Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies major is unable to be declared (suspended as of summer 2018). Current students should refer to their DARS and work with their advisor for a plan to complete in four years.

Students are encouraged to begin working on their career exploration and preparation soon after arriving on campus. We partner with the SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science. L&S 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.

L&S career resources

SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students leverage the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, 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). In short, SuccessWorks helps students in the College of Letters & Science discover themselves, find opportunities, and develop the skills they need for success after graduation.

SuccessWorks can also assist students in career advising, résumé and cover letter writing, networking opportunities, and interview skills, as well as course offerings for undergraduates to begin their career exploration early in their undergraduate career. 

Students should set up their profiles in Handshake to take care of everything they need to explore career events, manage their campus interviews, and apply to jobs and internships from 200,000+ employers around the country.


Professors Dharwadker, Gilmore (also Landscape Architecture), Layoun, Livorni (also French and Italian)

Associate Professors Livanos, Neyrat, Statkiewicz, Wells

Assistant Professors Fielder, Grunewald (also Legal Studies)

Academic Staff Beatriz Botero


Professors Adler (German, Nordic, and Slavic), Casid (Art History), Garlough (Gender and Women's Studies), Goodkin (French and Italian), Guyer (English), Longinovic (German, Nordic, and Slavic),  Kapust (Political Science), 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)