When I signed up to study Comparative Literature, I didn’t really know what to expect, apart from just reading loads of books. Now, of course I have read loads of books in my course (enough to take up my whole bedroom!), but that’s certainly not all there is to Comp Lit. Here’s what I didn’t expect about my degree:
-The materials we study in class are often non-traditional texts. If you’re taking Comparative Literature, don’t expect to spend your entire degree reading novels- I’ve studied medieval lays, watched a lot of films and have been to galleries with my class to study art. Some of the most unexpected and unusual source material I’ve studied at Queen Mary include performance art, football, Queen songs and Disney movies.
-Courses are often interdisciplinary. Comparative Literature modules often combine other disciplines, and are cross-coded for students in other degrees. For me, this made for the most exciting classes. For example, getting perspectives from geography students during discussions in Facts and Fictions of Climate Change really allowed me to broaden my perspective.
-Theory, theory, theory! Critical and cultural theory forms the basis of degree-level Comparative Literature. At first, this took some getting used to- during my first year, Foucault was the bane of my existence! But, after getting to grips with theorists and getting help from my lecturers (I cannot emphasise this enough: go to office hours!!!) theory quickly became my favourite part of my degree. It is beyond fascinating, and using theory unlocks a whole new world of studying both literature and the world.
If you’re pursuing a degree in Comparative Literature, or any other discipline, my biggest tip would be to keep your mind open and embrace the unexpected!
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