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Comparative Literature

Administrative Unit:Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies
College/School: College of Letters & Science
Admitting Plans:M.A., Ph.D.
Degrees Offered:M.A., Ph.D.
Minors and Certificates:Doctoral Minor in Comparative Literature and Doctoral Minor in Folklore

Faculty: Professors Howard (chair, also Communication Arts), DuBois (also Scandinavian Studies), Dharwadker, Layoun, Leary (also Scandinavian Studies), Schenck; Associate Professors Gilmore (also Landscape Architecture), Livanos, Rosenblum (also Jewish Studies), Statkiewicz; Assistant Professors Fielder, Grunewald; Faculty Associate Olson. Affiliate Faculty: Adler (German), Casid (Art History), De Ferrari (Spanish and Portuguese) Garlough (also Gender and Women's Studies), Goodkin (French and Italian), Guyer (English), Kern (East Asian Languages and Literature), Livorni (French and Italian), Longinovic (Slavic Languages and Literature), Rosenmeyer (Classics), International Affiliate/Visiting Professor Ramalho de Sousa Santos (University of Coimbra, Portugal). See also Faculty on the department website.


Graduate study in the Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies emphasizes the active theorizing of the comparative, the literary, the folkloric, and the cultural in a global context. CLFS investigates cultures within, across, and beyond national and linguistic boundaries. The comparative and pluri-lingual nature of CLFS at UW–Madison enables the careful and informed study of new and evolving theories and cultural methodologies as well as of prior, present, and emerging cultural practices and phenomena.

Students study problems and create public projects exploring theory and criticism, culture, genre, mode, performance, periodization, literary movements, tradition, translation, and transmission. They engage problems and questions concerning the interaction of elite and folk literatures and other forms of creative expression; of folklore and literature with other arts or other disciplines; and the relationships between creative expression and economic, sociopolitical, traditional, and other historical structures and issues, including ideological and value formations.

In addition to professional research and communication in the academic fields of comparative literature and folklore studies, CLFS is committed to public humanities projects that place professional expertise in the service of all communities and publics. 

Graduate study leads to the M.A. and the Ph.D. degrees in CLFS.

The department also offers a minors in comparative literature and folklore studies to interested Ph.D. candidates in other degree programs.

Doctoral Minor in Comparative Literature

The department offers a doctoral minor to graduate students of other departments and programs interested in pursuing the workings of comparative methodology in a global context and in broadening the critical and conceptual framework for their study of literatures, cultures, and texts.

The minor requires a minimum of 12 credits of course work in comparative literature courses, which must include at least one seminar (at the 800 or 900 level) and CL702. Three credits may be taken at the 400 level, with the consent of the director of graduate studies.

At the beginning of study in the program, all doctoral minors should contact the director of graduate studies concerning course work for the minor. Completion of the minor will be certified by either the director of graduate studies or the department chair.

Doctoral Minor in Folklore

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 sustained, revived, modified, invented by artists, educators, entrepreneurs, activists, communities, and states. CLFS offers courses on folkloric forms, practitioners, performances, theory, methods, and public presentation, with an emphasis on cross-cultural and interdisciplinary approaches. Graduate students interested in folklore as an area of concentration typically major in CLFS while specializing in particular languages and culture areas.

Students interested in a doctoral minor in folklore studies may either select an Option A Folklore minor or develop an Option B distributed minor with course work in folklore and at least one other program. Students choosing an Option A minor select an advisor from the CLFS faculty, in consultation with the chair of the department. Students are expected to achieve a B or better in four folklore courses at the 300 level or above. One course must be selected from the following courses in theory, history, or methodology of folklore: 410, 490, 510. Three additional courses may be selected from these and other courses at the 300 level or above.


Applicants to the graduate program in comparative literature should submit to the department a statement of purpose for graduate study, transcripts, letters of recommendation, a writing sample (in English) of no more than 15 pages, a list of foreign language and literature course work, and Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores. (International applicants should consult the department and the Graduate School website for information and additional application requirements regarding TOEFL, MELAB or IELTS tests.)

Admission to graduate study in comparative literature requires advanced foreign language work at the literary level in at least one language other than English; the student's academic record should demonstrate the ability to work critically in at least two literatures (one of which may be English).

All entering students are admitted into the M.A. program. Students are accepted into the Ph.D. program upon successful completion of the Second-Year Examination.

For more information: Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies, 2402 Sterling Hall, 475 North Charter Street, Madison, WI 53706-1525; 608-262-3059; fax 608-262-9723; complit@lss.wisc.edu; complit.lss.wisc.edu/?q=node/10.