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First-Year Focus

What is Comparative Literary Studies?

The Comparative Literary Studies (CLS) Program is an interdepartmental, interdisciplinary program for the study of literature across national and linguistic lines. Those who work in the field of comparative literature are committed to the proposition that language is not an indifferent medium of expression but an integral dimension of every expressive act. Drawing on faculty from the various literature departments as well as from other disciplines (such as art history, film studies, music, and philosophy), the CLS program reflects the belief that literary texts can best be understood within the context of diverse literary traditions and other cultural phenomena. CLS encourages students not only to read and interpret works of literature but also to reflect on the assumptions, methods, and goals that shape literary and other humanistic studies.

In addition to the CLS Major, we offer a Minor in World Literature. The World Literature Minor allows students to explore and appreciate comparative literature without the language requirement; students do not need to be competent in a second language.

Learn more about Comp Lit by visiting our Frequently Asked Questions resource page. We answer many questions such as "What is “comparative” about Comparative Literary Studies?" or "What would I do with a Comp Lit degree?"

Getting Started In The Major; Declaring your Major/ World Literature Minor

Most of the students who enter our program as a First-Year student come to Northwestern with a strong English/Literature background.  Introductory courses are offered at the 100 and 200 levels and are a great starting place for someone interested in exploring the themes of Comparative Literary Studies.

The process for declaring your CLS major or a World Literature minor is very simple. You may contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies to set up an appointment (virtual meetings available) to discuss the requirements of the major or minor and discuss course options. Our DUS is also available to discuss the process for declaring the CLS major or World Literature minor.

If you are considering becoming a major or minor, but are unsure of what that entails, you can find more information about the CLS program here:

Every Comparative Literary Studies major is required to demonstrate competence in a second (non-native) language.  For more information pertaining to Northwestern University's Language Departments:

The World Literature minor, like the Comparative Literary Studies major, examines literature beyond the boundaries of one national or linguistic tradition. However, unlike the major, the minor does not have a language requirement. Students are encouraged to read literary texts in the original language but can also take curses where literature is read in English translation. 

Helpful Links

For further advising, please review the following links:


As always, if you should have any questions concerning the Comparative Literary Studies Program, please reach out to us!