Majoring in Comparative & World Literature

Program Scope

Comparative Literature is a way of studying world literature. It is a literary discipline designed to go beyond the chronological, geographic, and linguistic boundaries of individual national literatures.

Undergraduate Program:

The Bachelor of Arts and Minor in Comparative and World Literature is an interdisciplinary program that provides students with a global perspective through the reading and analysis of literature from multiple traditions. Students develop university-level understanding of what different cultures have in common as well as what makes each culture unique. The study of comparative literature also seeks to establish relationships between literature and other fields, from the arts and sciences to folklore and religion. In addition to taking courses in comparative literature and various national literatures (in the original languages and in translation), students also learn methods and techniques of literary analysis and comparison.


Comparative and World Literature (B.A.) — Minimum 39 units

Core Courses (18 units)

Five CWL courses (15 units). One course may be a lower-division CWL course (CWL 214 does not count toward the major).

Program Electives (21 units)

Seven upper-division literature courses

In consultation with departmental advisers, students select upper-division literature courses that reflect their chosen advising pathway.  These courses may be from departments other than CWL (maximum 5 courses from a single literature).
Up to 4 courses (12 units) in lower-division literature  courses may be used toward the total courses / units in the major; 2 courses (6 units) of these may be in non-CWL literature courses.

A minimum of 40 upper division units must be completed for the degree (including upper division units required for the major, general education, electives, etc.). A student can complete this major yet not attain the necessary number of upper division units required for graduation. In this case additional upper division courses will be needed to reach the required total.

Advising Pathways

Students following the “Comparative Literature” pathway are advised to take courses that meet the following distribution requirements:
--Two courses in a single non-English literary tradition
--One upper-division literature course taught in and focused on a non-English language/literature
--A student-defined area of focus developed in consultation with an adviser
Students following the “Comparative Literature” pathway may count up to three units of a non-literature foreign language course toward their degree.

Students following the “World Literature” pathway are advised to take CWL 230 - World Literature and upper-division courses that meet the following distribution requirements:
--Courses should combine breadth with a student-defined area of focus developed in consultation with an adviser.
--One course may focus on one of the following topics other than literature:  History or Culture from an interdisciplinary perspective; Analysis of Alternative Media (e.g., painting, music, video games, etc.).


To ensure adequate planning of a student's program, all majors must consult an adviser at least once per year.

Students are advised to take CWL 400GW - Approaches to Comparative and World Literature - GWAR as early as possible in the major.

All students in the Comparative and World Literature major are urged to acquire reading competence in at least one language in addition to English.

Student Portfolio:

Following departmental guidelines, all students will complete a portfolio prior to graduation.

Complementary Studies:

Bachelor of Arts students must complete at least twelve units of complementary studies outside of the primary prefix for the major. (Note: Students may not use an alternate prefix that is cross-listed with the primary prefix for the major.)

Students who complete two majors or a major and a minor automatically complete the complementary studies requirement. An additional way to complete complementary studies for students in the Comparative Literature major is completion of 12 units in a language other than English or in some other group of courses outside the CWL-prefix (and not cross-listed with CWL) that is approved by a major adviser (which may include, but is not limited to, languages other than English, units toward a minor or certificate, study abroad, and literature courses taught in other departments).

Students who have earned AA-T or AS-T degrees and are pursuing a similar B.A. degree at SF State are required to fulfill the Complementary Studies requirement as defined by the major department. Students should consult with a major adviser about how transfer units and/or SF State units can best be applied to this requirement in order to ensure degree completion within 60 units.