Welcome to the Department of Comparative and World Literature

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Black Lives Matter!

The Comparative and World Literature Department at San Francisco State University would like to affirm our support of the peaceful protests and the driving impetus behind the Black Lives Matter movement of the past several weeks across the US and the world since the murder of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer. While the killing of an unarmed African-American citizen has been all too common, our response must be different from before and must reflect the urgency of this moment. As a department, we want to reiterate our commitment to the values of San Francisco State University: to uphold thoughtful reflection and intellectual interrogation of all systems of racial discrimination, bias, and exclusion.

As teachers and scholars of Comparative and World Literature, we embrace the study of literature and other forms of cultural production from communities and contexts beyond our own. We cultivate an appreciation for historical and cultural differences, and we are invested in questioning many of the longstanding narratives that have been told about others—especially African Americans and those subjected to violence, slavery, and colonialism. Our work as a department is to foster curiosity about and respect for what we might not know or might not have been exposed to, and to encounter literatures and the ideas from which they spring with fresh perspectives, a deep respect for crossing boundaries, and an eye toward building bridges.

We find ourselves in this moment in the United States understanding that we must do more.  We must further engage in difficult conversations that in some ways are extensions of the work we already are doing around literature and the world. Our work is grounded in the fundamental belief that without curiosity, empathy, and deep questioning, we are likely to miss so much.  We affirm that we will continue to practice these principles and that we will make every effort to connect the study of artistic expression from many times and places to the US context in this moment. We hope you’ll join us in asking the deep and painful questions about how we can study and teach to dismantle and eliminate racism and its structural and systemic support.

We hope you’ll join us in this urgent and long overdue mission, a journey not only of the intellect but also of the heart.

The Faculty and Staff of Comparative and World Literature

What is Comparative and World Literature?

Comparative and World Literature (CWL) is a broad and rich literary discipline that tackles literature across national borders, time periods, languages and genres and crosses boundaries between literature and the other arts. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of this field, comparatists acquire solid knowledge in several disciplines of the humanities as well as critical abilities. Defining CWL can be a complex task due to the diversity of interests of the people engaged in this discipline. Here is a definition of Comparative Literature given by Roland Greene:

"Comparative Literature is the laboratory or workshop of all literary studies, and through them, of the humanities. Comparative literature compares literature, not only as an accumulation of primary works but, as the languages, cultures, histories, traditions, theories, and practices with which those works come." ("Their Generation", Comparative Literature in the Age of Multiculturalism, 1995).

Why Choose Comparative and World Literature?

Since CWL is a broad discipline, students are able to follow a program that can be shaped by their own interests. Indeed, students enjoy a great advantage in being able to choose courses in all the national literature fields, Western as well as non-Western. They are thus able to acquire a broad perspective upon the fields they are interested in and gain a unique knowledge of the world. This cross-disciplinary knowledge is a great asset in today's complex and multicultural society. CWL enables students to develop their own perspective because of the richness of the program.

The Department of Comparative and World Literature featured in the LCA Next Stop video



About the Department

For the latest updates on the Department of Comparative & World Literature, our faculty, students, alumnae/i and community, please check out the first issue of our Departmental newsletter, Comparatively Speaking.

To learn more about our current graduate students, please visit here: http://complit.sfsu.edu/content/cwl-graduate-students.