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Indiana University Bloomington

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About Us

Founding Figures

Picture of the founders of the department from 1949
LtoR: Seated, Agapito Rey, J. T. Shaw, Mary Gaither, Horst Frenz, Newton P Stallknecht; Standing, Norman T Pratt, Edward D Seeber, Henry HH Remak.

Comparative Literature is the study of literature and other forms of creativity drawn from different time periods and cultures. The work of a creative individual or community is rarely inspired by just one predecessor or only one national tradition. Human artistry in any form draws its inspiration from diverse sources, often regardless of geographical or linguistic barriers, and Comparative Literature as a discipline embraces this phenomenon. Comparatists work with different genres within the world of literature (drama, novel, short story, lyric poetry, epic, autobiography), different media (film, TV, cyberspace), and art in other forms (painting, music, architecture, dance, performance art, sculpture). As a profession, Comparative Literature engages with other academic disciplines, such as philosophy, history, cultural studies, gender studies, sociology, political science, anthropology, and religious studies.

Founded in 1949, the Department of Comparative Literature at Indiana University is one of the oldest in the United States. Over the course of sixty years, the Department has been a pioneer in many ways: as one of the first in the nation to offer an undergraduate bachelor’s degree; as an early champion of the professional academic study of film; bringing together the literatures of Europe and North America with those of South America, Africa, and Pacific and central Asia; as a leading center for the study of the art and history of literary translation. Comparative Literature at Indiana University has long been recognized for its engagement with contemporary theories of aesthetics and interpretation, as evidenced in the pages of the Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, published by our Department since 1961.

Our Department is able to embrace such richness and diversity thanks in part to its home on the main campus of Indiana University. Comparative Literature is proud to have adjunct faculty from seventeen different departments, while core Comparative Literature faculty reciprocate with allied departments and programs. The wide array of foreign languages available and the vast and rare holdings of the Herman B Wells Library and the Lilly Library help fuel advanced study for both our undergraduate and graduate students. Indiana University’s departments of Fine Arts and Theatre and Drama, as well as the world-renowned Jacobs School of Music, provide endless opportunities for the interdisciplinary study of literature and the arts. Such a diverse environment reflects the essence of Comparative Literature in the twenty-first century.

Special thanks to the Lilly Library for images from its rare books collection, and to the Office of Advancement for designing the website.