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Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

Theory and techniques of Comparative Literature

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Full Year

This course is designed as the core course for the masters students majoring in Comparative Literature. It is also a compulsory supportive course for all masters students of literature programmes in the Faculty of Languages and Cultures.

It aims to develop critical understandings of the nature of comparative literature and its place in the general context of contemporary theoretical approaches to the study of literature. It is also designed to introduce and examine appropriate methods for the study of African and Asian literatures.

The course places its emphasis on the comprehension of the basics of modern theories, but also on the problematics in applying those theories to the research of Asian and African literature.

In order to secure the necessary variety in critical stance and an appropriate regional range of African and Asian literary texts for expert presentation, this course is team-taught. Its linked modules will vary somewhat from year to year, depending partly upon availability of faculty, but a similar overall pattern of presentation is maintained.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course students will have developed advanced skills in analysing literature in a comparative context and by means of a variety of methodological approaches.  They will have become better able to define research questions about particular literary works and determine which approaches are best suited to the work. They will also be able to place the literature of their particular interest into a broader comparative context.


A total of 22 weeks teaching with 3 hours classroom contact per week.

Method of assessment

An essay of 3,500 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 2 (30%); an essay of 3,500 words to be submitted on day 5, week 11, term 2 (30%); an essay of 4,000 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 3 (40%).

Suggested reading

The texts below are useful as background reading.

  • A. Ahmad, In Theory: classes, nations, literature (London, 1992)
  • E. Auerbach, Mimesis: the representation of reality in Western literature (Princeton, 1968)
  • S. Bassnett, Comparative literature: a critical introduction (Oxford, 1993)
  • E. Gentzler, Contemporary translation theories (London, 1993)
  • C. Guillén, The challenge of comparative literature (Cambridge Mass, 1993)
  • A. Jefferson & D. Robey, eds., Modern Literary Theory: a comparative introduction (London, 1982, 1986)
  • E. Miner, Comparative Poetics: an intercultural essay on theories of literature (Princeton, 1990)
  • T. Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics: feminist literary theory (London, 1985, 1988)
  • E. Said, Orientalism: Western conceptions of the Orient (Harmondsworth, 1978, 1991, 1995)
  • G. Steiner, After Babel: aspects of language and translation (Oxford, 1975, 1992)
  • J. Thieme, ed., The Arnold Anthology of Post–Colonial Literatures in English (London, 1996)
  • R. Williams, The Country and the City (London, 1985)