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Unit information: Comparative Literature: What is it and how can we practise it? in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Comparative Literature: What is it and how can we practise it?
Unit code MODL10016
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Vilain
Open unit status Open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit is a comprehensive introduction to the discipline and methods of comparative literature. It introduces some of the key concepts and practical issues via literary works of major significance from the classical age to the present day, using one or more such works (in a variety of genres) as practical examples in each teaching session. In its modern understanding comparative literature is a wide-ranging discipline that explores the ways in which literature (both canonical and popular) interacts with its contexts, literary, historical, philosophical, intermedial and others.

All works and background material will be available in English so a knowledge of a classical or modern foreign language is not necessary for this unit. However, students with foreign language skills will be encouraged to read in the original languages where appropriate and be given opportunities to deploy these skills in their assessed work.

This unit carries a formative presentation.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Successful students will be able to demonstrate:

  1. critical knowledge and understanding of a significant body of world literature;
  2. an appreciation of the concept and techniques of Comparative Literature;
  3. skills in selection and synthesis of relevant source and secondary material appropriate for level C/4;
  4. skills of independent research and analysis appropriate for level C/4;
  5. an ability to respond to questions or problems by presenting independent arguments in an appropriate written style and at a level of complexity appropriate for level C/4

Teaching Information

1 x 2 hour weekly lecture

1 x 1 hour weekly seminar

Assessment Information

There will be two forms of assessment:

  • Mid-term written exercise of a comparative nature (e.g. comparative commentary, methodological reflection, literature review), 750 words long, based on seminar work and marked by seminar tutors (30%) Testing ILO's 1-6
  • End-of-term comparative coursework essay of 1500 words from a list made available by the Unit Convenor and mapping onto the topics of the lecture series as delivered in any given year, marked by seminar tutors (70%). Testing ILO's 1-6

Reading and References

Each lecture + seminar topic will have its own dedicated reading list, but general works of importance


  • Hutchinson, Ben, Comparative Literature. A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2018)
  • Saussy, Haun, Comparative Literature in an Age of Globalization (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006)
  • Tötösy de Zepetnek, Steven, Comparative Literature and Comparative Cultural Studies (West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2003)
  • Booker, Christopher, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories (London: Continuum, 2005)
  • Prawer, Siegbert Salomon, Comparative Literary Studies: An Introduction (London: Duckworth, 1973)
  • Bassnett, Susan, Comparative Literature: A Critical Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993)
  • Stallknecht, Newton Phelps & Horst Frenz, Comparative Literature: Method and Perspective ( Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971)