A Message from the Chair

Professor Michael Rothberg is Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, and the 1939 Society Samuel Goetz Chair in Holocaust Studies.

Welcome to the Department of Comparative Literature at UCLA! Housed within the top public research university in the country, UCLA’s Comparative Literature department has served for more than fifty years as a leading site of innovative research and teaching in the interdisciplinary humanities. Our faculty are internationally renowned, many have played leading roles in the history of the discipline, and several members of the department have served as president of our disciplinary organization, the American Comparative Literature Association (including the current president).

Faculty and students affiliated with the department study literature in ways that are worldly and cosmopolitan: our courses and our research cut across national borders, languages, historical periods, and disciplinary boundaries. We approach literature and culture with scholarly rigor and historical nuance, yet many of us also engage with the pressing social and political issues of our time. Questions of nationalism and imperialism, race and religion, migration and human rights, technology and translation—among many other topics—stand at the center of our concerns. In a globally interconnected world, the field of Comparative Literature provides critical and theoretical perspectives that allow us to grasp cultures relationally: as involved in cross-cutting dialogues yet fractured by fault-lines of power and prestige.

Collectively, faculty in the department offer classes and pursue research interests in literatures and cultures from the medieval to the contemporary periods and from all regions of the globe, with strong emphases on works from both the Global North and the Global South. We have an emphatic commitment to critical theory, and our faculty includes experts on continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, political theory, and postcolonial studies. The department houses interdisciplinary units such as the Program in Experimental Critical Theory and the Working Group in Memory Studies, and faculty work on music, film, digital culture, and social movements along with the breadth of literary genres. We have strong ties with—and play leadership roles in—various research centers on the UCLA campus, including the Center for African Studies, the Center for East Asian Studies, the Center for Jewish Studies, the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

The department is dedicated to creating opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students. For undergraduates, we offer a major and minor in Comparative Literature that involves both broad surveys in great works of world literature and focused thematic seminars. The rigorous training in critical thinking, close reading, analytical writing, and languages that the major and minor provide can open up multiple career paths in media, law, cultural policy, and public service.

For graduate students, we offer a PhD program that also includes an MA degree. Graduate students can choose among seminars offered through the department on specialized critical and theoretical topics as well as those offered by other departments across campus. Many graduates of our PhD program teach in leading colleges and universities around the world. Other graduates have gone on to successful careers in education, publishing, and the world of culture.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the department continues to move forward. In the 2021-2022 academic year, we look forward to searching for a new Edward W. Said Professor of Comparative Literature and continuing our lecture series dedicated to Comparative Thinking in the Age of Black Lives Matter.

Michael Rothberg