50 Years of Comparative Literature at UCLA

“Hail, ye small, sweet courtesies of life! for smooth do ye make the road of it” (1768)

In 2019, the UCLA Department of Comparative Literature will mark its fiftieth anniversary––just as UCLA marks its hundredth. Together with the Department’s founders––Professors Arnold Band, Ross Shideler, and Katherine King––we will celebrate half a century of forward-thinking scholarship. This page will serve as the starting place for their memories, unofficial anecdotes, official annals, and a wealth of images from us all.

Standing at the forefront of innovative literary, theoretical, and cultural studies, our field remains one of the most exciting in the Humanities. Our discipline demands now––just as it did in 1969––exceptional linguistic ability, advanced critical tools, and output of a universally high intellectual caliber. Through its pioneering projects, Comparative Literature at UCLA seeks to define new paradigms and directions in literary traditions, theory, and criticism––while fostering interdisciplinary research and critical pedagogies.

All of this hard work plays a special role in Southern California. The diverse, multiethnic population of Los Angeles today distinguishes the city as the cultural hub of the Pacific Rim. LA both imports and exports difference, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. People from more than 140 countries, speaking 224 different identified languages, currently call Los Angeles home. The region does not have a majority population––and so Comparative Literature, free of a single language or ideology, is able to both negotiate and celebrate that kaleidoscopic diversity.

Then, of course, we all participate in the reputation of UCLA as a whole, which was named the nation’s Top Public University in the 2017–18 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The THEWUR ranked 1,102 of the world’s leading research universities, drawing on 195 data points. We came out on top.

None of this enduring success, however, would be possible in our department unless we loved our work. And that, image by image, note by note, is precisely what this page hopes to celebrate.