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What makes a tragedy by Sophocles so different from one written by Shakespeare? How has the genre of science fiction developed across Europe? What can a book say that a film cannot? Comparative Literature develops your understanding of historical and cross-cultural literary traditions while broadening your critical knowledge of literature.
Comparative Literature is the study of literature, time periods, languages and genres, and crosses the boundaries between literature and other forms of human expression, including film, visual arts and popular culture.
The Department of Comparative Literature at Kent was one of the first of its kind in the country. Our research feeds into our teaching, and creates an inclusive and stimulating environment. In addition to the timetabled lectures and seminars, you are invited to participate in events including literary readings, guest lectures and seminars.
Discover works from Europe and the Americas, Asia and Africa, looking at genres including the novel, the short story, poetry, autobiography, drama, and the epic, with a particular emphasis on how literary forms have evolved in different cultures and linguistic traditions.
Explore questions such as: How have writers such as James Joyce engaged with Greek mythology? What is the evolution of the fairy tale from Charles Perrault to Walt Disney? In what ways might an English nineteenth-century novel of female adultery relate to a French, German, or Russian one?
Comparative Literature covers works from the ancient classics of Greece and Rome to the modern age, offering you the opportunity to develop an understanding of historical and cross-cultural literary traditions and the ways in which they interact, while broadening your critical knowledge of literature and culture.
Themes and areas you will explore include fiction and power; sex and gender; childhood and adolescence; crime fiction; literature and testimony; literature and seduction and creative writing.
You do not need to be able to read a foreign language to take a degree in Comparative Literature. While we encourage you to engage with foreign languages, you study translated works alongside literature originally written in English.
Michael talks about his Comparative Literature course at Kent.
You have the opportunity to broaden your education by spending a year studying at one of our many partner institutions in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. This chance to immerse yourself in another culture not only enriches your literary studies but is also a wonderful opportunity for personal and career development. See Kent's Go Abroad pages for more information. Alternatively, you can spend a year on a work placement, gaining valuable experience and enhancing your employability.
You can get involved with student societies such as the Creative Writing, Literature, Poetry and Comparative Literature societies. The Gulbenkian has a theatre hosting work by theatre companies and a cinema showing contemporary, classic and independent films.
You are more than your grades
At Kent we look at your circumstances as a whole before deciding whether to make you an offer to study here. Find out more about how we offer flexibility and support before and during your degree.
The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Some typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice. Please also see our general entry requirements.
If you are an international student, visit our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country, including details of the International Foundation Programmes. Please note that international fee-paying students who require a Student visa cannot undertake a part-time programme due to visa restrictions.
Please note that meeting the typical offer/minimum requirement does not guarantee that you will receive an offer.
The University will not necessarily make conditional offers to all Access candidates but will continue to assess them on an individual basis.
If we make you an offer, you will need to obtain/pass the overall Access to Higher Education Diploma and may also be required to obtain a proportion of the total level 3 credits and/or credits in particular subjects at merit grade or above.
The University will consider applicants holding BTEC National Diploma and Extended National Diploma Qualifications (QCF; NQF; OCR) on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us for further advice on your individual circumstances. A typical offer would be to achieve DDM.
34 points overall or 15 at HL
Pass all components of the University of Kent International Foundation Programme with a 60% overall average including 60% in Academic Skills Development.
Please see our English language entry requirements web page.
Please note that if you do not meet our English language requirements, we offer a number of 'pre-sessional' courses in English for Academic Purposes. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme.
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Duration: 3 years full-time, 6 years part-time
The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.
On most programmes, you study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also be able to take ‘elective’ modules from other programmes so you can customise your programme and explore other subjects that interest you.
This literary-critical module deals with a wide range of selected international tales ranging from antiquity to the present day. The module addresses issues such as the development of oral folktales and fairy tales into
written forms, and discusses various short prose genres including Aesopian fables, myths, folktales and fairy tales, as well as tales of the fantastic, nineteenth-century literary fairy tales, and the modern short story.
The framework of discussion comprises a general survey of the issues that face the comparatist. In the course of the module students practise different methods of literary analysis, including close reading and comparative analysis by examining story-motifs and story-structures, and by considering symbolic meanings in the light of psychoanalytic concepts. Students also explore questions of transmission and transformation (e.g. how stories and motifs travel from one culture to another and alter in shape and emphasis) and questions of genre (for example the fantastic). A selection of critical texts on narrative devices and patterns, on psychoanalytical, structuralist and feminist approaches to the fairy tale and on genre theories are studied in conjunction with the primary texts.
Who and what is 'a child', and what is adolescence? This module examines the representation of childhood and adolescence in a cross-section of texts from modern literature within the context of World Literature studies. Students will pay close attention to the rhetoric and techniques of storytelling woven around these themes, as well as to relevant socio-political debates, while also examining how these specific texts function across cultures.
The module encourages students to find innovative approaches to the topic, and at the same time invites them to explore the relationship between literature and childhood and the joy of reading often associated with childhood and adolescence.
This module offers students a wide-ranging grounding in classical literature as a basis for the further study of Western literature within a comparative framework. Major works of ancient Greek and Roman literature are studied in order to enable students to appreciate the literary engagement with the following in the classical world: myth (including the stories of the Trojan War, Oedipus, Jason and Medea, and the founding of Rome); the relationship between human beings and the gods, between the sexes, and between the human and the animal; and the journey motif. Themes explored included sexuality, violence, conceptions of justice, metamorphosis, and madness.
The module introduces students to some of the major genres of Western literature (tragedy, comedy, the epic), and considers how these were theorised by Aristotle. It also encourages students to reflect on questions of cultural transmission, and on why the myths represented in classical literature should have proved to be such a rich source for the literature of the West.
This module introduces students to some of the most influential theories of World Literature, which are studied alongside a selection of literary examples. The theories include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's reflections formulated in the first decades of the nineteenth century. Goethe coined the term 'world literature' [Weltliteratur] to describe the international circulation and reception of literary works in Europe.
In the course of the module, we reflect on the relationship between national literatures and world literature, and on the ways in which the literary market facilitates and complicates transnational exchanges of ideas. In addition, students are given the opportunity to hone their close reading skills by studying a selection of ancient and modern world creation myths. These include texts from the Near East, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe. The module offers students the unique opportunity to analyse in detail different ways in which cultural backgrounds can shape literary productions, and how stories, motifs and themes travel across national boundaries. In the course of the module, we discuss key literary terms and concepts, including fictionality, literariness, translation, the canon, and the various modes of reception and circulation that shape our understanding of world literature.
This module looks at European Romanticism as a cultural-revolutionary movement. Hoping to break free from established hierarchies, norms, and conventions, one cherished goal of the Romantics was to liberate the modern individual from 'society', understood as a self-inflicted state of alienation.
This module traces the manifold manifestations of Romantic thought within their specific cultural-historical contexts. Our discussion will focus on a selection of French, German, and British Romantic writers (for example: Rousseau, Chateaubriand, Goethe, the Brothers Schlegel, Kleist, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Keats, and Mary Shelley). We will critically analyse their works in close alignment with a selection of Romantic and more recent theoretical works (for example by: Freud, Todorov, and de Man) to gauge their significance within their own cultural-historical framework, and to consider their potential legacy in literature and society today.
The period between the decline of the Western Roman Empire and the Renaissance, roughly embracing the fifth to the fifteenth centuries, is generally referred to as the Middle Ages. The intermediary character suggested by this term reflects the frequently pejorative evaluation this period has received. However, the medieval period produced many lasting material monuments, such as the great European cathedrals (including Canterbury Cathedral) and castles, and literary monuments, such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Boccaccio's Decameron,, the saints' lives, the Physiologus tradition, and the many Arthurian legends.
This module is designed to introduce students to a range of important literary works from the period, alongside highly influential religious and philosophical works. These works are placed in their historical context, and are explored through a focus on topics such as book and manuscript production, the allegorical tradition, perceptions of the (black) other, art and architecture, and religious experience. Particular attention will also be given from a historical perspective to successive medievalisms from the early modern period to the present day (e.g., films, video games) and to the respective attempts of appropriation and reinterpretation of which they are indicators. The module typically also includes an excursion to Canterbury Cathedral and the Cathedral Archive in order to enable students to experience the material culture of the Middle Ages first hand.
The twentieth-century imagination was marked by a spirit of doubt, especially of the Enlightenment faith in reason's capacity to advance humankind to happiness and freedom. In this module will be discussed some classic fictional explorations of freedom and social, political, religious and racial oppression which have had an international impact. These texts will be read as works of literature in their own right as well as contextualised with the ideas they question and propagate: universal happiness, human liberation, and morality without God, personal and political freedom, the self and its responsibility.
The 'knowledge of good and evil' is unique to human beings. It informs the individual’s conscience and determines the moral systems on which societies are based. The violation of moral codes is expected to induce the experience of guilt, while the lack of any sense of guilt is considered psychopathic. As the manifestation of an internal, and sometimes also external, struggle of varying intensity, guilt is an almost universal concern of literary texts; as is the quest for redemption, the alleviation of guilt and despair – through atonement, forgiveness or denial. In this module, we will analyse and discuss literary texts, which explore the frequently fuzzy edges of the experiences of guilt and redemption as a human quandary and as perceived against changing conceptions of morality. Texts included in the reading list engage with questions of personal and collective guilt incurred with hubris, cruelty, the violation of animal rights, and genocide, etc.
You have the opportunity to select elective modules in this stage.
This module is designed to give a theoretically-grounded understanding of Comparative Literature and its methods. Students will have an overview of the brief history, fundamental debates, theories and different areas of focus of the discipline of Comparative Literature, as well as learning about the important schools of literary theory that are relevant to Comparative Literature.
This module looks at a group of politically inspired literary texts, comics and films, some of which were produced under the totalitarian regimes which held sway in Europe between 1917 and 1989. Others deal with the Middle East conflict, and the Islamic revolution in Iran and Mao's Cultural Revolution in China, or power relations in other contexts. Most explore ways of challenging and subverting authoritarian power structures and of articulating a critique in what Bertolt Brecht called 'dark times’. But we also focus on less obvious negotiations of fiction and power, especially with respect to the various forms of power to which these texts are subject, in which they participate, and on which they reflect metafictionally. The approach is comparative in various ways as the texts range historically and culturally, as well as across genres and language barriers (Arab, Czech, English, French, German, Italian, Greek, Polish, Russian and Chinese).
This course introduces students to the fiction (novels, novellas, and short stories) of some of the most influential twentieth- and twenty-first- century Latin American writers. The module ranges from Borges to the extraordinary literary phenomenon or explosion of the 'Boom generation', the post-Boom novel, and the recently acclaimed Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño (all studied in English translation). The course offers students the unique opportunity to study a fascinating corpus of literature celebrated for its creative innovation, fictional games, puzzles, labyrinths, fabulous and supernatural events, multiple storytellers, and magical realist writing. The course also addresses questions of gender, class, and social, cultural, and technological changes, as well as representations of identity, subjectivity, time, space, and landscape.
This module investigates representations of gender and identity in a selection of texts by women writers from different temporal, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds. In particular, it seeks to explore the way in which representations of "self" and "other", love and desire, madness and motherhood reflect the respective socio-cultural contexts and the situation of women therein. Corporeal aesthetics, patterns of behaviour labelled as feminine or masculine, representations of transgressive conduct, and relations of power will be investigated, drawing on classic feminist theory and historiography (Wollstonecraft, Beauvoir, Irigaray, Butler, Moi, Badinter), psychoanalytical thought (Freud), narratology (Genette), genre-theory (Bakhtin) subject-theory (Sartre, Levinas, Derrida) and studies in visual culture (Barthes, Sontag, Mulvey).
Students will be asked to engage with the significance of images and representations of women and men proliferated through literature. These representations provide or question role models and perpetuate or problematise stereotypical versions of female/male goals and aspirations. Furthermore, emphasis will be placed on close readings of the selected literary works, on cultural differences and variations, and on how conceptions of sex and gender are changing in the course of time.
This module introduces students to a range of nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first century literary and cinematic representations of vampires from different cultural backgrounds. It explores the reasons for the abiding allure of the figure of the vampire both in popular culture and in literary fiction.
The module will examine the ways in which vampires function as polyvalent symbols of specifically modern preoccupations, for the emergence and popularity of vampire tales is intricately bound up with the advent and wider cultural ramifications of modernity. What do vampires represent in each of the works discussed? What hidden desires and anxieties do they allow authors and filmmakers to express? The vampire is an allegorically highly potent figure that is suspended between life and death and between animal and human existence. Vampires frequently serve as foils to discuss more contentious matters, in particular questions relating to sexuality, gender roles, class, immortality and the desire for everlasting youth, being an outsider, and addiction.
The award of literary prizes is a highly potent tool of cultural policy that frequently determines the wider national and international impact of a literary work. As such it is of crucial relevance to the study of comparative literature in a number of ways: the award of literary prizes reflects the beginnings of the successful or, as the case may be, the (ultimately) abortive formation of literary canons; moreover, it affords insights into processes of cultural production and marketing and reveals in which ways political and economic agendas are tied up with these processes; it also offers a perspective on transnational and transcultural aspects of the production and reception of literature and indicates shifting notions of the social function of literature and the writer; literature is thus understood as a cultural product in ever changing contexts which is frequently subject to external forces of which literary prizes become indicators or even 'enforcers'.
This module will investigate with the methods of literary and cultural studies the development of a number of major literary awards which have achieved global significance, among them the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Man Booker Prize, the Pulitzer Prize (for Fiction), the Prix Goncourt, and the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels. (This list may be modified according to precedent to accommodate the topical relevance of individual award winners in the future.) Seminars will develop a historical perspective by scrutinising and analysing award winners of the past and their most recent counterparts in their different production and marketing contexts as well as in changing reception contexts: seminars will include the close reading of individual works as well as their critical reception, and the analysis of marketing strategies in various media (e.g. reports in culture magazines, reviews, displays in book shops, translations, etc.); final winners will be interpreted in the context of the respective long and short lists from which they emerged; historical developments will be taken into account, for instance by investigating 'forgotten' prize winners in comparison with those who, largely through the agency of academic intervention, ‘made it’ into the canon; the module thus also offers an insight into the history of the discipline of literary studies.
This module encourages students to establish connections between the critical analysis of literary texts and creative writing practice. Adopting a 'learning by doing'-driven analytical approach, students will engage both theoretically and practically with a selection of literary features and techniques. By reading closely a wide-ranging selection of short literary sample texts that encompass older and contemporary texts originally written in English as well as translations of texts written in languages other than English, we will analyse topics including character, point of view, setting, voice, style, structure, openings, and endings. We will also pay close attention to questions of translation and cultural specificity, and to the challenges of working with translations in a creative writing context.
You have the opportunity to select elective modules in this stage.
The module is predicated on independent research activity. It builds on the skills and experiences acquired through stages 1 and 2. Students write a dissertation on a topic of their own choice. The topic must be on a literary or related subject and must have a comparative element. The final-year dissertation gives students the opportunity to satisfy their intellectual curiosity by individually and independently researching a large-scale project of their own choice. Throughout autumn and spring terms students will be given guidance by a chosen supervisor, but the rhythm of research, the writing and frequency of meetings between supervisor and student is left to the individual student to determine. The SWIPE undergraduate conference will give students a chance to discuss their and their fellow students' work and to test some of their ideas in a larger context.
The module seeks to explore how novels and plays are adapted and interpreted for the screen. We will analyse how certain texts lend themselves to multiple reshaping, such as Laclos' Dangerous Liaisons. We will also analyse lesser-known works that have gone on to become feature films, such as Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Story, filmed as Eyes Wide Shut. Adaptations directed by internationally recognized filmmakers such as Roman Polanski, Vittorio De Sica, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, and Pier Paolo Pasolini will be examined with a view to eliciting and understanding their particular approach to, and filmic vision of, written texts.
This is a module about the intersection of colonial power relations, anti-colonialism, postcolonialism, feminism, and identity politics in literature that interrogates the influence of imperialism on a sense of self. It considers the writing of a number of authors from Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Cuba and India. In light of the complex relationship between coloniser and colonised, we consider the ideology of many of these writers, as well as the ways in which their politics are articulated in their writing, whether fiction or non-fiction. We also examine to what extent this literature is representative of other postcolonial concerns such as nationhood and national consciousness, hybridity and assimilation, and exile and alienation within the larger context of cultural theory. Particularly significant is our interrogation of the violence inscribed in both the colonial system and the colonised's fight for independence as seen from the perspective of Frantz Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks (1952), A Dying Colonialism (1959), and The Wretched of the Earth (1961).
Studying the primary and secondary texts in English, we bring awareness to the reading scene of the translation process as an important development in the transnational study of comparative literature in a globalised world. In so doing, we acknowledge the significance of indigenous languages and dialects as signifiers of subject-hood in conflict with the coloniser's language. By exploring a variety of anti-colonial resistance and liberation discourses in relation to the development of current postcolonial thinking, the module also offers an insight into the history of the discipline of Postcolonial studies.
Don Juan and Casanova are archetypes of the male seducer who, in the Western European tradition, stand for different interpretations of excessive passion. Don Juan hunts for virgins, nuns, and other women who are difficult to get (in that they belong to other men). Casanova, in turn, was attracted to the easy accessibility of moments of intense pleasure, which, although within potential reach to all, only few knew how to enjoy.
In this module we shall chart the metamorphoses of these two almost mythical figures since their emergence in seventeenth-century Spain and eighteenth-century Italy to explore the relationship between literature, music, film, and the erotic within different cultural and historical contexts. In our close analyses of plays, novellas, opera, and film, we will engage with the works of Freud and Jung, and we will consider gender as both a structure of power and, for Casanova, as a potentially fluid construct. More broadly, we will consider the historical, social and political contexts that frame various incarnations of Don Juan and Casanova, and we will use these central figures to answer important questions about the depiction of society, religion, sexuality, and morality.
How have twentieth-century writers across the world negotiated and appropriated Shakespeare's omnipresent cultural influence? How have they revised, reinvented, and reimagined his legacy in Europe, Asia, and the Americas (North, Central, and South)? This module focuses on a selection of Shakespeare's most influential plays (Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, and The Tempest) in order to examine how their thematic, historical, and cultural concerns have been transplanted to a wide range of global locations including the Caribbean, Germany, Japan, a farm in the USA, and the Argentine Pampas. The module also engages with theoretical notions related to the act of appropriating Shakespeare, including the theory of intertextuality, the Benjaminian concept of the 'afterlife' of a text, and Genette's study of the 'palimpsest’ as a text derived from a pre-existent text. In addition, the module will reflect on issues of race, gender, and cultural identity embedded in the adaptations of the bard in the various world contexts in which his work has been complexly modernized and redeployed.Borges, J.L. 'Everything and Nothing’, 'Shakespeare’s Memory’, and ‘The Pattern’.
You have the opportunity to select elective modules in this stage.
The 2021/22 annual tuition fees for this programme are:
For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.
For students continuing on this programme, fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.*
The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.
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Scholarships are available for excellence in academic performance, sport and music and are awarded on merit. For further information on the range of awards available and to make an application see our scholarships website.
At Kent we recognise, encourage and reward excellence. We have created the Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence.
The scholarship will be awarded to any applicant who achieves a minimum of A*AA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages.
For most modules, you have one two-hour seminar per week. The Final-Year Dissertation is based entirely on your private research but is supervised by a tutor and includes workshops and the chance to participate in an undergraduate conference.
Assessment varies by module, from 100% coursework to a combination of examination and coursework, usually in the ratio 50:50 or 40:60.
For a student studying full time, each academic year of the programme will comprise 1200 learning hours which include both direct contact hours and private study hours. The precise breakdown of hours will be subject dependent and will vary according to modules. Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.
Methods of assessment will vary according to subject specialism and individual modules. Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.
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