Graduate Studies in Comparative Literature

Comparative Literature at Western

Comparative Literature is the study of literature and other cultural expressions across boundaries. These boundaries can be linguistic, medial, ethnic, or cultural. The discipline’s uniqueness lies in training young scholars to define their own research areas and critical perspectives within and among traditional disciplines and schools of critical thought, and in establishing wide inter- and trans-disciplinary networks. At Western, the Comparative Literature Program promotes modes of literary research and instruction that are international and multilingual.

The Department inaugurated the Master’s program in Comparative Literature in 1995 and the Ph.D. program in 2002. Both programs are flexible. They accommodate a wide variety of individual emphases on literature and culture, along with critical theory and multimediality. The dominant focus of the faculty’s research and teaching lies within European and American cultures, but Postcolonial Theory has recently broadened the scope of academic interest to other parts of the world. Students are encouraged to take courses outside the program, especially courses devoted to literatures written and read in languages other than English.

Outstanding Faculty

Comparative Literature is housed in the Department of Languages and Cultures. Our core faculty includes professors from the Departments of English and Writing Studies, Women's Studies, French Studies, Classical Studies, and the Faculty of Media and Information Studies. The research interests of faculty members include: Medieval and Renaissance Literature; Baroque, Enlightenment and Romantic Literature; Twentieth-century Literature and Culture; Critical Theory; Postcolonial Theory; Philosophy and Intellectual History; Gender studies and Queer Theory; Visual Arts and Film Studies; Central and Eastern European Studies; and Transatlantic Studies. Core faculty have been initiators in a number of national and international scholarly organizations that reflect interdisciplinary interests, including The Canadian Comparative Literature Association, The Canadian Society of Mediaevalists/Société Canadienne des Mediévalistes (SCM), and The North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR).

Intensive Research Focus
Students are encouraged to bring their research interests into focus early, while at the same time broadening their horizons through an individualized program of course work and examinations. Two half-courses are offered each year to provide students with a strong foundation in the history and methodology of Comparative Literature as an academic discipline. Research outcomes are a high priority for us.  Accordingly, students in both the MA and PhD programs, develop their thesis prospectuses early in their studies.

Graduate Teaching Experience
During our program we offer teaching assistantships. Depending on their background, interest and career goals students may have the opportunity to teach a tutorial for a large introductory undergraduate class, a section of an introductory language course or even teach an upper year course of their own design. We mentor and support the students’ growth as teacher’s through a number of programs. A good number of our graduates from the Doctoral program hold teaching positions at post-secondary level

Collegial Community
In addition to informal discussion- and study groups, students in the program organize a graduate conference each year ( The topics of the latest annual conferences, organized as usual in collaboration with students from the Graduate program in Hispanic Studies, and, more recently, from the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism, were “trans- & trance” (the seventeenth annul conference, 2015) (, “Brevity” (2014) (, and “Good Laugh, Bad Laugh, Ugly Laugh, My Laugh” (2013) (
Our students help run a Comparative Literature Research Forum, whose weekly meetings feature presentations by students, lively discussions, coffee and nibbles.
They are also engaged in many research groups from Romanticism@Western to Transatlantic Research Group.

This Fall our Graduate Students’ journal will be launched. Keep an eye to the first flight of The Scattered Pelican (

Extraordinary Resources

Also at Western, The Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism offers a graduate program for the study of critical theory that brings together a wide range of perspectives in the humanities and social sciences. Comparative Literature students may take one or two courses offered by the Theory Centre as part of their programs. They can participate in workshops and discussion groups offered by the Centre and are encouraged to attend lectures by distinguished visiting speakers that it sponsors in the areas of literary and critical theory.

For further information about any aspect of the program, please contact:
The Graduate Chair, Comparative Literature
Department of Languages and Cultures
Phone: (519) 661-2111, ext.85862/Fax: (519) 661-4093
E-Mail: Prof. Melitta Adamson,