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Comparative Literature

Courses in this subject area enable students to study key works of literature (either in translation or in the original, depending on their language skills) with Fellows and Tutors in each of the Modern Languages offered at St Edmund Hall. Studying comparative literature as a primary (major) course affords students the opportunity to study texts from each of the language sections on offer: French, Russian, Czech, Spanish, and German. It is also possible to study the literature of any one language (or indeed a particular author) more widely.

Taking this course as a major means having 8 tutorials - i.e. a one-hour session each week, normally with students having prepared an essay, in English, in advance of the session. There is a good deal of freedom to structure the course according to the interests of the individual student within reasonable and challenging parameters, and decided in consultation with your tutor at St Edmund Hall.

In the past Visiting Students have chosen to focus on a particular genre, 'problem' or set of questions (philosophical fiction, unreliable narrators, 'realism', the European city, etc), and have pursued this across a range of different texts and languages. Others have opted for diversity of theme as well as text, and simply chosen the books they most wanted to explore. Students could also decide to focus on the work of one or two authors, and/or perhaps engage in some theoretical thinking about the grounds for comparison between different 'national' or linguistically inflected literatures: (almost) anything is possible!

Here we have listed a range of possible books/authors – these should be thought of as a guide, and not a definitive or exhaustive list. Students should think of the study of each of these books as corresponding to a single week's work, and consider their minor/major options accordingly.

  • Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel
  • Montaigne, Essays
  • Mme de Lafayette, La Princesse de Clèves
  • Voltaire, Letters on the English/Candide
  • Diderot, Jacques le Fataliste
  • Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal
  • Flaubert, Madame Bovary
  • Proust, Swann’s Way
  • Beckett, Waiting for Godot
  • Pushkin, Selected Prose Works
  • Gogol, Dead Souls
  • Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
  • Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment/Brothers Karamazov
  • Tolstoy, War and Peace/Anna Karenina; shorter fiction
  • Chekhov, Selected short stories
  • Bulgakov, Master and Margarita
  • Nabokov, Pnin; selected stories of the 1930s
  • Great lyric poems (for students who have studied Russian for 2 years or more)
  • Hašek, The Good Soldier Švejk
  • Kundera, The Joke/The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • Hrabal, I Served the King of England
  • El Poema de mio Cid/ The Poem of the Cid
  • Frenando de Rojas, Celestina
  • Cervantes, Don Quixote
  • García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Lorca, The Gypsy Ballads/The Poet in New York
  • Borges, Labyrinths
  • Kleist, Stories
  • Goethe, Faust/The Sorrows of Young Werther
  • Kafka, Metamorphosis/The Trial
  • Mann, Death in Venice/Buddenbrooks