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World Literatures

Degree: BA

Campus: Columbus

College: Arts and Sciences

World literatures is focused on historical and contemporary literature and the processes of globalization. Students analyze, in English translation, a wide range of fiction, poetry and drama produced in different geopolitical regions of the world. Students study different literary texts and traditions in their historical and cultural contexts. Program courses emphasize close reading and analysis of particular texts but also explore the relationships between those texts and the cultures that produced them.

Students investigate many complex issues that surround the subject of world literatures: What is lost when literature is translated from one language to another? How are the globalizing forces of today different from those of the past? How is literature related to social change and stability? As world literatures majors, students consider these and many other questions about literature and globalization.

Upon admission to the university, students can declare a world literatures major within the Department of Comparative Studies and the College of Arts and Sciences.

To ensure that students’ understanding of different literary traditions is global in scope, all students select courses in which they study the literature of the following geopolitical regions: Africa, the Middle East, East and South Asia and the Pacific Islands, Europe and North America, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

No advanced study of foreign languages is required, only a serious interest in literature, global interconnection and cultural interaction. The world literatures major makes it possible to study the literatures of the entire world without learning multiple languages. At the same time, students are strongly encouraged to study a foreign language beyond the level required for General Education courses and to substitute one or more courses in a foreign language for courses in translation.

The world literatures major requires 36 semester hours: 12 semester hours (four courses) in comparative studies, and 24 semester hours (eight courses) in literatures in other departments. These eight courses are drawn from a list of approved courses in other humanities departments: African American and African studies, comparative studies, East Asian languages and literatures, Greek and Latin, Near Eastern languages and literatures, Slavic and East European languages and literatures, Spanish and Portuguese, and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. Most are focused in the particular literary traditions of the world’s regions, and students must take at least one course in each of those regions.

In addition to those five courses, a strong framework for thinking about the world’s literatures is provided by these three comparative studies courses:

  • Introduction to World Literature—This course introduces the world’s diverse literary traditions and helps students identify principles of cross-cultural study.
  • Translating Literatures and Cultures—This course focuses on the complexity of translating literary and other texts from one language (and culture) to another.
  • World Literature: Theory and Practice—This course builds on the previous two courses to analyze literature in greater depth and more fully explore the role of literature in historical and contemporary contexts of globalization.

The department supports student research in a variety of ways, but most importantly through opportunities to work closely with faculty to develop a personalized research agenda that culminates in a thesis project. Most world literatures majors graduate with research distinction. 

Like students majoring in other disciplines in the College of Arts and Sciences, students majoring in world literatures develop skills in critical thinking and verbal communication that are essential to many positions in government and other service institutions, in business and industry, and in education. The world literatures major also prepares students to further their education in professional schools and in graduate degree programs in the humanities.

Graduates have chosen jobs in the public and private sectors, and many have continued their education to become lawyers, professors, teachers and other professionals. 

Like other liberal arts majors, the Bachelor of Arts in world literatures prepares students to be critical thinkers, creative problem-solvers, and good writers and communicators. Graduates with world literatures degrees have increased understanding of cultural differences and interrelationships, which is especially important in today’s complex global politics and economy.

Go to to find more information about careers for humanities majors.