What Our Graduates Say
Comparative Literature in many ways has been a leader of cultural studies. In that role, comparisons and connections are made to other fields such as history, film, visual art and architecture, music, philosophy, politics, human rights, criticism, theory, sociology, psychology, religion, education, public policy, entertainment, and the information industries. The field can look at influences and textual references, and does so in and out of Western and World Contexts, and through and across disciplinary boundaries. Combinations of American, Asian, Caribbean, African, European, Latin American, and Middle Eastern studies can all be at play in the field.
Graduates with a major in Comparative Literature have taken a variety of career directions: independent writers and artists making use of writing; teachers at elementary, high school and the college levels; professional positions, including law and for non-profit corporations—again making use of writing; and graduate study for the Master of Fine Arts (in poetry and non-fiction writing) and for the Ph. D. One graduate, Chaim P., served an internship at a newspaper and another, Richard B., is a full fellowship supported law student at St. John's University.
Graduates routinely remark upon the quality of the major both for shaping their writing and, more generally, their lives. One, Nathalia P., an MFA candidate in Poetry at The New School, said, "My Comparative Literature major nurtured a profound love of language and cultivated associative thinking. It played a huge role in shaping how I think and interact with the world. Had it not been for my comparative literature studies, I would not have discovered my poetic instinct."
Another, Leonor C., working for a non-profit, wrote "I'm currently working in development for a Non-Profit. A large part of my job is writing fundraising materials. No doubt my Comparative Literature background has been a big aid in adapting my writing skills to various arenas. My major in Comparative Literature helped me develop the writing and reading skills that I am currently using to write the reports of my findings on [my] field. I also look forward to publishing my scientific field work in the near future.
One graduate, Fatima C., who has become "an ESL teacher both for adults and high school," went on to say: "The major fit in with my work in so many ways. For example, the area studies prepared me to work with bilingual Spanish students in particular."
Another. Thomas S., writes, "I'm in Northeast China since March teaching American Literature and Greek Mythology to English majors at Jilin Normal University. Last year I taught American lit and culture at a college in Legnica, Poland. Before that I was teaching Elementary Polish I & II at Columbia. The comparative emphasis and broad scope of the Queens Comp Lit major helped me to present culturally different texts to college students on three continents."
The writing and analysis required of Comparative Literature students is mentioned frequently as an important element of the undergraduate education. Leonor C., as a student in graduate school writes that "practice, and repetition, as well as dedication and devotion for this major…made me a better reader and writer, and I will continue to use and practice the valuable skills I have acquired from the Comparative Literature major. Queens College and the Comparative Literature Department have bestowed on me the most important tools for the academic journey I decided to pursue.
Richard B., now in law school, writes: "Classes in literary theory have especially helped me in distinguishing the number of possibilities within a legal issue in order to get to [the] coveted point when taking a position on a legal issue." He wrote, also that "through Comparative Literature I was able to travel to China under scholarship and internalize the value of interdisciplinary work while immersed in another culture. "
Sophia T. says of the work for the department, "The Comparative Literature major helped develop my critical analysis and writing skills. Course requirements, like papers and in-class essays helped me to practice my writing, while class discussion improved my literary analysis, since I had the opportunity to articulate my thoughts about the readings, and hear feedback from my peers and professors."
Thomas S. wrote, "The major helped to give me the solid linguistic basis to pursue comparative studies at the graduate level," while Nathalia P. writes, "It taught me to contextualize everything I encountered in terms of culture, art, philosophy and its place in history—which has made life a lot of fun! It gave me the tools to seek out the corollaries in seemingly disparate things and encouraged me to read EVERYTHING." Now at work on the MFA in Poetry, this major goes on, "The Comp Lit major revealed my lifeline, poetry. It'd be no exaggeration to say that it's completely shaped my professional and artistic life."
Ray S., currently teaching Comparative Literature in college, writes, "Comparative Literature literally changed my life. I had been purely a technical person, reveling in electronics. But I had always liked to read. English courses at QC were OK, but I was wishing for something more.
I constantly read & watch movies with a more critical and practiced eye. Comp Lit is never far away. It is a way of life for me now.
And, of course, Comparative Literature has helped me to write better. I credit the QC Comp Lit Department for my ability to write my master's thesis."
At Queens College, the Department of Comparative Literature has set out to be wide ranging and international. Leonor C. remarked "I am greatly satisfied with all the new material I learned from authors around the world. I learned a great deal about different cultures, and societies[.]"
Thomas S. commented "I also feel that Comp Lit positions you more in an interdisciplinary framework where questions of politics, philosophy, sociology, visual arts, etc. intersect." He went on, "It broadened my horizons and helped me to think of literature outside of narrow national contexts."
Fatima C. writes of the major that it "motivated me to seek employment in an international environment where I can use my language skills to teach others. A global perspective was encouraged and developed in connection with writing skills. All outside sources that could provide a wider angle on a topic were encouraged and invited."
Beyond specifics of analysis and improved writing, majors in the Department speak of an overall experience that provides great direction for their study throughout the school.
Nathalia wrote: "Being a Comparative Literature major greatly enhanced my experience at Queens College. By virtue of it being such an inherently interdisciplinary department, it encouraged me to experience the entirety of my coursework as inter-related. It greatly heightened my interest in all my classes. And it being a relatively small department, I felt I had personal attention. The people there are really helpful and I felt more of a connection to my studies on a personal level than all the other classes I've taken."
Finally, Cristina F., a student who was not a major, wrote, "I think I felt more fulfilled by the Comparative Literature minor than I did by my major. The classes really helped me develop my literary analysis and critical thinking skills. As a whole, the minor gave me a more global perspective and made me more comfortable with interdisciplinary study."
In sum, majors comment extremely favorably on the shaping force of Comparative Literature, on the skills it produces and hones, and on the preparation it provides for a satisfying, professional post-graduate life. The major also allows for great diversity, which is generally welcomed as an opportunity—sometimes demanding—for particularized development.