Jump to content

english vs comp lit

Recommended Posts

All right, here's some backstory: I'm a junior English major, I did very badly in my second year of college and so while my transcript will show a massive uphill rise at the end (which is good), I'm relatively unlikely to have more than a 3.0 upon graduating. I also have no foreign language experience (this will be important in a minute).

So I've been researching English programs because I'm interested in the field of Russian literature. Note, all the Russian stuff I have read has been in English translation. Basically I've been researching English programs, until I finally realized that what I need is a Comp. Lit. program. I was thrilled to find out this major was available, which should give you an indication of how thorough my college's department is on any foreign literature.

Here's my problem: I have no foreign language experience, and I have a year and a half in which to learn one. My school also does not offer Russian, although I've been advised that if I applied to a Masters' program in a school with a Russian language department, I would have enough to get into a Comp. Lit. Ph.D. program. In the meantime, I could take German, which my college offers now.

But my dilemma is that most Comp. Lit programs want an M.A. in Comp Lit going in, and I can't even apply to those programs without fluency in Russian, which I am unable to get until I get to another college. I had been under the impression that Masters programs were more about language training (as they are for English) and apparently in Comp Lit they want one (sometimes two) languages besides English when applying. Compounding this is my low GPA, which means that my options for Comp Lit programs are already thin.

tl;dr What would you do in my situation? My gut instinct is to keep going with an M.A. in English, learn German and get as much Russian as I can, then see if I can get into a Comp Lit program elsewhere, but is this the right move?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Look to your local community colleges, extension or distance learning, or even online courses like Massachusetts Online to learn Russian. I think it is pretty essential that you have language experience for comp lit programs (I'm not in comp lit, but this is what I understand from my friend who were). It is not essential that those classes come from your undergrad. Your courses may not count toward your undergraduate degree, but you can send those transcripts along with your undergrad transcripts when you apply to prove your language abilities.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had been under the impression that Masters programs were more about language training (as they are for English

I'm not sure I understand this part. What sort of language training would one undergo in an English master's program?

Also, if you only want to do Russian literature why not join a Slavic languages / russian department, and not Comp Lit?

Finally, why don't you do summer intensive language classes in Russia? That would be a good way of really learning the language.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You sound rushed! :) I know, I'm one to talk, already applying to Comp Lit PhD programs straight out of undergrad, but there is no rush. Take up a language now, whether German or another language your college offers (French is pretty useful in literary fields, although not really any easier than German, AFAIK). Comp Lit programs want at least two foreign languages, at various degrees of proficiency, going in, yes, so you have to do that now. Then take a year or two off after college, and take Russian classes at a community college or cultural center, or whatever you might have access to.

I want to stress the importance of starting as early as possible to learn a new language. I would also advise you to do your best to show you pick up languages easily, and in general learn quickly. In top PhD programs, you are required to demonstrate fluent reading ability in two foreign languages, plus basic reading knowledge in a third, after two years of coursework. If you apply with English, 5-7 semesters of German (assuming you take some time off after college), and a year or two of Russian, the adcom needs to believe you'll be able to better your two foreign languages and pick up a third while in the program.

But even more importantly in your case, I suggest you build strength in a particular area of literary studies, like theory, to be able to compete. To gain admission into a Comp Lit program, you'll be in competition with people who speak 4 or 5 languages and know a handful more. You need to have something distinctive the adcoms will want.

I don't mean to sound discouraging! I've heard of plenty of people who picked up foreign languages, difficult ones, in college or even later and achieved fluency quickly. You can do it; just start as soon as possible!

PS: If you can take up Latin, I always recommend it. It's not particularly easy, but it counts as a foreign language, and is especially useful since it fulfills the requirement some schools have for a classical or cross-cultural language.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm in the same boat, only with less time! I want to do Biblical studies as a comp. lit program (first language being Biblical Hebrew), and I just started taking Modern Hebrew this semester. Upon graduating I will have a full year of Hebrew, which is not enough to get into a Comp. Lit program. I am taking an independent study in Biblical Hebrew next semester, but I am thinking of staying for a post-bacc year at my college to take another full year of modern Hebrew. The two language thing scares me though. Do I need to take another language on top of Hebrew during my post-bacc year or is the full two years of modern plus some intensive study in Biblical Hebrew enough to get into a program? I am strong (I think) in all other areas of my application.

Basically, to you, I'm saying there's always the possibility of applying to do a post-bacc year at your institution. Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use