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Specific Lit Faculty in Comp Lit Programs


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Most of my research intends to focus on a specific literature, however, for some schools I want to apply to the comp lit program because I believe it makes more sense for me. In some of the programs, there are some POI I want to work with, or hope to work with, but they do not appear on the comp lit faculty page, but rather on their specific language department. In general, do you find that that these professors are agreeable to working with comp lit students (and are the departments agreeable to this, as well)? Also, is this something that can be discussed in the personal statement or does it reflect poor fit (e.g. will the admission committee think I don't fit in if I reference wanting to work with someone in the French department and someone in the English department, who do not appear on the Comp Lit faculty page?)?

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I think it's hard to give a general answer to this. Comp lit departments vary pretty heavily from one to the next. Some are independent, autonomous departments, others are primarily  collections of professors who also have appointments in national language departments. Some require that your advisor come from the department, others are less stringent. What's certainly the case is that in any program you will be required to take courses in two to three national literature departments, so you will certainly have the opportunity to work with people in the English or French departments. 

You're best bet is probably to email the professors you are interested in working with, briefly explain your research interests, and ask whether it makes more sense to apply in comp lit or their department and whether or not they regularly advise students in comp lit. Anything short of this and you're really just working on guess work.

Side note: my sense is that to be successful in comp lit admissions, your project has to be genuinely comparative. It's not sufficient to have an interest in various professors who are not all housed in the same department. You should also have advanced proficiency in one foreign language and at least a solid reading ability in a second. Also remember that it's possible to do comparative projects in national literature departments and work with professors in other departments (albeit to varying degrees in different departments). I applied (unsuccessfully) to a few comp lit program, whereas I did fairly well in the national lit departments I applied to. In hindsight, I expect I might have stood a better chance at some places had I applied to the relevant national lit department  instead of to comp lit, but that's merely conjecture.

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