The University of Iowa

Comparative Literature

Students of Comparative Literature study literature and other arts in international and interdisciplinary contexts. Immersion in more than one culture and language is therefore crucial for this major.

But more than that: your study abroad will likely be the most exciting and life-changing time in your college career! Discovering another language and culture not only develops your language and critical thinking skills, it also means that you discover a whole new way of being in the world. It will both challenge and reward you as a whole person, and in ways that will stay with you for your whole life.

Of course, multi-culturally experienced employees with multiple language competencies are also valuable in today’s increasingly global market. Study abroad experience is a valuable distinction when applying to graduate and professional programs.

To aid you in coordinating study abroad with your major requirements, this page offers advice about when to study abroad (see the "Timing" tab), how to fulfill your academic requirements abroad (see "Academics"), and how to choose a study abroad program best suited to your needs (see "Programs"). 

There are many study abroad options available to comparative literature majors. From short-term, faculty-led programs to full-year direct enrollment in an international university, there are plenty of opportunities for you to pursue your academic and extracurricular interests abroad. Ask your advisor or go directly to the Study Abroad office to find out more!

There is never a bad time for comparative literature majors to study abroad. In fact, you are encouraged to study abroad as often as possible during your time as an undergraduate. That said, it is recommended that you study abroad after developing language proficiencies that will allow you to take more advanced language courses—and courses taught in foreign languages—while abroad. Completing at least 4 semesters or the equivalent of language study (in a single language) before studying abroad is encouraged. Students taking the Literature and Arts Track, too, are encouraged to study abroad and to develop their language skills and international perspectives on the arts and media they focus on.

There are many opportunities for comparative literature majors to fulfill academic requirements abroad. In general, courses taken abroad can be substituted for UI courses. Consult with a study abroad advisor about getting overseas courses approved for UI requirements. Once you select a program of interest, your study abroad advisor will give you a Credit Approval Form to complete with the academic advisor in the Comparative Literature program who will help you select appropriate courses for your major and plan of study.

Comparative Literature Courses

The Comparative Literature curriculum is quite flexible and very amenable to study abroad. There are no comparative literature courses that absolutely must be taken at the University of Iowa, though it is recommended that you complete your “common courses” on campus.

Comparative literature majors on either track are encouraged to make language study a priority when considering where to study abroad. In addition to completing some or all of your general education language requirements abroad (see below), it is especially recommended that you complete some of your comparative literature “track courses” in foreign languages overseas. To expand your options, you may want to enroll in a study abroad program that offers the study of a language unavailable at the UI.

For instance, if you are on the World Language and Literature track, you might take a Chinese literature course taught in Mandarin, or literature courses in German, French, Russian, Spanish, etc. If you are on the Literature and Arts track but have language skills you want to improve, you might take a course on Italian architecture, art, or cinema taught in Italian. If you do not have sufficient language skills, you can select a program that is either located in an English-speaking country, or a program that offers courses in English.

Students on the Literature and Arts track may consider studying abroad in locations with rich histories in their fine arts area.

With the approval of the Comparative Literature advisor, students may transfer up to 12 semester hours of coursework completed at another institution to count toward the comparative literature major. However, some study abroad programs offer UI resident credit that will not count toward the 12 s.h. limit. (For more information about transfer credit and resident credit, talk to an advisor in Study Abroad.)

General Education Courses

Because your General Education (GE) requirements are typically lower level, non-specialized courses, it may be easier to find overseas equivalents for your GEs than for some of your upper level major requirements.

The World Language requirement is an especially good GE to complete abroad. Information about language-intensive study abroad programs that can be used toward your World Languages requirement is provided under the “Programs” tab of the General Education advising page.

You might also consider finding overseas equivalents for GE courses that include a cultural component. You could likely find equivalents for several of the courses approved for the GE curriculum—and many of these would be interesting to take in a new cultural context. (See the “Cultural, Society, & the Arts” tab on the College of Liberal Arts and Science’s General Education web page.)

General Electives

Study abroad can be a great opportunity to explore disciplines beyond your required coursework. You may be able to receive credit toward graduation for general electives taken abroad. Since Comparative Literature is an interdisciplinary major, you may even be able to integrate such courses into your plan of study and receive credit for your major, if the courses are sufficiently advanced. Talk to an advisor in Study Abroad for information about earning credit for general electives completed overseas, and to your advisor in Comparative Literature about counting courses toward your major.

Worried about funding your trip? International Programs offers various scholarships to UI students for study abroad. For more information, visit our Costs & Funding page!

If you are interested in studying a critical language (Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, and/or Urdu) while abroad, you are also encouraged to apply to the Critical Language Scholarship program. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Critical Language Scholarship Program provides fully funded intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment activities overseas for U.S. students each summer.

Some of the programs listed below are more relevant to students on the World Language and Literature track, others are more relevant to Literature and Arts students, and several are relevant to all comparative literature majors.  A few internships opportunities are also listed at the very end. These can offer opportunities to experience work life in another culture and language and to build your resume. Please note that many of the programs listed here offer resident credit—that is, courses for which students automatically receive UI credit (as opposed to transfer credit).

Since comparative literature is an interdisciplinary as well as international major, you are encouraged to look at some of the programs recommended on our other Major Advising Pages (MAPs) in addition to those listed below. For instance, you might consider programs recommended for English majors or language majors—we currently have MAPs for French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian majors. You might also consider some of the intensive language programs listed under the “Programs” tab of the General Education MAP. Students on the Literature and Arts track might also consider programs recommended for fine arts students (e.g., Art & Art History, Cinematic Arts, Theater Arts).

In addition to the programs listed here, students are encouraged to browse our programs database and consult our Steps to Studying Abroad advising page. You are also encouraged to visit the Study Abroad Resource Room (located in International Programs, 1111 University Capitol Centre), where a peer assistant can help you research study abroad programs. Once you have a few programs in mind, consult with a study abroad advisor and your academic advisor in the Comparative Literature program.


SIT Argentina: Art, Memory, and Social Transformation

Some previous study of the Spanish language is required. This program examines Argentina’s visual and performing arts in historic and contemporary contexts. Site visits, excursions, lectures, and discussions with a wide range of arts professionals challenge students to consider the relationship between religion and art in the restructuring of contemporary cultural and national identity.


Brazilian Carnival (Resident Credit)

This program happens over winter break and is led by UI faculty. Students explore interdisciplinary and foundational learning in the areas of dance, design, and music through interaction with and exploration of two main aspects of Brazilian popular culture: Samba and Carnival. Students gain first-hand experience with all aspects of preparation for Brazilian Carnival by exploring historical and social contexts, production, critical theories of performance, religious backgrounds, and theater making in the Carnival Parades, from current to centuries-old tradition.


Iowa in Tianjin  (Resident Credit)

The Iowa in Tianjin summer program was developed by the University of Iowa Department of Asian Languages and Literature and the College of International Education (CIE) of Tianjin University of Technology (TUT). This close cooperation has created a program ideally suited to meeting the language needs of University of Iowa students. Courses on calligraphy and other arts courses (e.g., Chinese folk art and music) are also offered.

CIEE Nanjing Intensive Chinese Language and Culture (Resident Credit)

Some previous study of the Mandarin Chinese language is required. This program combines intensive language study with liberal arts coursework. Participants take two intensive language courses, offered at intermediate to advanced levels, and one area studies course at Nanjing University with other CIEE students. Typically, one film studies course is offered along with several courses on Chinese society and culture. Participants also have the opportunity to conduct independent research.


CIEE Prague Central European Studies

This semester or yearlong program offers several courses relevant to students interested the Czech literature and arts. Participants take one Czech language course (offered at all levels) and 4 area studies courses per semester. Most courses are taken at the CIEE Study Center in Prague with other program participants, but students can also enroll in classes at Charles University and/or the Prague Film and Television School at the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU). Courses on Czech art, film, literature, and music are offered. Both CIEE and FAMU offer several film studies courses (e.g., “Czech Cinema” and “Topics in Avant-Garde Cinema”), and FAMU also offers filmmaking courses (e.g., courses on directing and editing).

There is also a summer version of this program. Participants enroll in one, two, or three 4-week sessions and take one course per session.

SIT Czech Republic: Arts and Social Change

Students in this semester-long program are immersed in the Czech Republic’s contemporary arts scene while exploring the country’s rich artistic heritage. Specifically, participants study Czech visual and performing arts, film, and literature. The program combines 8-12 weeks of coursework with two weeks of educational excursions and a month-long independent study. Required courses include an intensive beginning Czech language course, a course on Czech arts and society, a research methods course, the independent study, and an elective (which could be a studio course in which you work on your own creative project). Students choose their own independent study topic, but it generally focuses on Czech arts and/or social change in the Czech Republic.


CIEE Paris Critical & Francophone Studies (Resident Credit)

Some previous study of the French language is required. Participants in this program take courses in critical studies focusing on French theory in cinema, the arts, writing, and critical thought, along with courses on Francophone Studies in contemporary French society and culture. Currently, courses on North African and Sub-Saharan Literature, several philosophy courses, French cinema, French poetics, and many other courses relevant to comparative literature students are offered.

CIEE Paris Global Institute (Resident Credit)

This program, located in Paris, France, is designed for maximum flexibility and academic rigor which provides each student with the opportunity to design a program to suit their needs. Students choose an academic track, including a Language, Literature, and Culture option and program length. This program also offers internship, research, and service-learning opportunities for academic credit.

CIEE Rennes Liberal Arts (Resident Credit)

Some previous study of the French language is required. All courses are taught in French. Participants take a preliminary French language and culture course, then 3-5 electives per semester in addition to another French language course at the appropriate level. Several courses relevant to comparative literature students are offered, including film analysis courses and courses on French literature, art, theater, and cinema. All courses are taught in French at the Centre International Rennais d’Etude du Francais pour Etrangers (CIREFE) with CIEE participants and other international students. Students with advanced language skills also have the opportunity to directly enroll in classes at the Universite de Haute Bretagne Rennes II (HUB).


CIEE Berlin Open Campus

Participants in this program enroll in two or three 6-week academic blocks per semester. Each semester, students take two courses in a chosen academic track—e.g., “Language, Literature, & Culture”—along with two or three electives. German literature and German cinema courses are offered in addition to several courses that look at German culture through German film, theatre, dance, and/or music. Beginning to advanced German language courses are also offered. Most coursework is English-taught, though advanced German speakers have a few opportunities to take German-taught content courses. All students have the opportunity to complete a CIEE Academic Project during one six-week block. The project is an internship or volunteer opportunity relevant to your chosen academic track. All courses are taken with other CIEE participants at the CIEE Global Institute, which is a U.S.-style residence life program integrated with a local German neighborhood.

Academic Year in Freiburg

Some previous study of the German language is required. This consortial program offers students the opportunity to improve fluency in the German language while taking a blend of program classes and regular German university classes.

Dortmund Exchange

Some previous study of the German language is required. The Dortmund exchange offers UI students a unique blend of courses that combine language and culture courses with academic work in their major and minor subjects. University studies and life outside the classroom are synthesized in a holistic learning process. 


SIT Indonesia: Arts, Religion, and Social Change

This program examines Indonesia’s visual and performing arts in historic and contemporary contexts. Site visits, excursions, lectures, and discussions with a wide range of arts professionals challenge students to consider the relationship between religion and art in the restructuring of contemporary Indian cultural and national identity.


Studio Arts Centers International (SACI) (Resident Credit)

SACI is a Florence-based U.S. educational institution affiliated with Bowling Green University. SACI offers semester and yearlong programs, as well as a post-BA program. Practical art courses (e.g., drawing, ceramics, animation, graphic design) are offered, along with art history, Italian studies, and Italian language courses.

IES Milan: Music, Tradition, and Innovation

Participants in this semester-long program take an Italian language course while studying and/or performing music in Milan. In addition to music courses (including both music history and performance studies courses), participants enroll in liberal arts electives, many of which are relevant to comparative literature students. Students also have the opportunity to play in various ensembles and attend music performances during the course of the program.


IES Tokyo Language & Culture

This semester-long program combines language study with coursework on Japanese arts and society. Several courses relevant to comparative literature students are offered, including courses on Japanese photography, film, and fiction. Participants also have the opportunity to do fieldwork at local organizations related to their academic interests.


Ewha Womans University Exchange

Students of all genders are welcome to apply to this program. At Ewha, international students are required to take between 9 and 18 credit hours. Courses relevant to comparative literature students are offered through the Department of Korean Language and Literature and the School of Fine Arts. Intensive language courses are also offered, and there is a directed independent study option.


CIEE Portugal Program (Resident Credit)

Students on this program take intensive Portuguese language courses and three to four area studies courses per semester. Courses on Portuguese and Brazilian literature, music, cinema, art, and media are offered in English through CIEE. Students with advanced language capabilities also have the opportunity to enroll in courses at local universities, where additional art history, music, and literature courses are offered.


CIEE Seville Liberal Arts Program  (Resident Credit)

Some previous study of the Spanish language is required. All courses are taught in Spanish. This semester or yearlong program is designed for students with five semesters of college Spanish or the equivalent. Participants take an intensive Spanish language course for the first two weeks of the semester, then enroll in four courses—either at the CIEE Study Center, the Universidad de Sevilla, and/or the Universidad Pablo de Olavide. CIEE courses are taken with program participants only, while courses at the local universities are taken with Spanish and international students. Courses on Spanish literature, cinema, art, culture, and media are offered.

CIEE Alicante Language & Culture Program (Resident Credit)

Some previous study of the Spanish language is required. All courses are taught in Spanish. Participants take an intensive language course for the first few weeks of the program, and then enroll in two Spanish language courses and two area studies courses at the CIEE Study Center at the Universidad de Alicante. Spanish literature, cinema, art, and theater courses are offered. Students with advanced language abilities also have the opportunity to directly enroll in courses offered by the Culture Department at the Universidad de Alicante.

CIEE Barcelona Language & Culture (Resident Credit)

This is a semester or yearlong program that gives students the opportunity to develop their Spanish language skills while learning about Spanish culture. Participants enroll in a beginning or intermediate Spanish language course and three electives. The electives can be CIEE courses or courses offered by the Hispanic and European Studies Program (HESP) at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra. The English-taught CIEE courses are taken with other CIEE participants, and the HESP courses are taken with other international students and taught in either English or Spanish. Spanish literature, cinema, art, and culture courses are offered.


The Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) offers credit-bearing internships relevant to comparative literature students in multiple locations. More information for each of these programs is available on our IES Internships website. All IES interns enroll in an internship seminar for advising about professionalism and cultural awareness in the workplace.

Some previous study of the German language is required. The Academic Year in Freiburg program also regularly arranges internships.