A comprehensive review of the literature major has led department leaders to propose an overhaul of the major and its two introductory courses this year, citing a desire to streamline the major’s requirements.
Pending approval by the faculty in March, the major — which currently offers tracks in literature, comparative literature and interdisciplinary studies — will be pared down to a single track, with an intensive option available that would require study in two foreign languages. The new rules, which will affect the Class of 2009 and subsequent classes, will also strengthen the foreign literature, poetry and drama requirements of the major.
“We’re trying to be broader in terms of the genres that we represent,” Director of Undergraduate Studies Pericles Lewis said.
The structure of the redesigned major is similar to the existing standard literature track of the major, while the intensive option will cater to students who wish to pursue a graduate degree in comparative literature, Lewis said.
Lewis said the two prerequisite courses will be revised to provide a blend of Western and non-Western literatures in each semester. No similar changes will be mandated for the other literature classes, because professors in the department are largely free to design their own courses, comparative literature professor Barry McCrea said.
“There’s going to be a great deal of continuity between the system as it has operated up to now,” McCrea said. “We want to simplify some of the options within the major … to make it easier and clearer for students.”
Under the plan, the department will increase the foreign literature requirement from two to three courses, but some students will be able to count one term of advanced language study towards the requirement with permission of the DUS. A few students said they had difficulty achieving sufficient foreign language ability to take advanced courses in literature, Lewis said, and allowing them to count language study towards the major may encourage students to reach greater proficiency.
Lewis said the revisions to the curriculum of the major followed a review by the Yale College Committee on Majors, during which administrators collected student and faculty input about the major to identify problems. Some department faculty said they believe the primary concerns with the major are all addressed in the current proposal.
“We mostly found that students are pretty happy with the way things are,” McCrea said.
Adam Davenport ’06, who said he switched out of the major because of the foreign literature requirement, said the interdisciplinary nature of the program was good, but the major did not always successfully integrate each of its requirements. Davenport said he came to Yale with no expertise in a foreign language, so he had to spend his first two years in the major developing proficiency in a foreign language.
“For students like me, adding an extra course for foreign lit might not be advantageous,” he said.
Paul Selker ’08 said he thinks expanding the foreign literature requirement of the major is a good idea, but he was disappointed that the interdisciplinary track option will be gone for future students.
“I was thinking of doing an interdisciplinary track with poli sci, on the literature of state and statecraft,” Selker said.
Although there is no formal interdisciplinary track in the new planned requirements, Lewis said students will be able to use their electives to take courses from other departments for an interdisciplinary experience. If the proposal is approved as written, he said current sophomores will be able to choose between the old and new requirements.