University of California, Riverside

Comparative Literature and Languages


Dear students and colleagues,

The Department of Comparative Literature and Languages teaches literatures and languages, which span from China and Japan to Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and beyond.

Undergraduate students who major in Literature and Comparative Literature, Languages, and Linguistics gain a new sense of the world, as they read and study film and architecture, literature and philosophy, religion and poetics, human rights and critical theory, and more. 

Students in our Ph.D. program in Comparative Literature receive training in literary history and theory, as they are trained to practice literary comparativism in a multilingual, interdisciplinary, and multi-medial frame, and in relation to social forms and practices.

As students and teachers we read, study, write, and talk, with and to each other, and as we do so we produce knowledge. But if ways of knowing are not simply given in advance, how might we think, newly, about the kinds of reading and writing we do in the humanities? If literature is about relations—if it opens, like language, a scene where something happens, and where a sense of relation is given, between and among beings—how might we think about the study of literature without pre-determining its ends—both the ends of literature and the ends of our study of it? 

The poet Paul Celan wrote that poetry is a kind of “conversation,” “a turning of our breath,” which “leads to encounters.” In our own time—a time of the expansion and deepening of the racialist, carceral-security state and the kinds of knowledge and critique it values and permits—what does literature give to us? If literature refuses the sense of security we have been taught, in educational institutions, to love—What could be better, after all, than to know the right answer?—then literature remains, today, a practice that disorders and displaces this new state form.

Literature does not enhance this or that certitude; it teaches us to learn how to learn differently—an “encounter” that does not lead “us” to ourselves, or to others, as much as it disperses “us” out onto a future that remains only, and without end, to come.

Our faculty work closely with students at all levels as they pursue their interests—studying and reading in areas to which they are drawn. We view our task as a pedagogical and personal one: your interest in what you study will be mirrored in our interest in you.

Please write me if you’d like to talk.

With warmest regards,

Jeff Sacks
Associate Professor and Chair


 Dinner 2017

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