Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture


Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture (CSLC) offers students the opportunity to study the literatures of many different national traditions from a variety of historical periods, and to do so in a uniquely interdisciplinary manner. Both its individual courses and major program of study exemplify the ideals of a liberal arts education, as well as Occidental College’s particular mission to prepare its students to engage as fully and as fruitfully as possible in a complex, interdependent, and pluralistic world.

The CSLC major is rooted in the students' understanding of the linguistic structures of at least one foreign language, as this offers an essential point of entry not only into the study of the literatures within that language, but helps provide an important perspective from which to appreciate the cultural and linguistic differences that comprise any literary tradition. As with any formal literary study, our students, both major and non-majors alike, can expect to become proficient in the appreciation and interpretation of a whole array of literary texts and genres, as well as the many emerging methods and theories that can be brought to bear upon them. Yet as no one literature exists in a vacuum, but is rather shaped by, and helps shape, the institutions, intellectual perspectives and lived experience of the culture in which it is located, we encourage our students to work with faculty mentors to develop a personalized program of study that would allow each student to engage with his or her chosen literature (or literatures) from a specific disciplinary point of view (for example: literature and music, literature and philosophy, literature and gender, literature and science, ancient and modern literature, the literature of different national traditions).

Students majoring in Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture currently have the option of choosing an emphasis in German, Greek, Latin, or Russian. Other languages offered at Occidental can also be used to fulfill the requirements of the major, but require the approval of CSLC and the other language department. Though it is by no means required, students are also invited to incorporate courses from the Studies Abroad program into the overall design of their major.

Major Requirements


A major requires a minimum of 9 classes including the senior seminar. Students are required to take courses that reflect the interrelated aspects of the major:


CSLC 200Literature, Culture, Self: Being in the Wor(l)d

4 units

Foreign language

Students must select three 300-level courses in German, Greek, Latin or Russian.

Literary and Cultural Studies

Students must select two 200-level CSLC courses.

*This course is preferably chosen from outside the student’s major language concentration (courses outside the department allowed by approval)

Interdisciplinary requirement

Students must complete two additional courses which reflect a thematic or comparative language based concentration. The two interdisciplinary courses should be chosen in consultation with the student’s adviser.

Senior Seminar

Students must pass a language proficiency exam prior to the beginning of their senior year and enrollment in the senior seminar. Please consult the departmental website for current information about courses which satisfy requirements.


Students majoring in CSLC will satisfy the second-stage writing requirement by taking a 300-level CSLC junior seminar with a writing component. At least one substantial writing assignment incorporating primary text in the student's target language will prepare students to do their Senior Comprehensive Project.  The instructor will deem a student's writing proficient with a notation of "Satisfactory" for the junior writing requirement.


All students majoring in CSLC will be required in their Senior Year to complete a comprehensive project consisting of a Senior Thesis of a minimum of 25 pages and to present a 15 minute presentation based on the thesis to CSLC faculty and students.

In the fall of their senior year, each CSLC major will enroll in a 4 unit senior seminar and will be expected to produce a full length draft of the comprehensive essay by the end of term. The student will have the winter break and the first month of spring term in his or her senior year to revise the long essay, and to compose a 15 minute presentation. Students graduating in the fall of Senior Year must complete a final draft of the paper and give a short presentation before fall comps grades are due.

The comprehensive essay must include extensive analysis of a foreign language text or texts. The thesis should demonstrate an awareness of its own methodologies, and a substantial knowledge of the critical traditions and contemporary understandings of the texts under consideration. CSLC students will additionally be expected to incorporate into their senior thesis the interdisciplinary perspectives gained in the two thematic-focus courses they have selected for their major. Additional requirements for comps may be required in each language emphasis, particularly if a student uses a language outside of the CSLC major in their comps.


The Department of CSLC awards Honors to students who have demonstrated excellence in their departmental work. In the Spring semester, CSLC faculty review each Seniors’ record of work in the department and make their determinations based on achievement in coursework, sophistication of the comprehensive project, and contribution to the intellectual community of the department.

Minor Requirements

Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture:

A minor in CSLC consists of 5 courses: CSLC 200 and 4 CSLC courses in translation. This minor exposes students to world literature and culture in translation.


A minor in German language consists of five courses (20 units) numbered GERM 202 and above. Three of the five courses must be completed as Occidental courses.


A minor in Russian language consists of five courses (20 units) numbered RUSS 202 and above. Three of the five courses must be completed as Occidental courses

Classical Studies:

Please see the Classical Studies area of the catalog for information on minoring in Classical Studies.


Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture Courses


Regular Faculty

Damian Stocking, chair

Associate Professor, Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture Department

B.A., UC Berkeley; M.A., Ph.D., UCLA

Debra Freas

Full-time NTT Assistant Professor, Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture; Advisory Committee for Classical Studies Minor

B.A., University of Texas; Ph.D., UC Irvine

Walter Richmond

Full Time NTT Professor, Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture; Advisory Committee, Group Language

B.A., Arizona State University; M.A., Ph.D., USC

Katharina Von Ankum

NTT Assistant Professor, Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture

BA, University of Tübingen; MA, PhD University of Massachusetts at Amherst