Comparative literature (sometimes abbreviated "Comp. lit.") is critical scholarship dealing with the literature of two or more different linguistic, cultural or national groups. While most frequently practiced with works of different languages, it may also be performed on works of the same language if the works originate from different nations or cultures among which that language is spoken. Also included in the range of inquiry are comparisons of different types of art; for example, a comparatist might investigate the relationship of film to literature
Students and instructors in the field, usually called "comparatists," have traditionally been proficient in several languages and acquainted with the literary traditions and major literary texts of those languages. Some of the newer sub-fields, however, stress theoretical acumen and the ability to consider different types of art concurrently, over high linguistic competence.
The interdisciplinary nature of the field means that comparatists typically exhibit some acquaintance with translation studies, sociology, critical theory, cultural studies, religious studies, and history. As a result, comparative literature programs within universities may be designed by scholars drawn from several such departments. This eclecticism has led critics (from within and without) to charge that Comparative Literature is insufficiently well-defined, or that comparatists too easily fall into dilettantism, because the scope of their work is, of necessity, broad. Some question whether this breadth affects the ability of Ph.D.s to find employment in the highly specialized environment of academia and the career market at large, although such concerns do not seem to be borne out by placement data that shows comparative literature graduates to be hired at similar or higher rates than their compeers in English.
Since World War II, there have been four major international conferences in Comparative Literature: in 1965,...