PROFESSOR: Well, Sujata and Tom, I’m sure glad we finally found time to meet and discuss your academic interests. I apologise that it took so long to organise. My schedule has been rather hectic this semester.
SUJATA: We’re just grateful that you’ve made time for us.
TOM: Yeah. I know that speaking with you will be very helpful. It’s good timing as well, since we have to decide on our undergraduate degree programmes by next Friday.
PROFESSOR: So soon? You used to be able to wait until your second year of study.
TOM: Perhaps the university’s policies have changed.
PROFESSOR: Well, no matter. So, let’s get down to business then, shall we? If I understand right, you are both interested in studying comparative literature. May I ask why?
SUJATA: Speaking for myself, I’m very interested in studying literature comparatively in multiple languages. My native tongue is Nepali, so I’d like to use my skills in both English and Nepali somehow.
PROFESSOR: That’s great. And yes, our programme requires that students read texts in at least two languages. That is, two languages in addition to your native tongue.
SUJATA: I speak Hindi as well.
PROFESSOR: Then you are all set.
TOM: Actually, that’s the part about the programme that concerns me. I love the idea of studying literature, but my only second language is Spanish, and really, I’m not very fluent. I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable writing a paper in Spanish.
PROFESSOR: You won’t be required to write in a second language. You only need to be able to read. Also, part of your course of study involves improving your current language abilities. So, you know, you would take another year or two of Spanish.
TOM: But what about a third language? I would have to start from scratch.
PROFESSOR: True, but if you take courses both in the school year and in the summer, you should be fine. There’s also the possibility of studying intensively overseas, which really is equivalent to an entire year of study.
TOM: That’s true. I hadn’t thought about that.
SUJATA: Professor, I’d like to know a bit more about the other requirements for the programme, aside from the language element.
PROFESSOR: Of course. The programme takes three years to complete. The first year you must take three compulsory modules, which are introductory courses in literature and literary theory, in addition to one optional module within the department.
TOM: What are the subjects of the optional modules?
PROFESSOR: They change every year, but past modules have been on topics such as European culture, American short stories, Asian poetry...basically thematic courses.
SUJATA: And we can only take one optional module?
PROFESSOR: You won’t have room in your schedule for any more the first year, unfortunately. But in the second year you have only one compulsory module and can take three optional ones. The second year’s modules are much more specified, and will direct the kind of research you do for your dissertation.
TOM: Is the dissertation mandatory?
PROFESSOR: Yes. I recommend you start thinking about what you’d want to write about in your second year.
SUJATA: How many pages does it have to be?
PROFESSOR: Usually around 80 pages.
SUJATA: Oh, wow. I didn’t realise it was such a big research project.
TOM: And how long do we have to complete it?
PROFESSOR: The entire third year.
TOM: Do we work with an adviser on it?
PROFESSOR: You’ll have to ask one of the professors in our department to supervise your dissertation. It’s important to find someone whose research interests are similar to yours.
SUJATA: What if we can’t?
PROFESSOR: In certain cases, we allow students to work with professors at other universities. But most of the time this isn’t necessary. We have a lot of breadth in our faculty. Do you have any other questions I can answer? Our time’s almost up.
TOM: Just one more thing... What kinds of careers do most comparative literature graduates end up in?
PROFESSOR: I would say most go on for their doctorates and work in academia. But others have gone into publishing, secondary teaching, and writing. All right, I have another appointment now. Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any other questions.
SUJATA: Will do. Thank you professor.
TOM: Yes. Much appreciated.