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Comparative Arts Studies

Comparative Arts Studies Faculty

What is Comparative Arts?

Comparative Arts explores the dynamic interaction between literature, visual art, music, theater, film, and digital art. A wide-ranging field of inquiry open to all literary and artistic traditions, comparative arts is limited neither by national boundaries nor by class— indeed, popular art is as welcome as the “unpopular,” loftier sort. Through comparison of different forms of creative expressions, the field asks the most fundamental questions about the arts, ranging from theories of specific forms of media to the Zeitgeist of an entire culture or period.

Who Should Minor in Comparative Arts?

The minor in Comparative Arts is ideal for students who want to explore the world of literature and the arts with as much freedom as possible. The program endeavors to help students attain an integrated humanistic outlook in the study of the arts. There is no need to plow through introductory survey sequences to get to the more exciting classes at the advanced level, or to take a whole course devoted to a lengthy national tradition just to get to the few highlights. All courses in comparative arts examine works from several national traditions, often in a variety of artistic forms, and as such it is an excellent way for humanists to expand their horizon. By focusing on the interrelationship of the arts, comparison enables one to appreciate the widest range of works.

No matter what the major, anyone with a secret passion for art, music, theater, and literature will find themselves at home as a minor in comparative arts. Students of the social sciences who wish to explore the juxtaposition of the high and low may do so through Lyrics and the Popular Song, Literary and Television Genres, and African Literature and the Other Arts, for example. Comparative Arts is also a perfect complement for pre-professional majors who will want to enjoy the finer things in life (e.g., Literature and Music: Opera, Literature and Other Arts: 1870-1950, and Literature and Film). More committed students can major in comparative literature with a focus on comparative arts.

Why Do Comparative Arts at Indiana?

The Department of Comparative Literature at Indiana University began offering courses in Comparative Arts over 50 years ago. At a time when comparative literature was focused primarily on the study of European literary traditions, we pioneered the interdisciplinary exploration of the relationship between literature, music, theater, film, and the visual arts. We are one of the few places in the country today offering an undergraduate minor in this field. At the M.A. and Ph.D. level, graduate students can specialize in comparative arts and even pursue a double Ph.D. with related disciplines such as Art History. As a part of their training, graduate students of comparative arts have opportunities to teach courses such as C255 Modern Literature and the Other Arts. This course has the unique honor of being the country’s very first course in comparative arts, and it has been offered continuously for more than half a century.

Current Requirements for the Minor in Comparative Arts

Note: Students who minor in comparative literature may not also
minor in comparative arts. Comparative literature majors may obtain
the minor in comparative arts but may not count the same courses for
both the major and the comparative arts minor.


Undergraduate Comparative Arts Courses

C151 Introduction to Popular Culture (3 cr.)
Explores the scope and methodologies for the serious study of entertainment for mass consumption, including popular theater and vaudeville, best sellers, mass circulation magazines, popular music, phonograph records, and popular aspects of radio, film, and television. Provides the basic background to other popular culture courses in comparative literature.

C251 Lyrics and Popular Song (3 cr.)
Survey of popular songs of Europe and the Americas, including modern ballads, cabaret songs, Spanish flamencos, Mexican rancheras, Argentine tangos, country western, and rock lyrics. Discussion of literary qualities of lyrics in context of musical setting and performance and independently as literature.

C252 Literary and Television Genres (3 cr.)
Comparative study of popular literary and television genres, such as farce, domestic comedy, melodrama, biography, mystery, adventure, western, the picaresque. Theoretical, technical, and ideological contrasts between the literary and television media.

C255 Modern Literature and the Other Arts: An Introduction (3 cr.)
Analyzes the materials of literature, painting, and music and the ways in which meaning is expressed through the organization of the materials. Investigates similarities and differences among the arts. Examples selected from the past 200 years. No previous knowledge of any art required. I Sem.,II Sem.

C256 Literature and the Other Arts: 1870-1950 (3 cr.)
Interaction of the arts in the development of Western literature, painting, and music in movements such as impressionism, symbolism, constructivism, expressionism, dada, and surrealism.

C257 Asian Literature and the Other Arts (3 cr.)
Selected literary texts of China, India, or Japan studied in the context of the art forms and cultures of these countries. Concentration on one culture each time course is offered. May be repeated once with different topic.

C355 Literature, the Arts, and their Interrelationship (3 cr.)
Discussion of theoretical foundations for study of the relationship of the arts; detailed analysis of specific works illustrating interaction of literature with other arts.

C356 Concrete Poetry (3 cr.)
Emphasizes the international character of the concrete poetry movement and its relationship to the literary tradition and to contemporary movements in the other arts.

C357 The Arts Today: From 1950 to the Present (3 cr.)
Shared trends in literature, the visual arts, music, dance, and theatre. The heritage of the grotesque and the absurd, dada and surrealism, and constructivism; the new realism. New materials; mixed media and multimedia; environmental and participatory art; happenings; minimal art, conceptual art, anti-art.

C358 Literature and Music: Opera (3 cr.)
Selected opera libretti from various periods. Comparison of libretti with their literary sources; emphasis on specific problems connected with the adaptation of a literary work to the operatic medium. Evaluation of representative libretti as independent literary works.