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Comparative literature is about crossing borders: exploring the ways different languages shape the perceptions and thought patterns of the people who speak them, the ways writers in one location read others distant in time or place, the ways cultural movements link up poets and artists from different countries, the ways regional identities play against national unities, the ways people scattered throughout the world celebrate their origins and redefine their culture.

Comparative literature graduates use their languages and writing skills in many fields: as translators, journalists, speechwriters and editors; in international business and art sales; in counseling, law and transnational activism. They come to share a common theoretical language but they appreciate difference—in cultures, in ideas, in themselves—and they learn how to seek it out.

Comparatists also study broad theoretical questions: What exactly is poetic language? How does the psyche take up (and disturb) language and other symbolic systems? How do political changes lead to aesthetic revolutions—and to new theories of the literary? What are the pleasures of a text?