Distance Learning Programs in Comparative Literature: Degree Info

Dec 03, 2019

Essential Information

Degree programs in comparative literature specifically are not likely to be found in an online format. Students who are determined to earn a degree in comparative literature may need to consider an on-campus program.

However, coursework in literature from various time periods and cultures, like Medieval literature, Renaissance literature, and modern literature, can be found within English or literature degree programs at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Most literature degree programs available online are focused on English literature.

English degree programs can usually be completed fully online without any campus visits. In comparison to other fields of study, English degree programs are fairly common in an online format. Students will use course management systems, such as Blackboard, Moodle, and Sakai.

Distance Learning Bachelor's Degree in English

English or English literature degree programs at the bachelor's degree level typically include training in English language theory and literary theory; students may study literary theories like structuralism, Marxism, and feminism. Students typically explore classic literature, including the works of Shakespeare, as well as examine literature in different genres, like fiction, nonfiction, playwriting, and poetry. Students learn to critically analyze and compare and contrast works from different countries, social environments, and languages. Programs are meant to prepare students for graduate school or a career that emphasizes the importance and interpretation of the written and spoken word.

Program Information and Requirements

The study of English is available online in either full degree programs or undergraduate degree-completion programs. Degree-completion programs consist only of the last two years of a bachelor's degree program and require applicants to have completed previous college general education credits. While these programs may be conducted entirely online, the delivery system can vary between schools, instructors, and courses. Rather than sticking with one delivery method, some programs use a combination of synchronous and asynchronous coursework, lectures, texts, and CD-ROMs. Often, a course management system, such as Blackboard, is used for discussion and communication, along with email.

In general, distance-learning students should have a computer with reliable access to the Internet. A cable or DSL connection is recommended along with a sound card, video card, and headset. Many schools recommend and offer free software applications, including Java, Firefox, and various media readers and players.

List of Common Literature Courses in an English Bachelor's Degree Program

The literature courses included in a program leading to a bachelor's degree in English or English literature are intended to allow students to develop a broad view of how literature interacts with, affects and is affected by history, politics, culture, the arts, and societal evolution. Literature required and elective courses may cover American literature, African-American literature, British literature, European literature, world mythology, multicultural literature, and banned literature. Students who are interested in comparative literature would probably like to take the following courses:

World Literature

This survey course may cover anything from novels, essays, and memoirs to films and even comic books from the East and West. Coursework may focus on modern works or selections from specific time periods. Classes study the social, political, and cultural aspects of each work in a comparative and cause-effect manner.


Starting with the observation that every society has its epics and sagas, the nature of the 'epic' is examined to find how it differs from other forms of storytelling. The similarities and differences of co-existent epics from different cultures are broken down with an eye toward the social conditions of the time and societies involved.

Literary Genres

In this course, instructors introduce a range of literary genres such as short fiction, creative non-fiction, the novel, and poetry. Reading examples of each genre, students explore and discuss the aspects of each from a comparative perspective.

Distance Learning Master's Degree in English

Graduate-level courses in literature are available online as part of a Master of Arts in English or Master of English programs. At least one online program focused on literature, culture, and art and one program focused on multicultural and transnational literature is also available. Students often complete coursework in literary theory, literary criticism, writing, British literature, American literature, and culture, and they typically have the freedom to choose a set of courses to round out curriculum requirements. Free electives provide students the opportunity to study comparative literature in the time periods, regions, cultures, or genres of their interest.

Prerequisites for the program typically include an undergraduate degree, preferably in English, a minimum GPA in all undergraduate English courses, and a minimum GRE score. Depending on the concentration, applicants may be required to have a reading knowledge of at least one foreign language.

Program Information and Requirements

A master's program in English conducted through distance learning can take between 18-48 months to complete. In some cases, graduates of the program are qualified to obtain a teaching position at a post-secondary institution. Distance-learning master's degree students whose programs include preparing a portfolio can engage in planning and oral defense through conference calls or video conferences with faculty.

Coursework may be conducted entirely online, with no person-to-person contact required. Using a course management system such as Blackboard, Moodle, or Sakai, students are able to communicate with each other and instructors. Required software may include a word processor and free programs such as PDF readers to access course documents.

List of Common Literature Courses in an English Master's Degree Program

Most programs offer students the option to write and present a thesis. Usually, the thesis takes the place of six of the 33 credit hours required to complete the program. At some institutions, depending on the concentrations, the foreign language requirement can be eliminated or substituted with evidence of an appropriate level of research or computer skills.


This course delves into methods of research used in scholarly research and criticism in literature. Students learn to apply standards of documentation and use various bibliographic tools and software.

American Literature in the 19th Century

A survey course covering what is sometimes referred to as the 'American Renaissance', focused on the transcendentalists. The works of writers such as Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne are examined, and their influence on American literature studied.

African-American Literature

This is a broad survey course covering African-American literature and heritage from colonial America through the 20th century. From unknown slave authors through Baldwin and Morrison, narratives and poetry are examined and studied as reflections and interpretations of the progress of African-Americans in modern society.

Career Information

There is no set career for individuals holding a Bachelor of Arts in English who have taken several literature courses. Potential jobs can be found in the fields of education, newspaper journalism, government service, public relations, management, the arts, or social services. Those who wish to teach will need to enroll in a degree or certificate program in education. English graduates can also go on to writing or editing positions with magazines, websites, or publishers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( reports that editors as of May 2018 earned a median annual salary of $59,480.

Some graduates with a masters-level education in English decide to enter into fields such as publishing, public relations, advertising, the media, writing, foreign service, or the government. The degree can also be augmented with additional study in education for careers as professors.

A graduate degree in English or literature can help qualify one to teach at the college level. According to the BLS, job openings for all postsecondary teachers are expected to increase by 11% from 2018-2028, due largely to the anticipated increase in college enrollment. As of May 2018, the BLS found the median national salary for postsecondary English language and literature teachers to be $65,660.

Students interested in studying comparative literature online will need to enroll in online English degree programs at the bachelor's or master's levels. Students in these programs will study various kinds of literature and literary concepts to prepare for careers as educators, writers, or editors.

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