A burnt-out Bwogger whines about the self-inflicted pain of their love/hate relationship with Comparative Literature AND SOCIETY.

Today, I am exercising my God-given/constitutional right to complain about my department.

Columbia’s Institute for Comparative Literature and Society wants you to know that they aren’t like other comparative literature programs. Yes, we do live in a society, but ICLS knew that before you did. Maybe they even invented society, way back in 1998. Who’s to say?

See, Reader, ICLS wants you to know that they’re not just for any young chap who took French in high school and who lists reading as a hobby. To even apply for the major or concentration, you have to have taken six semesters of one foreign language, and four of another (or the equivalent). Sorry to all of you undecided first-years in your second semester, but it looks like it might be too late to start now.

Oh, and if you were wondering what exactly we do in the department, we world. At least, that’s the term the directors toss around to describe it; we do a lot of “worlding” in this very “metropolitan” program. You may assume, then, that being familiar with the world, ICLS has had a gracious and forgiving response to the pandemic. Alas, you are sorely mistaken, and shame on you! This year, the deadline to apply for the major was January 3rd. Now, I’m no STEM major (though maybe I should reconsider), but this was before grades from Fall were due, so a transcript was simply not possible. More math (+=%{-x} was my second foreign language): this was about three months before Columbia’s normal major declaration week in March. 

In your application, you also need to write about your “area of interest,” which gives me painful flash-forwards to my future grad school life. Silly of them to assume that Columbia will offer any classes about my interest, which is negative-45th-century pomeranians in the purple work of post-WWIII St. Augustine! I’ve outsmarted them!

Now you may be thinking, your application is in! You’re out of the dark smelly woods (so spooky)! Once again, shame. ICLS requires that everyone take an Intro to ICLS class in Spring of their sophomore year. This is not in itself unreasonable, but when every incoming major and concentration needs to take this class at this specific time, the only unreasonable option for the department was to offer one section of this, capped at 15 people, so we had to fight to get into this required class. It seems, Reader, that the underlying issue of ICLS comes down to poor math. Fifteen is simply a very small number.

Reader, I propose a new set of application requirements for ICLS, one that simply asks students to have all of the following in their Instagram bios:

  1. #polyglot (#trilingual is also acceptable, but please #triharder).
  2. A flag emoji for every country you’ve visited.
  3. A quote from your favorite book, untranslated so that it forces your followers to hit the “See Translation” button to understand you and your Passion.

You may be left wondering why I am choosing to partake in this gluttonous department, if it causes me such torture. To that I say, mind your own business! I will stay complicit in these ICLS shenanigans because worlding is my one true love! I must suffer for my passion! If you’re a fellow member of [Comparative Literature and] Society, keep your chin up, and follow me on Duolingo.

Could I beat them in a fight? You can’t beat someone if you’re also fighting on their side at the same time. But, ask me again in a year.

Self-defense tip: Flood the DUS with emails as a diversion so they don’t see you coming! This goes for any department, but I guess this assumes that they even check their emails.

these fighting fists via Wikimedia Commons