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A Guide to Comparative Literature

Research Guide to support Comparative Literature at Washington University.

Collection Development Policy

Washington University in St. Louis

Collection Development Policy

Library: Olin

Subject: Comparative Literature

Collection: General

Date Revised: April 8, 2014

Subject Librarian: Brian Vetruba


1. General purpose: 

The collection supports the research and teaching needs of its primary audience, faculty and students in the Comparative Literature (CL) program and in the Translation Studies certificate program.

In addition, the collection supports faculty and students in other literature and Humanities programs and departments focusing on literary studies and comparative arts, including but not limited to: Classics; English; Germanic Languages and Literatures; East Asian Languages and Culture; Film and Media Studies; Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities; Jewish, Islamic, and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures; Music; Performing Arts; and Romance Languages and Literatures.

2. Subjects excluded*:

  • Non-literary/non-cultural studies topics
  • Works on the study of language which fall to other literature subject librarians
  • Criticism focusing on a single author or on one national literature (e.g. American Literature, French Literature); these generally fall to other literature subject librarians
  • Drama and criticism of drama which generally fall to the Performing Arts Librarian

*The above exclusions only pertain to what falls under the collection responsibility of the Comparative Literature Librarian. Requests made by CL faculty and graduate students in these subjects are for the most part filled through the use of non-CL funds.   

See also: Other Factors to Consider

3. Overlap with other collections or subjects:

  • All national literatures
  • General criticism of literature
  • Literary theory
  • Cultural Studies
  • Given the interdisciplinary needs of faculty and students, there is some possible subject overlap for items in:
    • European History
    • Film
    •  Art History
    • Drama
    • Classics
    • Philosophy.

As there is no approval profile for Comparative Literature, most general criticism of literature and literary theory is acquired through the Neureuther approval profile which eliminates duplication. Some duplication of coverage is nevertheless possible. Literature subject librarians work closely to avoid duplication and keep collections balanced, relevant, and up-to-date.

See also: Other Factors to Consider


4. Languages included and excluded:

Overall responsibility of collecting literature in the original languages falls to the subject librarian for that national literature (e.g. Germanic Languages and Literatures Librarian). The Comparative Literature Librarian will work with other literature librarians to ensure adequate coverage.

The Libraries actively collect English translations of primary works in other literatures.  Upon request, the Libraries will acquire English translations of minor works. Translations into other languages are generally out of scope but are on rare occasions accepted as gifts.

Criticism is generally collected in English, and selectively in French and German. Upon request, we will acquire material in other languages.  Works on Literary Theory, Translation and Translation Studies are collected primarily in English and only selectively in other languages.


5. Geographical limitations:

Emphasis is on materials published in Western Europe, North America, and South America.  All approval plans are limited to publications from these areas. Upon request, the Libraries will occasionally acquire materials from outside these areas.


6. Chronological limits:

From Medieval period to the present (21st century).  


7. Retrospective acquisition:

The Libraries acquire primarily currently-published materials. As funds and availability allow, the Libraries will acquire older and out-of-print titles to meet new research and teaching needs. Such retrospective acquisitions are usually only considered upon faculty or student request.

In evaluating these needs, subject librarians look at potential use and the availability of materials from consortial partners or digital libraries (e.g. HathiTrust).


8. Types of material collected and excluded:

Literary works, criticism, and reference works are collected. These include journals, monographs, and series, either in print or online.  Spoken word recordings and performances are acquired rarely. Generally, textbooks and unrevised dissertations are not acquired although occasionally accepted as gifts.

All formats are collected, however acquisition of CD-ROMs and microforms is highly selective and only when requested and no other suitable format is available. DVDs including non-US regions are collected. DVD is preferred over VHS. Electronic journals and electronic reference materials are preferred over print. The Libraries subscribe to or purchase electronic databases of primary and secondary materials and electronic indexes, such as Early European Books and the MLA International Bibliography.


9. Other factors to consider:

The separation of collection needs of students and faculty in Comparative Literature (CL) from those of faculty and students in national literature programs is somewhat arbitrary. Without a doubt, most CL faculty and students regularly use materials purchased through the other literature funds (e.g. Romance Literatures fund (91084), English literature (91034), German literature (91043), and Chinese literature (91016). Likewise, faculty and students from those literature departments utilize materials bought with CL funds. All of this means coordination among subject librarians of literature departments regarding changes in collection development (e.g. cutting journals, changes in approval profile) is continually needed.

There is heavy reliance on Neureuther fund (*26361) for CL needs. As there is no separate approval fund for CL, most of the literary criticism and theory comes via Neureuther approval. Neureuther is utilized for literary criticism pre-assigned to Neureuther. Faculty requests, translation studies titles and titles specific to comparative literature are ordered with f91019 (CL firm order fund). Mary Baizer Memorial Fund (f26322) is also used to purchase titles for CL.  Neureuther is used for English translations of foreign works.


10. Subjects and Collecting Levels:

Basic, Instructional Support, Research, Comprehensive:


P306, PN241-241.5, PN886

Translating and interpreting; Translation studies



Comparative Literature


Other PNs (not PN 1993-1999 Motion pictures, film)

General Literature

Collection Development policies links consulted listed below:​