I. General

What is the Literature Major?

The Literature major refines students’ capacities to interpret human experiences creatively represented in the written word.  As the Nobel Prize winning novelist, Mario Vargas-Llosa has stated, “The inventions of all great literary creators open our eyes to unknown aspects of our own condition. They enable us to explore and to understand more fully the common human abyss.”  The Literature faculty at Yale-NUS represents a uniquely diverse set of linguistic, cultural, and historical research expertise to support students as they explore the human imagination in textual creation.  See our website for further details.

Whom do I contact with questions about the major?

Feel free to approach any of your professors in the Literature major to discuss your intellectual interests, or you may consult the Head of Studies, Professor Mira Seo.

What other majors or minors does Literature complement?

Anyone with an interest in language, consciousness, and imagination will find benefit in studying literature as a major or a minor.  Students interested in Chinese Studies and Global Antiquity will find many of their linguistic and historical interests represented in Literature offerings; students majoring in Arts and Humanities will find Literature’s richness in methodologies and world creation essential; historians will encounter their primary sources in other disciplinary contexts; other fields concerned with human consciousness or social experience (Psychology, Philosophy, Anthropology, PPE, Environmental Studies) are all enhanced by courses in Literature.

Can I go on to graduate school after a major in Literature?

The Literature major can be an excellent preparation for a variety of graduate programs, including Comparative Literature, Classical Studies, Chinese Studies, and English Literature.  Literature graduates from Yale-NUS have already gone on to programs in “Religion and Literature” at Yale Divinity School, and in Comparative Literature at University College London.

Am I doomed to go to graduate school with a major in Literature?

Absolutely not! With versatile skills in attentive reading, persuasive writing, and cross-cultural criticism, our graduates are well prepared for careers that require sophisticated interpretative and rhetorical awareness, for instance, law, journalism, education, and marketing.  Training in Literature also enhances creative pursuits in writing, screenwriting, and game design.

How will the College determine who gets a spot in an impacted Literature course?

We do not anticipate enrollment to be an issue in the electives we offer next semester. For future courses, declared Literature Majors will have priority in all Literature courses.

Will Literature electives be offered on a regular basis (so that I can take a course outside a major now, but come back to it later)?

Our plan is to offer the widest range of courses possible to our students, so under normal circumstances, we will not repeat the same Literature courses (with the exception of the Proseminar) in a 2-3 year cycle. If you see a course you’re interested in, take it now.

What Literature courses are being offered in AY 2017-18?


Semester 1 Semester 2
Writing Love: The Love Letter in Fiction

Postcolonial Literature: An Introduction

Love in Antiquity: Eros in Translation

English Women Novelists: Austen and her Predecessors

Literary Activism: Texts, Aesthetics, & Politics

Woolf, Historiography, and the Scene of the Modern (HI)

Cross listed with Literature:

The Historiography of Sima Qian

Cultures at War in Cold War Southeast Asia

Advanced Ancient Greek Poetry: Euripides Medea

Advanced Latin: The Poetry of Catullus

Advanced Readings in Chinese: Cinema and Literature

Proseminar in Literary Studies (required for the major and minors)

Ancient Humor: Greece and Rome

Roman Literary Cultures

English Women Novelists: the Brontës to George Eliot

Oceanic Frameworks: Shifting Currents in Literary Studies

Equiano’s Slave Narratives (HI)

Postcolonial Literatures Today

Cross listed with Literature:

Foundations of Environmental Humanities

Chinese Tales of the Strange

Classical Chinese

Advanced Readings in Chinese: Modern Chinese Literature

Advanced Sanskrit: Mahabharata (offered as Yale teleconference)

II. Major Requirements

How often are the required courses offered?

The mandatory Capstone seminar will be offered for seniors in the first semester every year. The Proseminar in Literary Studies will be offered in alternating semesters once per academic year (for example, it will be offered in semester 2 AY 2017-18, and semester 1 AY 2018-19).  Majors and minors are recommended to take this course in the second semester of the sophomore year, or the first semester of the junior year, and to plan their study abroad semesters accordingly.

Are the required courses gateway courses?


What if I am interested in taking elective courses offered by a faculty outside of Yale-NUS College? Can I count this towards the requirements of the Literature major?

All majors must take 20 MC of their major course credits at Yale-NUS.  Many of our students will find courses of interest in a variety of departments at NUS, and we encourage students to browse the course offerings at NUS to supplement Yale-NUS electives.  Most of our students study abroad, and we advise our students carefully on appropriate institutions and programs to enhance their academic experiences.  All courses taken outside of Yale-NUS are subject to approval for major credit by the Head of Studies.

Do half-courses (2 MC independent study or 1MC courses) count towards the Literature Major?

Graded half courses do count. Independent study modules do not. However, independent study courses do give you general credit toward graduation requirements.

How do I track my progress to meeting major requirements?

In addition to utilizing the online student audit forms, students will consult regularly with their faculty mentors in the major and the Head of Studies to select courses that optimize their academic trajectories.

What are the requirements for a Literature Major?

All students completing the Literature Major for the Class of 2019 onwards will complete 44 MC (Class of 2018 will complete 40 MC, the equivalent of eight courses) and a final-year Capstone Project, which is the equivalent of 10 MC.  20 MC must be taken at Yale-NUS, and all courses counted to the major must be taken for a letter grade.

Literature students are well prepared by the Common Curriculum to design their own individualized course of study, including specialization in languages such as Chinese, Ancient Greek, or Latin.  The major is structured as follows:


Required (for the Class of 2019 onwards):


  • Proseminar on critical methods and theory (5 MC)
  • At least two Literature courses at intermediate or 3000-level (10 MC)
  • At least two Literature courses at the advanced or 4000-level (10 MC)
  • Capstone project (10 MC: includes a 5 MC seminar in semester 1 that supports seniors as they develop their capstone research.)
  • Remaining Literature electives are open to student choice (19 MC).


The requirements for the Class of 2018 are available here.


Additional information:


  • Students should plan to take the proseminar as early as possible: ideally, in second semester of the sophomore year, or in the junior year.  The proseminar is offered once per academic year in alternating semesters: Sem 2 2017-18,  Sem 1 2018-19, Sem 2 2019-20.  We expect students will schedule their study abroad plans accordingly.
  • In addition to the proseminar, we strongly recommend that students take an additional upper level course that emphasizes theoretical methods to enhance their critical skills in literary and cultural analysis in preparation for the capstone.
  • While building a specialization within the major, we recommend that students take advantage of our diverse faculty to work cross-culturally.
  • One advanced language course may count towards the major with approval from Head of Studies.  


In addition to these requirements, students will work closely with their faculty mentors and the Head of Studies to seek out courses that provide the necessary theoretical and methodological training they need to achieve their intellectual goals.  Remaining MCs can be completed from any offering listed or cross listed to the Literature major, or courses from NUS or study abroad as approved by the Head of Studies.

III. Capstone

What does the Capstone in Literature look like?

The Capstone in Literature represents a work of independent research on a topic chosen by the student that culminates in a thesis of about 50 pages.  Normally, a student proposes a topic in the junior year in consultation with a faculty mentor in the Literature major who agrees to advise the project; the official proposal is developed in the Capstone seminar early in semester 1 of the senior year and approved by the faculty advisor and Head of Studies.  Thesis writers will work with the Capstone seminar instructor, their student colleagues, and their own advisors throughout the first semester to establish their research and writing approaches; in the second semester, seniors will work more independently to produce the final thesis, which will be assessed by the advisor and a second reader, and presented orally in a Capstone symposium assessed by all the Literature faculty.

How will my project be graded?

The Capstone Project is a two-semester module worth 10 MCs that you complete over the course of your senior year. 15 % of your final Capstone grade comes from the grade assigned by the leader of the Senior Capstone Writing Seminar (which is usually the Head of Studies). By the end of the first semester, you will also submit a progress report, and with your Supervisor’s endorsement, the Head of Studies will enter a grade of IP for you. At the end of the second semester, you will make a public presentation of your project, which will count as 15% of your Capstone grade. 70% of your grade will come from the thesis itself. The thesis will be assessed by your Supervisor and a second Reader. If you have a co-supervisor (for reasons listed above), the co-supervisor is automatically your second Reader. If you do not, the Head of Studies will appoint one for you in consultation with your Supervisor. Your thesis grade will be the average of the two grades.

How do I find a Supervisor? When do I have to decide?

In your junior year, you should start thinking about your Capstone topic and contacting potential faculty members for advice. The Head of Studies will also advise you on the scope and viability of your project, and recommend potential Supervisors. You need to submit a proposal and find a Supervisor by 31 March of your junior year.

How should we proceed if there are no faculty members whose expertise necessarily match our areas of interest?

The capstone project is not a doctoral dissertation and your topic does not need to match the research expertise of the faculty mentor. Your supervisor will guide you through the process, but you should write on a topic that interests you, instead of choosing one from our current faculty’s own research projects.

What happens when the professor I want to work with goes on leave during the academic year?

If an advisor agrees to supervise your Capstone, the understanding is that the faculty member will also be the one to read and assess your final project, even if he or she is on leave the second semester. If your primary Supervisor is on leave in either semester, you will work with a co-supervisor.

Can I work with an external faculty member?

Yes, you can. We often have visiting Yale faculty, and you also have a chance to study abroad. These are your opportunities to meet external faculty and cultivate a relationship with them. You can also approach NUS faculty members. But keep in mind that non-Yale-NUS faculty are under no obligation to supervise our students. If an external member agrees to supervise your Capstone, you need to find a Yale-NUS member to serve as your co-supervisor.