Comparative European Languages and Literatures
The CLE is a research centre devoted to the interdisciplinary and comparative study of European languages and cultures. Insofar as these languages and cultures have been shaped by mutual interactions, research into their complex relations brings a fuller understanding of their individual characteristics and the broader context that encompasses them.
Ever since university disciplines were divided into so-called “national” languages and literatures in the 19th century, scholars have paid relatively little attention to the intercultural and cross-linguistic exchanges that lie at the heart of the construction of Europe. The CLE privileges the study of their dialogical interactions as a field of research in its own right. This broader perspective sheds light on what binds together as well as what differentiates the languages and cultures of Europe. The centre’s research also embraces literatures and cultures spawned by the colonial exportation of European languages and world-view on other continents. These postcolonial literatures and cultures have not only developed interesting language variations and creative poetics, but have also formulated a critique of the ‘white mythology’ of Europe. Taking postcolonial perspectives into account reduces the risk of adopting a new Eurocentrism or promoting a homogeneous Euroculture.
The CLE seeks to develop concepts and methods of analysis for examining and assessing the complex interrelations among various languages, literatures and cultures. Its method of choice, called “differential comparison,” is based on close textual analysis. In contrast to a universalizing approach that erases differences, it highlights the ability of European languages, literatures and cultures to produce an unlimited number of variations out of their common legacies and integrate this diversity into new configurations.
History and profile
The CLE is an interdisciplinary centre for research and teaching which actively collaborates with other Swiss and international institutions. Closely integrating research and teaching, the curriculum offers courses at the bachelor (BA), master (MA) and master en spécialisation (MAsp) levels. It also offers intensive supervision of PhD theses in comparative literature.
Several Swiss universities propose comparative literature programmes as part of their curriculum, but the University of Lausanne is currently the only academic institution to have a chair in the discipline. The appointment of professor Ute Heidmann in 2001 made it possible to create and coordinate an interdisciplinary research programme and curriculum in Comparative European Languages and Literatures (LLEUC). Between 2002 and 2006, a DEA programme and degree (Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies) was offered as an integral part of the IRIS-4 interdisciplinary project funded by the University of Lausanne. This programme provided researchers and teachers with specific expertise in comparative literature and thus seeded the staff of the present CLE, established in 2007, and other research centres.
The specialization programme (MAsp) offered by the CLE consists of an interdisciplinary curriculum of 30 ECTS, designed to complement the 90 ECTS that are attached to a specific discipline. The competences students acquire in the interdisciplinary programme constitute an asset on the European labour market, making this specialization particularly recommended for international students and scholars. The CLE became an official research unit in June 2007.
The programme meets the priorities established by the CRUS and the UNIL Strategic Plan. It actively promotes and develops multilingualism, interdisciplinary approaches, mobility and European perspectives, innovative teaching methods, international collaborations and high research standards.