History of the department

(The undergraduate programme can be viewed here.)

The history of comparative study of literature at The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb began in 1956. In February that year Ivo Hergešić, PhD, was accepted as a tenure professor at this faculty and he founded the Section of Comparative Literature according to his own concept. Thus, since the academic year 1956/1957 students have been able to choose comparative literature as a major or only field of study. 

Professor Hergešić’s vision of the section was based on the methodology of the current European, particularly French comparative literature, but he also acknowledged the fact that Croatian humanities had their own relatively long and rich tradition of comparative study of literature. According to his idea, comparative literature studies consisted of three main areas: literary theory, history of world literature and comparative study of Croatian literature. Also, convinced that the history and theory of theatre were closely related to the study of dramatic literature, Hergešić considered theatre studies as an integral part of full comparative literature studies. 

Each of the basic areas contained separate exam material and different individual courses: some of those focused on certain theoretical and methodological problems of comparative literature, others covered various eras or periods of the history of literature belonging to the European cultural circle, some explored the connections and relations between Croatian literature and other literatures in a certain historical period, while others again covered theory and history of theatre. The idea was also for the students of The Department of Croatian Language and Literature (then Yugoslav Studies) to take courses and exams in history of world literature. On the other side, in addition to the courses from their own field, students of comparative literature were obliged to take courses and exams in general subjects and to obtain broad knowledge of two world languages. 

As the study of comparative literature provoked an extremely large interest among students, while the comparative approach to Croatian literature not only had a long and rich tradition, but was also undertaken in other departments, the new section developed rapidly and soon became the Department of Comparative Literature. After introducing smaller changes and certain elaborations, what were initially determined as subjects now became sections. Thus, the Department was divided into five sections: 1. Section for Literary Theory, 2. Section for History of World Literature, 3. Section for Comparative History of Croatian Literature, 4. Section for Theatre Studies, 5. Section for Film Studies.

The initial idea of academic and educational work was elaborated and enriched in accordance with the development of comparative literature studies in the world. Besides the narrow area of the methodology of comparative study of literature, the Section for Literary Theory included general methodology of literary studies and literary theory as a separate field. The Section for History of World Literature covered synthetic study of literatures of European cultural circle while also offering courses on the so called world literature, that were once attended mostly by the students of The Department of Croatian Language and Literature. The Section for Comparative History of Croatian Literature became increasingly focused on the independent research of connections and relations between Croatian and other world literatures, whereas the Section for Theatre Studies expanded in order to include the area of film and became the Section for Theatre and Film Studies. Following the further development of the academic study of film and performance arts, that section would be separated in 2008 into the Section for Theatre Studies and the Section for Film Studies. 

The following assistants were accepted at the Department – Breda Kogoj-Kapetanić (1957), for history of world literature, Svetozar Petrović (1957), for literary theory, Darko Suvin (1957), for theatre studies, Ante Peterlić (1966), for film studies – as well as professors Ivan Slamnig (1960), for comparative and history of world literature and Rudolf Sremec (from 1963 till 1968), for film studies. 

Elaborate academic and educational work demands new teachers and collaborators, and thus the Department would gradually employ Maja Hribar-Ožegović (for theatre studies, 1962), Đuro Novalić (for comparative history of Croatian literature, 1963), Milivoj Solar (for literary theory, 1963), Tomislav Kurelec (for history of world literature, 1968), Pavao Pavličić (for comparative history of Croatian literature, 1970), Miroslav Beker (for literary theory, transferred from The English Department, 1970), Mirko Tomasović (for comparative history of Croatian literature, 1971), Gordana Slabinac (for history of world literature, 1971), Boris Senker (for theatre studies, 1971), Gajo Peleš (for history of world literature, 1971) and Zoran Kravar (for literary theory, 1973). Professor Hergešić retired in 1971, while Darko Suvin (now a professor in Toronto), Breda Kogoj-Kapetanić (retired professor in Seattle), Svetozar Petrović (retired professor in Novi Sad) and Tomislav Kurelec (now an editor on Croatian Television) left the Department. 

Larger changes in the organization of courses and plan of comparative literature study occured in 1972/1973. After long and extensive preparations, the Department introduced the principle of all elective courses. Courses thus change every academic year and are announced before the classes begin while students choose them according to the determined criteria of ratio between core exam fields and minimal requirements for every academic year as well as the criteria for the final exam before the graduation. In other words, students must take and pass a certain number of courses from the field of history of world literature, literary theory, comparative history of Croatian literature, theatre and film.  

Courses are now class “units” where lectures are combined with seminars and obligatory tutorial, while the focus of the educational process in general is on the acquired methodology of scientific work and the quality of insight into specific issues rather than on the general insight and the quantity of obtained information. The final exam is the only one with the tendency towards general survey of the whole material and the system of elective courses is flexible enough to allow a more focused specialization as well as exceeding the number of required courses. In that way students can choose their specific interest during their undergraduate study and focus on the field they plan to work in after they graduate. 

The structure of the Department with four sections remained the same and until recently academic work at the Department was carried out within four academic fields. More or less specialized courses were adapted to the academic work of individual teachers, while the system of elective courses supported the interconnection among academic fields as well as the organization of courses without predetermined limitations of the specific field. Thus at our Department teachers also regularly hold courses that are thematically surpassing their section and entering some other field covered by the Department. For example, a theoretician specialized in verse can hold a course on Croatian verse within the Section for the Comparative History of Croatian Literature, while the researcher focusing on comparative history of Croatian literature can hold a course on Marin Držić within the Section for Theatre Studies. In that way, when offering courses, teachers can follow their personal preferences and interests for some areas or types of work in the study of literature, theatre and film.  

The elasticity of the system of elective courses also improved the collaboration of The Department for Comparative Literature with other departments at The Faculty for Humanities and Social Sciences enabling students from other studies to take courses and exams within the program of comparative literature. The Department also organizes special courses for the undergraduate students of the first year at those study groups which demand or recommend such courses. 

The system also enabled the introduction of courses from the field of library studies within The Department of Comparative Literature at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Thus in 1976 the Section for Library Studies run by professor Gajo Peleš, PhD, was founded, and within it – a two year undergraduate course on library studies. The courses, however, stirred a lot of interest among students and the section soon developed into an independent study at The Department of Library Studies and Information Sciences.  

No larger modifications in the organization of academic and educational work occurred at the Department after the change in the system in the academic year 1972/1973, until the implementation of the Bologna process in the academic year 2005/2006. In agreement with the senior undergraduates The Department for Comparative Literature has decided to introduce semester-long courses for all years of the study and allow the students of the third and fourth year to work according to the principles of Bologna process. All courses were proclaimed elective.  

Since the mid 1980s there have been significant changes among the faculty. In 1986 Andrea Zlatar was accepted as an assistant (for the field of history of world literature) and in 1990 Dean Duda was given the post of an assistant (for the field of literary theory). In the mid 1990s additional two younger assistants were hired, the first one was Cvijeta Pavlović (in 1995 for the field of the comparative history of Croatian literature) and the second Slaven Jurić (in 1995 for the field of literary theory). After them Nikica Gilić (1998, Comparative History of Croatian Literature project), David Šporer (1999), Tomislav Brlek (2000, transferred from The English Department) and Željka Matijašević (2000, Section for History of World Literature) joined the Department. Professor Ivan Slamnig retired in 1991, professor Miroslav Beker retired in 1996 while professors Gajo Peleš and Mirko Tomasović retired in 1999. Lately the Department was joined by Lada Čale Feldman, PhD, (the Section for Theatre Studies) who transferred from the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research in 2005 as a full professor, and a number of junior researchers: Maša Grdešić (2004, for literary theory), Luka Bekavac (2006, for comparative history of Croatian literature), Višnja Rogošić (2006, for theatre studies), Kristina Grgić (2007, for comparative history of Croatian literature), Branislav Oblučar (2008, for history of world literature), Krunoslav Lučić (2008, for film studies), Ana Tomljenović (2008, for history of world literature) and Lovro Škopljanac (2009, for comparative history of Croatian literature). In 2006 professor Milivoj Solar and professor Ante Peterlić retired.     

Interdisciplinarity and openess, which are among the constant traits of the Department's lecturers, have led to the inclusion of new areas into its curriculum. Since 2000, the program includes contemporary cultural theories: British cultural studies, feminist and gender theories, postcolonial theory, psychoanalytic theory, New Historicism and performance studies.

Considering academic contribution, teachers of the Department of Comparative Literature have published nearly seventy academic books as sole authors, as well as several hundreds original scientific and professional papers in Croatian and international journals, many of which were highly rated in domestic and international professional circles.

Many department graduates, on the other side, have gained high reputation, whether in academic or other professions in the field of culture and arts, from publishing and journalism, to radio, film and television, where they are present in truly large numbers.