2014-15 Courses

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2012-13 Courses

2011-12 Courses

2010-11 Courses

Comparative Literature Grading Policies


Course Descriptions

Fall 2011

COLT 101

Introduction to Comparative Literature I


Leah Middlebrook

What are the impulses to painting with words? To fiction-making? To narrative? And how are those impulses captured in literature? In this course, we will address the idea of "literature" as we trace one of many possible paths through its history, considering the evolution of genres such as the epic, drama, the lyric, tragicomedy/melodrama, novel, short story and certain types of essay. As we read and work in this course, we will ask, continually, “What is literature?” a question which writers from Homer and Aristotle through Shakespeare through twentieth- and twenty-first century figures such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Alejo Carpentier, Walter Benjamin, Julia Kristeva and Junot Diaz will help us address --if not answer-- in targeted discussions, short writing assignments and a longer critical essay (~7pp). Our quest will be facilitated by our work with the key practices essential to unlocking the deeper aesthetic and philosophical secrets of literature: close reading, textual analysis, clear, organized writing. Rev up your engines --literature takes a lot of work! But it gives as good as it gets. [Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 211

Comparative World Literature: “Short Stories”


Moshe Rachmuth

In this course, we will become acquainted with the form of the short story, with the literary devices that this accessible form shares with other forms of fiction and with the attributes that are unique to the short story (especially compared with its older “sibling”, the novel).
The short story, with its compactness, is the ideal form to understand the effects and functions of common literary devices (such as setting, characterization, irony and perspective) and this is exactly what we are going to learn, using some of the greatest short story writers from Edgar Allen Poe, through Chekhov, Kafka, Flannery O'Connor, Carver and others to Alice Munro.

"The mental features discoursed of as the analytical, are, in themselves, but little susceptible of analysis. We appreciate them only in their effects. We know of them, among other things, that they are always to their possessor, when inordinately possessed, a source of the liveliest enjoyment. As the strong man exults in his physical ability, delighting in such exercises as call his muscles into action, so glories the analyst in that moral activity which disentangles. He derives pleasure from even the most trivial occupations bringing his talents into play. He is fond of enigmas, of conundrums, of hieroglyphics; exhibiting in his solutions of each a degree of acumen which appears to the ordinary apprehension preternatural. His results, brought about by the very soul and essence of method, have, in truth, the whole air of intuition." ("The Murders in the Rue Morgue," Edgar Allen Poe) [Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 211

Comparative World Literature: “Metafictional Mysteries”


Michael McCann

Traditional fiction relies on literary devices to create the illusion of reality. Metafiction dispels those illusions by self-consciously exposing the storyteller’s bag of tricks. The effect is beguiling, making “the real seem even more real by not pretending to be real.” In this course, we examine unconventional metafictional techniques, including intertextuality, author intrusion, meta-reference, and reflexivity in texts from various national, linguistic, and cultural traditions, seeking interpretive clues that drive a story in lieu of conventional plot. We learn how metafiction employs mysteries such as unsolved murders, missing persons, and literary conundrums as mere lead-ins to much deeper psychological, metaphysical, and cultural puzzles. Authors studied may include Kafka, Borges, Calvino, and Murakami. [Winter] [4 credits]

COLT 211

Comparative World Literature: “Photographic Images & Text”


Amanda Cornwall

How do photographic images and text interact with one another? Image and text both function as signs working towards creating meaning, building narrative, in developing description, in creating poetic allusion. In this course, we will consider both literature about  photography, and photography about literature. From William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature through W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, we’ll examine literary texts that feature photographic images in  their construction. We’ll also look at the work “literary” photographers such as Duane Michaels and to consider the way in which  photographic sequence can be utilized to construct poetic narratives  that extend beyond photographic literalism. [Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 211

Comparative World Literature


Joshua Magsam

“Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge,” wrote French impressionist Paul Gaugin.” Revenge has remained a constant and prominent theme in literature of cultures around the world, and stories of revenge are still with us today in novels, poetry, and film. We will study representations of revenge and forgiveness in literature ranging from Icelandic Sagas to Elizabethan and twentieth-century drama, South and Central American magical realism, tragicomic urban landscapes in Communist China, and Native American class and gender struggles. Theories of revenge from Renaissance philosophers and contemporary evolutionary psychologists will provide a framework for course discussions. Throughout the course, we will explore the issue of translation, as most of the works we will read are the products of languages and cultures removed from our own by both time and space. Adaptation as a form of translation will also be explored, via two film adaptations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. [Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 212

Comparative World Cinema: “Celluloid Gypsies”


Elena Villa

This course explores cinematic portrayals of the Romani people–a.k.a. “Gypsies.” Our filmic journey will take us around the globe, from Northern India to Western Europe and the U.S. We will explore a range of cinematic voices and film genres, from Hollywood movie to independent documentary, focusing on questions such as: What does the figure of the Gypsy represent for “the West,” both historically and in contemporary culture? How do place, personal and national identity, desire and fear figure into narratives about the Roma? How do Romani filmmakers see and represent themselves? Feature films will include: King of the Gypsies by Frank Pierson, Time of the Gypsies by Emir Kusturica, The Raggedy Rawney by Bob Hoskins, Latcho Drom and Gadjo Dilo by Tony Gatlif. Readings will cover film criticism and historical and sociological information on the Roma, their migrations, and their cultural status. This course will also introduce students to formal terminology for film analysis and interpretation. [Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 301

Approaches to Comparative Literature


Katherine Brundan

COLT 301 offers an introduction to literary theory, with an emphasis on comparative study. Students learn the fundamental theories and methods of Comparative Literature, reading selections from a wide variety of theoretical schools including psychoanalysis, linguistics, French feminism, poststructuralism and postcolonial studies. In addition, students investigate the relevance of such literary theory for the analysis of written and visual materials. Coursework typically culminates in a student project involving one artifact chosen by the student (text, painting, film, digital artwork, graphic novel, etc.) to be analyzed within the critical framework of the course. COLT 301 satisfies the University's Arts and Letters requirement. [Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 301

Approaches to Comparative Literature


Michael McCann

Introduction to literary theory and methods. Explores the fundamental problems and evolution of Comparative Literature as a discipline through a wide selection of texts. The course offers a systematic exploration of major theoretical approaches to literature and the visual arts, including formalism, structuralism, psychoanalysis, post-structuralism, feminism, post-colonialism, and cultural studies. Close readings of both written and visual works from various national, cultural, and linguistic traditions encourage students to apply and test literary theory in a comparative perspective. Coursework typically culminates in a project involving one artifact (e.g., a text, painting, film, digital artwork, graphic novel, etc.) chosen by the student to be analyzed within the critical framework of the course. [Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 360

Gender and Identity in Literature: “Figures of Death and Desire”


Elena Villa


Eros (“desire”) and thanatos (“death”) are nearly inseparable in the popular imagination where they often take the form of unsettling figures that haunt the troubled borders of personal and cultural identity. Witches, vampires, courtesans, and phantoms: in literature and film these figures fascinate and repulse, becoming symbols of what people both fear and desire. The frequent repetition of particular gendered tropes and scenarios (e.g. “the witch” and “the death of the beautiful woman”) also send powerful messages about a culture’s values, norms, and obsessions. In this course we will explore the ways in which these haunting figures help cement or contest repressive cultural norms and values, and inform social relations rooted in power and privilege, gender, race, and class. Primary texts will include 19th- and 20th-century novels, short stories, and films from Europe, Great Britain, and North and South America. Theoretical and critical readings will cover a range of topics from feminist critiques of representation to object relations and performance theories. Authors include: Isak Dinesen, Alexandre Dumas fils, Carlos Fuentes, Toni Morrison, and others. Films include: Marcel Camus’ Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus), Carlos Saura’s El Amor brujo (Love the Magician), Tony Scott’s The Hunger, and Franco Zeferelli’s film of Verdi’s opera La Traviata. [Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 415

Capstone Research Seminar: 2010 Topic: “Tricks and Treatises: Literary Study and the Limits of the Real”


Emily Taylor

How do we know what we are reading? What indicates genre, and how do literary texts take up the question of the “real”? How does literature “trick” us into accepting its terms? How can novels, poems, and plays “translate” the world? Is there a literary language? In this class, a combination of a research seminar and methods course, we will examine these questions alongside the development of our own comparative research projects. Readings will include Anne Carson’s novel in verse Autobiography of Red, Marjorie Garber’s The Use and Abuse of Literature, selections from Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis, selected readings on narrative theory and genre theory, and the entirety of The Craft of Research (second edition). Students will write or revise a potentially publishable essay on the subject of their choosing, or, if working on a senior thesis, will develop a thesis proposal. [Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 613

Translation Pedagogy


Leah Middlebrook


Designed for first-year graduate students in Comparative Literature, but open to students across campus, this course addresses the complex position of the twenty-first century literature GTF and professor. Typically, the lower-division literature course is, openly or covertly, undergirded by notions of nation, author and the work of art. Yet contemporary discussions in the humanities tend to stress a post-Eurocentric, post-nationalist perspective, one keyed to community, to globalization, to networks of affiliation, and to the impact of ideology, of epistemes, of technology on texts and artifacts. How to translate the fruits of our thinking into lower-division pedagogy? The word “translate” is used advisedly here. Undergraduate courses in comparative literature designed with a broad-enough comparative focus inevitably teach texts in translation, since one can never assume that all students will share exactly the same foreign language expertise. To call attention to lit-in-translation is to recognize the presence of a sneaky assumption in the United States that culture is produced in English. It also opens the door to further ways to remind us all of the ethical imperative the oldest humanists, such as Petrarch, Montaigne, had firmly in mind: my knowledge is limited by my ignorance. I stop where the other begins. [Fall] [5 credits]