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Comparative Literature Grading Policies


Course Descriptions

Fall 2012

COLT 101

Introduction to Comparative Literature I


Leah Middlebrook

What are the impulses to creating art from language? 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: the evolution of genres such as the epic, drama, the lyric, tragicomedy, the novel 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 and on through twentieth- and twenty-first century figures such as Walter Benjamin, Gwendolyn Brooks and Horacio Castellanos Moya will help us address --if not answer-- in targeted discussions and short writing assignments and papers. 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. Course requirements include short in-class writing assignments, weekly group postings in the COLT 101 blog, one 5-7 page critical essay and a final exam (make sure to check the exam week schedule before making your travel plans!) [Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 211

Comparative World Literature: "Modern Fairy Tales"


Yvonne Toepfer

Jack Zipes, a well-known scholar in the studies of the fairy tale, argues: “Fairy tales since the beginning of recorded time, and perhaps earlier, have been a means to conquer the terrors of mankind through metaphor.” In this course we will explore modern texts that illustrate how traditional tales are employed, and as we will later see how they are altered, to deal with different metaphors of trauma. Following Vladmir Propp’s structural analysis of fairy tales (e.g. hero meets a magical being resulting in leaving his home in order to go on a quest), we will investigate if all modern fairy tales abide by Propp’s theory. We will examine the movement of literary forms (e.g. motifs, Märchen, poetry and prose) in modern fairy tales from different cultures, regions, and historical epoch to the next. This course considers the global transmissions and translations of literary forms, in particular the (modern) fairy tale. In addition to our reading assignments we will watch and analyze a small selection of movies, including Enchanted (2007) and Red Hiding Hood (2011) to situate fairy tale adaptations into our modern context of story telling. Accordingly, we are introduced to complexities and intricacies of translation/adaptation and are offered a basic grounding in translation theory. [Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 211

Comparative World Literature: “Tricky Authors"


Jamie Richards

Does the author matter? Do we read literary texts as fictional products of the imagination or authentic representations of the self? While the author is often considered a stable, empirical presence, postmodern theories have radically questioned our concepts of textuality and originality. Yet in an era of identity politics, with the popularity of forms and genres like memoir, queer literature, and postcolonial writing, authorial identity has re-emerged as a significant factor in how we read. This course will explore how authorship is constructed and the ways in which authors "appear" or "disappear" in their works, and at the same time, how texts construct culture, gender, and race. We will read memoir and lyric poetry, literary hoaxes and experimental translations, uncreative writing and metafictional fantasy. [Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 211

Comparative World Literature: “Silence & Lies"

Course Flyer


Emily McGinn

Comparative World Literature: Silence and Lies This class will look at ways of writing the unspeakable through both purposeful elisions and playful misdirection. For some, silence is an aesthetic, for others the erasures are political and a reaction to trauma. Whether the motivation is to create a game of cunning narration or a purposeful act to avoid censorship, these texts will allow us to examine narrative techniques in the novel and short story as well as the relations between politics and art. [Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 211

Comparative World Literature: “Sports and Games”


Chet Lisiecki

What does it mean to play a game or to play a sport? What are the parameters, what are the expectations, and what are the stakes? How do the games we play shape who we are, what we value, and how we relate to the world? And how are sports themselves political? This course will examine literary and filmic representations of recreation in a global context. We will study how writers have used the conceit of a game to explore genius and madness, love and desire, fairness and deceit, conquest and sacrifice, ritual and habit, power and weakness, ambition and creativity, and even the threat of nuclear annihilation. The texts we read will present characters that play games with each other and narrators who play games with their readers. We will think critically about the way games structure and motivate narrative, the figure of the athlete and the gamesman or ”gamer,” and the extent to which games and sports shape our individual, national, and virtual identity. We will therefore consider these texts in the context of colonialism and imperialism, sexuality and gender, class and race, world history, and world politics. We will also reflect on the positive and/or negative role that games and sports play in our own personal lives and as students at the University of Oregon.[Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 212

Comparative World Cinema: "Stills and Films"


Amanda Cornwall

As the technological precursor of film, still photography seems to hold a spectral sway over the media of film. Close-ups, freeze frames and the countless portrayals of photographers on screen are signs of cinema’s enduring attraction to the still image. Still images can contain indications of temporality, of passing time, and moving images often draw upon the still image in an effort to punctuate and emphasize dramatic moments. We will investigate how photography and cinema give shape to and manipulate the experience of time in representations that extend, repeat, fast forward, slow down, speed up and stop time, breaking the barriers between past, present, and future. This course will explore films about photographers and photographs, analyzing the presence of the still photograph in the moving picture as both a formal and thematic element. We will examine films from the US, Australia, France, and India that were made in several different decades. [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 360

Gender and Identity in Literature: “Noir”


Jenny Odintz


How are gender, sexuality, and identity portrayed in classic noir film and fiction? How do these representations of gender and power change in different national contexts and in modern neo-noir novels and films? In this course we will explore these questions with an emphasis on representations of troubled masculinity (for example, the code of the private detective) and on the complex figure of the femme fatale. In the first of three sections, we will begin with the question: What is classic noir film and fiction? What are its conventions of gender and narrative and how are these conventions upheld and resisted? The second section will emphasize the comparative aspect of the course, as we explore the gender dynamics of two different national representations of film noir. The third and final section of the course will look at several examples of American neo-noir, as we investigate how representations of gender and sexuality have changed. Throughout the course we will explore the way gender and identity are performed as well as constructed in the narratives, and our critical secondary readings will inform our understanding of these processes. [Fall] [4 credits]


Experimental Course: "Tokyo Cyberpunk”


Steven Brown

Introducing the history, forms, and discourses of Japanese "cyberpunk" in contemporary anime and film, this course explores the urban dreams (and nightmares) that constitute cyberpunk's posthumanist vision of Neo-Tokyo. Viewed not as a reflection of contemporary Japanese society but rather as its defamiliarization, Japanese forms of cyberpunk are investigated alongside Western examples of posthumanism as sites of contestation for competing ideologies and the delineation of new possibilities of existence, new forms of being, at the intersection between carbon- and silicon-based forms of intelligence and data-processing. Treating Japanese cyberpunk not merely as a literary movement or aesthetic style but more importantly as a philosophical discourse with distinctive questions and premises—i.e., as a philosophical "problematic" with its own sociohistorical specificities and transnational trajectories—we will investigate the cyberpunk city as an "abstract machine," the cyborg's "organs without a body," and the rhizomatic processes of cyberculture. Issues discussed include:

  • The status of subjectivity in posthumanism: fabricated, virtual memories and fractured identities.
  • The human body and its interfaces with technology: cyborg implants, prostheses, replacement parts, and bio-tech hybridities.
  • Post-apocalyptic visions of class, race, gender, and sexuality.
  • The individual and her relation to the city: new modes of spatiality and habitation, new forms of community, new ways in which individuals circulate and are contained, as well as new forms of surveillance and policing.
  • Acts of resistance: the politics of cyber-terrorism and other forms of subversion.

Fall [4 credits]


Experimental Course: "Japanese Horror Cinema”


Steven Brown

Contemporary Japanese horror cinema has spawned so many imitators, in terms of subject matter, style, and cinematic technique, that J-horror has practically become a movement unto itself. During the course of our investigations, we will consider everything from vengeful ghost stories to serial killer thrillers, from found-footage horror to techno-horror. Questions discussed include:

  • What does J-horror owe to traditional folklore and forms of visual art?
  • How is modernity problematized in J-horror? How are socioeconomic structures and institutions depicted? How is the family represented? What other institutions appear? How does ideology enter into the horror film?
  • What is the phenomenology of horror? What makes us afraid? How does horror elicit feelings of dread, suspense, terror, shock, and fear? If horror is a "guilty pleasure," what is so pleasurable about it? What is the sociological function served by arousing such affective states? What is the status of the body in horror? How is the body fragmented, transformed, mutated, violated?
  • How does the space in which horror occurs (e.g., a haunted house, hospital, warehouse, or desolate urban landscape) contribute to its visualization and narrativization?
  • What sort of power relations exist between the victims of horror and its agents (monsters, ghosts, demons, and so forth)? How is their characterization marked in terms of gender, sexuality, and race?

[Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 415

Capstone Research Seminar: "Secularism and Its Critics: A Workshop in Literary Research”


Michael Allan (with Amy Leggette)

In recent years, scholars in the humanities and social sciences arrive at often-conflicting understandings of secularism. For some, the term implies tolerance and religious freedom and describes a political arrangement separating matters of religion from the state. For others, it implies the subordination of religious practice to belief and the redefinition of human nature in terms of political rights. Both proponents and critics tend to agree that secularism has implications that exceed the domain of government and impact sensibilities integral to modern political life, including time, subjectivity, knowledge and imagination. Our course will explore ways in which recent scholarship enriches our understanding of secularism—both as pertains to the category of religion and to the civilizational rhetoric of West and non-West, democratic and authoritarian, modern and traditional. Alongside our discussion of secularism as a key question in Comparative Literature, the Capstone seminar will emphasize the role of research in literary study. Our weekly sessions will combine our discussion of secularism with practical training for aspiring literary scholars. What is the role of research in literary study? What is a problem-oriented approach in Comparative Literature? How do I write an abstract? What is entailed in writing a prospectus? How do I break a research project into constituent parts? Shuttling between a discussion-oriented seminar and practical training in research methods, our course will combine critical reflection on secularism with specific activities to refine our practice as comparatists. [Fall] [4 credits]


Comparative Studies in Cinema: "Film and Architecture”

Course Flyer


Kenneth Calhoon

This seminar will concentrate on the role that architecture plays in determining filmic space as well as the syntax of cinematic narrative. Emphasis will be on films in which architectural topoi, such as the ruin, the palace, the resort, the garden, the hotel, the apartment building, even the cinema itself, serve as conspicuous structuring elements. Readings by Freud, Foucault, Vidler, Kracauer and others.


Films: Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Billy Wilder's The Apartment, Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, Peter Greenaway's The Draftsman's Contract, Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah, Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad, Alexandr Sukarov's The Russian Ark, Hideo Nakata's Dark Water, and Ming-liang Tsai's Goodbye Dragon Inn. [Fall] [4 credits]


Cultural Intersections: "Revolution and Exile: French Literature in the United States"

Course Flyer


Gordon Sayre

This course is a study of French writers who travelled to and wrote about LOWINUS (the lands of what is now the United States) before and after the epochal revolutions of 1776-1793. Texts will be available in both French and English. When the French colony of Louisiana was purchased by the United States during Thomas Jefferson's administration, it doubled the landmass of the country, and brought thousands of French-speaking residents along the Mississippi a new citizenship. But when la Louisiane had been founded a century earlier, the colony struggled to survive amidst Indian uprisings, insubordinate soldiers, criminal transportees and renegade slaves. In the earliest major work of French literature set in Louisiana, the Histoire du Chevalier Des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut (1731), Prévost portrayed New Orleans as a miserable backwater where a disgraced call girl and her loyal lover could find a refuge for their forbidden love. We will also read the Mémoire of Lieutenant Dumont de Montigny, a French officer in Louisiana from 1719-1737 who lived in the world that Prévost conveyed to French readers in fiction. Prof. Sayre has edited this text and translated it into English. Later in the 1700s, many of the leading thinkers of the French Enlightenment such as Diderot and Raynal saw the English American colonies, particularly Pennsylvania, as utopian spaces of equality, tolerance and opportunity. The French emigrant Crèvecœur, who came to America to fight against the English and Anglo-Americans in the Seven Years War and subsequently settled in New York, elaborated this utopian vision but also showed its dystopian horrors during the American Revolution, when colonists turned against one another in war. The French Revolution forced many aristocrats into exile, and a number of them fled to the United States, where they wrote about the democratic republic founded a decade earlier. For Chateaubriand and others influenced by the Enlightenment ideal of Romantic Primitivism, the American Indians were the noble and rightful possessors of America who had been violently displaced by the vulgar Anglo-American revolutionaries. In his epic Les Natchez and the novellas Atala and René excerpted from it, Chateaubriand proposed an historical allegory of rebellion and dispossession connecting the French ancien régime to the Natchez nation, who had risen up and massacred French colonists in 1729. For his fiction he drew on the history by Dumont de Montigny. Other French exiles such as the the Marquise de la Tour du Pin found the United States to be more welcoming. Her memoir includes her life on a dairy farm near Albany in the early 1790s. A gentlewoman farmer who had once been close to Marie Antoinette was now happy to churn her own butter. [Fall] [4 credits]

COLT 613

Translation Pedagogy


Karen Emmerich


Disciplines across the university—including history, philosophy, anthropology, comparative literature, and even "national" literature departments—are constantly encountering the problem of translation, since key texts are often taught in translation, particularly at the undergraduate level. Yet few of us, from first-year undergraduates to senior professors, have been trained to discuss translated materials as translations. If each translation embodies a particular interpretation of an original, how does this affect our own work of interpretation as we engage critically with texts in translation? Can, or should, we perform close readings of translations as if they were "originals"? What is an "original," anyhow? How is translation similar to and distinct from other forms of rewriting, such as edition-making, anthologization, and literary criticism? This course tackles such questions head-on, on the premise that a nuanced understanding of the problem of translation is essential for the responsible teaching of texts in translation. The course will deploy both theoretical and practical approaches: we will study theories of translation, but will also work collaboratively on issues arising in the classroom. [Fall] [5 credits]