Spring 2017 Courses

AAS 522/COM 522/ENG 504
Publishing: Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Professor(s):  Wendy Belcher

In this interdisciplinary class, students of race as well as gender, sexuality, disability, etc. read deeply and broadly in academic journals as a way of learning the debates in their fields and placing their scholarship in relationship to them. Students report each week on the trends in the last five years of any journal of their choice, writing up the articles' arguments and debates, while also revising a paper in relationship to those debates and preparing it for publication. This course enables students to leap forward in their scholarly writing through a better understanding of their fields and the significance of their work to them.

COM 402/TRA 402
Radical Poetics, Radical Translation

Professor(s):  Karen R. Emmerich

This course invites students to consider not just what poems mean but how they mean, and how that, how, complicates, challenges, obscures, enlivens, or collides with the task of translation. We will look at forms of poetry that challenge the limits of the translatable, as well as radical translation methods that expand our notion of what translation is. Examples include poems written in made-up languages; unstable texts; homophonic and visual translation; erasure poetics; and multilingual poems. Exploring the places where poetry and translation meet (or diverge), we will put traditional concepts of originality and derivation to the test.

COM 427/JDS 427/NES 429
Modern Hebrew Literature: A Historical Introduction

Professor(s):  Lital Levy

This course follows the development of modern Hebrew prose in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. How was Hebrew refashioned from a liturgical to a modern literary language capable of narrating novels and conveying contemporary dialogue? Who were the revolutionary writers who accomplished this feat and what ideological struggles accompanied it? We will begin with the haskala (Jewish enlightenment), continue with the tehiya (revival) and early writing in the yishuv (Jewish community in pre-State Palestine), and conclude with dor ha-medina (the "independence generation") and maturation of modern Hebrew. Reading knowledge of Hebrew required.

COM 429/HLS 429/MED 429
Mediterranean Contingencies: Byzantium and Its Medieval Others

Professor(s):  Marina S. Brownlee

Well before other medieval societies (both Christian and Muslim), Byzantium was flourishing in the 4th century. Greek-speaking (though bilingual with Latin until the 6th century), this self-proclaimed, New Rome, faced unprecedented challenges. It grew into an immense empire, an empire, paradoxically, whose cultural influence spread over the centuries in inverse proportion to its political strength. Topics we will consider include: definitions of empire, definitions of Byzantium over its 1,100-year evolution, issues of ethnicity and race and the inextricable relationship of historiography and fiction.

COM 432
Thomas Mann and His World

Professor(s):  Michael Wood/Rachel Bergmann

This course focuses on Thomas Mann's great novels, The Magic Mountain and Doctor Faustus, and the world that produced them--both Mann's own turbulent times and the tradition he inherited. We will explore Mann's artistic sources (Goethe, Dante, Dürer, Beethoven) and theoretical influences (Nietzsche, Adorno, Lukács). Themes include time and narrative; Mann as a queer author; medicine; music; and Mann's languages. Self-exiled from Germany, Mann spent part of World War II in Princeton. We will learn about his stay here and consider his reflections on war, culture, and psychology, with implications not just for his own times, but also for ours.

COM 483
Romanticism and the Real: What Is Representation?

Professor(s):  Claudia Brodsky

Historicization often proceeds by shorthand, assigning names to periods, movements, styles, even "content," and the points of view these are assumed to represent. No two such ascriptions are more frequently invoked than "romanticism" and "realism," whose conventional opposition defines to a large extent our own view of "modern" literary and aesthetic history across traditions. In this seminar we take a critical look at that opposition as it influences not only our view of literary and intellectual history in general but of literary representation itself. Works by Milton, Wordsworth, Keats, Hawthorne, Balzac, Melville, Fitzgerald.

COM 535/ENG 528/GER 536
Contemporary Critical Theories: Marx’s Capital

Professor(s):  Benjamin Conisbee Baer

Close reading of Marx's Capital vol. 1. Attention paid to questions of translation. Knowledge of German not necessary, but be prepared to engage with the German text. Secondary readings discussed as necessary.

COM 536
Topics in Critical Theory: Comparative Literature Writing and Dissertation Colloquium

Professor(s):  Benjamin Conisbee Baer

The Writing and Dissertation Colloquium is a biweekly forum for graduate students in Comparative Literature to share works in progress with other graduate students. The seminar welcomes drafts of your prospectus, article, dissertation chapter, conference paper, exam statement and grant or fellowship proposal. Work is pre-circulated. The 90 minute sessions, done in conjunction with a rotating COM faculty member, are designed to offer written and oral feedback.

COM 547/ENG 530
The Renaissance: Me, Myself, and I: The Early Modern First Person

Professor(s):  Leonard Barkan

Terms like "self" and "subjectivity" and the question of their historical or transhistorical meaning remain at the heart of literary study in the pre-modern period. With those issues in mind, this seminar focuses on the Renaissance "I." We begin with some classical and medieval precursors and with the subject of literal self-portraiture. Then we turn to the real business of the class: readings in Petrarch, Montaigne, and Shakespeare-the first two being the great European masters of the first person, the last said to have buried the first person in the voices of his characters.

COM 565/ENG 544/ FRE 565/GER 565
Studies in Forms of Poetry: Poetry, History and Memory

Professor(s):  Sandra Bermann/Michael Wood

This seminar explores the intricate relations of poetry to history and memory in the troubled 20th century. Individual poets are closely studied for their intrinsic interest but also for their (known and still to be discovered) connections with each other. The poets are Eugenio Montale, César Vallejo, René Char, Paul Celan, Adrienne Rich and Anne Carson, but other writers are called on from time to time. Questions of war and resistance are important, and above all the course attends to what one might think of as the fate of language under pressure.

ENG 416/COM 431
Topics in Literature and Ethics: Modern Evil

Professor(s):  Simon Gikandi

This is a course on the problem of evil in the modern world as it is represented in works of literature and film. What is the nature of evil and how is it imagined? How can the noble ideas that define the modern world--justice and human rights, for example--be reconciled with the terrible events of the twentieth century: genocide, racial violence, and war? Why do good people do terrible things to others? What can reading books on evil in distant places teach us about ourselves? The course will explore how evil functions as a form of deep ethical violation and challenges how we understand the world and our relationship to others.

ENG 417/COM 423/AFS 416
Topics in Postcolonial Literature: Postcolonial Cities

Professor(s):  Simon Gikandi

Addresses the literature of several cities that have been central in shaping the modern imagination: Bombay, Cairo, Lagos, and Johannesburg. It will explore how the emergence of these global cities has transformed the meaning of urban landscapes and their representation in literature. The course will also examine how migrant writers from Africa and the Caribbean have transformed old cities such as London and New York. How does the city shape the form of writing? How does language itself transform the meaning of the urban experience? How does this literature challenge some of the leading theories on space and modern identity?

ENG 425/COM 434
Bollywood Cinema

Professor(s):  Zahid Chaudhary

Bollywood generates more films each year than other global film industries, circulating films across Africa, Asia, and beyond. What are the dominant trends and genres of popular South Asian cinema since independence? We will assume a capacious meaning of "Bollywood" as a global phenomenon. Course topics include the recent resurgence of Pakistani film industry as well as "Third Cinema," against which the popular is often defined in studies of postcolonial cinema. Course topics include melodrama, the popular, translation, diaspora, migration, nationalism and affect. Some background in film or media theory will be helpful but not required.

ENG 567/COM 567
Special Studies in Modernism: Modernist Portraiture
Professor(s):  Maria DiBattista

This course traces the emergence of the distinctly "modern" portrait, including, of course, the self-portrait, from its beginnings in the mid-nineteen century to the present day. We are particularly concerned with analyzing how this radical shift in the way a novel or a poem "framed" and depicted its central subject depended on corresponding stylistic revolutions in painting and developing technologies in photography & film. This focus helps us decide what distinguishes a portrait from a picture, particularly as that latter word has been transformed and given new meaning by the invention of the hand-held and motion picture camera.

GER 515/COM 511
Studies in 19th Century Literature and Culture: Affects of Realism
Professor(s):  Barbara Nagel

According to Jameson, realism is characterized by affect taking over the space previously inhabited by "named emotions." Affects thus register "the sliding scale of the incremental, in which each infinitesimal moment differentiates itself from the last by a modification of tone and an increase or diminution of intensity." Realism presents an abundant archive for studying the rhetorical and conceptual complexity of affect. Taking up classic and recent accounts of realism as well as theories of Stimmung and sublimation, we analyze various genres and media in order to produce a historically nuanced formalist argument about German emotions.

HUM 470/CLA 470/GER 470/COM 470
Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities: How Literatures Begin

Professor(s):  Denis Feeney/Joel Lande

The course examines the problem of the origins of literary traditions. There will be some comparative material from different cultural and literary traditions, though the main focus will be on the European context from antiquity through modernity. Why do literatures come into existence at certain times and places? Is this something we should take for granted? What are the circumstances that lead to the development of a literature? Throughout we will be asking why literatures come about in different ways, with varying ways of harkening back to the past, drawing on local custom, or appropriating other cultural traditions.

NES 541/COM 545
Classical Arabic Literary Theory

Professor(s):  Lara Harb

This course offers an overview of classical Arabic literary theory in its three strands: poetic, Quranic, and philosophical. Students become familiar with the major primary texts ranging from the 9th to the 14th centuries CE, as well as the major themes and questions that concerned the medieval authors. We cover concepts such as takhyil (image-evocation), metaphor, simile, nazm (sentence construction), majaz (figurative speech), and badi' (literary figures), and discussing how critics dealt with questions of plagiarism and influence, truth and fiction, the old and the new, and plainness and ornateness in poetic speech.

SLA 420/ANT 420/COM 424/RES 420
Communist Modernity: The Politics and Culture of Soviet Utopia

Professor(s):  Serguei Oushakine

Communism is long gone but its legacy continues to reverberate. And not only because of Cuba, China or North Korea. Inspired by utopian ideas of equality and universal brotherhood, communism was originally conceived as an ideological, socio-political, economic and cultural alternative to capitalism's crises. The attempt to build a new utopian world was costly and brutal: equality was quickly transformed into uniformity; brotherhood evolved into the Big Brother. The course provides an in-depth review of these contradictions between utopian motivations and oppressive practices in the Soviet Union.

SLA 529/COM 528
Seminar on Andrei Bitov

Professor(s):  Ellen Chances

Analysis of works of 1 of Russia's most important contemporary writers. Focus on major novels, including "Pushkin House," the 1st Russian postmodernist novel. We explore his wide-ranging concerns, such as psychology; philosophy; science; other arts (including jazz & cinema); people's relationship to other biological species; integrity & societal and psychological obstacles to it. We examine him as a Petersburg writer. Focus also on his relationship to time, history, & other writers; his place in Russian & Soviet literature & culture.