Fall 2018

  • Camp/Prison/Border

    From the 19th century colonial era to the current border/migration crisis, camps and prisons have managed surplus and racialized populations through zones of confinement and exception. It is literature, and particularly the novel, that provides the compelling encounters with questions of confinement and movement.
  • Topics in Literary and Cultural Theory: Drive: Toward a Conceptual History

    This course tracks the concept of drive through a series of natural scientific, literary, and philosophical discourses between approximately 1780 and 1940. After a preliminary discussion of appetite and self-motion between Aristotle and Newton, we explore the surge of interest in the concept around 1800, followed by the emerging science of sexuality, before finally turning to psychoanalytic and 'cosmological' theories of drive from early 20c. Our focus is on changing conceptions of human motive, especially the difference between instinct, desire, and intelligence.
  • Seminar in Modern Spanish-American Literature: Mario Vargas Llosa:Literature and Politics

    This seminar discusses a selection of Mario Vargas Llosa's major political novels in dialogue with the works of political philosophy that shaped his thinking. Our discussion begins with Vargas Llosa's engagement with radical Marxism in his youth, his active participation in the Cuban Revolution in the early 1960s, leading up to his turn towards liberalism in the 1980s. Political theorists discussed include: Marx, Mariátegui, Sartre, Fidel Castro, Edmund Wilson, Karl Popper, Octavio Paz, Isaiah Berlin. Topics include: guerilla warfare, class struggle, the market, social justice.
  • Radical African Thought and Revolutionary Youth Culture

    African thought continues to be marginalized, even though radical black intellectuals have shaped a number of social movements and global intellectual history. African youths are innovating new models that are revolutionizing the sciences, law, social and visual media, fashion, etc. In this class, we read classics of African thought and study contemporary African youth culture together to theorize what is happening in Africa today. This includes reading such African theorists as Frantz Fanon, V. Y.
  • The Classical Roots of Western Literature

    A reading of some of the greatest works of literature in the Western tradition from Homer to the late Middle Ages. The course is also designed as an introduction to Comparative Literature -- that is, a reading of literary works across the boundaries of time, geography, and language. All works taught in English.
  • Literature and Society

    What kind of social institution is literature? Through close study of literary and theoretical texts, we examine ways literature is understood as reflecting, conditioning, representing, subverting, performing, or constructing the ethics and values of societies and cultures. We focus on the death penalty and representations of violence and coexistence. Does literature depict the experiences of real people? How (and why) do we "identify"? How do these ethical aspects of literature relate to moments of social crisis or the maintenance of social stability? To social and cultural differences?
  • A Cultural History of Nineteenth Century Europe through Wagner's Ring

    Wagner's 15-hour opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen is a unique masterpiece that transformed opera as a genre. With enormous emotional and intellectual power, it provides insight into key social and political issues that were particularly troubling in 19th-century Europe. It is also the magnum opus of a controversial composer whose overt anti-Semitism resonates well into the present.
  • Junior Seminar: Introduction to Comparative Literature

    Why Literature Matters: This year the Junior Seminar will introduce new majors to some of the most influential works of literary criticism and theory, from the ancient Greeks to living writers. The readings will serve, not only as a grounding in a long and important tradition of literary interpretation, but as windows into the question of why literature has mattered so much to readers in different times and places. The Seminar will also serve as a workshop for Junior Independent Work.
  • Love, Death, and the Supernatural: Medieval Verbal and Visual Cultures

    This course considers the European Middle Ages - from the late antique foundational autobiography of St. Augustine's `Confessions' through Prudentius' paradigmatic allegory, `The Psychomaquia', to three appreciably different versions of epic in the `Roland', `The Cid' and `Digenis Akritis'. We then move to Chrétien de Troyes' originary romance `Cligés', Guillaume de Lorris' `Rose', the subaltern cultural production of Jews and Moors, the the practices of pilgrimage and the contexts constructed by Chaucer, as well as the invention of the modern short story in Boccaccio's `Decameron'.

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