Spring 2018

  • South Asian American Literature and Film

    This course examines literature and film by South Asians in North America. Students will gain perspective on the experiences of immigration and diaspora through the themes of identity, memory, solidarity, and resistance. From early Sikh migration to the American West Coast, to Muslim identity in a post 9/11 world, how can South Asian American stories be read as symbolic of the American experience of gender, class, religion, and ethnicity more broadly? Students will hone their skills in reading primary materials, analyzing them within context, writing persuasively, and speaking clearly.
  • Philosophy and Literature: Western Thought and the Russian Dialogic Imagination

    This course is a study of the relationship between Western philosophy and Russian literature, specifically the many ways in which abstract philosophical ideas get `translated' into literary works. Russia does not have world famous philosophers. Yet, most Russian writers were avid readers of philosophy and are often considered philosophers in their own right. On what grounds can, for example, Dostoevsky, such a notorious opponent of "reason," be considered a philosopher? Or what happens when Tolstoy meticulously studies Kant's Critique of Pure Reason or falls in love with Schopenhauer?
  • Literature and Medicine

    What does medicine have to do with literature and vice versa? What stories are told, negotiated, juxtaposed in doctor-patient interactions? Why do doctors tell and need stories? How does literature, with its imagery and its structural features, illuminate medicine as a system of representation? What rhetorical and stylistic devices are embedded in the way we commonly conceive of illness, healing, the medical institutions and caregiving?
  • Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace: Writing as Fighting

    We start with Tolstoy's artistic stimuli and narrative strategies, explore the author's provocative visions of war, gender, sex, art, social institutions, death, and religion. The emphasis is placed here on the role of a written word in Tolstoy's search for truth and power. The main part is a close reading of his masterwork The War and Peace (1863-68) - a quintessence of both his artistic method and philosophical insights. Each student will be assigned to keep a "hero's diary" and speak on behalf of one or two major heroes of the epic (including the Spirit of History).
  • Vladimir Nabokov

    In 1919, at the age of twenty, Vladimir Nabokov fled "the bloated octopus of state" of his native Russia and embarked on a dazzling bilingual literary career in emigration. This course focuses on Nabokov's masterly writing, which reflects a modernist preoccupation with narrative, temporality, and memory. The Russian and American novels are at the center of our attention, but readings include also a sampling of his shorter fiction, poetry, essays on literature, and the memoir Speak, Memory.
  • Dreams and Nightmares in Hispanic Fiction and Film

    From Artemidorus in antiquity to Freud and other thinkers in modern times, dreams and nightmares are a perennial human concern. This course will consider artistic, political, philosophical, medical and psycho-sexual representations of dreams and nightmares in short stories and plays by such authors as Cervantes, Zayas, Calderón, García Lorca, Borges, Cortázar, and Fuentes. Several films inspired by the works of these authors or that served to inspire their writing will also be examined.
  • 5 Ways of Reading Don Quixote

    Why has DQ been construed in such disparate ways as: a book about good and bad reading, a funny book that mocks the medieval world view, a book about the impact of the printing press, a satire of the New World conquistadors, a study of deviant social behavior, the nature of madness, or a meditation on human sexuality and aging? In answering these questions we will consider the cultural models Cervantes rethinks: from chivalric adventure to the criminality of the picaresque, the humanist dialogue, the politics of empire, and the Inquisition.
  • Topics in Greek Literature: Plato and Aristotle on Poetry

    The antithetical views that Plato and Aristotle held about poetry profoundly shaped the classical tradition and remain of fundamental importance to modern approaches to literature and to art generally. This course will analyze each philosopher's position closely with the aim of contrasting them and drawing out their aesthetic and other implications.
  • Masterworks of European Literature

    This course will examine closely major works of European literature written since the Renaissance, different in language, genre and style (two novels, a play, an epic poem and a volume of verse) yet all inviting us to think about what a masterwork might be, and how the concept may change over time. The works will be read in English, but we shall pay attention to questions of translation, and to some of the historical pressures placed on the myths and realities of European culture.

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