Spring 2020

  • Passion

    Passion is a common word with a long, complicated history; the diverse meanings we associate with it engage our experience on the most ethereal and abstract as well as the most visceral and profane levels. In this course we will study a range of films from the past eight decades with the aim of understanding how the films situate their subjects, how they narrate and illustrate passion, and how they engage personal, social, and political issues in particular aesthetic contexts.
  • Learning Shakespeare by Doing

    A course on works of dramatic literature whose comparative dimension is theatrical performance. We will consider four Shakespeare plays covering a range of theatrical genres; the emphasis will be on the ways in which Shakespearean meaning can be elucidated when the reader becomes a performer. Students will move from the reading/performing of individual speeches to the staging of scenes to the question of how an overall theatrical conception for a play might be a key to the fullest understanding of the text.
  • The Golden Rhinoceros: Histories of the African Middle Ages

    Many assume that pre-twentieth-century Africa has no history. Rather, it has so much history that communicating all its richness can be a challenge. In this class, therefore, we focus on particular instances that speak to the tremendous diversity of the period from 300 to 1500 in Africa - its political systems, religious communities, and dynamics of cultural and economic conversation. We also address Africa's interconnectedness within and to the rest of the world as a vital part of the global middle ages.
  • Beastly Tales

    What does it mean to talk like an animal? Why and how do writers attempt such tricks? This course has as its focus a particular type of fiction, that of the speaking animal. We will examine the long-term development of this genre in novels, novellas, television and the occasional lyric, paying particular attention to the tension between the fantastic premise of the animal autobiography and a set of realistic concerns about the natural world.
  • What is Vernacular Filmmaking? - Rhetoric for Cinema Studies

    Few people know that Sergei Eisenstein, one of the masters of modern cinema, was originally a mechanical engineer. Not only that; his filmmaking is informed through and through by inventive tropes of engineering. In this course, we study the rhetorical art of invention (heuristics) as it is applied in filmmaking through close examination of ten masterpieces of cinema. Students will take away from the course a deeper understanding of how rhetorical invention can be used in non-verbal areas of learning as well as a set of skills related to film-making and film criticism.
  • One Text, Many Angles: Merchant of Venice

    This course will place Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice at the center of a many-sided scrutiny. It is a play about love, about the law (and the Law), about commerce, about Europe's discovery of the farther world, about the everlasting lure of Venice, about same-sex desire, about what it means to be a Jew, and about what Christians imagined it meant to be a Jew. The play also inserts itself in a nexus that includes many other texts, ranging from the Bible to Boccaccio to Marlowe to Philip Roth.
  • Topics in Comparative Literature: On Collecting: Anatomy of an Obsession

    Why do people collect objects? What desires motivate this obsession across cultures? How does a collection reflect and shape our relationship with objects? It is no accident that many writers are fascinated by the collector: Balzac, Eco, James, Pamuk and Proust all devoted significant creative energy to this figure. In this course, we will consider collecting as a serious mode of thinking. Analysis of key literary works will be combined with hands-on study of museum collections in Princeton and beyond.
  • Women in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

    An investigation of the literary, medical and philosophical treatment of women in medieval and early modern Europe. We will consider works by both female and male authors, thus enabling us to compare ways in which women saw themselves with the ways in which they were seen by men. The cult of women as well as misandry and misogyny, and debates centering around such crucial matters as childbirth, witchcraft and the evil eye will be explored.
  • Gender and Sexuality in African History

    This course explores the history of gender and sexuality in Africa. By reading an eclectic range of historical sources (including films, novels, and anthropological works) alongside recent secondary literature, students will explore several important questions. How have African cultures, religions, experiences of colonialism, political formations, medicines, and youth, shaped, and been shaped by, understandings of gender and sexuality? What link is there between contemporary LGBTQ activism and African history? Why do debates about Africa often center on issues of gender and sexuality?


Subscribe to Spring 2020