Undergraduate

  • Incorrect Literature: Modernist Masterpieces and the Controversies They Unleashed

    Why do we continue to read politically incorrect novels? This seminar will analyze a selection of controversial masterpieces of European modern fiction, from Spain to Austria, that were deemed offensive. Some of them touch on issues that are still important to us, like race and ethnicity, while others touched on issues such as religion and national identity that were sensitive at the time but are less so today. We will read excerpts from Plato to Marx on the function literature plays in society. Is literature inherently evil, as Bataille suggested?
  • Ways of Knowing: Philosophy and Literature

    Do works of poetry and fiction produce their own distinctive forms of knowledge, or do they simply help preexisting philosophical concepts get absorbed more easily? This course explores the mutual implications of philosophy and literature for epistemology. We'll read lyrical poems, short stories and novels alongside philosophical accounts of language and mind, linking textual phenomena with features of cognition. Topics include conceptuality vs. non-conceptuality, argument vs. narrative, metaphor and image schema, knowledge by acquaintance vs.
  • Language, Identity, Power

    Language determines our expressive capacities, represents our identities, and connects us across various platforms and cultures. This course introduces classical and contemporary approaches to studying language, focusing on three main areas: 1) language as a system of rules (structure), 2) language as a symbolic mechanism through which individuals and groups mark their presence (identity) and 3) language as a tool of communication (sign).
  • What is a Classic?

    "What is a Classic?" asks what goes into the making of a classic text. It focuses on four, monumental poems from the ancient Mediterranean and Near East: Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, and Gilgamesh, which are discussed through comparison across traditions, ranging as far as Chinese poetry. Students will consider possible definitions and constituents of a classic, while also reflecting on the processes of chance, valorization, and exclusion that go into the formation of a canon.
  • 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.
  • Junior Seminar: Introduction to Comparative Literature

    What is comparison, and what are its stakes? How do we compare across languages, genres, and/or media? How and why might we "read" closely, at a distance, historically, politically? What can we learn from engaging in and with translation(s)?
  • Great Books from Little Languages

    For historical reasons most books that come into English are translated from just a few languages, creating a misleading impression of the spread of literature itself. This course provides an opportunity to discover literary works from languages with small reading populations which rarely attract academic attention in the USA.
  • Cinema in Times of Pandemic: Research Film Studio

    This course is dedicated to the study of critical film curation. The Pandemic disrupted traditional film production, distribution and canonization. Could this disruption be turned into a creative subversion of the strong industrial and commercial aspect of American filmmaking and the Jim Crow system of Hollywood? In cooperation with the Sundance and the Berlin Film Festivals, we will practice critical curation of films made by women and Afro-American directors and interview filmmakers, film festival directors and leaders of the film industry.
  • Writing the World: Nature, Science, and Literature in Early Modern Europe

    The idea that the poet "created a world" was a commonplace of Renaissance literary criticism. In this course we will be thinking about how poetry's worldmaking powers responded to changing ideas of what makes up the world - from revolutionary visions of the cosmos to new conceptions of the nature of matter and life - as well as to the new technologies which made these discoveries possible. How do the "creative" qualities of literature interact with an emerging scientific emphasis on facts and "things as they are"?
  • Crafting Freedom: Women and Liberation in the Americas (1960s to the present)

    This course explores questions and practices of liberation in writings by women philosophers and poets whose work helped to create cultural and political movements in the U.S. and Latin America. Starting in the 60s, we will study a poetics and politics of liberation, paying special attention to the role played by language and imagination when ideas translate onto social movements related to social justice, structural violence, education, care, and the commons.

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