Comparative Literature

  • Making Sense: Real Poetics, Diderot through Freud

    As Hegel, most discursive philosophers, and every poet demonstrate, "sense" is a uniquely complex, necessarily temporal thing, as divorced from organic replication and animal mimicry as curiosity and history from transmissible illness or the concept of violence from violence itself. In this course we study primary modes of signification- from acts of indirection and association Freud called "detours" to "formal" delineations and transpositions of "content"--in which literary, cognitive and aesthetic sense are made.
  • 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.
  • The Classical Roots of Western Literature

    This course focuses on the formation of cultural identity in the West from Antiquity to the early medieval period through the imagined and actual encounters of the Greco-Roman world with so-called "barbarians." We will examine the ways in which Greek and Roman epic, romance, philosophy, history, travelogues, and drama evaluated, misinterpreted, and sometimes appropriated foreign ways of life. Our readings will also include several texts originating in cultures distinct from the Greco-Roman world, but in crucial contact with it.
  • Read Like an Egyptian

    A first course for students in reading ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Serious work in ancient Egyptian grammar, vocabulary building, etc. (the staples of a classical language course) plus work on the relation between hieroglyphs and Egyptian visual arts.
  • Introduction to African Literature and Film

    African literature and films have been a vital (but often unacknowledged) stream in and stimulant to the global traffic in invention. Nigerian literature is one of the great literatures of the twentieth century. Ethiopian literature is one of the oldest literatures in the world. South Africans have won more Noble Prizes for Literature in the past forty years than authors from almost any other country. Senegalese films include some of the finest films ever made.
  • Jews and Muslims: History and Culture

    This interdisciplinary course examines Jewish-Muslim interaction in the spheres of written culture, kinship, shared culinary practices and living spaces, neighborhoods, musical customs, and overlapping religious practices. It considers these relations in Spain, Egypt, North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and modern France. Historic contexts include the amazing medieval world of the Cairo Geniza and Islamic Spain; colonialism and modernity in the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century Mediterranean; and the present-day aftermath of Jewish emigration from the region.
  • 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)?
  • Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Culture and Ethics

    What is the relationship between culture and ethics in conflict zones? Can culture be a force for conflict resolution or social change? This course examines these questions in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. How does the conflict permeate everyday life, and how do Palestinian and Israeli artists, writers and filmmakers respond? How have they pushed aesthetic and ethical limits in representing extreme violence and loss? How does the cultural imagination transgress borders?
  • The Literature of Medieval Europe

    A seminar on medieval arts of love and the new forms of poetry and prose that are their expression. Our main focus will be literary works that present themselves as amorous inventions, from the Arabic and Hebrew poems of Islamic Spain to Juan Ruiz's Book of Good Love, from the troubadours and Minnesinger to the French, German and English romances of Lancelot, Tristan and Isolde, and Gawain. Yet we will also study medieval theoretical works by such authors as Ibn Hazm, Andreas Capellanus and Richard de Fournival.
  • Political Novel and Cinema

    Societal and political themes - such as class struggle, race/race relations, national/cultural identity, the rights of workers, gender and sexuality - are inextricable from the novel, as the form that seeks to encapsulate the experience of life in the modern world. But although every novel is political, some novels are deliberately so. This seminar will discuss notable novels that engage with political themes as well as the political implications of the novel as a genre.

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