Comparative Literature

  • Thomas Mann and His World

    This course focuses on Thomas Mann's great novels, The Magic Mountain and Doctor Faustus, and the fast-changing world that produced them. We will explore Mann's artistic sources (Goethe, Dante, Dürer, Beethoven, Schoenberg) and theoretical influences (Nietzsche, Freud, Adorno, Lukács). Themes include time and narrative; Mann as a queer author; medicine; music; and Mann's languages. Self-exiled from Germany, Mann spent the early years of World War II in Princeton.
  • What is Socialism? Literature and Politics

    While there is no single definition of socialism, the class introduces the historic diversity of socialist thinking. We ask: What is the "social" in socialism? How does socialism relate to communism and capitalism? How does it define democracy, equality, freedom, individuality, and collectivity? Are socialist ethics connected to religious traditions such as Christianity and Islam that teach human equality? How may we understand injustices committed in socialism's name alongside its striving for social justice?
  • Traditions, Tales, and Tunes: Slavic and East European Folklore

    This course explores oral traditions and oral literary genres (in English translation) of the Slavic and East European world, both past and present, including traditions that draw from the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish East European communities. Topics include traditional rituals (life-cycle and seasonal) and folklore associated with them, sung and spoken oral traditional narrative: poetry (epic and ballad) and prose (folktale and legend), and contemporary forms of traditional and popular culture.
  • Classics of Japanese Cinema

    From the 1950s to the 1980s, Japanese films held the attention of large international audiences, seeming to parallel the emergence of Japan from the disasters of the Pacific War and its aftermath. Recognition in film competitions drove directors such as Kurosawa, Ozu and Mizoguchi to international stardom, and reflected back upon the domestic box office. This course will engage with several of these major films to learn how they interrogated the ethical and moral complexity of postwar Japan and its broader international significance.
  • Poetries of Resistance

    Poetry can be seen as a mode of reflection on history and, very often, as an act of resistance to it. This course will examine works written in Europe, Latin America and the US during the 20th and 21st centuries in different languages and historical contexts. We will explore their oppositional and also their liberatory effects: their ability to evoke their times, to disrupt our usual understandings while offering new political, artistic and ethical perspectives.
  • Contemporary Latin America in Literature and Visual Arts

    This course is an introduction to contemporary Latin American and Caribbean literature and visual arts. Placing emphasis on the changing relationships between aesthetics and politics, and subalternity and 'representation,' it analyzes genres and styles that emerge with new forms of imagining the relations between culture and politics since the 1960s. Class taught in English; readings and written assignments can be done in English or Spanish.
  • Cinema in Times of Pandemic: Research Film Studio

    In cooperation with the Sundance and the Berlin Film Festivals, our workshop will investigate the crisis of film production, distribution and canonization made acute by the Pandemic as well as divisive culture wars. We will uncover how the formation of film canons is informed by the ebb and flow of the civil rights movement. Our focus will be on stories of injustice filmed by women and Afro-American artists. The seminar work will consist of making short digital presentations and scholarly film-montage essays.
  • 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"?
  • New Israeli Cinema: Contemporary Visions

    Post-2000 Israeli cinema offers powerful representations of the local and global forces shaping life in contemporary Israeli society. In this course, through analysis of twelve recent cinematic masterpieces, you'll develop your own vision for a film. We'll discuss both artistic choices and social questions including Israeli women's rights, Arab-Jewish relations, and religious-secular tensions. Weekly assignments culminate in your original screenplay exploring an aspect of contemporary Israeli society. Class time is split between synchronous discussions and asynchronous practicum activities.
  • Violence, Migration, and Literature in the Americas

    This course studies literature dealing with contemporary regimes of violence and forced migration in the Americas. Focusing on the passage from the Cold War to the War on Drugs, it analyzes the history of the current "migration crisis" in relation to structural adjustments, regimes of accumulation, border patrolling, and immigrant incarceration.


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