Comparative Literature

  • Studies in Forms of Narrative: Jokes, Laughter, Comedy

    A grand old subject - why do we laugh and how does the comic function within literary works and cultural experience? - about which we'll see if we can say something new. Classic statements on the topic, e.g., Freud and Bergson, but some forays into more contemporary theories, including cognitive science. Literary materials mostly drawn from the early modern period - Erasmus, Rabelais, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Molière - alongside examples from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, to be chosen by the seminar members themselves.
  • Topics in Non-Western and General Literature: Ideographs

    Weekly three-hour seminar. The seminar focuses closely on selected plays from the repertory of noh drama, with attention to related texts regarding training, aesthetic values, patronage and the materialities of performance (masks, costumes, props, the stage, etc.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Culture and Ethics

    This course investigates the question of ethics and culture in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What is the relationship between culture and ethics? 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 or challenge one-sided understandings of responsibility?
  • Who Owns This Sentence? Copyright Culture from the Romantic Era to the Age of the Internet

    Literature, art, computer code, social media, news, music and video games--copyright underpins almost everything we read or hear. But it is not an old idea. Why was it invented? For whose benefit? What is a "work" or an "author"? Is copyright still relevant, or is a new framework needed? From Balzac and Dickens to Facebook, from Bizet to Broadway musicals, this new course invites students to think about the philosophical and cultural issues raised by copyright in the past and present--and for the future.
  • 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.
  • Class, Desire, and the Novel

    Literary plots involving social and erotic ambition, examined in novels from the seventeenth century to the present, as well as in films and other genres. Topics include: social climbing and descent; the marriage plot and queer alternatives to it; ambition and longing as narrative engines; the family and social order; criminals, outlaws, and rivals to the family; social class and selfhood; the relationship between gender, sexuality, and narrative structure.
  • Comparative Poetics of Passing: Race, Ethnicity, Sexuality

    The expansion of race theory from the Americas into the global scene invites a cross-cultural approach to the fluidity of identity. This seminar investigates fiction and film from the African American, Jewish American, LGBTQ, and Israeli-Palestinian contexts to broadly explore how society constructs and deconstructs race, ethnicity, and gender. It focuses on representations of passing and reverse passing as well as doubled/split identities for a wide-ranging, comparative discussion of the political and the psychological dynamics of identity and selfhood.
  • Contemporary Critical Theories: Marx's Capital

    Close reading of Marx's Capital vol. 1. Attention paid to questions of translation. Knowledge of German not necessary, but be prepared to engage with the German text. Secondary readings discussed as necessary.


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