Comparative Literature

  • 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?
  • Topics in Critical Theory: Comparative Literature Writing and Dissertation Colloquium

    The Writing and Dissertation Colloquium is a biweekly forum for graduate students in Comparative Literature to share works in progress with other graduate students. The seminar welcomes drafts of your prospectus, article, dissertation chapter, conference paper, exam statement and grant or fellowship proposal. Work is pre-circulated. The 90 minute sessions, done in conjunction with a rotating COM faculty member, are designed to offer written and oral feedback.
  • The Classical Roots of Western Literature

    This course focuses on the classics of the Western literary tradition from Antiquity through the medieval period. We will examine the ways in which poets, playwrights, biographers, and other fabulists addressed questions of public duty and private emotion, domestic and exotic customs, and natural, unnatural, and supernatural events. All works are taught in English.
  • Junior Seminar: Introduction to Comparative Literature

    Thick Reading is the aim of the course, which is to say, "close reading" in the sense of paying heightened attention to the ways in which we read our object of study. Most of those objects will be literary, but we'll make room to interrogate and straddle the borders of the "literary" as well, considering visual arts, music and film. We will also try to thicken the canon, in reading beyond the Euro-American canon even as we acknowledge an interest in aesthetic critique.

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