Comparative Literature

  • Ocean Media: Islanding, Space, Modernity

    This seminar explores the oceanic imaginary of space and the spatial technologies of islanding in the modern world-including the emergence of mega-ports, artificial islands, and the creation of political and economic zones of exception and military bases, with an emphasis on East and Southeast Asia. Posing islanding in the verb form, the readings deconstruct "island" as a natural geographic setting and probe its role in mediating the relations between individual and totality, insularity and world, mainland and periphery, land and sea, etc.
  • Topics in Medieval Literature: Reading the Roman de la Rose

    Arguably the single most influential vernacular work of the European Middle Ages, the Roman de la Rose presents itself as both an "art of love" and a "mirror of lovers," a prism that reflects the forms of medieval knowledge in unexpected ways. This seminar focuses on the two-part literary work in its literary, philosophical and theological contexts, as well as on its reception, with attention to the "quarrel of the Rose" to which it gave rise in fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
  • The Novel and Romance

    Don Quixote is often called the first novel, for its parodic contrast of chivalric romance with a more "realistic" mode. How curious that most of Quixote's successors have been heroines, as such disqualified from tilting, whether at windmills or giants. After dipping into Cervantes and a few other precursors, we spend time with some of the many "Female Quixotes." What is at stake in their quests? What do they learn as readers, and what can their readers learn? What disciplines of reading and representation are involved in these narratives?
  • Storytelling as Self Defense: Political Novellas

    Modern citizens' struggle for liberty produced a radical literary tool of defense: the novella. Part everyday life, part sudden event, these short forms gave advice to those fighting the Man: How can outcasts question authority? What is a feminist plot? Can resistance be a reader response? We will discuss and read how these stories organize, formulate, and intensify real-world arguments through fictional protagonists in examples from the Americas and Europe, esp. 19th-century Germany.
  • 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.
  • The Modern European Novel

    Description; This course is designed for those 1) wanting to read landmark fictions in the modern European literary tradition; 2) intrigued by the question of "world literature" as it is posed in and by the European novel.
  • 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.
  • Texts and Images of the Holocaust

    In an effort to encompass the variety of responses to what is arguably the most traumatic event of modern Western experience, we explore the Holocaust as transmitted through documents, testimony, journals, memoirs, creative writing and cinema. In our study of works, reflecting diverse languages, cultures, genres, and points of view, we focus on issues of bearing witness, collective vs individual memory, and the nature of radical evil Throughout we are mindful of tensions between ethical and aesthetic imperatives, and the perils of representation itself, when faced with the unrepresentable.
  • Beyond Crisis Contemporary Greece in Context

    This course examines an emergent historical situation as it unfolds: the ongoing financial, social, and humanitarian "crisis" in Greece, including the "refugee crisis." It offers a comparative approach to current Greek cultural production, through literature and film of the past decade and writings drawn from history, anthropology, political science, economics, news sources, and political blogs.

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