Comparative Literature

  • Women and Liberation: Feminist Poetics and Politics in the Americas (1960s to the present)

    This course aims to explore different forms that the question of liberation has taken in writings by women philosophers and poets whose work helped to create cultural and political movements in the U.S. and Latin America. Starting in the 1960s, the course touches upon different philosophical concepts and poetic figures that have shaped the language of women's struggles (intersectionality, black and third world feminism, subalternity and feminist epistemologies, capitalist accumulation and "witch"-hunting, (re)transmission of knowledge).
  • Readings in Modern Arabic Literature

    This advanced reading course surveys the development of modern Arabic prose fiction from the 19th century nahda (Arabic renaissance) to the present. Special attention is devoted to questions of language and style, alongside discussions of major thematic concerns and the interaction of literature and society. All reading assignments are in the original Arabic, though English translations are available as a study aid. Open to qualified undergraduates with instructor's permission.
  • The Eighteenth Century in Europe

    This year's topic is "Reading Characters: Clarissa in Context." The seminar will consider the development of the modern novel during the European Enlightenment as a narrative epistemology of character, through an intensive reading of Richardson's Clarissa.
  • Introduction to Critical Theory: Dialectic and Difference

    Through a comparative focus on the concepts of dialectics and difference, we read some of the formative theoretical, critical and philosophical works which continue to ground interdisciplinary critical theory today. Focal works by Lukacs, Freud, Heidegger, Adorno, Derrida, de Man, Arendt, and Benjamin are included among the texts we read.
  • The Classical Roots of Western Literature

    A reading of some of the greatest works of literature in the Western tradition from Homer to the late Middle Ages. The course is also designed as an introduction to Comparative Literature -- that is, a reading of literary works across the boundaries of time, geography, and language. All works taught in English.
  • Literature and Society

    What kind of social institution is literature? Through close study of literary and theoretical texts, we examine ways literature is understood as reflecting, conditioning, representing, subverting, performing, or constructing the ethics and values of societies and cultures. We focus on the death penalty and representations of violence and coexistence. Does literature depict the experiences of real people? How (and why) do we "identify"? How do these ethical aspects of literature relate to moments of social crisis or the maintenance of social stability? To social and cultural differences?
  • A Cultural History of Nineteenth Century Europe through Wagner's Ring

    Wagner's 15-hour opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen is a unique masterpiece that transformed opera as a genre. With enormous emotional and intellectual power, it provides insight into key social and political issues that were particularly troubling in 19th-century Europe. It is also the magnum opus of a controversial composer whose overt anti-Semitism resonates well into the present.
  • Junior Seminar: Introduction to Comparative Literature

    Why Literature Matters: This year the Junior Seminar will introduce new majors to some of the most influential works of literary criticism and theory, from the ancient Greeks to living writers. The readings will serve, not only as a grounding in a long and important tradition of literary interpretation, but as windows into the question of why literature has mattered so much to readers in different times and places. The Seminar will also serve as a workshop for Junior Independent Work.
  • Love, Death, and the Supernatural: Medieval Verbal and Visual Cultures

    This course considers the European Middle Ages - from the late antique foundational autobiography of St. Augustine's `Confessions' through Prudentius' paradigmatic allegory, `The Psychomaquia', to three appreciably different versions of epic in the `Roland', `The Cid' and `Digenis Akritis'. We then move to Chrétien de Troyes' originary romance `Cligés', Guillaume de Lorris' `Rose', the subaltern cultural production of Jews and Moors, the the practices of pilgrimage and the contexts constructed by Chaucer, as well as the invention of the modern short story in Boccaccio's `Decameron'.


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