Spring 2017 Courses

AAS 342 /COM 394 /AFS 342
Sisters' Voices: African Women Writers

Professor: Wendy L. Belcher

In this class, we study the richness and diversity of poetry, novels, and memoirs written by African women. The course expands students' understanding of the long history of women's writing across Africa and a range of languages. It focuses on their achievements while foregrounding questions of aesthetics and style. As an antidote to misconceptions of African women as silent, students analyze African women's self-representations and how they theorize social relations within and across ethnic groups, generations, classes, and genders. The course increase students' ability to think, speak, and write critically about gender.  

COM 206
Masterworks of European Literature

Professor: Michael Wood

In this course we will examine the major forms and themes of European literature since the Renaissance, concentrating on drama, prose fiction and lyric poetry.   Significant works originally written in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish will be read (in English) for their intrinsic interest as well as for what they tell us about what a masterwork might be, and how the concept may change over time.

COM 236
Traditions, Tales, and Tunes: Slavic and East European Folklore

Professor: Margaret Beissinger

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.  Discussion and analysis will focus on the role and meaning of Slavic and East European oral traditions as forms of expressive culture.

COM 301
Theory and Methods of Comparative Literature: Critical and Literary Theory

Professor: Claudia Brodsky

A course in the foundational texts of contemporary critical theory. The relationships among literature, philosophy, aesthetics, and linguistics will be investigated as they come to the fore in the intellectual development of the following, among others: modern philology, New Criticism, hermeneutics, structuralism, speech act theory, Marxist and cultural criticism, historical-epistemological aesthetics, rhetorical criticism, and poststructuralism.

COM 307
Gendered Fictions of Translation

Professor: Karen Emmerich

Translation is a marginalized literary activity; the work of female translators, and of international female writers, is underrepresented in the current publishing market. At the same time, fictive representations of translators, and particularly female translators, abound. This course examines the gendered politics of invisibility that informs popular discourse surrounding translation. We will read primarily works of fiction by women, translated by women, and/or about a female translator. The course thus enacts its own politics of selection, upending gendered statistics regarding whose work we read, and how.

COM 376
Crafting Freedom: Women and Liberation in the Americas (1960s to the present)
Professor Susana Draper

This course explores the question of liberation 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 60s, we will study a poetics and politics of liberation, paying special attention to the role played by language and imagination when ideas translate onto social movements related to abolition, education, care, and the commons. Readings include Angela Davis, Gloria Anzaldúa, Silvia Federici, Diamela Eltit, Audre Lorde, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Gayatri Spivak, Zapatistas, among others.

COM 397
Sex, Violence, Sacrilege in Enlightenment Fiction

Professors: April Alliston and Claudia Johnson

In this seminar we will explore the dark side of the Enlightenment, sometimes also called, The Age of Reason.  The English, German, French and American fictions we will read are shockingly willing to challenge all our pieties and inhibitions, particular with respect to the most intimate and the most sacred relations of our lives.   How it is possible, we will ask, that the age that brought us liberty, equality, and fraternity also brought us such gleefully conspicuous cruelty, terror, and vice?  How is it possible that philosophical texts both expose and indulge such qualities.

COM 402
Radical Poetics, Radical Translation    

Professor: Karen Emmerich

This course invites students to consider not just what poems mean but how they mean, and how that, how, complicates, challenges, obscures, enlivens, or collides with the task of translation. We will look at forms of poetry that challenge the limits of the translatable, as well as radical translation methods that expand our notion of what translation is. Examples include poems written in made-up languages; unstable texts; homophonic and visual translation; erasure poetics; and multilingual poems. Exploring the places where poetry and translation meet (or diverge), we will put traditional concepts of originality and derivation to the test.

COM 427
Modern Hebrew Literature: A Historical Introduction

Professor: Lital Levy

This course follows the development of modern Hebrew prose in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. How was Hebrew refashioned from a liturgical to a modern literary language capable of narrating novels and conveying contemporary dialogue? Who were the revolutionary writers who accomplished this feat and what ideological struggles accompanied it? We will begin with the haskala (Jewish enlightenment), continue with the tehiya (revival) and early writing in the yishuv (Jewish community in pre-State Palestine), and conclude with dor ha-medina (the "independence generation") and maturation of modern Hebrew. Reading knowledge of Hebrew required.

COM 429
Mediterranean Contingencies: Byzantium and Its Medieval Others

Professor: Marina Brownlee

Well before other medieval societies (both Christian and Muslim), Byzantium was flourishing in the 4th century.  Greek-speaking (though bilingual with Latin until the 6th century), this self-proclaimed “New Rome” faced unprecedented challenges.  It grew into an immense empire (encompassing at its most expansive 6th-century reach the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Near East), an empire—paradoxically—whose cultural influence spread over the centuries in inverse proportion to its political strength. Topics to consider include: the criteria that define an empire, definitions of Byzantium over its 1,100-year evolution, periodization, the the intricacies of ethnicity and race and the inextricable relationship of historiography and fiction.

COM 432
Thomas Mann and His World

Professor: Michael Wood
Co-teaching: Rachel Bergmann

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. We will learn about his stay here and consider his reflections on war, culture, and psychology, with implications not just for his own turbulent times, but also for ours.

COM 483
Romanticism and the Real

Professor: Claudia Brodsky

Historicization often proceeds by shorthand, assigning names to periods, movements, styles, even "content," and the points of view these are assumed to represent. No two such ascriptions are more frequently invoked than "romanticism" and "realism," whose conventional opposition defines to a large extent our own view of "modern" literary and aesthetic history across traditions. In this seminar we take a critical look at that opposition as its influences not only our view of literary and intellectual history in general but of literary representation itself. Works by Milton, Wordsworth, Keats, Hawthorne, Balzac, Melville, Fitzgerald.

EAS 319 / COM 396
Tokyo as a Literary Topos

Professor: Atsuko Ueda

In this course, we will examine the varying representations of Tokyo thematized in literary texts written since the alleged beginning of modern Japan. We will pay attention to the transforming metropolis, its repeated destruction and reconstruction, its changing roles in the lives of the people living within and without Tokyo. We will see how Tokyo at once becomes a site of nostalgia and suffering, desire and struggle. Our inquiries will also extend themselves to differing social status and gender roles in the city.

ECS 321 /SPA 333 /COM 389
Cultural Systems : Proust, Freud, Borges

Professor: Rubén Gallo

An overview of three of the most influential writers in the twentieth century, focusing on selected masterpieces. All three were fascinated by similar topics: dreams and memory; sexuality; Judaism. All three lived during traumatic historical periods. Proust during WWI; Freud during WWII; and Borges during Peronismo. Seminar will explore the relationship between literature modernism, politics, and religion.

ECS 331 /HIS 430 /HLS 332
Communication and the Arts : The Battle of the Books: Culture Wars in Early Modern Europe

Professor: Anthony T. Grafton

This course will focus on a major intellectual controversy of the 17th and 18th centuries known as the <i>Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns</i>. Through close readings of seminal texts we will address issues pertaining to the historical significance of the <i>Quarrel</i>, its sociopolitical implications, and the role it played in the cultural and scientific evolution of early modern Europe. We will approach the <i>Quarrel</i> as a critical moment in the prehistory of modernity that resulted in a redefinition of concepts such as mimesis and originality, tradition and innovation, decline and progress.

ECS 391 /COM 391 /JDS 391
Holocaust Testimony

Professor: Thomas A. Trezise

This course focuses on major issues raised by but also extending beyond Holocaust survivor testimony, including the communication of trauma, genres of witnessing, the ethical implications of artistic representation, conflicts between history and memory, the fate of individuality in collective upheaval, the condition of survival itself, and the crucial role played by reception in enabling and transmitting survivors' speech.

ENG 416 / COM 431
Topics in Literature and Ethics - Modern Evil

Professor: Simon E. Gikandi

This is a course on the problem of evil in the modern world as it is represented in works of literature and film. What is the nature of evil and how is it imagined? How can the noble ideas that define the modern world--justice and human rights, for example--be reconciled with the terrible events of the twentieth century: genocide, racial violence, and war? Why do good people do terrible things to others? What can reading books on evil in distant places teach us about ourselves? The course will explore how evil functions as a form of deep ethical violation and challenges how we understand the world and our relationship to others.

ENG 417 /COM 423 /AFS 416
Topics in Postcolonial Literature : Postcolonial Cities

Professor: Simon E. Gikandi

Addresses the literature of several cities that have been central in shaping the modern imagination: Bombay, Cairo, Lagos, and Johannesburg. It will explore how the emergence of these global cities has transformed the meaning of urban landscapes and their representation in literature. The course will also examine how migrant writers from Africa and the Caribbean have transformed old cities such as London and New York. How does the city shape the form of writing? How does language itself transform the meaning of the urban experience? How does this literature challenge some of the leading theories on space and modern identity?

ENG 425 /COM 429
Bollywood Cinema

Professor(s): Zahid R. Chaudhary

Bollywood generates more films each year than other global film industries, circulating films across

Africa, Asia, and beyond. What are the dominant trends and genres of popular South Asian cinema since

independence? We will assume a capacious meaning of "Bollywood" as a global phenomenon. Course topics include the recent resurgence of Pakistani film industry as well as "Third Cinema," against which the popular is often defined in studies of postcolonial cinema. Course topics include melodrama, the popular, translation, diaspora, migration, nationalism and affect. Some background in film or media theory will be helpful but not required.

HUM 234 / EAS 234 / COM 234
East Asian Humanities II: Traditions and Transformations

Professors: Ksenia Chizhova and Haruko Wakabayashi

Second in the two-semester sequence on East Asian literary humanities, this course begins in the seventeenth century and covers a range of themes in the history, literature, and culture of Japan, Korea, and China until the contemporary period. Looking into the narratives of modernity, colonialism, urban culture, and war and disaster, we will see East Asia as a space for encounters, contestations, cultural currents and countercurrents. No knowledge of East Asian languages or history is required and first-year students are welcome to take the course.

HUM 333 /COM 348
Classics of Scientific Communication: Lucretius, Galileo, and Darwin

Professor: Eileen A. Reeves

How does revolutionary science happen? Why do some scientific texts have such staying power? Do scientific concepts follow particular trajectories through the social sciences, the arts, and popular culture? We will address such questions in this interdisciplinary course for students interested in the peculiar dynamics of scientific cognition, theoretical elaboration and system-building, and the strengths and limits of representation. Our focus will be the emergence and exportation of three classic texts: Lucretius' On the Nature of Things, Galileo's Dialogue concerning the Two Chief World Systems, and Darwin's On the Origin of Species.

HUM 470 /CLA 470 /GER 470 /COM 470
Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities : How Literatures Begin

Professor(s): Denis Feeney , Joel B. Lande

The course examines the problem of the origins of literary traditions. There will be some comparative material from different cultural and literary traditions, though the main focus will be on the European context from antiquity through modernity. Why do literatures come into existence at certain times and places? Is this something we should take for granted? What are the circumstances that lead to thedevelopment of a literature? Throughout we will be asking why literatures come about in different ways, with varying ways of harkening back to the past, drawing on local custom, or appropriating other cultural traditions.

NES 370 /COM 381
Marvels and Wonder in Classical Arabic Literature

Professor: Lara Harb

This course explores a variety of medieval Arabic texts through the lens of wonder. It is through marveling at the foreign and inexplicable that we position ourselves in the world and separate the Self from the Other. Yet, wonder is also what prompts our curiosity for discovery and provokes our search for explanations. Where was the line drawn between the familiar and the strange in medieval Arabic culture? How was wonder defined? What role did it play? The course is taught in English in its entirety. No prerequisites.

SLA 420 / ANT 420 / COM 424 / RES 420
Communist Modernity: The Politics and Culture of Soviet Utopia

Professor: Serguei A. Oushakine

Communism is long gone but its legacy continues to reverberate. And not only because of Cuba, China or North Korea. Inspired by utopian ideas of equality and universal brotherhood, communism was originally conceived as an ideological, socio-political, economic and cultural alternative to capitalism's crises. The attempt to build a new utopian world was costly and brutal: equality was quickly transformed into uniformity; brotherhood evolved into the Big Brother. The course provides an in-depth review of these contradictions between utopian motivations and oppressive practices in the Soviet Union.

SPA 301/COM 368 /MED 301
Topics in Medieval and Early Modern Spanish Culture : Women in Medieval and
Early Modern Spain
Professor: Marina S. Brownlee

An investigation of the literary, medical and philosophical treatment of women in medieval and early modern Spain. We will consider works by both male and female 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.

THR 338 /COM 383
Comedies of Error

Professor: Michael Cadden

This course examines one of the most popular of all theatrical genres -- the comedy of mistaken identity. We’ll begin with Plautus, who provided the template for the mayhem to follow – a heritage of long-lost children (and their parents), twins (of the same or opposite sexes), disguise, crossdressing, and love and/or sex at first sight. Central to our project will be the question of how and why writers use these and other conventions to explore and explode the mysteries of identity and why the theater is the best venue for their explorations and explosions.