Reading and Composition (R&C)

R1A.001: Language, Code, and Meaning

TT 9:30-11

We take for granted that the primary purpose of language is to communicate meaning. But what happens when language as we know it becomes insufficient? What happens when language loses its conventional meaning?   » read more »

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R1A.001: Backstage

S. Schwartz & J. Bodik
MWF 10-11
221 Wheeler

On the boards of the brightly lit stage, the show is always going on; night after night it plays out a faithful repetition of music, gesture, dialogue, movement, and pretended emotion. While the audience sits rapt in the darkness, watching the performance, what mass of hidden characters is animating the backstage? In this class, we will look at the unseen spaces and private theatrics that do not find their way into the programs and critics’ reviews. In the subterranean canals of the Paris Opéra, a ghostly apparition poles his silent boat into secret chambers; when the curtain goes down on a Broadway show, the lively dramatic genre known as the “backstage musical” takes its cue.

Our syllabus ranges from films and novels to Aristotle’s Poetics and reconstructions of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. In several cases, we will look at pairings that turn a dramatic idea inside out: we will view Japanese Noh plays, for example, alongside a novel of historical fiction about Noh’s founders in 14th-century Japan. We will discuss the strategy of setting a play within a play, and then see what happens when the inner performance seeps into its actors’ lives. Along the way, these texts will raise issues of self-performance, dramatic and theatrical conventions, and whether the characters in a play have the right to tell their author to get his act together…


Aristotle, Poetics

Nobuko Albery, The House of Kanze

Doris Lessing, Love, Again


William Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew

Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author

Selected Noh, Kabuki, and Bunraki dramas


Phantom of the Opera (Rupert Julian, 1925)

Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn Roy, 1933)

Kiss Me Kate (George Sidney, 1953)

The Producers (Mel Brooks, 1968)

Opening Night (John Cassavetes, 1977)

Swimming to Cambodia (Jonathem Demme, 1987)

Poems, Essays, Stories

“Backstage” & other poems (The Weary Blues) –Langston Hughes & Charles Mingus

“Sarasine” –Honoré de Balzac

Theater History of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater

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R1A.002: The Art of Forgetting

H. Freed-Thall & L. Gurton-Wachter
MWF 9-10
121 Wheeler

In this course, we will read texts that explore the productive, creative possibilities of forgetting. First, we will acquaint ourselves with shifting metaphors of memory from Antiquity to the present, including the wax tablet, the loom, the storehouse, the camera, and the computer. Then, reading literary works from Montaigne and Rousseau to Pablo Neruda and Mahmoud Darwish, as well as theoretical texts by psychoanalysts, neurologists, and historians, we will examine narratives that emerge out of oblivion, or that explicitly thematize detour, distraction, and procrastination. Among our considerations: the relationship between history and memory, between literature and the senses (especially the “minor senses”), the impasses of mourning, and the pleasures of vagrancy.


Mahmoud Darwish, Memory for Forgetfulness

Jamaica Kincaid, My Brother

Shakespeare, Hamlet


Nolan, Memento

Hitchcock, Vertigo

A course reader will include selections by Plato, Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Montaigne, Rousseau, Poe, Baudelaire, Borges, Woolf, Celan, Proust, Neruda, Perec, Auster, Nietzsche, Freud, Sacks, and Suárez-Araúz.

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R1A.003: Literature and Gravity

Instructor: Paul Haacke

P. Haacke
MWF 10-11

Since the United States dropped the first atom bombs in 1945, there has emerged a new consciousness of global gravity, uncertainty and terror. As Hannah Arendt writes in her book The Human Condition, the earth has come to be seen as not only a home to inhabit, but a prison to escape.   » read more »

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R1A.005: From Tragedy to Trauma

S. Popkin & R. Lorenz
MWF 9-10

While many who write about trauma stress the ethical responsibility of passing on their stories, many of these same writers also convey the essential impossibility of this task. » read more »

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R1A.006: Misbehavior

MWF 10-11
210 Wheeler

In this course we will look at fictional and poetic representations of misbehavior. The texts we will read vary not only in their genres and approaches to misbehavior but also in their languages of origin and in the historical periods in which they were written.   » read more »

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R1A.008: Nostalgia, Utopia, Apocalypse

TT 9:30-11
223 Wheeler

This course will focus on the strange effects produced by the off-kilter temporalities (and, at times, geographies) of nostalgia, utopia and apocalypse. While nostalgia produces the eruption of the past in the present, utopia works at representing a space outside of historical or man-made time.   » read more »

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R1A.009: Heroes, Anti-Heroes, Heroines and Super-Heroes

TT 11-12.30
222 Wheeler

We are all familiar with great heroes: men and women who struggle mightily against Gods, other men, and themselves. Overcoming great odds, heroes have founded cities, converted the unbelievers, saved the planet, and romanced women. But what happens when the hero does not want to save the day?   » read more »

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R1B.001: Representing War and the Writing of the Disaster

TT 9.30-11
229 Dwinelle

“With the [First] World War a process began to become apparent which has not halted since then. Was it not noticeable at the end of the war that men returned from the battlefield grown silent – not richer, but poorer in communicable experience?” (Walter Benjamin, “The Storyteller” – 1936). » read more »

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R1B.002: States of Exception: Culture and Politics at the Zone of Indeterminacy

TT 11-12.30

Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben recently noted that President Bush, by expressly reminding the public of his status of “Commander in Chief ” after September 11, is effectively “attempting to produce a situation in which the emergency becomes the rule, and the very distinction between peace and war (and between foreign and civil war) becomes impossible.” » read more »

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R1B.005: Where Should We Be Today? — Travel and Landscape in New World Literature

J. White &  J. Caballero
MWF 11-12
209 Dwinelle

Should we have stayed at home and thought of here? Where should we be today? Is it right to be watching strangers in a play in this strangest of theatres? […] Oh, must we dream our dreams and have them, too? –Elizabeth Bishop

In her 1965 poem “Questions of Travel,” Elizabeth Bishop wryly wonders which is better, the fantasy or the reality of another place; she refers to the landscapes of that other place as dreams, focusing our attention not on the real sites but on our conception of them, mediated by culture and ideology.   » read more »

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R1B.006: Comparative Partitions: Between Literature and Dispossession

M. Bhaumik & V. Eleasar
MWF 10-11
121 Wheeler

Challenging representations of race and geography, colonialism and national overcoming, event and fiction, this class interrogates commonplace notions of territory, citizenship and sovereignty. Students will be asked to turn to the complexity of spatial relations and subject formation in fiction in order to question social policies and governmental doctrines established as a means of resolving so-called “communal conflict.” » read more »

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R1B.008: Irony and Idealism

MWF 12-1
182 Dwinelle

Since The Aeneid and The Odyssey, literary forms have been used to express individual and societal ideals, often through the actions and thoughts of their main protagonist. But, it seems, the modern reader is often tempted to interpret these ideals as ironic, as though the very presentation of idealism was an invitation to parody.   » read more »

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R1B.009: Where Should We Be Today? — Travel and Landscape in New World Literature

J. White
MWF 1-2
222 Wheeler

Should we have stayed at home and thought of here? Where should we be today? Is it right to be watching strangers in a play in this strangest of theatres? […] Oh, must we dream our dreamsand have them, too?–Elizabeth Bishop

In her 1965 poem “Questions of Travel,” Elizabeth Bishop wryly wonders which is better, the fantasy or the reality of another place; she refers to the landscapes of that other place as dreams, focusing our attention not on the real sites but on our conception of them, mediated by culture and ideology.   » read more »

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R1B.010: Still Life with Model

S. Schwartz & A. Goldstein
MWF 9-10
122 Wheeler

In Ovid’s story of Pygmalion, a sculptor fashions an ivory statue of a woman which is so beautiful—so unbearably, artistically perfect—that he falls in love with her, and wishes she would come to life. When Pygmalion’s wish is granted by the goddess Venus, he is stunned into rapturous disbelief that his creation is now a blushing, breathing woman.   » read more »

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R1B.011: Marriage, Narrative, and Civilization

J. Hill
TT 8-9.30
223 Wheeler

Sex and religion, monogamy and polygamy, patriarchy and adultery, property and therapy, privacy and public vows, children and divorce, miscegenation and same-sex unions. In this research and writing course we will consider a few of the classic texts that tell stories about marriage.   » read more »

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R1B.012: Inventing Innocence

MWF 9-10
123 Dwinelle

This course’s primary objective is to hone students’ composition skills. In conjunction with our work on writing, we will consider poetry, fiction and film that use young narrators to convey a moral landscape.   » read more »

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R1B.015: Family Trouble: The Theme of Incest in Literature

TT 9.30-11
2301 Tolman

Each society puts a taboo on incest; each society interprets incest and the problems associated with it differently. Prohibitions on a legitimate sexual union can vary from a narrow restriction on marriage between the members of a nuclear family to a wide ban on marriage within the seventh degree of consanguinity.   » read more »

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R1B.016: A Semester at Sea

MWF 9-10
223 Wheeler

What does the sea represent for literature? This vast and encompassing feature of the natural world inspires and constitutes a wide range of texts: from the voyage of Odysseus to the poetic revolution of Rimbaud, from the monumental sea tale of Melville’s Moby Dick to the modernist psychology of Woolf’s The Waves, and back around again to Patrick O’Brien’s seafaring adventure novels. » read more »

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R1B.017: Representing War and the Writing of the Disaster

MWF 11-12
279 Dwinelle

“With the [First] World War a process began to become apparent which has not halted since then. Was it not noticeable at the end of the war that men returned from the battlefield grown silent – not richer, but poorer in communicable experience?” (Walter Benjamin, “The Storyteller” – 1936). » read more »

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24: Freshman Seminar

Reading and Reciting Great Poems in English

Instructor: Steve Tollefson

Tu 3-4
50 Barrows

People today don’t have enough poetry in their heads, and everyone should be able to recite one or two of their favorite poems. In addition to its purely personal benefits, knowing some poetry by heart has practical applications: in a tough job interview, you can impress the prospective boss by reciting just the right line, say, from Dylan Thomas: “do not go gentle into that good night/rage rage against the dying of the light.”   » read more »

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39G: Freshman/Sophomore Seminar

Systems of Belief: The Ephemeral Body

Instructor: Maria Kotzamanidou

M. Kotzamanidou
TT 2-3.30
254 Dwinelle

How did Greeks think of the human body and its ephemeral nature? Did they conceive of its corporeal reality the same way Western tradition does, in terms of the antinomies of body and soul? Spiritual and material? » read more »

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40: Women and Literature

Women on the Road

A. Moore
MWF 9-10
20 Wheeler

Often associated with the home and hearth, women have historically served as symbols for nations. Although this might seem outdated in today’s postmodern world, women continue to figure strongly in the symbolic register for nations. Woman—reduced to wife or the female body—is a familiar trope for the earth, and by extension, land, nation or city. » read more »

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60AC: Topics in the Literatures of American Cultures

Conspiracy, Paranoia, and Apocalyptic Dread in American Postwar Narratives

American Cultures
L. Bermudez
TT 9.30-11
205 Dwinelle

Since the second half the twentieth century the themes of conspiracy, paranoia, and apocalypse have become a central feature in the American cultural landscape. From the Red Scare of the 1950s to the “new world order” of the present, the popular imaginary has conceived social reality in terms of perceived external threats, internal enemies, or impending doom.   » read more »

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100: Introduction to Comparative Literature

Text and Intertext: 'Death in Venice'

TT 9.30-11
234 Dwinelle

Thomas Mann’s novella “Death in Venice” (1912), one of the great short works of modern literature, derives its power from a dense weave of literary, philosophical, musical, psychological, historical and biographical sources from Homer and Plato to Wagner and Freud. This course introduces central methods and problems in comparative literature though a reading of the intertexts of Mann’s story, together with “Death in Venice” itself (and two films and an opera based on it). Questions of the nature of literary borrowing, the discreteness of the literary work, authorial intention, irony, allusion, pastiche, adaptation, social and political context, narrative technique, relations among the arts, sexuality and text.

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112A: Modern Greek

M/W/F 12:00-01:00 222 Wheeler Instructor: Maria Kotzamanidou

M. Kotzamanidou
MWF 12-1
222 Wheeler

Modern Greek is unique among languages in that it is the only modern language directly descended from Ancient Greek. In this course, the student studies reading, writing, pronunciation and use of contemporary spoken idiom, all within the historical and cultural context of the language. By the end of the course, the student should have a strong grammatical and linguistic foundation in Greek as it is spoken today. (No Prerequisite)

Course Catalog Number: 17299

120: The Biblical Tradition in Western Literature

Instructor: Robert Alter

R. Alter
TT 11-12.30
56 Barrows

The course will focus on a selection of biblical texts and of novels that respond to them. It will have the double aim of learning how to read the artfully concise literature of the Bible and following the afterlife of the Bible in a line of novels that displays a rich variety of the possibilities of intertextuality. Because the Bible is associated in Western culture with the notion of religious and moral authority, we will also consider in what ways that authority is imaginatively assimilated or challenged by later writers.


Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews

Franz Kafka, America

William Faulkner, Absolom, Absolom!

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

Herman Melville, Moby Dick

The Bible

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154: Eighteenth- and 19th-Century Literature

Counter, Original, Spare, Strange: The Eccentric Voice in 19th-Century Poetry

TT 11.30-2
258 Dwinelle

In an age of progress, rationality and useful machines, what place was there for the ecstatic poet? Readings chiefly from Emily Dickinson, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, with an early 20th-century point of comparison in Rainer Maria Rilke. These were linguistic and poetic innovators of the first order, exact writers, sure of the supreme importance of the poetic vocation. Writing in an era unsympathetic to that intense commitment, each became an artist of withdrawal and transcendence, both eccentric and central to the history of lyric poetry after Romanticism.

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170: Special Topics in Comparative Literature

An Introduction to Modern Greek Literature

Instructor: Maria Kotzamanidou

M. Kotzamanidou
F 2-5
279 Dwinelle

This is an introduction into twentieth century Greek literature. This course aims to familiarize the student with some of the important prose, poetry and drama of twentieth century Greece placed in its historical and cultural context.   » read more »

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190: Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature

Loss, Mourning, and Literature

Instructor: Judith Butler

J. Butler
T 2-5
279 Dwinelle

This course will consider literary writings related to war, its losses, and the task of mourning. We will read works by Primo Levi, Charlotte Delbo, Robert Antelme, Marguerite Duras, W.G. Sebald, Paul Celan, Mahmoud Darwisch, Jorge Semprun and Jimaica Kincaid along with selected theoretical essays by Freud, Benjamin, and Weil. We will concentrate on whether writing becomes a venue for mourning and reparation, how it registers without resolving loss, and how the task of literature is altered in the aftermath of destruction. We will consider whether literature may have an “affirmative” task, even if it cannot redeem or resolve the destruction and loss that forms its social context.

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190: Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature


Instructor: Victoria Kahn

V. Kahn
MW 4-5.30
258 Dwinelle

An introduction to the genre of tragedy, focussing on ancient Greece, the Renaissance, and the modern period. We will read primary texts and works of literary theory. The course will focus on the following questions: How has the idea of tragedy changed from antiquity to the present? What is the role of the passions in the conception of tragedy?   » read more »

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200: Approaches to Comparative Literature

What Can (Comparative) Literature Do?

Instructor: Francine Masiello

F. Masiello
W 3-6
210 Dwinelle

Critics have recently revisited the discipline of comparative literature by offering reflections on the evolution of the field along with thoughts about the political, ethical, and esthetic dimensions of literary inquiry.   » read more »

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201: Comparative Literature Proseminar

F 12:00-01:00 4104 Dwinelle Instructor: Eric Naiman

E. Naiman
F 12-1
4104 Dwinelle

This course is designed to give all new graduate students a broad view of the department’s faculty, the courses they teach, and their fields of research. In addition, it will introduce students to some practical aspects of the graduate career, issues that pertain to specific fields of research, and questions currently being debated across the profession. The readings for the course will consist of copies of materials by the department’s faculty.

Course Catalog Number: 17350

215: Studies in Medieval Literature

Lyric Economies in the European Renaissance

Instructor: Timothy Hampton

T. Hampton
F 2-5
225 Dwinelle

“What are these verses good for?”-Du Bellay

This course will provide an overview of the development of courtly lyric in early modern Europe. After an introductory glance at the conventions of the troubadours and the dolce stil nuovo, we will study a number of influential poets whose work shapes the lyric in Europe from the close of the Middle Ages to the middle of the seventeenth century. Special attention will be paid to the ways in which lyric texts participate in systems of exchange—in economies of patronage, in the new medium of print culture, in the cross-cultural discourses of exploration and empire. Among the poets studied will be Petrarch, Stampa, Ronsard, Du Bellay, Wyatt, Sidney, Garcilaso and Sor Juana—though other poets may be included, depending on the linguistic competencies and interests of the members of the seminar. Some reading knowledge of French would be useful, but is not essential. Students will be asked to give a presentation in class and write a seminar paper.

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227/Italian 235: Studies in Contemporary Literature

Contemporary Italian Political Thought

A. Ricciardi
Tu 2-5
6331 Dwinelle
Cross-listed as Italian 235

Course taught in English

This course examines the fundamental Italian contribution to the contemporary redefinition of the category of the political. We will begin by reviewing Gramsci’s classic reflections on the question of hegemony and on the relationship between politics and culture. Our investigation will continue through an analysis of more recent writings by Agamben, Esposito, Negri, Tronti, and Virno which have consistently put into question the cogency and relevance of the political paradigms of modernity (including those of Marx and Gramsci).   » read more »

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360S: Those Who Can, Teach

S. Herbold
W 12-2, F 1-2
233 Dwinelle

The purpose of this course is to introduce new GSIs to the theory and practice of teaching Comparative Literature 1A and 1B (and other courses taught by Comp Lit GSI’s).  More generally, the course will help you prepare for a career as a college teacher of literature and for the teaching component of job applications. This course is a 4-unit, S/U class.

Nearly every week, we will read one or more articles by experienced scholars and teachers and evaluate how their perspectives can inform our practice. We will also make time to talk about how your classes are going and share suggestions on how to improve teaching skills. Each week individual students will initiate discussion of the reading by giving a short oral response to it. Several times during the semester, experienced GSI’s in the department will share with you some of their favorite techniques.

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Participants will be asked to do brief-in class presentations and write and hand a teaching journal and regular writing assignments. Attendance is also required.


Course Reader, available at Copy Central, 2560 Bancroft Way

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