Reading and Composition (R&C)

R1A.001: Modern Mappings, Ancient Imaginings, Borrowed Life

J. Ramey & N. Pick
T/Th 8-9:30
121 Wheeler

How do modern writers imaginatively map ancient civilizations?  And how did the ancients, who did not know they were “ancients,” imaginatively map themselves?  These questions will inform our own imaginative mapping of two ancient literary loci—Egypt and Mesoamerica.  We will then trace a spatiotemporal cartography of later writers imagining those ancient worlds and ask what role the literary imagining of such ancientness has in convincing writers and readers that they themselves are “modern.”  We will also ask what it means for a writer’s idea to remain dormant for many centuries in a papyrus or carved stone glyph, only to be reawoken and retransmitted in the context of a radically different cultural “ecosystem.”  Can such ideas be said to possess a kind of “borrowed life”?  If so, does such life parallel other life-forms in the natural world?  In other words, can the Book of the Dead reveal its place in the Tree of Life?

Students must attend classes, participate in class discussions, work on group projects, and demonstrate thoughtful readings of the assigned texts. A total of about 32 pages of prose will be turned in throughout the semester divided among several short essays each of which will be subject to extensive revision. Students will be asked to participate in an ongoing web-based dialogue and to give an oral presentation.

Required Texts:

The Egyptian Book of the Dead – (trans. Raymond Faulkner and James Allen)

Helen in Egypt – H. D. (Hilda Doolittle)

Dew Breaker – Edwidge Danticat

Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Maya (trans. Allen Christensen)

Poems, Protests and a Dream – Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Bless Me, Ultima – Rudolfo Anaya

The Random House Handbook –  Frederick Crews


Cabeza de Vaca – Nicolas Echeverria

Course Reader: Will include poetry from Ezra Pound’s Cantos, Derek Walcott’s Omeros, Octavio Paz’s “Sun Stone,” translations of Aztec writing, and critical approaches to the texts.

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.002: The Enclosed, the Captive, and the Kept

S.Tramel & H. Cruz
T/Th 9:30-11:00
121 Wheeler

We shall explore different forms of confinement: physical, psychological, spiritual, and social.  In our study of literature of different genres, periods, and places, we shall identify characteristic components of the “captive’s tale”, consider the importance of narrative voice in the sympathetic involvement of the reader, and analyze the means by which themes of captivity communicate ideas and ideals of freedom.

Class work will include close engagement with reading assignments, active participation in discussion, and the completion of several short essays with revisions.  There will be no final examination for this course.

Captivity, Love, Passion, and Deliverance

Selections from Ovid (Amores)

Selections from the poetry of the Troubadours

de Troyes, Chretien. Lancelot, The Knight of the Cart.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Knight’s Tale, from The Canterbury Tales

Racine, Jean. Phedre.

Spiritual Captivity and Physical Enclosure

Alighieri, Dante.  Inferno (selections).

Life of St. Margaret.  From the Katherine Group in Medieval English Prose for Women.

Captivity and Political Rule.

Calderon, Pedro.  Life Is a Dream.

Captivity and the Early Americas

Rowlandson, Mary. The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary


Aldridge. A Narrative of the Lord’s wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, a Black, (Now Gone to Preach the Gospel in Nova-Scotia) Born in New-York, in North merica.

Confinement and Marriage

Flaubert, Gustave.  Madame Bovary.

Captivity, Guilt, and Questions of Redemption

Heggie, Jake. Dead Man Walking. (opera)

Robbins, Timothy. Dead Man Walking. (film)

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.003: Literary Games

D. Inciarte
T/Th 9:30-11:00
224 Wheeler

Horace famously wrote that our stories should aim to instruct and delight. Countless authors have followed his advice, with a variety of interpretations. We will look at a number of texts that offer the reader a particular form of pleasure and delight: literary playfulness. All works of literature consist of language games but some are more self-consciously structured as linguistically playful objects than others.  How do our authors play with language? How do they play with their readers? Are their playful creations simply fancy mind games, akin to chess, or are they serious philosophical inquiries that, in the words of Mary Poppins (paraphrasing, among others, 16th century Ludovico Ariosto) add a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down?

Students will improve their analytical reading and expository writing skills through close reading, theoretical and contextual discussions, and critical research. Requirements will include a three to four-page diagnostic essay; short free-writing assignments; writing workshops; short critical presentations; regular postings for online discussion; and two progressively longer essays, each of which will be revised.

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.004: Men and Women: Literary Relationships

S. Milkova
MWF 11-12
225 Wheeler

Goals of the Course:

This course fulfills the first portion of the undergraduate reading and composition requirement. It is designed to introduce you to the inns and outs of critical reading, literary analysis, and academic writing. The course emphasizes reading and writing as processes that are shaped by communities of readers and writers.  This means that peer editing, oral presentations, and discussion in class and on the web-based discussion board will be important components of the course.

Theme of the Course:

Entitled “Men and Women,” Robert Browning’s 1855 book of poetry not only marked the middle of the nineteenth century, but also highlighted the emerging complex relationship between men and women in an era of industrialization and emancipation, which called for the redefinition of traditional gender roles in society. In this course we will use Browning’s title as a starting point to survey various literary representations of men and women and a range of issues they have raised since antiquity. We will examine representations of gender relations across cultures and genres, culminating in the “prudish” Victorian age with its tacit obsession with gender and sexuality.

We will look at how gender relations are depicted in literature including the socio-political dimension of marriage, the role of scientific discovery and empiricism in family relations, the idea of romantic affection, relationships of power and dominance, various modes of deception and deceit as well as fantastic or uncanny representations of men and women. In this course we will apply textual analysis and close reading to understand how literature constructs, sustains, or subverts concepts of masculinity and femininity. We will read carefully and discuss at length literary texts from different periods and national traditions, and will engage in academic writing about them. To cultivate and polish our academic prose, we will draft and then rewrite three papers.

Reading List:

Sappho, Lyric Poetry

Jane Austen, Persuasion

Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Venus in Furs

Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Course reader:

Short stories by E. A. Poe, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Nikolai Karamzin, Iordan Iovkov, Anton Chekhov

Lyric poetry by Sappho, Charles Baudelaire, Robert Browning, Oscar Wilde

Theoretical texts and critical essays


Daydreams (Bauer, 1915)

Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)

Salome (Saura, 2002)

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.005: Ain’t Misbehavin’

K. Nielsen &  C. Piser
MWF 10-11:00
200 Wheeler

In this course we will look at fictional and poetic representations of misbehavior.  The texts we will look at raise questions of good and bad, normalcy and deviancy, femininity and masculinity, obedience and control.  On the level of character, we will look at everything from misbehaving children to misbehaving monarchs. We will also consider misbehavior in the arena of literary tradition and innovation, focusing on the novel as a genre often defined by its self-conscious subversion of expectations. This class will take a broad historical view on narrative experimentation and along the way we will encounter a diverse range of styles: lyrical, realist, episodic, fantastic, gothic, parodic, psychological, and picaresque. In a short poetry unit, we will look at poetic form and license.

While we will question how to “contextualize” a work of literature—historically, generically, and intertextually—our primary mode of analysis in class and in papers will be close and painstaking reading of the texts up for discussion. We will also turn this scrutiny of the written word onto our own writing.  As a class we will articulate a set of shared expectations and conventions for the short papers we write and throughout the semester will focus on revision as an active and many-stepped process.

Required texts:

The Arabian Nights (Norton, Haddawy translation)

Lazarillo of Tormes (nyrb, Merwin translation)

Madame de la Lafayette, The Princess of Cleves (Norton, Lyons translation)

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (Dover edition)

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (Harcourt edition)

Crews, The Random House Handbook

A course reader containing poetry, shorter pieces from Hesiod, the Bible, Balzac, and James Joyce, and critical essays by (among others) Todorov, Bakhtin, and Barbara Johnson.

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.006: Meta-stories

M Fisher
T/Th 8-9:30
263 Dwinelle

“What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?” Haroun asks his father the storyteller in Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories. In this course, we will explore the ways in which texts from a variety of genres, languages, and time periods address this question and its ramifications: when and how do these texts reflect upon their own status as literary and artistic projects, and upon the relation between fiction and “reality?” When and how does storytelling function as a medium of culture or politics? When and how does storytelling become related to the art of seduction? In what way do the answers to all these questions (and more) depend on literary form, cultural context, gender, and other variables? We will engage these questions through close examination of the following texts:

Required Texts

Mary Shelly, Frankenstein

Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Shame

Course Reader, available at Copy Central, 2560 Bancroft Way, including excerpts from:

The Thousand and One Nights and Don Quijote; essays by Walter Benjamin, Mary Poovey, and Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar; and short stories by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Isak Dinesen, and Oba Minako.

We will also be viewing and discussing the film Adaptation.

Recommended: style manual (such as The New St. Martin’s Handbook

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.007: The Legacy of Rome: Ancient Images, Renaissance Ideals and Recent Representations

A. Gill
T/Th 2-3:30
79 Dwinelle

In this course we will read the city of Rome as a powerful idea in Western literature from classical times to the post-modern era.  We will study appropriations, idealizations, exaggerations and criticisms of the Eternal City by ancient poets and historians, by Renaissance humanists and artists, and by American film directors and authors.  We will ask how pagan and Christian mythologies of Rome informed later representations of the city in narrative fiction, politics and film and will explore the ways in which ideas about Rome have influenced current notions about democracy and empire in the United States at the outset of the twenty-first century.  Our investigations will be supplemented by the theoretical writings of recent scholars as well as by the intellectual material produced by all of us as a group of critical readers and thoughtful writers.

Course work will include readings and reading-responses, active participation in class discussions, presentations, frequent writing assignments and numerous revisions.  Regular attendance and participation is required.  You will have the opportunity to practice critical thinking about your own and others’ ideas, and to learn how to express your interpretations in a coherent and cohesive way.  This course will help you prepare for the rest of your academic career, regardless of your field of interest or the length of your studies.

Please note: All readings and discussions will be in English.  This course satisfies the first (or second) half of the University’s Reading and Composition requirement.

Texts may include, but will not be limited to:

Ancient (Latin)

Virgil.  Aeneid.

Livy.  History of Rome.

Augustine.  City of God.

Medieval and Renaissance (Italian)

Dante. Commedia.

Michelangelo.  Sistine Chapel; Basilica of Saint Peter’s.

Vasari.  Life of Michelangelo.

Modern and Post-Modern (American/English)

Murphy.  Are We Rome?  The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America.

Images of Rome: Perceptions of Ancient Rome in Europe and the United States in the Modern Age.


Course Reader: Text & Context.  The course reader will include background reading (1A only), relevant criticism and theory, as well as recent writing about Rome, America, democracy and empire.

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.008: Nature and Critique

Instructor: Paul Haacke

P. Haacke
MWF 11-12:00
222 Wheeler

What is humanity’s relationship to nature? In this course we will not actually answer this question, but rather study some of the various representations, conceptions and critiques of it from the Renaissance to the contemporary world. We’ll start with early modern humanist responses to the rise of European colonialism and then work our way through novels, poems and essays from many of the major aesthetic movements that have come to define modern culture – and put it into question – since then. If time allows, we’ll also watch a few recent films connecting our theme to current events. Topics for discussion will include the animality of human life, connections between nature, territory and national culture, presumed distinctions between savagery and civilization, romantic notions of spiritual nature and interpersonal chemistry, the gendering of nature and the naturalization of gender (as well as sexuality, race, class, ideology, etc.), and the potential of art and science to represent, reproduce or dominate nature.

Students will work on close reading, careful writing and critical thinking skills over the course of the semester. Requirements will include a short diagnostic essay, regular short writing responses and in-class presentations, a mid-term paper on given topics, a final research paper on a chosen topic, and active participation in class discussion.

Readings may include:

Michel de Montaigne, “On Cannibals,” “On Physiognomy” and “Of a Monstrous Child”

William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Alejo Carpentier, The Lost Steps

J.W. von Goethe, Elective Affinities and selected poetry

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Charles Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life” and selections from The Flowers of Evil and Paris Spleen

Honoré de Balzac, “The Unknown Masterpiece”

Emile Zola, Thérèse Raquin

Franz Kafka, “Report to an Academy,” “The Metamorphosis,” and “In the Penal Colony”

Richard Wright, Native Son and selected Haiku poems

Albert Camus, The Plague

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello

Possible essays by: Charles Darwin, Emile Durkheim, Elizabeth Grosz, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon, Judith Butler, Raymond Williams, James Clifford, Andrew Ross, Mike Davis

Films may include:

When the Levees Broke (Spike Lee, 2006)

An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim, 2006)

Starship Troopers (Paul Verhoeven, 1995)

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.011: Spiritual Literature and “Use Value”

S. Sayar/T. Warner
T/TH 9:30-11:00
110 Wheeler

In this class we will critically examine works of a spiritual and spiritually instructive nature – not in order to determine the truth or falsity of any given spiritual idea or doctrine, but precisely in order to surpass the limiting and subjective concept of truth and falsity, into such considerations as use value and historical, social, and educational function.  In so doing, we will seek to dramatically increase the subtlety and insightfulness of our writing by being able to say more than simply:  “this is true, this is false, this is good, this is bad”, all the while maintaining clarity and simplicity on the level of syntax and grammar.


The Bhagavad Gita

The Mystical Poems of Rumi

Hesse, Herman: Siddartha

Coelho, Paulo: The Alchemist

Millman, Dan: Way of the Peaceful Warrior

Kane, Cheikh Hamidou – The Ambiguous Adventure

Cohen, Hermann – excerpts from On the Messianic Idea of Judaism

Schleiermacher, Friedrich – excerpts from Speeches on Religion

Talal Asad – Short excerpts from Formations of the Secular

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.002: Representations of Guilt

S. Popkin &  S. England
MWF 10-11:00
215 Dwinelle

What is guilt?  We will examine the ethical and psychoanalytical problem of guilt as it has emerged in and across literature.  We will probe the following questions.  First, what sorts of events, emotions and/or religious/cultural mores produce feelings of guilt?  How have the causes of guilt shifted over time?  » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.003: Folded Mirrors: Self-Reflexive Texts and the Construction of Narrative Subjectivities

Tu/Th 09:30-11:00 24 Wheeler Instructor: Karina Palau

K Palau & J Jimenez
T/TH 9:30-11:00
24 Wheeler

Throughout the ages, writers, artists, and thinkers have created works that cannot seem to resist turning their gaze upon themselves—works that reveal a concern not only with relaying a particular narrative, but also with drawing attention to how a narrative is articulated, structured, and produced.  » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 17236

R1B.004: Femmes Fatales: Fantasies of Feminine Evil

S. Milkova & K. Dodson
T/Th 11-12:30
20 Wheeler

Goals of the Course:

This course fulfills the second portion of the undergraduate reading and composition requirement. It is designed to help you develop clearer and more effective writing as you also hone your critical reading and research skills.  The course emphasizes reading and writing as processes that are shaped by communities of readers and writers.  This means that peer editing, oral presentations, and discussion in class and on the web-based discussion board will be important components of the course.

Theme of the Course:

Brazenly sexual, aggressive, perverse, and outright dangerous female characters have always haunted the Western creative imagination. Beginning with Salome, the image of the femme fatale, or woman as a man-hating fatal temptress, has emerged consistently in the history of literature and refused to be domesticated.   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.005: Subjectivity and the Experience of Crowds

V. Rodic
T/TH 12:30-2:00
222 Wheeler

In this class, we will examine literary representations of individual identity in relation to various types of collectivities.  We will trace the birth and the development of an individual’s sense of subjectivity in relation to various forms of social groupings, such as urban crowds, revolutionary crowds, the social classes, and even groupings formed by family or school. We will ask ourselves some of the following questions: How does an individual develop a sense of identity in relation to a group?   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.007: Rising Waters: Creation and Loss in Literature and Film

T. Singleton
T/TH 3:30-5:00
220 Wheeler

That which is created from great loss forms the foundation for much celebrated literature. At times that loss stems from our complicated relationship to water. In water we have one of our most precious needs and our greatest fears.  It constitutes our earth, our bodies and in face of great loss, it flows from our eyes breaking through the barrier of what many believe is the soul. » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.012: Gender and Desire in Western Lyricism

L. Young
T/TH 11-12:30
224 Wheeler

This course will divide into three main segments each focusing on a form that proved a key juncture in the rise of western lyricism: archaic Greek monody and its Roman counterparts, the Troubadour lyric and the Sonnet.  Within each segment we will read retrospectively, beginning with 20th (and 21st) century versions of the form in question.  We will then turn to the older prototype and think about how the form’s original context relates to its later incarnations. Throughout the semester we will pay close attention to how gender constructions have shaped and been shaped by lyric discourse.  This element of the course will hinge upon our readings of a number of seminal prose texts that have both conditioned and responded to paradigms of gender and romance commonly found in lyric poems.  These readings will include texts by Plato, Andreas Capellanus, Freud, Marcuse, Foucault, Barthes and Lacan.  Reading back and forth between poetry, philosophy and theory will help us attend to how desire (for origins, innocence, power and, yes, maybe even people) manifests in poetic forms.

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.013: Transamerican Poetics

J. Ramey and B. Clancy
T/TH 11-12:30
121 Wheeler

This course will primarily ask the question: do the literatures of the Americas have a kinship relation?  Is it possible to destabilize established national boundaries for literatures in the Americas?  How does the conquest of the New World continue to resonate and stubbornly return as a transamerican manifestation of primordial violence, violation and cultural conception?  How does the medieval image of Dante’s Inferno haunt representations of the Americas?  What might the outlines of an aesthetics of transamerican literature look like?  How might painting and film in the Americas capture a visual fractal pattern of such an aesthetic?

Students must attend classes, participate in class discussions, work on group projects, and demonstrate thoughtful readings of the assigned texts. A total of about 32 pages of prose will be turned in throughout the semester: a diagnostic essay and two papers of substantial length, each of which will be subject to extensive revision. Students will be asked to participate in an ongoing web-based dialogue and to give an oral presentation.

Required Texts:

The Inferno – Dante (trans. Allen Mandelbaum)

Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman

Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems (Edición Bilingüe) – Pablo Neruda

Flight to Canada – Ishmael Reed

So Far from God – Ana Castillo

From Sand Creek – Simon Ortiz

The Random House Handbook –  Frederick Crews


Our Lady of the Assassins – Barbet Schroeder / Fernando Vallejo

Course Reader:

Will include poetry from Ezra Pound’s Cantos, Derek Walcott’s Omeros, Octavio Paz’s “Sun Stone,” translations of Aztec writing, and critical approaches to the texts.

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.014: Tripping: Traveling in Literature

L. Rubman
MWF 11-12:00
224 Wheeler

Travel has long been an important literary theme. The Bible, The Iliad, and The Odyssey all are road (or at least sea lane) stories. Before Jack Kerouac went on the road, crisscrossing America’s highway system, Don Quixote had traveled the dirt roads of early modern Spain.   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.014: Modern Isms

K. Zumhagen-Yekplé and D. Simon
T/TH 8-9:30
130 Wheeler

Modernism is a general term applied retrospectively to the wide range of experimental and avant-garde trends in the literature, music and the visual arts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This course will offer a detailed survey of some of the key texts and debates surrounding modernism and its precursors in literature, film and visual culture. Some of the issues we will discuss include: modernist difficulty, allusion, the metropolis, the secular modernist fascination with elements of mysticism, epiphany, the aesthetics of shock, multiple point of view, fragmentation, discontinuity and montage in modernist texts; the modernist critique of civilisation, technology and enlightenment; dada, surrealism and irrationality; the interactions between literature and film; psychoanalysis and the development of the concept of the self.

We will examine some of the many isms of modernism and the modern avant-garde (futurism, Cubism, Imagism, Expressionism, dada and surrealism, etc) as well as the emergence of “high” modernism.  We will also study those debates surrounding modernism and its relation to romanticism, and, most importantly, to notions of realism.

Required texts will be chosen from among the following:

Augustine, Confessions

Dante, Inferno

Homer, Odyssey

William Wordsworth, “Tintern Abbey” and Preface to Lyrical Ballads

Charles Baudelaire, selected Poems

Stéphane Mallarmé, selected poems

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Paul Celan, selected poems.

Rainer Maria Rilke, selected poems

Ezra Pound, selected poems

H.D. selected poems

Langston Hughes, selected poems

Henrik Ibsen, The Master Builder

Bertolt Brecht, Mother Courage

Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis and selected short prose

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

James Joyce, Ulysses, selected episodes

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones

Gabriel Garcia Márquez  A Hundred Years of Solitude

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Ruttman, Symphony of a City

Lang, Metropolis

Chaplin, Modern Times

A course reader will include a variety of avant-garde manifestoes, influential theoretical essays from the period and secondary literature.

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.016: The Art of Stasis

C. Sumner
T/TH 11-12:30
225 Wheeler

This class will focus on literary texts which use various representational strategies to depict scenes of personal and social stasis.  With each text, we will return to a central question: how does this author represent stasis?  » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.017: Magic, Metamorphosis, and the Artistic Imagination

P. Dimova
T/TH 3:30-5:00
251 Dwinelle

The magical power of transforming the self and the world has held a compelling sway over the literary imagination throughout the centuries. In this course, we will look at the ways in which literature has reflected man’s fascination with magic as supernatural capacity to transfigure reality, as superstition, as verbal magic, as carnivalesque playfulness, and as Romantic imagination. We will read texts that take magic and divinities for granted, explain the world by means of metamorphosis and magic, read metamorphoses as historical allegories, and posit the human capacity for imagining as the ultimate magic. We will discuss novels, plays, poems, fairy tales, and essays across cultures and time that lend storytelling, love and death, art and history, words and ritual, dreams and nature the magic power of transformation. Finally, the literal or figurative metamorphoses that we will encounter in our readings will provoke us to inquire into notions such as identity, corporeality, power, censorship, and resistance.

Tentative Reading List:

Euripides, Bacchae

Ovid, Metamorphoses (selections)

Shakespeare, Midsummer Night’s Dream

Kafka, Metamorphoses

Süskind, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer


Tom Tykwer, “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”

Alfonso Arau, “Like Water for Chocolate”

Course Reader: Poems by Charles Baudelaire, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, W.J.von Goethe, John Keats, Rainer Maria Rilke, Konstantin Pavlov, and Wallace Stevens. Stories by Gabriel García Márquez, Nikolai Gogol, and Iordan Radichkov, and essays by Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Wendy Faris, and Salman Rushdie. All readings are in English translation.

Course Catalog Number:


H 1A: Aesthetic experience and everyday life: the beautiful, the ugly, and the ordinary

H. Freed-Thall
T/Th 9:30-11:00
108 Wheeler

Course Pre-requisites: 3.5 GPA in high school English.  A reading knowledge of an ancient or modern language is desirable.

“The concept of art is located in a historically changing constellation of elements; it refuses definition.” –Adorno,

In this course, we will investigate diverging accounts of aesthetic experience. We will read an array of theoretical works, including 18th century philosophy of taste, 19th century poetic manifestos propounding the aesthetic value of ugliness, and 20th century theories that expand the aesthetic to the realm of everyday life.  Although our starting point will be the European Enlightenment, we will test the limits of Western aesthetic theory by placing it in counterpoint with literary texts from inside and outside this tradition. We will focus on texts that invite very different sorts of readerly attachment, ranging from a medieval romance to romantic lyric poetry, from fantastic tales and realist narratives to modernist and postcolonial novels.

Many of the texts we will read require us to consider the aesthetic potential of objects that fall outside of traditional aesthetic evaluation, whether because they are beneath notice, like a sock or kitchen table, or repugnant, like a maggot-infested stuffed parrot. In other texts, the aesthetic is allied with mute or passive modes of being, like Melville’s mysterious copy clerk, Bartleby– a character so uncharacterizable that we have to aesthetically reorient ourselves in order to “read” him at all. In novels by Virginia Woolf and Maryse Condé, as well as in Chrétien de Troyes’s 12th century romance, death (or the unassimilable presence of a dead body) is what simultaneously arrests and generates narrative interest.

Focusing on close reading and analytical writing skills, we will attend to a number of difficult questions. How do we recognize aesthetic experience? Is it always pleasurable? Is there any difference between aesthetic perception and “ordinary” modes of perceiving the world? How are dynamics of aesthetic appreciation allied with class stratifications and colonial power? If traditional aesthetic theory can only conceive of a privileged aesthetic subject, do literary works invite us to imagine a democratized aesthetics?  Does art have curative or therapeutic properties—can it rescue us from meaninglessness or mend a damaged life? And why does this question of art’s redemptive power become so pressing in modernity?

A course reader will include selections by Kant, Hugo, Freud, Shklovsky, Benjamin, Barthes, Bourdieu, Glissant, Gilroy, Bazin, Winnicott, Phillips, Wordsworth, Baudelaire, Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Rilke, Neruda, Poe, Melville, Flaubert, Kafka, Proust, Cortázar, and Beckett.

The following texts will be available for purchase:

Chrétien de Troyes, Yvain, or the Knight with the Lion

Woolf, To the Lighthouse and A Room of One’s Own

Condé, Crossing the Mangrove

We will also view and discuss films by Jane Campion and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Piano and The Lives of Others).

Course Catalog Number:

24: Freshman Seminar

Reading and Reciting Poems in English

Instructor: Steve Tollefson

S. Tollefson
Tu 4-5:00
211 Dwinelle

People today do not 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.” Or at a party some time, you’ll be able to show off with a bit of T.S. Eliot: “in the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo.” In this seminar, we will read a number of classic poems as well as a number of other (perhaps lesser, but still memorable) poems, and discuss them. The poems cut across centuries and types. Students will be encouraged to find other poems for the group to read. Requirements:  Participants will be required to memorize and recite 50-75 lines of their choice, and to prepare a short annotated anthology of their favorite poems. In addition, every student will read aloud several times during the semester.

Course Catalog Number:

41B: Introduction to Literary Forms: Forms of the Lyric

Lyric Time

A. Goldstein
24 Wheeler
T/Th 11-12:30

Attempting to give one name to the way many lyric poems seem at once to capture a humble instant, and to initiate a “momentous” discourse outside time, Earl Miner asked, “In a double sense, is lyric not of moment?” » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

41C: Introduction to Literary Forms: Forms of the Novel

Novel Nations: Writing Nationality in Modern Narrative

L. Ramos
T/Th 9:30-11:00
123 Wheeler

In his landmark study on modern nationalism, Benedict Anderson identifies the novel as one of the principal vehicles by which the experience of national consciousness is transmitted. Taking Anderson’s claim as its point of departure, this course will investigate the intimate, if vexed, relation the novel is said to maintain with the nation-form. In short, we will be concerned with the following kinds of questions: How do both categories of  “novel” and “nation” offer distinctly new forms of representation?  That is, what distinguishes both from previous modes of ordering literary and political life and of mediating subjective and collective experience? What textual strategies do novels employ in order to transmit the feeling of national consciousness toward readers? Conversely, what formal elements do novels have recourse to that disrupt or displace the nation in favor of alternate notions of community and belonging? Our approach, then, will be two-fold: Not only will we examine narratives of masculine conquest (Conrad) and emancipation (Márquez), but will be concerned with feminist versions of resistance (Desai) and self-awareness (Brontë). Not only will we broach representative works of European realism (Brontë) and modernism (Conrad), but will underscore the ways in which postcolonial fiction resists approaches to the novel that rely on unilinear conceptions of historical progression (Márquez) and economic development (Desai). Finally, not only will we examine each work in its textual singularity, but will make sense of the specific ways in which it corresponds (or collides) with the theoretical material brought forth in class. In so doing, students may expect to gain a fuller appreciation of both the limitations and possibilities of a branch of novel theory that takes the nation-form as its object of inquiry.

Requirements:  Two formal essays (one 5 to 7 pages, the other 10 to 12 in length), one presentation, weekly response papers, nearly perfect attendance, and an engaging and spirited presence in class.

Representative texts (to be purchased after our first meeting):

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez

The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai


A course reader composed of the usual suspects in novel theory (e.g., Anderson, Bhabha, Bakhtin, Spivak, and Jameson), among others, will be available the first day of class.

Course Catalog Number:

50: Creative Writing in Comparative Literature


L. Smith
T/Th 12:30-2:00
215 Dwinelle

If you’ve ever finished a good book with the urge to write a better one… if you’ve always thought of taking a creative writing class but been reluctant to commit… if you’re ever tempted to let the dishes pile up and lock yourself with your laptop in a room of your own… then this course is your chance to explore the storytelling impulse in a supportive environment completely free of intimidation and pretension.

This course will suit the needs of beginning creative writers, but more experienced writers will find themselves engaged and challenged as well.  Whatever a student’s level of skill or experience, his or her work will receive individual attention, and each student will be taken on individual terms.

Class time will be divided between lectures by the instructor, student-led discussion of assigned readings, in-class writing exercises, and readings and workshops of student writing.  Readings will range from classic short stories to hip poetry and prose by just-emerging writers.  Discussion will focus on the nuts and bolts of craft: on how good writers do what they do, and on what we can learn from them.

Students will complete several assigned writing exercises.  By the end of the semester, each student will produce a significant, polished, rigorously revised work of around twenty pages, for example: the first chapter of a novel, a short story, a personal essay, or several short shorts.  Our discussions will focus primarily on fiction, and most students will choose to produce works of fiction as their final projects, but students with compelling interests in narrative non-fiction, poetry, screenplay, drama, the graphic novel, and other storytelling formats will be encouraged to pursue those interests, with the instructor’s permission.

Good citizenship is mandatory, and each student’s grade will be influenced by the quality of his or her participation.  Students must engage enthusiastically with the workshop process, and be supportive of their fellow writers.  Most importantly, students must be willing to share their love of literature, and to have fun!

Course Catalog Number:

60AC: Topics in the Literatures of American Cultures

Literature, Race and Psychoanalysis

A. Henry
T/Th 9:30-11:00
100 Wheeler

“But what was he after? What did he want? What did he love and what did he hate? He did not know. There was something he knew and something he felt; something the world gave him and something he himself had…never in all his life, with this black skin of his, had the two worlds, thought and feeling, will and mind, aspiration and satisfaction, been together; never had he felt a sense of wholeness.”–Richard Wright, Native Son discussing Bigger Thomas

How do we know what Bigger Thomas wants if he cannot know? What prevents him from knowing his own life and desires? In asking these questions, we must also ask what prevents this knowledge from becoming conscious and more critically, what are the origins of this desire and this obstacle to knowledge? What is this something that bars us from Bigger’s ‘sense of wholeness?’ The other side of this question is to ask what does it mean to never be whole and is it possible to be a stable whole? In the context of Jim Crow America, a reductive response to our questions might simply be‘racism.’ But, in the last thirty years, theories of racial formation and institutional racism have shed light on Wright’s 1940 masterpiece.

This course attempts to pursue debates of racial subjectivity and race relations in the context of 20th century American cultural practices. In particular we will revisit the questions “what is reading?” and “what is interpretation?” in relation both to the complexities within debates of race relations and to the problematics raised by psychoanalytic literary criticism. We define racializational as a matrix of mechanisms by which race becomes simultaneously visible and invisible, mobilized and stagnant, and experienced and repressed. The course aims to provide a focused comparative perspective on the question of race and will analyze both the literary and cultural processes of racializiation in 20th century American literature and film.

We will follow two parallel and intertwined tracks during the semester. First, we will develop the various outlets for ‘reading’ the race of the Other: historical/cultural practices, social formations, psychic constructions, and literary devices (with a heavy emphasis on the latter two). Our second goal will be to examine how raced actors ‘interpret’ how they are read and their reactions to those readings (performativity, interpellation, and interior monologues). In this dual articulation of racialization, we will examine the textual and technological apparati that contribute to racialization and track how the modes of racialization have changed in the past 100 years.

The course requires (3) short three-page papers, one group presentation, and one final group project.


Sigmund, Freud. An Outline of Psycho-Analysis. New York: Norton,0393001512.

Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. New York: Vintage, 0679745424.

Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury. New York: Vintage,0679732241.

Villanueva, Tino. Scene from the Movie GIANT. Jackson, TN: Curbstone Press, 1880684128.

Williams, Tennessee. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. New Direction Publishing,0811216012.

Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. Vintage, 067972768X.

Wright, Richard. Uncle Tom’s Children. Harper Perennial, 0060587148)

Films (all on reserve at the Media Resource Center in Moffitt Library)

Giant (George Stevens, 1956)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks, 1958)

Course Catalog Number:

100: Introduction to Comparative Literature

American Poetry's Ethical-Political Dilemmas Since 1950: Some Comparatist Perspectives

Instructor: Robert Kaufman

R. Kaufman
T/Th 11-12:30
223 Wheeler

This seminar takes up a very big question: How do American poets, from about 1950 to the present, attempt formally and thematically to engage ethics and politics?   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

112A: Modern Greek Language

M/W/F 12:00-01:00 210 Dwinelle Instructor: Maria Kotzamanidou

M. Kotzamanidou
MWF 12-1:00
210 Dwinelle

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: 17320

154: Eighteenth- and 19th-Century Literature

Framing Narrative(s)

S. Herbold
T/Th 12:30-2:00
174 Barrows

Frame narratives (“story within a story”) are common in nineteenth-century literature, but why should this be so? And what might the implications of this phenomenon be?   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

155: The Modern Period

Literature and Colonialism

Instructor: Karl Britto

K. Britto
T/Th 11-12:30
101 Wheeler

In this course we will read a number of literary texts set in colonized territories, largely though not entirely under French domination.  Dating from the turn of the twentieth century to the period of widespread decolonization some half-century later, these texts represent a variety of forms and genres (adventure novels, autobiographical fiction, philosophical novels, political denunciation and/or satire) and emerge out of a number of different cultural situations and geographic locations (including Southeast Asia, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa).  Some of the authors to be considered are firmly enshrined in the canon of modern European literature, while others write as colonized subjects whose work engages with European histories of exoticist representation.  In our discussions, we will consider the historical specificity of each text while remaining open to insights made possible by reading comparatively.  In other words, our goal will not be to synthesize a monolithic theory of literature and colonialism but rather to analyze individual texts while attempting to be attentive to common textual strategies, formal elements, and practices of representing colonial space, dynamics of power, and variously configured articulations of domination and resistance, civilization and savagery, modernity and tradition.  Readings will include: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, André Malraux, The Royal Way, Albert Camus, The Stranger, Marguerite Duras, The Sea Wall, Ferdinand Oyono, Houseboy, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Ambiguous Adventure, Memmi, The Pillar of Salt, Assia Djebar, Children of the New World

Course Catalog Number:

170: Special Topics in Comparative Literature

Reflections on Modern Greek Poetry

Instructor: Maria Kotzamanidou

M. Kotzamanidou
F 2-5:00
125 Dwinelle

This course aims to re-consider Modern Greek poetry within the cultural life of Greece primarily in the 19th and 20th centuries. It has been stated by critics that modern Greek writers, and particularly poets, reconstruct a topos, “a place for Hellenism through their own national literature”(A. Leontis: Topographies of Hellenism, 1995.) However true some of these observations may be, they seem to have obscured frequently Greek poetry’s other dimensions and to have defined it primarily in terms of its historical relevance and its relationship to a historical past or a historically critical present. This course does not aim to sever Greek poetry’s relationship with history. To the contrary, history may provide the inspiration and frequently the context. However, by focusing primarily on the workings of emotion, intellect and imagination, this course aims to disengage Greek poetry from its already existing definitions as history’s handmaiden and Hellenism’s servant while still allowing it to be contextualized in historical and literary terms. Thus, from the oral tradition that springs naturally from worlds of trauma that mobilize the imagination, individually and collectively, to the self-consciousness of Modernism and the intricate subversions of Surrealism, this course aims selectively to present Greek poetry from an individual, artistic perspective and to isolate the broad and complex influences upon it.

Course Catalog Number:

190: Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature

James Joyce's Ulysses and its Heirs

Instructor: Robert Alter

R. Alter
T/TH 12:30-2:00
106 Wheeler

Joyce’s ULYSSES was not only one of the central achievements of modernist fiction but also a watershed novel, representing an ultimate realization of the process of interiorization of narrative that had been evolving in European fiction during the latter part of the nineteenth century. We will devote about half the semester to a close reading, episode by episode, of Joyce’s novel, and then will consider three later novels, in three different national-literary traditions, that in different ways emulate and carry forward Joyce’s precedent.

Students will be expected to write two papers of eight to ten pages each during the semester, one on ULYSSES and one another novel of their choice, topics to be determined in consultation with the instructor. There is no examination

Course Catalog Number:


200: Approaches to Comparative Literature

The Symbol and Symbolism

Instructor: Harsha Ram

H. Ram
W 3-6:00
255 Dwinelle

The symbol is one of the most commonly invoked and yet loosely formulated tropes to be employed in literary studies. Unlike other terms of rhetoric, it is also widely invoked in other disciplines, from logic to semiotics to theology.   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

201: Proseminar

F 12:00-01:00 4104 Dwinelle Instructor: Miryam Sas

K. McCarthy
F 12-1:00
4104 Dwinelle, Comp. Lit. Conference Room

Required for all first year graduate students

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 apspects 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: 17380

A 202: Approaches to Genre: Epic and Saga

European Epic: The Case of Italy

A. Ascoli
M 3-6:00
6331 Dwinelle

Also Listed at Italian Studies 215, Taught in English; Reading Knowledge of Italian Desirable

The epic has traditionally been read as the most complete literary representation of a culture, its values, its “knowledges.” When Renaissance authors took up the epic under the aegis of a larger project of recovering the classical past, therefore, they were not only looking for the “poetic legitimation” available through the imitation of established Virgilian and other models, but also for a way of defining, “authorizing”, and/or critically exploring new socio-political structures.  First, of course, is the general question of adapting the epic to include the Christian critique of pagan culture (in the way of Augustine’s anti-Aeneid, the City of God), but the issues were far more varied and specific: the rise of centralized national states in Europe (or in the case of Italy, the failure to become a nation); the fragmentation of Christian culture between Reform and Counter-Reform; the discovery and colonization of the Americas; and so on.  In this course we will focus on the particular case of Italy, seen, however, in light of the classical past and, if there is time and student interest, with an eye to parallel and/or contrasting developments elsewhere, especially in England.  We will begin with a week on the classical epic, especially Virgil’s Aeneid, followed by another dedicated to late classical response and medieval responses to Virgil (especially Augustine’s City of God, Lucan’s Pharsalia and Dantes Commedia.  The body of the course will be dedicated to the two major Italian epics of the sixteenth century: Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso  and Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata.   In two final weeks we will look at examples of epic from elsewhere in Europe (England, Spain, Portugal, France, and so on), choosing according to the interests of the seminar participants.

The final paper should reflect the concerns of the course but can be focused according to the interests and the linguistic-literary competences of the student.

Requirements: active participation; two in-class reports; final research paper

Course Catalog Number:

202B/English 203, German 214: Approaches to Genre: Lyric Poetry

Three Marxian Poets? The Americas and Germany? Brecht, Vallejo, Zukofsky

Instructor: Robert Kaufman

R. Kaufman
Tu 2-5:00
222 Wheeler

Also listed as Engl 203:4 & German 214:1

The German Bertolt Brecht, the Peruvian César Vallejo, and the American Louis Zukofsky exert–within their lifetimes, and within their posthumous reception to this day–special influence on experimental-modernist and marxian (as well as broader Left) traditions of poetry.  » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

225/German 214: Studies in Symbolist and Modern Literature

Inscribing the Other: Jewish Writers in the German-Speaking World

B. Goldstein
Th 12:00-3:00
4104 Dwinelle, Comp Lit Conference Room

Also listed as German 214:3

This course explores the writings of German-speaking/writing Jews from the emancipation of Jews from European ghettos in the 17th and 18th centuries to their expulsion or extermination during the period of National Socialism. The texts include a variety of perspectives (including social, political, and cultural) and genres (autobiography, memoir, poetry, fictional narratives, dramas, and a range of discursive writings). Although many of these writers are known for a broad spectrum of works, we will concentrate on those texts concerned with Jewish issues. Writers (may) include, among others, Glikl Hamel, Solomon Maimon, Moses Mendelssohn, Rachel Varnhagen, Karl Marx, Heinrich Heine, Franz Kafka, Else Lasker-Schüler, Arthur Schnitzler, Otto Weininger, Theodore Herzl, Sigmund Freud, Hannah Arendt, Peter Weiss, Paul Celan, Nelly Sachs.

Texts will be available in both German and English translation.

Course Catalog Number:

360: Essaying Teaching: A Pedagogical Conversation

S Herbold
W 12-3:00
201 Wheeler

Please note that this class will meet Wednesdays from 12 to 3.

Teaching is always —or should always be—an experiment, and one can only become a better teacher by reflecting on one’s own (and others’) teaching experiments. This class is designed to encourage participants to reflect critically on their own and others’ attempts to integrate teaching literature and writing. We will pursue this objective by reflecting on our goals as teachers; practicing teaching; observing each other teaching; discussing our experiences as teachers and giving each other feedback; discussing essays on teaching by professional teachers; preparing and reviewing teaching materials; and analyzing and responding to sample student work.  Since most courses taught by GSIs in the department are Reading and Composition (“R&C”) courses, we will focus on preparing to teach in the 1A/1B sequence. You will learn many of the basic elements of teaching a successful 1A/1B course from experienced teachers in the Comp Lit department. We will begin by discussing what constitutes an argument and then cover a series of topics such as grading, leading discussion, and teaching revision. Each student will also present a sample lesson. But we will also reflect on our philosophies and goals in teaching literature and writing, and aim to integrate as much as possible the theoretical concerns of our own approaches to literature with practical approaches to teaching beginning students. Regular attendance and the completion of all assignments are required in order to satisfy the departmental pedagogy requirement.

Course Catalog Number: