Reading and Composition (R&C)

R1A.001: The Deep End: Katabasis and Fictions of the Abyss

CL R1A:1
Tu/Th 9:30-11:00
30 Wheeler
CCN 17203
Andrea Gadberry & Jocelyn Saidenberg

“The way down to hell is easy…” – Virgil, Aeneid 6.126

“Does the Eagle know what is in the pit?”William Blake, The Book of Thel

This semester we will plunge into the abyss, taking our cue from many distinguished literary trailblazers as we study critical reading and composition.  Since antiquity, epic heroes have gone to hell (or Hades) and back: Odysseus goes to the underworld, Aeneas follows his example, and Dante heads to hell, and, more recently, Alice Notley’s Alette descends into subterranean New York, to name just a few examples. This course takes katabasis, or the descent to the underworld, as its point of departure for its study of descents into depths literal and figurative.  In poems, novels, plays, and works of art, we will study the spelunkings of heroes epic and otherwise into abysses below and within.  We will explore the encounter between life and death that katabasis dramatizes, and we will ask what sort of knowledge an abyss might offer – or what kind of “gazing” an abyss might be able to do.  What is the relationship between the underworld and the world above, and how does the experience of descent shape the return (for those who do return)?  What are the qualities of the protagonists who plumb these depths?  How might a literary investigation of the deepest fathoms help us understand the forms of the unfathomable?

We will also apply the attentive gaze we cast into the abyss to the art of writing.  Over a series of short essays and slightly longer papers, students will practice expository writing and close reading, studying the craft of producing argumentative essays sustained by careful readings.  In addition to these written assignments, students should expect to participate actively in class discussions and make an oral presentation.


Aristophanes, Frogs

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood

Dante, Inferno

Homer, Odyssey, Book 11

Carl Jung, “Picasso” (1932)

Alice Notley, The Descent of Alette

Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 10

Pablo Picasso, Paintings (Blue Period)

Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell

Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit

Virgil, Aeneid, Book 6

William Blake, The Book of Thel


A course reader will include some of the texts above as well as works by Mikhail Bakhtin, Sigmund Freud, and Jalal Toufic.

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.002: Close Encounters

CL R1A:2
Tu/Th 8-9:30
209 Dwinelle
CCN 17206
Laura Wagner & Kathryn Crim


What does it mean to meet someone or something we can’t name?  How do we know the difference between self and other, between friend and foe, between the familiar and the foreign?  What distinguishes a novel experience from an everyday event?  And how do we talk about what we’ve seen?  This course will turn to a variety of literary genres and visual representations as we interrogate the notion of the encounter.  We’ll track down visits to and from alien worlds, examine confrontations in the domestic sphere and in the street, and look at meetings with animals and with ghosts.  Most importantly, we’ll work on developing the critical reading and analytical writing skills that will help us to articulate what happens in our own close encounters with texts of all kinds.

Required Texts:

China Miéville, Embassytown

Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy

Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw



Todd Haynes, Far From Heaven

David Simon, The Wire

Werner Herzog, Grizzly Man

A course reader will include selections by Jorge Luis Borges, François Rabelais, Michel de Montaigne, Elizabeth Bishop, Edgar Allen Poe, Julio Cortázar, and John Berger, as well as varied resources on writing.

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.003: Great Expectations

M/W/F 11:00-12:00 109 Dwinelle Instructor: Keith Budner

CL R1A:3
MWF 11-12:00
109 Dwinelle
CCN 17209
Margaret Gordon & Keith Budner

This is a course about people who fall short, plans that go bust, and stories that don’t turn out like you thought they would. Not that you’ll be spending the semester suffering through a series of tragic disappointments. For as we explore the making and unmaking of lofty ambitions, romantic aspirations, prophecies, and personal and collective ideals, we will also be questioning whether they’re all they’re cracked up to be, or even worth pursuing in the first place. Where do these enthralling, often crushing expectations come from? In what way do they shape our attitudes towards the past, the present, and the future? How are they framed within artistic works? With what preconceptions do we approach these works, and how might the works respond to them? Whether as characters, narratives, or readers, could going halfway, amiss, in the opposite direction, or nowhere at all towards fulfilling expectations—going somewhere completely unexpected—bring its own rewards?

A significant portion of our time will be dedicated to refining your prose. You will be responsible for writing and revising three papers as well as completing a number of short writing assignments. You will also create and present a multimedia group project.

Please purchase the following texts in the editions specified:

William Shakespeare, King Lear (Penguin; ISBN 978-0140714760)

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (Grove; ISBN 978-0802130341)

Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust (New Directions; ISBN 978-0811218221)

Shorter written texts, films, songs, and visual art may include:

The Bible, selections

Virgil, from The Aeniad

Apuleius, from The Golden Ass

Miguel de Cervantes, from Don Quixote

Katherine Mansfield, “The Baron”

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel”

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”

James Joyce, “Araby”

Roberto Bolaño, “Gómez Palacio”

Elizabeth Bishop, from Questions of Travel

Franco Marinetti, The Futurist Manifesto

Vladimir Mayakovsky, “At the Top of My Voice”

Leonard Cohen, “Waiting for the Miracle” and “The Future”

Hieronymus Bosch, The Last Judgment

Gregory Crewdson, Beneath the Roses

Tex Avery, selected cartoons

Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront

Lars von Trier, Melancholia

John Huston, The Maltese Falcon

Andrei Tarkovsky, Stalker

Fritz Lang, Metropolis

Course Catalog Number: 17209

R1A.003: Possible Worlds, Parallel Universes

Com Lit R1A:3
T/Th 12:30-2:00
215 Dwinelle
CCN 17209
M. Gordon

According to the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, we live in “the best of all possible worlds.”  Whether or not that’s true, it hasn’t prevented us from ceaselessly imagining – or even creating – alternate realities: shiny fantasy worlds where our most cherished dreams come true or, when we’re feeling less optimistic, nightmarish dystopias where they are mercilessly crushed.  What constitutes a possible world or parallel universe?   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.004: The Pleasure of the Tale

Instructor: Gabriel Page

CL R1A:4
Tu/Th 11-12:30
209 Dwinelle
CCN 17212
Gabe Page & Caitlin Scholl

This is a course about the pleasure particular to reading and reflecting on literary texts, especially those short narrative texts known as tales. It is about learning to become the kind of reader capable of being seduced by a literary text: by its language, plot, sheer inventiveness – even by its ambiguity. This course will also serve as an introduction to world literature. We will read tales from around the world and across the ages: folk tales, epic tales, strange and fantastic tales, metaphysical parables, travel tales, tales of crime and detection, the realist short story, and postmodern metafictional narratives. We will discuss the differences between oral tales and written tales, and the ways in which oral structures are presented in many of the literary texts we will be reading. This is also a writing intensive course; while not everyone immediately associates writing with pleasure, we will approach writing as an activity of experimentation and discovery – never easy, sometimes frustrating, but truly exhilarating when we finally find the language to give form to our experience of a literary text, enabling us to communicate that experience to others.

Readings are likely to include selections from The Odyssey, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Chuang Tzu, A Thousand and One Nights, the Ramayana, The Decameron, various Romantic narrative poems, the Sunjata and Mwindo epics, short stories by Poe, Gogol, Diop, Borges, and Calvino, Kafka’s parables, Chamoiseau’s Solibo Magnificent, and Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard. We will complement our literary readings with theoretical essays by Vladimir Propp, Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Peter Brooks, Walter Ong, and others.

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.005: Seeing is Creating: Madness, Imagination, and Fiction

Instructor: Diana Thow

CL R1A:5
Tu/Th 8-9:30
109 Dwinelle
CCN 17215
Sydney Cochran and Diana Thow

In this course we will consider madness in its many forms and characterizations in literature, film, and visual art.  Our study, however, will not be of madness itself so much as the way it exemplifies the close connection, for all of us, between what we see and the imaginative lens through which we see it.

We will meet Don Quixote who, pathetic or profound, sees a world that is precisely as romantic as he wishes it to be, and a Little Prince who knows for certain, when looking at a sketch of a wooden box with holes, that inside that box is a live sheep. We’ll listen to the townspeople, in “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World,” as they re-imagine the village they thought they knew in the course of telling to each other the likely story of the dead body that washes up one day on their beach.  We will watch as the narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” encounters successive new versions of herself in the paper that covers her room.

As we examine the texts before us, we will consider how the process of reading fiction and of viewing art is also an exercise of the imagination: the worlds and characters we “see” before us are worlds and characters we ourselves, in part, create.  What does it mean to read?  What is the place and the process of interpretation?  And how do our interpretations of art impact the world we encounter and the self we create when we leave the classroom?  Is reading any less a process of intellectual creation than the one of writing: that exercise by which we give form and shape to our interpretations—represent and communicate to others what we see in the art we analyze?

This will be a course in which we encounter great texts, reflect together on what we take from them, and express our individual interpretations in several longer, and shorter, papers designed to develop the best of skills in reading, writing, interpretation, and research.


  • Gabriel García-Márquez, “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World”
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”
  • Conrad Aiken, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow”
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
  • Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (selections)
  • Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
  • Italo Calvino, The Baron in the Trees (selections)
  • Euripides, The Bacchae
  • Selected poetry of Catullus, Charles Baudelaire, Robert Lowell, Eugenio Montale, and Louis Zukofsky


  • The King of Hearts
  • Silence of the Lambs

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.006: How Can We Know? Ambiguity in Literature

Instructor: Paco Brito Marianne Kaletzky

­CL R1A:6
MWF 10-11:00
215 Dwinelle
CCN 17218
Paco Brito & Marianne Kaletsky

Some texts have the ability to confound us. A hole in the plot, an unresolved ending, a word that feels wrong: these moments of ambiguity can frustrate our attempts to pin down what a text is really saying. But such riddles can also spark our curiosity and deepen our understanding of how literature works.

Each of the texts we’re reading presents an insoluble mystery. In some, we can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality. Others challenge our moral intuitions. And some revel in the obscurity of a crucial word, event, or character. These texts are ideally suited for close reading and careful interpretation. The central focus of the class will be to help students write analytical essays in response to the texts.

Texts will include:


The Kingdom of this World by Alejo Carpentier

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Beloved by Toni Morrison


Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee

Mulholland Drive by David Lynch

Solaris by Andrei Tarkovsky


A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Poetry by A. R. Ammons, Elizabeth Bishop, Bertolt Brecht, Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, César Vallejo, and William Butler Yeats.

Short fiction by Jorge Luis Borges, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Gogol, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Andrei Sinyavsky.

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.007: Science and Literature

CL R1A:7
Tu/Th 3:30-5:00
211 Dwinelle
CCN 17221
Jessie Hock

Course Description: In The Republic, Plato condemps poetry for being too far removed from reality. A feeble imitation of the world (itself an imitation of ideal Ideas), poetry isn’t “true,” distorting human understanding of the world influence on young people to behave badly. In the Poetics, Aristotle argues that didactic, or scientific, verse isn’t really poetry. From the Greeks onwards, we have tended to distinguish poetry and science as different modes of thought with different relationships to truth or the real, and different functions in society. This course will take a long view of this troubled history and read classic scientific writings, poetry, and poetic theory to question the traditional generic boundaries between scientific and literary texts and practices. From the farming manual that is Virgil’s Georgics to contemporary scholarship that uses neurological advances to analyze literature to science fiction from all periods, we will question the boundaries between science and literature and the practice of each.

Reading List:

Readings will likely include selections from the following works and authors, among others. They will be available at the University bookstore, in the course reader, or on bSpace.

John Carey, Faber Book of Science

Aristotle, Poetics, Georgics

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura

Francis Bacon, The New Atlantis

Descartes, Discourse on Method

Shakespeare, The Tempest

Cyrano, Voyage to the Moon

Diderot, Thoughts on the Interpretation of Nature

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

William Gibson, Neuromancer

Primo Levi, “The Periodic Table”

Mark Jaddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

Jonathan Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn

Poems and short works by Dorothy and William Wordsworth, John Clare, Percy and Mary Shelley, Charlotte Smith, Charles Darwin, John Keats, William Blake, John Donne, John Milton, Guillaume Du Bartas, Maurice Scève, Rémy Belleau, Percy Shelley, Thomas Huxley,

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.001: Reading and Writing Nature(s)

CL R1B:1
MWF 11-12:00
262 Dwinelle
CCN 17224
Jordan Bulger

Course Description:

Contemporary debates about cultural matters often appeal to nature to decide them. Parties debating a cultural issue will attempt a familiar gesture: each will claim that its position is natural and therefore true. What relationship between society and nature does this appeal assume?  Why is nature seen as factually accurate or true?  Why would an appeal to nature decide a cultural issue?

Reading literary and theoretical works from different cultures and historical moments, we will identify and compare the multiplicity of “natures” that have been generated in these different contexts.  By continuation, we will explore the implications of different modes of seeing the relationship between the culture and nature: as one of opposition, continuity, ambivalence, etc.

Throughout our exploration of literature, nature, culture, you will think about the argumentative appropriation of nature in contemporary debates about gender, race, class, sexual orientation; development versus conservation; local versus global; old versus new; science versus religion; man versus animal; and individual versus collective.

In addition to focusing on the ways in which nature and culture appear in the texts, we will also examine the role of fiction in shaping our cultural values and public policies with regards to nature. Why would one choose the written word as an approach to the natural world in the first place? What can literature as fiction do that other ways of thinking about nature cannot? Most urgently, what kind of solutions or insights can literature offer to address problems and tensions in the world beyond the written page?

Throughout the semester, we will ask how reading about fictional worlds can be a means of better understanding our lived world: how do the situations and characters we encounter in the texts invite us to reflect upon our own lives, experiences, and decisions? In addition to emphasizing critical reading skills, we will hone our written and oral communication skills by striving to express our ideas and observations with ever-increasing clarity and ever-sounder argument.

Possible Reading List:

  • Homer, The Odyssey
  • Ovid, The Metamorphoses
  • Kafka, The Metamorphosis
  • Shakespeare, King Lear
  • Shelley, Frankenstein
  • Poetry from Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Pound, Moore, Eliot, Stevens, Ginsberg.

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.002: “Thirteen Ways of Looking”: The Gaze and Narrative Point of View

Instructor: Adeline Tran

CL R1B:2
Tu/Th 9:30-11:00
209 Dwinelle
CCN 17227
Adeline Tran & Oya Erez

“To look at a thing is not the same as seeing a thing.” – Oscar Wilde

Taking our cue from Wallace Stevens’ poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” we will be exploring how different ways of looking, seeing and observing are portrayed through narrative point of view in literature and film.  How does point of view shape, control and manipulate the narrative structure of a given text?  What is the difference between looking and seeing?  Is there a right and a wrong way of looking at something, or are there infinite ways of looking that are all equally valid? We’ve all heard the expression “I know it when I see it,” but is seeing the same thing as knowing?  Can the gaze be purely objective, or is it always (at least in part) subjective and biased?  In this course, we will take up these questions of the gaze through a comparison of various forms of narrative point of view, from the covert exchange of gazes in Princesse de Cleves, to the multiple shifts in perspective in To The Lighthouse, to the unreliable first-person narration in Lolita. In our discussion of narrative perspective in film, we will look at how point of view is presented visually through techniques such as camera shots, framing devices, and lighting.  Throughout the course, we will examine the relationship between ways of looking and ways of knowing, and ask ourselves whether seeing really is believing.  In addition, this class requires active student participation and places a strong emphasis on improving student writing skills through weekly worksheets, in-class workshops, and two formal papers.

Required Texts:

Madame de La Fayette, La Princesse de Cleves

Caspary, Laura

Woolf, To The Lighthouse

Nabokov, Lolita

Sebald, Austerlitz


Kurosawa, Rashomon

Bergman, Persona

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.002: Voices of Babel

Tu/Th 9:30-11:00
209 Dwinelle
CCN 17227
Celine Piser & Oya Erez

In this course we’ll study the connections between multilingualism, multiculturalism, and marginalized communities in literature. We’ll look at different ways of storytelling to determine how narratives are structured formally and linguistically. We will read literature as a political tool for the assertion of a marginalized identity, and to this end, question the use of multilingualism in the representation of multicultural communities. We will look at space as well – both the space of identity formation, and the space of communities living on the margins, separated by race, culture, ethnicity, language, and class. We will read literature from a wide variety of cultural and linguistic traditions, and our discussions will be informed by critical readings.

This course is designed to develop the skills obtained in Reading and Composition 1A. In this course, you will learn how to write comparative, research-based literary analysis. To this end, we will work on interpreting literature, producing close readings, developing solid literary arguments, understanding literary theory, doing and presenting outside research, and analyzing and critiquing theoretical work in class discussions and writing assignments. You will be expected to complete all reading and writing assignments in a timely manner and actively participate in class discussion. Course grade will be based on demonstrating careful reading and analytical ability through class participation, short assignments, a group project, and two analytical research papers.

Primary Texts will be chosen from the following:

The Old Testament

Erez Biton, “Summary of a Conversation” and “Shopping Song on Dizengoff”

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee

Junot Diaz, Drown

Michel de Montaigne, “On Cannibals”

Vladimir Nabokov, “The Seaport”

Emine Sevgi Ozdamar, Mother Tongue

Cynthia Ozick, “Envy, or Yiddish in America”

Henry Roth, Call It Sleep

Leila Sebbar, Sherazade

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.003: Ecstasy and the Rise of New Forms

CL R1B:3
Tu/Th  9:30-11:00
229 Dwinelle
CCN 17230
Jeffrey Weiner

Describing, performing, and creating ecstatic experiences has been one of the great stumbling blocks in literature.  Whether it is a physical or a spiritual elevation beyond the norm, the ability to articulate the transcendent has challenged writers in terms of the forms that can be used to express the ecstatic; this obstacle has also, debatably, given rise to a huge release of creativity and the rise of new forms.  We will explore the very limits of human experience in theatre, fiction, scripture, opera, and lyric poetry.  Euripides describes what will be the ongoing tension between freedom to experience aggressive and extremely pleasurable states with a need for the order and restraint of communal living.  From the time of the ancients to the present, individuals and societies have negotiated the restrictions on the experience of ecstatic states, and new cultural forms have come to fruition at that border.  We will explore the explosive collision of destructive and creative manifestations in texts through a variety of genres from different historical periods, and with the cross-disciplinary curiosity that defines Comparative Literature.

Euripides, The Bacchae

Bible, selections from Gospels, Isaiah and Acts of the Apostles

Apuleius, Metamorphoses

John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul

Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale

Shelley, Mont Blanc

Wagner, The Twilight of the Gods

Kushner, Angels in America: Perestroika

Aristotle, short selections from Poetics and Rhetoric

Burke, Edmund, A philosophical enquiry into the origin of our ideas of the sublime and beautiful

Cicero, short selections from On the Ideal Orator

Freud, selections from Civilization and its Discontents

Hepburn,  “Wonder”

James, short selections from Varieties of Religious Experience

Longinus, On the Sublime

Matthew Wilson Smith, selections from The Total Work of Art: from Bayreuth to Cyberspace

Plato, selections from Phaedrus

____, selections from Ion

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.006: Everyday Drama

CL R1B:6
MWF 10-11:00
2066 Valley Life Science Bldg.
CCN 17239
Sarah Ruth Lorenz


This course will explore the interplay of drama and tedium in day-to-day life. All of the works we will read eschew a purely heroic or marvelous mode and instead focus on petty concerns or mundane experience. » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.007: Space is the Place: Framework and Composition

CL R1B:7
T/Th 5-6:30
189 Dwinelle
CCN 17242
S. Schneider

This course will encourage critical reading, thinking and writing skills around the topic of the manipulation of space in literature, photography and film. We will read literary works and theoretical essays, and watch films that are particularly interested in how real and imaginative spaces can serve to frame stories, histories and ideologies and/or themselves become the protagonist. What laws govern real and imagined spaces? » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.008: War and its Aftermath

CL R1B:8
MWF 11-12:00
233 Dwinelle
CCN 17245
Trinh Luu

This is a reading and composition course that will introduce a broad selection of texts on war and its aftermath. The readings will explore premodern Vietnamese civil war, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam wars, and the Algerian civil war. The wide selection is based on the assumption that there is something universally comprehensible about the experience of war. And yet, by reading these texts closely, we will try to tease out the social and cultural specificities that mark these different articulations. The course will address questions like: How can we talk about the legacy of war and survival ethically? What is its representability? How can we confront the horrors analytically? How do we speak of the war dead without “consuming” them?

Required Texts:

Nguyen Du: The Tale of Kieu (0300040512)

Bernhard Schlink: The Reader (B001R6D7I8)

Ha Jin: War Trash (1400075793)

Tim O’Brien: The Things They Carried (0618706410)

Bao Ninh: The Sorrow of War (1573225436)

Assia Djébar: The Tongue’s Blood Does Not Run Dry: Algerian Stories


Course Catalog Number:

R1B.009: Self-Styling

R1B: 9
Tu/Th 11-12:30
175 Barrows
J. Lillie & M. Renolds

“Style is the thing that’s always a bit phony, and at the same time you cannot write without style.” (Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart). This course operates on the premise that style is more than a “phony” necessity; in fact, it can also be a means of self-discovery, self-invention, and a fair amount of fun-having. It’s all too easy not to pay attention to what characterizes one’s writing, to passively reproduce assembly-line structures and nutritionally worthless truisms. This course aspires to help us break free of that. By learning to recognize and interpret the styles of other writers, we’ll uncover and develop aspects of our own, and prove that analytical and creative writing are not two mutually exclusive categories. In accordance with that premise, in this course our enemies will be the bland and rote, our friends the idiosyncratic and experimental. Creative and complex arguments will be made fearlessly at the expense of always being right. Grammar rules will be discussed, admired, and from time to time, firmly stepped on. Clichés (especially those that tend to plague writing about literature) will be hunted and used for taxidermy. As you play with your writing through mimicry and invention (on paper) and by analyzing works through a variety of media (including in-class performances), we hope you’ll learn as much about your written voice as about the texts at hand.

Works for the reading and viewing lists were selected for their provocativeness (to encourage valuable debate), for the extent to which they reward close reading, and for overall degree of fun and weirdness (always good indicators of a work that takes its style seriously). In addition to being written in unique (and sometimes notorious) styles, many incorporate style as a theme of the narrative itself, in which liberties and trappings of the written language play a crucial role.

Possible Readings:

• Sei Shonagon, selections from The Pillow Book

• Kawabata Yasunari, some Palm-of-the-Hand Stories

• Murakami Haruki, “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning,” “The Elephant Vanishes,” “The Zoo Attack”

• Project Itoh, Harmony

• Eileen Chang, “Lust, Caution”

• Raymond Carver, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” “Cathedral”

• Lydia Davis, The End of the Story or selections from Break It Down

• Jenny Erpenbeck, Visitation

• Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin

• Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler

• James Joyce, “The Dead”

• Edgar Allan Poe, “Ligeia,” “The Man of the Crowd”

• H. P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”

• Secondary Readings: Anne Carson on Simonides, D. A. Miller on Hitchcock

Likely Films:

• Vertigo, dir. Alfred Hitchcock

• Sans Soleil, dir. Chris Marker

• Happy Together, dir. Wong Kar-Wai

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.011: Autobiography

Instructor: Nina Estreich

Tu/Th 5-6:30
262 Dwinelle
CCN #17254
Nina Estreich

In this course we will be exploring texts which use the forms of autobiography in various ways.  Through readings and discussion, we will think about representations of self in fiction, poetry, memoir, and film; the relationships between memory and identity; and questions raised by autobiographical forms of expression, in both autobiographical memoir and literary narrative. Over the semester, we will consider interpretive approaches to different forms and styles of writing. Course requirements will include midterm and final papers, as well as regular writing assignments.  Syllabus includes works by Whitman, Kafka, Rhys, Kincaid, Duras, Freud, Herzog.

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.011: Alternate Worlds

Instructor: Kfir Cohen Johnathan Vaknin

Comp Lit R1B:11
MWF 11-12:00
109 Dwinelle
CCN 17254
Kfir Cohen & Johnathan Vaknin

In this course we will develop writing and argumentative skills through exploring imaginative and theoretical texts that offer us models of alternatives worlds whose social structures attempt to solve some of the perennial problems of modern living. We will think through questions concerning the consequences of industrialization, gender relations, and the conditions needed to bring about a just society, among others. We will watch several contemporary films, and read a variety of texts from different historical periods and cultural traditions, focusing specifically on utopian fiction and sci-fi. We will consider some of the following questions: under what social conditions an “alternative world” becomes desirable? What do we mean by “world” and what might be its opposites? What role do literary form and genre have in constructing an alternative world? What kind of attitude do we adopt vis à vis such texts whose implicit or explicit aim is to be “more” than an imaginary experiment?

Other than regular writing assignments, students will be asked to write a short piece elaborating an alternative world of their own.

Books Required

Thomas More, Utopia
Octavia Butler, Kindred
Ursula Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
Tom Shippey, The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories
Course Reader*


Wachowski Brothers, Matrix I
Jean-Luc Godard, Alphaville



Course Catalog Number:

R1B.012: Everyday Drama

CL R1B:12
MWF 11-12:00
209 Dwinelle
CCN 17257
Sarah Ruth Lorenz

This course will explore the interplay of drama and tedium in day-to-day life. All of the works we will read eschew a purely heroic or marvelous mode and instead focus on petty concerns or mundane experience. But these texts do so in a way that is far from ordinary or boring; each offers a distinct creative perspective on everyday life. Some of the works we’ll read highlight the intense and dramatic undercurrents of routine existence. For example, Virginia Woolf “tunnels” deep into the inner life of a middle-aged woman who views each day as a “dangerous” feat; Nikolai Gogol turns a bureaucrat’s quest for a new coat in a darkly humorous, overblown farce; and Emily Dickinson, although she hardly left her room, wrote poetry suffused with extremes of despair, exultation, passion, faith and doubt. Other texts take the opposite approach, underlining the contrast between our romantic dreams and the monotony of daily experience. Euripides, for example, will show us how a heroic quest deteriorates into bickering and jealousy; Platonov, one of the most remarkable writers of the Soviet era, portrays the tragic failure of utopian hopes; and Chekhov’s plays offer masterful depictions of lassitude and gradually fading ambition. As we read each text, we’ll discuss how it illuminates the intertwined monotony and intensity of everyday experience, but we’ll also move beyond the course topic to read each text for its own sake, paying attention to multiple prominent themes and motifs. We will also devote substantial class time to instruction in argumentative writing and research skills. As in all R&C courses, you will write several papers. The ultimate goal of the course is to develop your critical thinking and writing skills as well as your ability to enjoy the creative complexity of literary texts.


Platonov, The Foundation Pit

Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Chekhov, The Seagull

Gogol, “The Overcoat”

Dickinson, selected poetry

Euripides, Medea

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.013: Malediction and Prayer: Literature of Invocation

Instructor: Jordan Greenwald

CL R1B:13
MWF 10-11:00
225 Dwinelle
CCN 17260
Jordan Greenwald

“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below; words without thoughts never to heaven go.”

-William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Spoken by Claudius, III, iii, 100-103)

In this course, we will spend time reading plays, novels, and poems that either constitute or contain one (or both) of two speech acts: the curse and the supplication. » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.014: Literary Pathologies

Comp Lit R1B:14
Tu/Th 3:30-5:00
263 Dwinelle
CCN 17263
Kanayo Agbodike

This course will consider a number of literary texts with an eye to how they explore themes of pathology at both the individual and collective levels. Literature frequently involves critical reflections on both characters within texts and the social contexts that shape them: Plays and novels often imagine personal crises, as well as responses to disruptions within familiar or established public orders; lyric poetry can express conflicts between self and society. We will be considering these and other examples of how various literary forms explore the conditions and implications of pathology, or deviation from what is considered “normal” or “healthy.” Does literature tend to reinforce such norms, question them, or some combination of the two? What specific forms and techniques do texts involve in their representations of pathology? What do cultural reflections on pathology reveal about contradictions within systems of normative values and practices? These are some of the questions that will shape our discussion of a series of relevant texts.

This is a writing-intensive course. In addition to active in-class participation, coursework will include frequent short writing assignments and two longer essays.

Required Books:

Homer, The Odyssey

Shakespeare, Hamlet

Sigmund Freud, Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria

Chester Himes, If He Hollers Let Him Go

Marguerite Duras, The Lover

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Additional readings will be available in a course reader

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.015: Family Drama

Instructor: Carli Cutchin Jessica Crewe

CL R1B:15
MWF 10-11:00
109 Dwinelle
CCN 17269
Jessica Crewe and Carli Cutchin

As Leo Tolstoy famously opens in Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Beginning with Tolstoy’s premise, this course will explore the close intersection between fiction and the representation of (unhappy) family life. » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.016: Everyday Drama

CL R1B:16
MWF 1-2:00
109 Dwinelle
CCN 17269
Sarah Ruth Lorenz

This course will explore the interplay of drama and tedium in day-to-day life. All of the works we will read eschew a purely heroic or marvelous mode and instead focus on petty concerns or mundane experience. But these texts do so in a way that is far from ordinary or boring; each offers a distinct creative perspective on everyday life. Some of the works we’ll read highlight the intense and dramatic undercurrents of routine existence. For example, Virginia Woolf “tunnels” deep into the inner life of a middle-aged woman who views each day as a “dangerous” feat; Nikolai Gogol turns a bureaucrat’s quest for a new coat in a darkly humorous, overblown farce; and Emily Dickinson, although she hardly left her room, wrote poetry suffused with extremes of despair, exultation, passion, faith and doubt. Other texts take the opposite approach, underlining the contrast between our romantic dreams and the monotony of daily experience. Euripides, for example, will show us how a heroic quest deteriorates into bickering and jealousy; Platonov, one of the most remarkable writers of the Soviet era, portrays the tragic failure of utopian hopes; and Chekhov’s plays offer masterful depictions of lassitude and gradually fading ambition. As we read each text, we’ll discuss how it illuminates the intertwined monotony and intensity of everyday experience, but we’ll also move beyond the course topic to read each text for its own sake, paying attention to multiple prominent themes and motifs. We will also devote substantial class time to instruction in argumentative writing and research skills. As in all R&C courses, you will write several papers. The ultimate goal of the course is to develop your critical thinking and writing skills as well as your ability to enjoy the creative complexity of literary texts.


Platonov, The Foundation Pit

Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Chekhov, The Seagull

Gogol, “The Overcoat”

Dickinson, selected poetry

Euripides, Medea

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.017: Violence

CL R1B:17
MWF 11-12:00
225 Dwinelle
CCN 17271
Layla Forrest-White

Violence is often seen as the opposite of speech. It is what happens when words fail, and communication can only occur through non-linguistic means.   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.019: Modernism Unbound: Means and Objects

Comp Lit R1B, Sec. 19
MW 4-5:20
223 Wheeler
CCN 17485
Brian Clancy

In the opening section of his work Poetics, Aristotle moves from a brief discussion of means of representation to a focus on objects of representation that persists throughout his text. Although Aristotle’s theory of mimesis would be considered by many as a blueprint for fashioning narrative fiction through this focus on the objects and human actions that language allegedly refers to, this course examines how many 20th-century modernist literary projects appear at odds with Aristotle’s theory, while seeking to build narrative art on the basis of altogether new aesthetic premises. Moreover, the modernists viewed language as an aesthetic medium and oftentimes borrowed techniques from the visual arts in their exploration of narrative language’s many potential uses. This course thus seeks to fill the gap in narrative aesthetics set in motion by Aristotle’s theory of mimesis by studying the modernist literary techniques of the 1920’s that forever changed fiction despite the persistence of Aristotle’s ideas. As a way of critiquing Aristotle’s influential theory, this course grasps narrative language as an aesthetic medium in itself, not as a mode of representation that merely imitates action in the world. This course furthermore argues that narrative is not a host of symbols that stand for things we already know. In contrast, the epistemological function of narrative art (especially in the context of modernist literary experiments) is more complex and ambitious than often assumed. After looking at Aristotle’s Poetics, we will examine continental modernism to gain a better understanding of the actual materials of narrative art and their diverse functions. For example, we will examine the modernist literary experiments of authors like Joyce and Woolf through close reading, learning how to both decipher these authors’ literary techniques while constructing original arguments about the latter. We will look at how modernist literary experiments take place at the crossroads of experience, perception, and the formation of knowledge of the world. Modernist narrative language arguably creates the image of completely new matter in the texts under discussion through the construction of worlds unbound from plot and semantics. We also wish to examine how modernist literary techniques and effects differ from those used in painting, sculpture, music, dance, as well as other aesthetic mediums.

Course texts:

Aristotle, The Poetics

Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil

Mallarmé, Selected Poetry and Prose


Joyce, Ulysses


Woolf, Jacob’s Room

Nabokov, Lolita

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.021: Bugs in Books

Tu/Th 09:30-11:00 121 Wheeler Instructor: Katie Kadue

CL R1B:21
Tu/Th 9:30-11:00
121 Wheeler
CCN 17491
Katie Kadue

“Maybe one day…I’ll write a love story…where the characters will be insects. I have a bad tendency to overspecialize. I envy you your broad scope, Jim.” –Jules et Jim

We don’t often pay attention to bugs, unless they bite us, eat our plants, compromise our computers, or otherwise annoy us. In this course, we will try to put aside our squeamishness and examine plays, stories, poems, films, and scientific literature involving insects, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that may be visible only under a magnifying lens. We will cultivate our close-reading skills as we learn to analyze language and images with focus and care, without losing sight of the broad scope, the textual ecologies that our specimens inhabit. And we will consider what happens when tiny insects, writ large, are made to exemplify or critique human virtue, vice, and social organization.


This is a writing-intensive course, with an emphasis on revision, and students will be asked to complete small, focused writing assignments as well as more protracted essays.


Texts may include:

Aristophanes, Wasps

Poe, “The Gold-Bug”

Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Nabokov, “Father’s Butterflies”

Hooke, Micrographia

selections from Seneca, Montaigne, Donne, Mandeville, Keats, Wordsworth, Dickinson, Pollan


Perrin, Microcosmos: Le peuple de l’herbe

Lasseter, A Bug’s Life

Course Catalog Number: 17491

R1B.021: Literary Hotels

CL R1B: 21
Tu/Th 9:30-11:00
121 Wheeler
CCN 17491
Julia Nelsen

In this course, we will read stories set primarily within the walls of various hotels. Situating our texts in the broader context of the travel narrative, we will first consider the relationship between hosts and guests, the traditional “inn,” and storytelling. We will then shift our focus to modern representations of the hotel and its rooms as unique sites of betweenness, mobility and transgression, alienation and anonymity, where the world is seen and experienced from an altered vantage point. Questions to be addressed include: how do hotels dramatize, emphasize or disrupt the distinction between public and private, personal and impersonal, domestic and commercial? What does it mean to “live” in a hotel? How does the hotel represent both an escape from and a desire for a place called “home”? What of the vacant hotel? Beyond typical overnight accommodations, we will also consider similar spaces that highlight the relationship between permanence and transience, solitude and community, the exotic and the ordinary. Finally, we will explore what it means to consider the literary text itself as a figure for hospitality.

Readings may include:

Homer, The Odyssey, selections

Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, selections

Thomas Mann, Death in Venice

Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

Ferenc Karinthy, Metropole

Ali Smith, Hotel World

Wayne Koestenbaum, Hotel Theory, selections

Siegfried Kracauer, “The Hotel Lobby”

Selected poetry by T.S. Eliot, Charles Baudelaire, Mark Rudman

Guy Trebay, “My Life in Hotels”

Kay Thompson, Eloise


The Shining, dir. Stephen King

Grand Hotel, dir. Edmund Goulding

Lost in Translation, dir. Sofia Coppola

Psycho, dir. Alfred Hitchcock

Course Catalog Number:


24: Reading and Reciting Great Poems in English

M 04:00-05:00 263 Dwinelle Instructor: Steve Tollefson

Mon 4:00-5:00pm
263 Dwinelle
CCN: 17281
Steve Tollefson
(1 unit Pass/No Pass)

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. 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.

Steve Tollefson, a lecturer in the College Writing Programs, is the author of four books on writing and grammar as well as articles on a variety of subjects and several short stories. He is a recipient of the campus Distinguished Teaching Award.

Course Catalog Number: 17281

24: Freshman Seminar

Bob Dylan and Arthur Rimbaud: Poetry and the Senses

Instructor: Timothy Hampton

CL 24:1
Thu 1-2:30
4226 Dwinelle
CCN# 17272
(1 unit Pass/No Pass only)
Professor Timothy Hampton

Please note this course will meet for the 10 weeks.  The first class meeting will be Thursday, Sept 6th.

Bob Dylan has named the nineteenth-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud as one of his major sources of inspiration.   In this seminar we will explore the connections between these two important writers.  First we will read carefully through the poetry and letters of Rimbaud, one of the most original and powerful of modern poets. We will try to get a sense of what makes Rimbaud’s poetry so influential, not only for Dylan, but for a whole host of modern artists.  Then we will study the intersection between Rimbaud’s work and Dylan’s.  Central to our concerns will be the role of the senses in poetic creation, as well as, of course, the relationship between lyric poetry and song.   Students will gain familiarity with the writing of a major modern poet and have the chance to work closely on issues of poetic language and versification.  Students will be expected to participate actively in the discussion and write two short papers.  The course will be in English.  No knowledge of French is required.

Books on order:

Rimbaud, Arthur.  Complete Works, Selected Letters, trans. Fowlie (University of Chicago Press)

Course Catalog Number:

100: Introduction to Comparative Literature

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

Instructor: Robert Kaufman

CL 100: 1;
T Th, 2-3:30
234 Dwinelle
CCN 17287
Professor Robert Kaufman
[PLEASE NOTE: This “introduction or gateway to the advanced study at the core of the comparative literature major” is expressly designed for students in, entering, or intending to enter the Comparative Literature Department’s major and/or students majoring in other literature departments, or in closely related areas within the humanities » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

100: Introduction to Comparative Literature

Studies in Narrative: Open Secrets

Instructor: Anne-Lise Francois

CL 100:2
MW 4-5:30
175 Dwinelle
CCN 1290
Professor Anne-Lise Francois

How do literary and filmic texts disclose and simultaneously keep their secrets? This course examines the role of secrets in producing and blocking narrative movement, and in releasing and withholding meaning. Particular attention is given to secrets such as the gay closet or racial passing, that, like Poe’s “Purloined Letter,” hide “in plain sight.” In comparing tragedies, films, case histories, novels, and short stories, we discuss the role of narrative and confessional acts in the construction, circulation and concealment of public and private identities, marked and unmarked by gender, sexual identity, race, or class. We also critically examine the implied analogies between interpretation and detective work, and between reading and religious election. What distinguishes interpretive “insight” from naïve reading? What kinds of ironic relationships obtain between “blind” characters and “perceptive” readers?


Cortazar, “The Devil’s Spit”
Barthes, S/Z
Freud, Dora: Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria
James, What Maisie Knew
Kleist, “The Marquise of O—”
Lafayette, The Princesse of Clèves
Larsen, Passing
Melville, Billy Budd, Sailor and Other Tales
The Purloined Poe
Sophocles, Oedipus Rex


Antonioni, Blow-Up
Coppola, The Conversation
Hitchcock, Vertigo
Ophuls, The Earrings of Madame d’…

Course Catalog Number:

152: The Middle Ages

Cultures of Desire: Medieval Literatures on Love

Instructor: Frank Bezner

C L  152:1
Tu/Th 3:30-5:00
179 Dwinelle
CCN 17269
Frank Bezner

In this course we will read a number of seminal texts from one of the most innovative, multi-dimensional, aesthetically complex, and lasting literary traditions in the European Middle Ages: the literature on love (or, as often, but misleadingly labeled, “courtly love”).   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

153/Italian Studies 120: The Renaissance

Shakespeare in Italy

CL 153:1
Tu Th 11-12:30
233 Dwinelle
CCN 17299
Professor Albert R. Ascoli

Also listed as Italian Studies 120

Among the many attempts to prove that William Shakespeare was not really William Shakespeare but someone else, there is a little book entitled “Shakespeare fu un italiano”: Shakespeare was an Italian. This course will argue no such thing. Rather, we will explore the various ways in which Shakespeare was touched by and touched Italy, a country he only knew through books and second hand report. We will look at some of the works of Italian literature that he read and rewrote in his plays (works by Boccaccio, Ariosto, Bandello, and others), plays of his that are set in Italy (Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Merchant of Venice), Italian operas, works of literature, and films which re-present or appropriate Shakespeare’s oeuvre (Verdi’s Otello; Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author; and so on). In the process we will think about the process by which works circulate between places and over time, and how two very different cultures reciprocally interpret each other and in so doing, reveal themselves.

Requirements: attendance and participation; in-class presentations and short assignments; 3 papers (1250-1750 words); final take-home exam or longer paper (2500 words)



William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Othello

Giuseppe Verdi, Otello

Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author

Guido Ruggiero and Laura Giannetti, trans. Five Comedies of the Italian Renaissance

Plautus, The Menaechmi

Course Reader

Course Catalog Number:

155/Slavic 131: The Modern Period

The European Avant-garde: from futurism to surrealism

Instructor: Harsha Ram

CL 155:1
MWF 3-4:00
182 Dwinelle
CCN 17299
Harsha Ram

Also listed as Slavic 131:1

The literary and artistic avant-garde of the early twentieth century was the most radical expression of European modernism in literature and art. We will be focusing on the four most forceful and creative of the literary movements to have swept through Europe between the 1910’s and the 1930’s: Italian and Russian futurism, dada in Zurich and Paris, Soviet constructivism, and French surrealism. We will be reading (and sometimes performing!) avant-garde poetry, literary manifestoes, short performance texts, experimental fiction and memoirs. We will also be paying some attention to parallel developments in the visual arts and cinema.

Topics for discussion include literature and revolutionary politics, tradition and modernity, theoretical metalanguage and its relationship to artistic practice, poetic experimentation, the relationship of sound to meaning, the limits of art, the cult of technology, literature and utopia, the rise of mass culture, and the relationship of writing to theories of the unconscious.

Writers and artists include: Filippo Marinetti, Valentine de Saint-Point, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Velimir Khlebnikov, Vladimir Tatlin, El Lissitsky, Sergei Eisenstein, Leon Trotsky, Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball, Andre Breton, and Sigmund Freud.

TEXTS to be purchased:

Futurist Manifestos, ed. Umbro Apollonio

Bedbug and Selected Poetry, Vladimir Mayakovsky

Collected Works of Velimir Khlebnikov, Velimir Khlebnikov, Vol. 3

Paris Peasant, Louis Aragon

All remaining texts will be provided in a reader.

Course Catalog Number:

155/Slavic 131: The Modern Period


Instructor: Harsha Ram


The literary and artistic avant-garde of the early twentieth century was the most radical expression of European modernism in literature and art. We will be focusing on the four most forceful and creative of the literary movements to have swept through Europe between the 1910’s and the 1930’s: Italian and Russian futurism, dada in Zurich and Paris, Soviet constructivism, and French surrealism. » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

165: Myth and Literature

Comparative Mythology: Celtic, Norse, and Greek

Instructor: Annalee Rejhon

TuTh 2-3:30
61 Evans
CCN 17305
A. Rejhon

A study of Indo-European mythology as it is preserved in some of the earliest myth texts in Celtic, Norse, and Greek literatures.  The meaning of myth will be examined and compared from culture to culture to see how this meaning may shed light on the ethos of each society as it is reflected in its literary works.  The role of oral tradition in the preservation of early myth will also be explored.  The Celtic texts that will be read are the Irish Second Battle of Mag Tuired and The Táin, and in Welsh, the tales of Lludd and Llefelys and Math; the Norse texts will include Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, the Ynglinga Saga, and the Poetic Edda; the Greek texts are Hesiod’s Theogony and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. All texts will be available in English translation.

Course requirements include a midterm and final examination.

No prerequisites.

Reading list:

Fitzgerald, Robert, tr.  The Odyssey.  Farrar, Straus & Girous, 1998.

Ford, Patrick K., tr.  The Mabinogi & Other Medieval Welsh Tales.  Univ. of California Press, 1977.

Gray, Elizabeth, ed. & tr.  Cath Maige Tuired:  Second Battle of Mag Tuired.  Irish Texts Society, 1982.

Kinsella, Thomas, tr.  The Táin.  Oxford Univ. Press, 1970

Lattimore, Richmond, tr. The Iliad of Homer.  Univ. of Chicago Press, 1961.

________________, tr.  Hesiod: The Works and Days—Theogony.  Univ. of Michigan Press, 1991.

Young, Jean  I., tr.  The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson.  Univ. of California Press, 1964.

Course Catalog Number:

170: Special Topics in Comparative Literature

Honors Thesis Seminar: Literary Theory, Criticism, & Methodology

Instructor: Robert Kaufman

CL 170:1
Mon 2-5:00
CCN 17308
211 Dwinelle
Professor Robert Kaufman

Course Description:
Enrollment in this seminar is limited exclusively to Comparative Literature students who will be writing an Honors Thesis during the 2012-2013 academic year. Although this seminar is optional rather than required for Comparative Literature Honors Thesis students (i.e., students who will be taking Comparative Literature CL H195 in 2012-2013, in which they will write an Honors Thesis under the direction of a faculty advisor), the seminar is nonetheless designed to help provide students with a strong background and training in what their Honors Thesis will entail.   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

171: Topics in Modern Greek Literature

Outside the Norm: History, Culture and Deviant Women in Modern Greek Fiction

Instructor: Maria Kotzamanidou

Comparative Literature 171
Fri 2-5:00
125 Dwinelle
CCN 17311
Maria Kotzamanidou

This course focuses on the examination of female deviance from the accepted standards of society in terms of attitude and behavior. This course examines representations of deviance and the violation of the norms (social, cultural, gender, biological) by central female characters in 19th and 20th century Modern Greek fiction. By accepting these literary texts as cultural texts, and by placing them in their historical context, this course also examines how these powerful, polysemic characters are associated not only with literal but also with mythological levels of meaning. As Greek society shifts its focus from the community to the individual, the creation of these voices appears to echo the authors’ own concerns regarding the death of national ideologies, the disunity of the nation and the traumas of its modernization.

All Greek materials for the Course are available in English translation.

Foreign Films are subtitled.

Course Catalog Number:

190: Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature

The Arabic Novel in the Context of World Literature

Instructor: Gretchen Head

CL 190:2
Tu/Th 3:30-5:00
123 Dwinelle
CCN 17316
Gretchen Head

Responding to the growing international circulation of literature in the early decades of the nineteenth century, Goethe declared, “The epoch of world literature is at hand, and everyone must strive to hasten its approach.” The term “world literature,” however, remains elusive and critics continue to grapple with David Damrosch’s question of, “which literature, whose world?” » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

190: Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature

Kafka's Philosophical Fictions

Instructor: Judith Butler

CL 190:1
Tu 2-5:00
203 Wheeler
CCN 17314
Professor Judith Butler

We will focus on the short fiction, parables, and letters of Kafka – as well as The Trial –  in addition to theoretical discussions of Kafka’s works by Theodor Adorno , Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, Georg Lukács, Gershom Scholem, and Jacques Derrida.  We will ask in what way Kafka’s work poses philosophical questions for his time, focusing on historical progress, authority, and the bodily form of human life.  We will engage in close readings of Kafka’s work to find out in what ways philosophical questions are posed in his writing, and how fiction becomes part of philosophical inquiry.


Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks (Exact Change Press)1878972049
Kafka, The Complete Stories, Schocken Books,  (ISBN 0-8052-1055-5)
Kafka, Letters to Milena, Schocken Books, (ISBN 0-8052-0427-X) or
Letters to Friends, Family, and Editors, Schocken Books, (ISBN 0714537012)
Kafka, The Trial, Schocken Press,  ISBN 0-8052-0999-9


Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, introduction by Hannah Arendt,
Schocken Books, (ISBN 0 8052 0241 2)
T. Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life, Verso
(ISBN 0 86091 704 5)

Course Catalog Number:


200: Approaches to Comparative Literature

Comparative Literature and Critical Theory

Instructor: Miryam Sas

CL 200:1
Mon 2-5:00
225 Dwinelle
CCN 17350
Professor Miryam Sas


This seminar is designed as an introduction to graduate study in Comparative Literature. The readings and discussions consider theoretical models central to the discipline and their influential critiques. We begin with genealogies (origins) of the discipline, questions of reality and representation, and move on to consider the era of disciplinary revision/crisis, “high” theory and New Criticism, psychoanalysis and queer theory, theories of temporality and phenomenology, and postcolonial criticism, ending with  more recent works on affect and new media. Readings include works by Lukács, Auerbach, Benjamin, Adorno, Bergson, Foucault, Johnson, Ngai, Hansen, and others.

The seminar will be coordinated with CL 201 (the Comparative Literature Proseminar) and a series of three or four events and performances on and off campus.

Required texts:

Reader will contain most readings (to be made available at Replica Copy, Oxford Street)

Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, trans. Willard Trask (Princeton UP, 2003)

Walter Benjamin, Illuminations (Schocken Books, 1969)

David Damrosch, Natalie Melas, Mbongiseni Buthelezi, eds., The Princeton Sourcebook in Comparative Literature: From the European Enlightenment to the Global Present (Princeton UP, 2009)

Course Catalog Number:

212: Studies in Medieval Literature

The Troubadours and Tradition

Com Lit 212:1
Thu 2-5:00
210 Dwinelle Hall
CCN 17355
Christopher Davis

The poets known as the troubadour flourished in the South of France during the twelfth century; however, their poems had a vibrant afterlife, circulating in a variety of forms, both musical and textual, and shaping the development of subsequent European literatures. The goal of this course is to introduce students to the Occitan language and to the major poets, forms and movements that characterize the troubadour “tradition.” Among the works we will read are lyric poems by Bernart de Ventadorn, Arnaut Daniel and Bertran de Born, the parodic romance Flamenca, and the groundbreaking greammatical treatise of Raimon Vidal. We will also study authors such as Dante and Ausias March who were influenced by the troubadours and in turn played a role in defining their tradition. Special attention will be given to issues of orality and textuality, medieval language theory, manuscript studies and the emergence of regional languages and literatures. Readings will be in English, French and Occitan.

Course Catalog Number:

215: Studies in Renaissance Literature

Introduction to Renaissance Humanism

Instructor: Victoria Kahn

Wed 2-5:00
225 Dwinelle
CCN 17356
V. Kahn
An introduction to Renaissance humanism, focusing on the work of Petrarch, Bruni, Salutati, Valla, Machiavelli, Castiglione, Erasmus, More, Ascham, Elyot, Lipsius, and Shakespeare. In addition, we will read some of the classics of Renaissance scholarship (Burckhardt, Kristeller, Baron, Garin, Trinkaus, Greenblatt, Cave and Greene), as well as more recent work in the field. Topics will include Renaissance theories of imitation and literary production, the revival of classical rhetoric, humanist pedagogical practices, the civic and political function of rhetoric, the transformation of political theory, the relationship between Christianity and classical culture. We will also discuss the critique of humanism both in the early modern period and in modern evaluations of Renaissance humanist pedagogy by Grafton and Jardine, Halpern, Crane, Dolven and others. Reading knowledge of Italian or Latin is particularly useful but not required.

This course satisfies the “intellectual history” requirement of the new Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies.

Course Catalog Number:

225: Studies in Symbolist and Modern Literature

Vladimir Nabokov

Instructor: Eric Naiman

Comparative Literature 225
Thu 2-5:00
Location: TBA
CCN: 17362
Eric Naiman

A semester-long seminar devoted to the works of Vladimir Nabokov.  (Works originally written in Russian will be read in English with the possibility of an additional time for discussion of the Russian texts).  Focus will be on Nabokov’s place in the Russian and American literary traditions, the nexus between sexual desire and interpretation, Nabokov and close reading, applied Nabokov studies.  While our focus will be mostly on Nabokov’s novels, we will also devote some time to his short stories, criticism and, perhaps, letters.   Members of the seminar will write a final paper, make one or two presentations and occasionally lead (or at least instigate) seminar discussions.

Course Catalog Number:

227: Studies in Contemporary Literature

Reading the Body in Colonial & Postcolonial Literature

CL 227:1
Tu 2-5:00
Location: TBA
CCN 17365
Professor Karl Britto

In this course, we will read a number of texts that offer striking representations of bodies formed by a wide variety of colonial, neocolonial, and postcolonial contexts.  Our readings will allow us to consider a series of interrelated questions: how do these texts engage with and/or contest practices of racist classification and exoticist representation?  In what ways do their authors foreground bodies as texts upon which are written histories of political and cultural violence?  » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

266: Nationalism, Colonialism, and Culture


Instructor: Francine Masiello

CL 266:1
Wed 2-5:00
211 Dwinelle
CCN 17368
F. Masiello


Also listed as Spanish 280:3


This seminar is devoted to an investigation of the concept of Global South in the imagination of colonizers, explorers, and creative writers beginning in the 19th century  and reaching today’s novelists, poets, filmmakers, and social critics. » read more »

Course Catalog Number: