Reading and Composition (R&C)

R1A.001: Versions and Re-Visions

Instructor: Irina Popescu

Comp Lit R1A:1
Tu/Th 9:30-11:00
229 Dwinelle
CCN 17203
J. DeAngelis & I. Popescu

In this class, we will consider texts that present ‘re-visions’ of earlier texts through adaptation and intertextuality.  What new critical perspectives emerge when all or part of a narrative is redistributed in a different context?  How do factors such as a change in genre, a change in historical or cultural context, or even a change in the gender of the author create a unique dialogue between earlier texts and later re-visions of them, and what critical purpose does this dialogue serve in each case?  For example, we will consider the relationship between Charles Perrault’s seventeenth-century fairy tales and Angela Carter’s postmodern feminist versions of them.  We will also consider Carter’s intertextual use of the violent pornography of the Marquis de Sade.  What do the genres of fairy tale and pornography have in common?  How do Carter’s re-visions develop interesting arguments about both?

All of the main texts on the syllabus were written by female authors, and a majority of the pre-texts were written by male authors.  Questions concerning gender will therefore guide part of our inquiry into literary re-vision.  Women spent ages on the margins of the authorial literary landscape, though they were frequently the subjects of men’s stories.  In some traditions, the female body itself has been associated with rhetorical artifice, both frequently considered in need of regulation and control by men, as the male-authored texts on this syllabus will demonstrate.  How have female authors re-treated women through literary revision?  Specifically how have they re-treated the female body?  In what ways might revising texts written by males be seen as an assertion of women’s intellectual authority? (‘Author’ comes from the Latin auctor, a person who was once considered to possess auctoritas, or ‘authority.’)  What limits on such an assertion are posed by speaking from within the confines of previously written texts?

With respect to the medieval and early modern texts on the syllabus, we will also consider how issues pertaining to textual criticism relate to the main questions guiding this class.  How is our modern conception of a ‘text’ altered by considering the fact that numerous medieval manuscripts and early modern printed editions offer different versions of the same story?  How did the simultaneous circulation of multiple versions of the same story inform medieval and early modern reading practices, and how do modern editors grapple with the ‘problem’ of multiple versions?  We will consider how these questions, seemingly unique to medieval and early modern textual matters, actually provide a basis upon which to formulate interesting questions about modern adaptation and intertextuality.

We will explore the topics above through active class discussion and intensive writing and essay revision.


Main texts, with earlier versions and influences in parentheses, include:

  • Poetry by Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Alexander, Sylvia Plath, and others
  • Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale (the Bible)
  • Angela Carter: The Bloody Chamber (Charles Perrault’s fairy tales, Marquis de Sade’s Justine and Juliette)
  • Caryl Churchill: Top Girls (various texts and artwork depicting the historical and fictional lives of the guests at the opening dinner party)
  • Marguerite de Navarre: Heptaméron (Boccaccio’s Decameron, Jean de Meung’s part of the Romance of the Rose, Troubadour and Trouvère poetry)
  • Jeanette Winterson: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (the Bible, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur)

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.002: On Lying

Comp Lit R1A: 2
MW 4-5:30
263 Dwinelle
CCN 17206
A. Gadberry

Suppose you and a friend are at your house when a murderer rings your doorbell. You answer the door, and the murderer asks if your friend is inside. (The murderer would like to murder your friend.)

Do you lie?

Our course will begin by reflecting on the scenario above (and Kant’s famous response to it). As we read novels, poems, plays, short stories, and works of philosophy and literary criticism that deal with lying and liars, we’ll explore the moral and ethical dimensions of the lie. We’ll meet those who lie out of desperation and those who love to lie; from hustlers to hoaxsters, from the fraudulent to the fearful, we’ll try to understand how these characters and the texts in which we find them understand the lie and its social and ethical dimensions. How do various forms of “lying” challenge (or presuppose) established truths? What kind of affective states (anxiety or cunning, for instance) do our texts associate with lying, and how might the emotional landscape around the lie and liars impact the decision to lie (or not)? How does literature understand its own production of fiction in relationship to dissimulation, deceit, or concealment? And finally, how does the lie forge relationships both between “truth” and fiction and between people and the social world? Are there necessary lies?

Intensive reading and active class participation is a requirement for this course. Written assignments will include several critical essays and revisions as well as some shorter creative and analytical responses. Students should also anticipate a couple of quizzes and a presentation.

Required Readings (N.B.: Please do not purchase the texts until the first day of class. Readings are subject to change.)


Baldesar Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier

Carlo Collodi, The Adventures of Pinocchio

Nella Larsen, Passing

Pierre de Marivaux, False Admissions

Herman Melville, The Confidence Man:  His Masquerade

Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire

William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens


Gaslight (1940),

F for Fake (1974)

There will also be a course reader that may include the following:

Augustine, “De mendacio,” “Contra mendacium” (selections).

Charles Baudelaire, selected poems.

Emily Dickinson, selected poems.

Coco Fusco, “The Other History of Intercultural Performance”

Hesiod, “Hymn to the Muses” from Theogony

Franz Kafka, “A Report to an Academy,” “Before the Law”

Immanuel Kant, “On a Supposed Right to Lie from Altruistic Motives.”

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.003: Literature, Technology, Form

Comp.  Lit.  R1A:3
Tu/Th 11-12:30
229 Dwinelle
CCN 17209
M. Bhaumik & P. Brito

This class examines the intersection between technology, poetry and aesthetic form from ancient to contemporary works.  Although the idea of technology now appears in separation from art, the concept of techné in classical times is intricately woven with art.  » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.004: Lost in a Book: The Perils of Reading and Misreading

Comp Lit R1A:4
Tu/Th 12:30-2:00
223 Wheeler
CCN 17212
S.  Chihaya

Books are tricky. They can be seductive, persuasive, misleading– though we may not always realize it, reading can be a dangerous pastime. Over the course of the semester, we will examine several texts that engage with the problems and pitfalls of reading; whether the dangers of reading are implicit or explicit in each, all of them ask us to consider the intimate relationship between book and reader. By turns eerie, puzzling, and comic, these works demand that we consider our own experiences as readers and participants in the imagined worlds of texts.

We will explore these texts through discussion, class presentations, and written assignments. Over the course of the semester, students will learn to hone their critical skills and individual prose styles through a series of analytical and creative assignments in order to become more confident and capable readers and writers.

Texts will be chosen from the following:

Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote

Ian McEwan, Atonement

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

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

Jorge Luis Borges, “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (selections)

Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus

Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire

Henry James, The Aspern Papers

Roland Barthes, Le Plaisir du Texte (selections)

Walter Benjamin, “The Storyteller: Reflections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov”

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.010: What is World Literature?

Comp Lit R1A:10
Tu/Th 9:30-11:00
175 Barrows
CCN 17242
L. Ramos & V. Alcazar

What is world literature? In this reading and writing intensive course, we will examine works of literature not simply as products of their local environment, but rather, as windows into global cultural relations. In other words, we will uncover how writers imagine a world beyond their immediate circumstances by situating their work in an international context. Beginning with the concept’s origins in Goethe and Marx, we will read works that reveal an understanding of the world as a planetary order in concert and in conflict and as a geopolitical space of antagonisms and alliances. By closely examining texts that dramatize the relation between the local and the global in its manifold manifestations (center versus periphery, metropole versus colony, north versus south and private versus public), our aim will be to unsettle common assumptions about the nation as the primary locus of literary enunciation. However, rather than subscribe to a cosmopolitan view divorced from history or politics, we will strive precisely to reveal both the perils and the promise, both the pitfalls and possibilities inherent in the exchange between cultures across national boundaries.


The Tempest, William Shakespeare

The Kingdom of this World, Alejo Carpentier

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih

Autobiography of My Mother, Jamaica Kincaid


Happy Together, Wong Kar Wai

Babel, Alejandro González Iñarritu

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.001: Unreliability in Fiction and Film

Instructor: Adeline Tran

Comp Lit R1B:1
tu/Th 3:30-5:00
262 Dwinelle
CCN 17215
A. Tran

 In this course, we will investigate the question of narrative reliability and whether an objective, ‘reliable’ representation of reality is possible.  We will look at the complexities of narration in fiction and film by first asking how we define the nature of truth and reality.  Is truth an objective viewpoint on our world or a set of subjective interpretations?  What role does ‘lying’ play in society, and how would the perspective of a biased or deceptive narrator problematize our interpretation of a text or film?  We will discuss how issues of perspective affect our perception of truth and reality by examining a variety of short stories, novels, critical essays, and films.  This class includes two formal papers and places strong emphasis on active student participation

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.002: History, Memory and Monuments

Instructor: Laura Wagner

Comp Lit R1B:2
Tu/Th 8-9:30
109 Dwinelle
CCN 17218
J. Lillie & L. Wagner

This multidisciplinary course will address a variety of questions, such as: What is the best way to mark a loss and to commemorate history? What types of roles does language play in facilitating the preservation of memory and trying to overcome mortality?   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.003: Art and Everyday Life

Comp Lit R1B:3
Tu/Th 9:30-11:00
156 Dwinelle
CCN 17221
H. Freed-Thall & G. Page

In this course, we will investigate diverging accounts of aesthetic experience. Focusing on close reading, analytical writing, and research skills, we will attend to a number of difficult questions. Is there any difference between aesthetic perception and “ordinary” ways of looking at things? What is the relation between the production of art and other forms of labor? 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?

We will read texts that invite very different sorts of attention, ranging from a medieval romance to romantic lyric poetry, from fantastic tales and realist narratives to modernist and postcolonial novels. Many of these works 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 reorient ourselves in order to “read” him at all. In futurist and surrealist literature and cinema, on the other hand, art is granted the power to revolutionize the structures of everyday life.

A course reader will include selections by Rousseau, Wordsworth, Poe, Baudelaire, Rilke, Melville, Flaubert, Proust, Kafka, Cortázar, Shklovsky, Benjamin, Blanchot, De Certeau, Bourdieu, and Beckett.

Texts will be chosen from among the following (please do not purchase books until the first day of class):

Chrétien, Yvain

Shakespeare, The Tempest

Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Sebald, Austerlitz

Michon, Small Lives

Bechdel, Fun Home

Visual works

early silent cinema by the Lumière brothers and Méliès

Vertov, Kino-Eye

Buñuel and Dalí, Un chien andalou

Von Donnersmarck, The Lives of Others

impressionist, post-impressionist, cubist & futurist painting

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.004: Fetishist, Collector, Hoarder

Comp Lit R1B:4,
T/Th 9:30-11:00
224 Wheeler
CCN 17224
R. Falkoff

This course focuses on three figures that lurk at the fringes of late-capitalism and seem to represent at once the epitome, the inverse and even the undoing of its logics: the fetishist, the collector, and the hoarder. As we examine the material practices and psychic mechanisms that define these identities and authorize distinctions between them, we will consider the relationships between objects and texts and theorize the narrative implications of collecting, fetishism, and hoarding. Our study of the fetishist will begin with Freud’s writings about fetishism and fetishistic disavowal and the vast body of theoretical discourse they inspired.  We will then read Michel Tournier’s short story “The Fetishist,” and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs. Gilles Deleuze’s analysis of Sacher-Masoch’s novel will help us to develop an understanding of fetishism as a signifying practice characterized by an essential ambivalence.

The unit on collecting will begin with writings by Walter Benjamin that figure the collector both as an artist whose work is formed by detaching objects from their original functions and arranging them according to idiosyncratic criteria, and as an archaeologist, whose acquisitions stop up the flow of history, recuperating the fragmentary debris of its blind deluge. Moving from the collector to the hoarder, we will study the distinctions between collecting and accumulation set out in theoretical writings by Susan Stewart and Jean Baudrillard and in the memoir Collections of Nothing by William Davies King.

The course will conclude with a consideration of the contemporary discourse of hoarding. We will ask why hoarding has garnered so much attention in the last decade, and why the discourse has come to be characterized by two analytic frameworks that are both contradictory and overlapping: on the one hand, hoarding is figured as both a symptom of and a product of the excesses of consumer culture, while on the other, it is understood as a response to material deprivation. The course aims less to uncover the truth of what causes hoarding (be it privation or plenitude), than to reveal the cultural anxieties the discourse expresses to trace its intersections with two literary precursors, the fetishist and the collector.

Coursework will include readings and reading-responses, active participation in class discussions and frequent writing assignments and revisions. Regular attendance and participation is required. You will be encouraged to think critically about your own as well as others’ ideas, and you will learn how to express your interpretations in a coherent and cohesive way. This class will help prepare you for the rest of your academic career, regardless of your field of interest or the length of your studies.

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.004: It’s Only Natural

Comp Lit R1B:4
T/Th 9:30-11:00
224 Wheeler
CCN 17224
J. Bulger

Contemporary debates about social matters often appeal to nature to decide them. Parties debating a common issue will attempt a familiar gesture: each will claim that its position is natural and therefore true. Why would an appeal to nature decide a social issue and what relationship between society and nature does this appeal assume? » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.005: Animal Life

Instructor: Nina Estreich

Comp Lit R1B:5
MWF 11-12:00
209 Dwinelle
CCN 17227
N. Estreich & K. Cohen

In this course we will explore how aspects of animal and human being are figured in a variety of works. Over the semester, we’ll think about questions of identity and processes of identification, sentience and affective or emotional life, autobiographical and narrative forms, and modalities of the descriptive, the imaginative and the speculative.  Readings and discussions will address how the borders of the human and the animal are represented in different genres of expression, including  narrative fiction, philosophical prose, ecological debate, film, graphic novel, and other visual forms.  Works on syllabus may include Kafka, Hoffman, Rousseau, Bulgakov, J. M. Coetzee, Donna Haraway, Jacques Derrida, Werner Herzog, Sue Coe. Regular writing assignments will emphasize the development of skills in close reading and analysis. Two required papers, midterm and final.

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.006: Ugly Heads: Monsters and Evil in Literature

Instructor: Bonnie Ruberg

Comp Lit R1B:6
MWF 10-11:00
109 Dwinelle
CCN 17230
T. Singleton & B. Ruberg

The ultimate villain in our stories is the monster; we project our conceptions of evil onto what we decide to call monsters. However, a monster is most often characterized in terms of physical description. Is a monster then, what we see and fear, what we know and hate, or what we don’t know and can’t bear? How then does evil function in our lives and society? This class will discuss classic and new literature and film to explore the social implications of the labels “monster” and “evil” to cover difference and unfamiliarity. We will explore literature that challenges traditional conceptions of archetypal monsters and the evil that drives them.
Texts include:

The Sandman
Where the Wild Things Are
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Bloody Chamber

Films include:

Where the Wild Things Are

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.007: Monstrous Fictions

Instructor: Ashley Brock

Comp Lit R1B:7
Tu/Th 8-9:30
215 Dwinelle
CCN 17233
S. Cochran & A. Brock

Every literary tradition of every period has its monsters—from the mythical Medusa to fairy tale witches, from Kafka’s Gregor Samsa to Hannibal Lektor, from the monstrous mother of Aeschylus’ Oresteia to the lesbian vampires of Sheridan Le Fanu.  These are figures whose excesses often place them in a category beyond the human.  And yet their grip on our imagination suggests we also find in them—in their violence and uncouth energies and grotesque bodies—a certain kinship.

This will be a course in which we discuss great works of literature, film, and art, and explore the notion of the monstrous in its relation to the civilized, to sexuality and gender, to everyday life, and to the unconscious mind.  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.


Franz Kafka, “The Metamophosis”

Manuel Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman

Aeschylus, Oresteia

Guy de Maupassant, “Le Horla”

Horacio Quiroga, Selected short stories

Angela Carter, selected short stories

Selected poetry and visual art on “Medusa”

Brothers Grimm, “Hansel and Gretel”

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla

Simone De Beauvoir, The Second Sex (selections)

Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents (selections)


Jonathan Demme (director), Silence of the Lambs

F. W. Murnau (director), Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.008: Apocalypse Then and Now

Comp Lit R1B:8
MW 4-5:30
262 Dwinelle
CCN: 17236
N. Cleaver

Though we now associate the apocalypse with alien attacks, mutant insects, nuclear meltdowns, viral plagues, or dramatic natural disasters, the word originally means to uncover, to lift a veil. This course explores the connection between violent apocalyptic visions and the practice of reading as uncovering meaning, as we lift the veil of the apocalypse itself. » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.009: What is Iraq?

Comp Lit R1B:9
Tu/Th 5-6:30
89 Dwinelle
CCN 17239
S. England

In this class we will study literature about Iraq, by Iraqis and writers from around the world. The Fertile Crescent, in that it recalls both an ancient civilization and a modern geopolitical quandry, will allow us as a class to ask how literary traditions begin, how they end, and to whom they speak.   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.011: Traveling Tales

Instructor: Jessica Crewe

Comp Lit R1B:11
T/Th 11-12:30
156 Dwinelle
CCN 17245
J. Crewe & K. Dickinson

This course will focus on re-imaginings of traditional folk and fairy tales in works written from the 18th century to the present day.  We will explore a range of literary and linguistic traditions, including German, Turkish, English, and Japanese, to consider subversions and mutations of folk narrative. Throughout the semester, we will pay particular attention to cross-cultural influences, asking ourselves questions such as:   how do authors configure other literary traditions to fit their own contexts? How do authors conceive of themselves and their projects in relation to established literary traditions?  And what possibilities do visual media such as the film or graphic novel offer to artists attempting to challenge literary convention?

Possible Readings Include:

Bilge Karasu, The Garden of Departed Cats

Yasar Kemal, Mehmet, My Hawk

Latife Tekin, Berci Kristin: Tales from the Garbage Heap

Emine Sevgi Özdamar, “Mother Tongue,” “Grandfather Tongue”

Rudyard Kipling, Just-So Stories

Alfred Lord Tennyson: The Idylls of the King

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.012: The Art of the Essay

Instructor: Paul Haacke

Comp LitR1B:12
Tu/Th 9:30-11:00
228 Dwinelle
CCN 17248
P. Haacke

In this course we will study personal, imaginative and philosophical essays from a variety of periods, languages and countries, including early forms of essay writing, the establishment of the essay as a modern literary genre, and more hybrid forms of essayistic fiction, film and video.   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.013: The Borders of Identity

Comp Lit R1B:13,
Tu/Th 9:30-11:00
121 Wheeler
CCN 17251
S. Sayar
It’s one thing to be a minority in terms of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference; but what does it mean to be a bisexual Arab-Jewish boy in Israel?  Or a Mexican-American woman in Texas?  In this course we will look at literature by and about the people who straddle many sides of the borders of identity, and use our readings to perfect our skills in close analysis, thesis development and effective academic writing.
Texts will include:
David Grossman, “Her Body Knows”
Sanda Cisneros, “Woman Hollering Creek”
Gloria Anzaldua, “Borderlands/La Frontera”
The Book of Genesis
Poems of Rumi

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.014: Art and Everyday Life

Comp Lit R1B:14

Tu/Th 8-9:30

223 Wheeler

CCN 17254

H. Freed-Thall

In this course, we will investigate diverging accounts of aesthetic experience. Focusing on close reading, analytical writing, and research skills, we will attend to a number of difficult questions. Is there any difference between aesthetic perception and “ordinary” ways of looking at things? What is the relation between the production of art and other forms of labor? 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?

We will read texts that invite very different sorts of attention, ranging from a medieval romance to romantic lyric poetry, from fantastic tales and realist narratives to modernist and postcolonial novels. Many of these works 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 reorient ourselves in order to “read” him at all. In futurist and surrealist literature and cinema, on the other hand, art is granted the power to revolutionize the structures of everyday life.

A course reader will include selections by Rousseau, Wordsworth, Poe, Baudelaire, Rilke, Melville, Flaubert, Proust, Kafka, Cortázar, Shklovsky, Benjamin, Blanchot, De Certeau, Bourdieu, and Beckett.

Texts will be chosen from among the following (please do not purchase books until the first day of class):

Chrétien, Yvain

Shakespeare, The Tempest

Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Sebald, Austerlitz

Michon, Small Lives

Bechdel, Fun Home

Visual works

early silent cinema by the Lumière brothers and Méliès

Vertov, Kino-Eye

Buñuel and Dalí, Un chien andalou

Von Donnersmarck, The Lives of Others

impressionist, post-impressionist, cubist & futurist painting

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.015: On Looking: The Ethics of Spectatorship

Comp Lit 1B: 15
MW 4-5:30
189 Dwinelle
CCN 17257
L. Gurton-Wachter

Is the experience of spectatorship active or passive, pleasurable or disturbing, a responsibility or a retreat from it? We tend to think of the acts of watching, looking, and observing as straightforward and stable experiences with relatively few problems. We rarely attend to our own roles as spectators when we watch films or television, and we typically trust our powers of observation to watch and evaluate the world around us without interference. In this course, we will investigate the positions from which we watch through a series of texts, films, performances, and images that question and destabilize our roles and responsibilities as spectators. Using Aristotle’s model of how audiences respond to and experience tragedy as our starting point, we will then read a series of texts that suggest that the act of looking – though it might seem both natural and neutral – is actually fraught with political and ethical consequences. We will think about the experience of watching and witnessing the suffering of others, about how we look at or observe those who are different from ourselves, and consider how photography, film, and theater transform what it means to watch altogether. Central to our discussions will be the pleasures and perils of watching, and the question of how distance and proximity alter the object of our observation. We will devote a significant portion of the class to thinking specifically about theater and the role of the audience, imagining theater as a site in which ethical debates about looking emerge, and asking whether theater and performance provokes, pacifies, shocks, or instructs its viewers.

This reading and composition course will introduce students to methods of close reading, critical thinking, argumentative writing, and research. There will be weekly grammar and style assignments, and significant time spent on revision and improving students’ writing.

Readings will include*:

Aristotle, The Poetics
John Berger, “Why Look at Animals?” from About Looking
Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida
Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed, selections
Bertolt Brecht, Brecht on Theatre, selections
J.M. Coetzee, “The Philosophers and the Animals” from Elizabeth Costello
Coco Fusco, “The Other History of Intercultural Performance” from English is Broken Here:
Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas
Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gómez–Peña, “Couple in a Cage” (video)
Diana Hacker, Rules for Writers
Michael Haneke, Caché (film)
Martin Harries, Forgetting Lot’s Wife: On Destructive Spectatorship, selections.
Franz Kafka, “Report to an Academy”
Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, selections
Suzan-Lori Parks, Venus
Rainer Maria Rilke, “The Panther” and other poems
William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others
David Foster Wallace, “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction”

* Please do not purchase books until the first day of class.

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.016: At Arm’s Length: Puppetry and the Printed Page

Comp Lit R1B:16
T/Th 11-12:30
209 Dwinelle
CCN 17260
D. Simon & R. McGlazer

It’s commonplace to praise a novel by saying it “comes alive,” but much less commonplace to recognize such a statement as a miniature act of puppetry, which grants life to a handheld object as artificial as it is inanimate. All literary genres display elements of puppetry: reading a lyric poem, for instance, often means conjuring forth a counterfeit human face that speaks or sings. This course will explore works of literary art that reflect on the nature of reading and writing by drawing on the art of puppetry, conceived broadly to include a wide range of practices that extend (or replace) human (or animal) body parts. As we proceed, we’ll consider the complications that arise when humans take on the artificiality of puppets; and puppets, the vivacity of human beings. Although we’ll be interested in broad themes (the human and the inhuman, the organic and the inorganic), as well as distinct but related issues (robotics, prosthetics, remote control, and “puppet governments”), our goal will be to focus on the specifics of the puppeteer’s art: the throwing of voices (and faces, by delegating the responsibility for facial expression to the hand), the splitting of subjectivity (as in the ventriloquist’s repartee with his dummy), and the combination of jerkiness and fluidity in aesthetic imitations of life (as in the marionette theater). As the course title indicates, we’ll pay special attention to the puppet’s frequent status as an object of fear (tinged with desire). Texts/films will include some of the following, in addition to critical readings from De Man, Freud, Johnson, Nelson, Stewart-Steinberg, and Winnicott:

Plato, The Republic (selections on the allegory of the cave [of shadow puppets])
Homer, The Odyssey (selections on Odysseus’s manipulation of sheep)
—–, The Iliad (selections on the Trojan Horse)
Ovid, Metamorphoses X (on Pygmalion)
Spenser, The Faerie Queene (selections on the “false Florimell”)
Petrarch, selections from the Canzoniere (puppet-making materials for the “false Florimell”)
Kleist, On the Marionette Theater
Shelley, Frankenstein
Erice, The Spirit of the Beehive
Hoffmann, The Sandman
Collodi, Pinocchio
Kafka, Cares of a Family Man
Rilke, “Doll: On the Wax Dolls of Lotte Pritzel”
Shinoda, Double Suicide (an adaptation of a bunraku puppet play)
Barthes, Empire of Signs (excerpts on bunraku)
Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles (selections, including “Tailors’ Dummies”)
Holland, Child’s Play
Haynes, Superstar
Huyghe, This is Not a Time for Dreaming
Walters, Lili

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.017: The Exquisite Horror of Literature

Comp Lit R1B:17
MWF 11-12:00
109 Dwinelle
CCN 17263
G. Bonetti & J. Raisch

“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”

–Edgar Allen Poe

In this course, we will be examining a number of texts that evoke an “exquisite horror” during the act of reading.  How can a narrative be both pleasurable and frightful?  Taking our cue from the hellish specters of Dante, we will trace links of commonality, difference and convergence along a whole line of fantastical and supernatural works.   Our goal will be to examine how the impact of horror and astonishment affects us as readers, as well as provide a source of active discussion and critical commentary throughout the semester.

Texts will be chosen from the following novels and short stories:

Dante, Inferno

Seneca, Theyestes

Shakespeare, Macbeth

Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto

E.T.A. Hoffman, “The Sandman”

Edgar Allan Poe, “Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter”

Thomas De Quincey, “On Murder as Considered One of the Fine Arts”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Bram Stoker, Dracula

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None

Screenings will include:

Robert Wiene, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Alfred Hitchcock, Rope

Television episodes of CSI and Dexter

A course reader will include Freud’s “The Uncanny” and Bloch’s “A Philosophical View of the Detective Novel,” as well as a number of writing workshops.

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.018: Archiving the Past

Comp Lit R1B:18
Tu/Th 3:30-5:00
222 Wheeler
CCN 17266
M. Lee

This course begins by asking the question: is history what it used to be? We humans cannot help but remember or want to remember the past, and often device all manner of technologies and apparatuses to ensure the proper archivization of our limited time on earth. Historiography is one such apparatus. Its premise is that by following a concrete methodology about verifiable data it creates reliable knowledge about the past. In this course we will ask what is left out of this neat genre and system of remembrance. Or conversely, might there be things better left forgotten? What other modes of experiencing and constructing the past are available to us, and what do they bring to the table that history cannot or does not?

Students will attempt to go beyond the “what” and “how” of the past, and reflect on the roles that the medium, mode, and archivist have on what we remember. In other words, we will think about how knowledge of the past, i.e. an archive, is created. To this end, students will study a variety of texts engaged with creating as well as remembering the past: as verifiable data, and as a means of doing justice to the breadth of human experience otherwise not captured by history. Throughout the course we will explore the relationship that memory and history have to the present and to the future, and how this relationship might be of significance.

The course will build on the writing and reading skills introduced in R1A (or equivalent), and will work toward producing a final, researched paper after a series of shorter writing assignments and revisions. In addition, students will engage in active and thoughtful class discussion as a means of honing their analytical skills.


Sophocles, Antigone (ISBN 052101073X)

Christopher Columbus, The Diario of Christopher Columbus´s First Voyage to America (Selections in Reader)

Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca (ISBN 080326416X)

Juan José Saer, The Witness (ISBN 1846686911)

Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism (ISBN 1583670254)

J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace (ISBN 0143115286)

Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo (ISBN 0802133908)

Course Reader containing literary criticism and other essays (Selections to come)

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.019: Social Politics of Science Fiction

Comp Lit R1B:19
Tu/Th 8-9:30
263 Dwinelle
CCN 17269
M. Cohen

Rod Serling said, “Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.” Works of science fiction construct possible worlds, possible futures, possible discoveries, and then explore the implications of those possibilities.   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.020: Mobility

Comp Lit R1B:20
Tu/Th 12:30-2:00
111 Kroeber
CCN 17271

The concept of mobility appears to be a question of how a body can move—a biological distinction that separates motile and sessile organisms—but, in fact, its potential extends far beyond the individual body.  » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R3B.001: Crimes of Writing

Comp Lit R3B:1
Tu/Th 9:30-11:00
211 Dwinelle
CCN 17272
T. McEnaney

Writing has proven itself a particularly contentious political activity in the history of Latin American literature. From the early debate about whether or not “paper talks” in Garcilaso de la Vega el Inca’s Comentarios Reales to the misquoted graffiti at the beginning of Sarmiento’s Facundo to Fidel Castro’s guidelines for writers in “Palabras a los intelectuales,” what one has written on or about (escrito sobre) has often been interpreted as criminal. In this course we will examine scenes where the act of writing appears to transgress the law, as well as novels and stories in the noir genre (“el policial negro”) that take crime as their subject matter. Towards the end of the semester we will turn to the case of copyright and the internet’s role in recent debates about writing and human rights in contemporary Cuba. As we move through the syllabus we might want to ask: What constitutes a “criminal” act of writing? What does crime allow writers to say about writing and the law? When and how does plagiarism become literature? What is the relationship between writing and property? How does writing’s legal and aesthetic status change as it moves away from paper and out into the street or onto the web?

Prerequisite: AP Spanish in high school or score of 3 or better on AP Exam, Spanish 4 or 25, or native speaker with adequate skills for the class.  A brief oral examination of Spanish will be given the first day of class.

* All readings, aside from critical essays, will be in Spanish. Papers will be written in English. Class discussion will be in both Spanish and English. (Please do not purchase books until after the first day of class.)

Novels: Arlt, Los siete locos; Piglia, Plata Quemada; Roa Bastos, Yo el supremo; Bolaño, Nocturno de Chile; García Márquez, Crónica de una muerte anunciada; Puig, The Buenos Aires Affair

Reader will include narrative selections from Arenas, M. Barnet, Borges, Gorriti, PJ Gutiérrez, Ponte, R. Walsh, V. Piñera, Cortázar, H. Quiroga, Sarmiento, Garcilaso de la Vega el Inca; poems from Padilla, Perlongher, Cardenal, Neruda, Vallejo, Paz, Martí, Bello, Sor Juana; essays from F. Castro, S. Stewart, Sarduy, D. Link, G. Speranza, Derrida, Galeano, B. Kunkel, Poniatowska, De Man, Hayles, Benjamin, Asad, Tamen, Lessig, Y. Sánchez; photography from Tina Modotti; murals from Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros; graffiti from throughout Latin America

Course Catalog Number:


24: Freshman Seminar

Jazz Tributes

Instructor: Michael Lucey

Comp Lit 24:1
Mon 3-4:00
202 Wheeler
CCN 17275
M. Lucey

Berkeley Arts Seminar Course*

This seminar’s purpose will be to help us become informed listeners at the Kurt Elling concert sponsored by Cal Performances on Saturday, April 23, 2011. Elling’s latest album, “Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman,” won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album.  The seminar requires no musical training, and no previous acquaintance with jazz, although we’ll happily make use of any jazz expertise seminar participants may have.  We’ll study how jazz works as music, and how jazz works as a culture. The Elling concert will happen toward the end of the semester.  Throughout the semester we will watch and listen to some classic recorded jazz performances, as well as to live music (depending on the schedules that are announce for spring) by jazz musicians in events sponsored by the Music Department, or at the Jazzschool in downtown Berkeley, or at the world-famous jazz club in Oakland, Yoshi’s.  Please note that admission to events on campus will be provided at no cost to students.

Our particular focus throughout the semester will be on how and why jazz musicians spend so much time listening to other jazz musicians and learning from them, and how they acknowledge what they’ve learned and who they’ve learned from during their own performances.  Of course our major case study will be Elling’s “Dedicated to You,” and the two albums on which it is based, “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman” and  “John Coltrane Quartet-Ballads.”  But Elling has a long practice of recording tributes to jazz musicians who have inspired him, so we’ll also listen to and learn from earlier tribute tracks Elling has done, not only to Coltrane, but also to artists such as Dexter Gordon and Keith Jarrett. Along with our musical texts, we will also read a recent book by Ben Ratliff, “Coltrane: The Story of a Sound,” in order to understand the unique place Coltrane occupies in jazz history.  We’ll also be reading sections from Paul F. Berliner’s “Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation” to help us learn about how jazz music and jazz culture work.

*Berkeley Arts Seminars are small, faculty-led seminars that give UC Berkeley
freshmen and sophmores an opportunity to explore the rich array of arts
experiences available on our campus.

3 required Audio CDs

Audio CD:  John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, Impulse Records, UPC: 602517648975.

Audio CD:  John Coltrane Quartet, Ballads, Verve, UPC: 602517486201.

Audio CD: Kurt Elling, Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of  Coltrane and Hartman, Concord Records, UPC: 888072313149.

One Required Book:

Ben Ratliff, Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, Picador, ISBN: 0312427786.

One Optional Book:

Paul F. Berliner, Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation. University of Chicago Press.  ISBN 0226043819.

Course Catalog Number:

39H: Freshman/Sophomore Seminar

Remapping the Caribbean

Comp Lit 39H:1
T/Th 9:30-11:00
175 Barrows
CCN 17242
L. Ramos

In this course we will make use of recent efforts to remap the Caribbean beyond linguistic and insular categories by exploring critical concepts and concerns Hispanic, Anglophone and Francophone authors share in common. Drawing from a wide range of disciplines (literature, history, and anthropology) and genres (fiction, drama and travel writing), we will examine how explorers, writers and scholars have continuously sought to redefine the Caribbean at critical moments in its recorded history. Beginning with the literature of discovery and exploration, we will examine how efforts to represent the region were historically linked to the desire for territorial control and imperial expansion. We will then turn to literary responses to the cultures of violence and subjection that the advent of European colonial rule brought about. Along similar lines, we will consider efforts by both critics and novelists to recover or rethink the histories of anti-slavery resistance in the Caribbean from the Haitian Revolution to the present. Finally, we will read works that seek to re-imagine the region’s parameters through their exploration of alternate location-based identities. Among the leading questions of the course: How has the geography of the Caribbean shifted over time? What do these shifts suggest about broader cultural and political transformations in the region?

*Required texts:

Sab, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda

The Kingdom of this World, Alejo Carpentier

Guerrillas, V.S. Naipaul

The Palace of the Peacock, Wilson Harris

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz

*In addition, a lengthy course reader including travel narratives by Columbus and Raleigh; poetry and drama by Césaire; essays by Carpentier, Naipaul and Harris; and criticism and theory by Greenblatt, James, Glissant, Ortiz, Fischer and Benítez-Rojo will be available the first week of class.

Course Catalog Number:

60AC: Topics in the Literatures of American Cultures

American Close Encounters

Comp Lit 60AC:1
Tu/Th 11-12:30
24 Wheeler
CCN 17287
J. Jimenez

At the heart of this course is coming to terms with the question: what is an American? This is a fraught question; the answer seems everywhere self-evident, for many, yet what is or makes an American is radically contingent. In this course, we will approach the question of who, what, and/or how one is an American by focusing on three discrete historical time periods (settlement and colonization, the consolidation of the U.S. as an independent nation-state, and the late twentieth century) and by attempting to track the encounters of different sorts of people—different sorts of “Americans”—inscribed in narratives, plays, and novels. In the first phase of the class, we will read about and study the encounter between Europeans and Native Americans, how settlement and colonization were mutually catastrophic for colonizers and natives alike, and how representations of captivity contribute to our understanding of colonial (European) subjects and Native American “insurgents.” We will then explore the founding of the American Republic and register the transition from colony to nation, again focusing on the encounter between the newly constituted American citizens and their slaves. Finally, we will investigate the self-consciously multicultural United States of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century by focusing on the encounter between immigrants and sexual minorities—New Americans—with/in the United States and its peoples. Throughout the course, we will complement our understanding of “American” as U.S. citizens with texts from our American cousins from the “South” to help us complicate what it has meant to be an American from within and without the nation. Not only will we challenge and potentially generate new meanings for “American,” we will also engage in a discussion of the reified concepts of race, gender, and ethnicity as they intersect with competing notions of “American.”

Course Catalog Number:

100: Introduction to Comparative Literature

Children’s Literature in Theory, Context, and Practice

Instructor: Anne Nesbet

Comp Lit 100:1
MWF 1-2:00
254 Dwinelle
CCN 17293
A. Nesbet

In this class we will take a close and multi-faceted look at books written primarily for children, a category of literature that remains rather under-examined, despite its popularity, persistence, and influence.  We will read examples of stories for children written in a number of different times (from the 18th to the 21st centuries) and places (Europe, Britain, North America), and our readings will make use of many different kinds of literary analysis:  historical contextualization, analyses that draw on particular literary theories, psychoanalytical approaches, and close readings.  We will also pay some attention to the development of the children’s literature industry in the United States.  Readings will include, on the one hand, stories by writers like the Brothers Grimm,

Carlo Collodi, Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, Tove Jansson, Madeleine L’Engle, and E. B. White, and, on the other hand, Propp, Freud,Bettelheim, Derrida, Foucault, Genette, and Garber.

There are a number of out-of-print books required (in unabridged form) for the class that students may have at home or be able to find used:  Johanna Spyri, Heidi [1880]; Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie [1935];  Lois Lenski, Judy’s Journey [1947]; Jane Langton, The Diamond in the Window[1972].   (There will also be a Reader with secondary materials and excerpts.)

Required Books:

1. The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm (Norton Critical Editions) [Paperback], Jack Zipes (Editor). Paperback: 1008 pages. Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; annotated edition edition (December 2000)

2.  Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There [1871], Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass Publisher:  (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

3.  Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio [1881], Publisher:  Puffin Classics

4.  Johanna Spyri, Heidi [1880] [available online; or in reader]

5.  L. Frank Baum, Ozma of Oz [1907], in L. Frank Baum, A Wonderful Welcome to Oz: The Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, & The Emerald City of Oz (Modern Library Classics) [Paperback]  L. Frank Baum (Author), Gregory Maguire (Editor), John R. Neill (Illustrator); Modern Library; Modern Library Pbk. Ed edition (April 11, 2006)

6.  Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie [1935] and Lois Lenski, Judy’s Journey [1947].  These are currently out-of-print, apparently, but Little House on the Prairie should be easy to find used.

7.  Tove Jansson, Finn Family Moomintroll [1948], Publisher: Square Fish; Reprint edition (April 27, 2010)

8.  C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe [1950], Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (July 1, 1994)

9.  E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web [1952], Publisher: HarperCollins (October 2, 2001)

10.  Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time [1962], Publisher: Square Fish (May 1, 2007)

11.  Jane Langton, The Diamond in the Window [1972]; out-of-print.

12.  Shaun Tan, The Arrival [2007], Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (October 1, 2007)

13.  Marcus Zusak, The Book Thief [2006], Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (September 11, 2007)

Course Catalog Number:

100: Introduction to Comparative Literature

How do books talk to each other?

Instructor: Michael Lucey

Comp Lit 100:2
Tu/Th 2-3:30
179 Dwinelle
CCN 17296
M. Lucey

The literary critic, Mikhail Bakhtin, once commented that “the novel as a whole is an utterance just as rejoinders in everyday dialogue or private letters are.”  Of course we often talk in loose ways about literary texts (among others) as being part of a large “conversation.”  In this course we’ll try to treat Bakhtin’s proposition seriously and rigorously.  What would be the larger language on which an author would draw to make a specific novelistic utterance?  How could one such novelistic utterance be taken to be a rejoinder to another.  What training is required in order to be able to listen in on a conversation like this?  We will read a series of six novels that might possibly be taken to be participating in a couple of related conversations.  We will also read theoretical and critical texts to help us develop our thinking about novelistic utterances and the ways they take on meaning.

Novels:  Walter Scott, The Antiquary;  Balzac,  Cousin Pons; Henry James, The Spoils of Poynton; William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying, Maryse Condé, Crossing the Mangrove, Robert Pinget, That Voice.

Course Catalog Number:

120: The Biblical Tradition in Western Literature

Instructor: Robert Alter

Comp Lit 120:1
Tu/Th 11-12:30
122 Wheeler
CCN 17302
B. Alter

This course will explore the biblical tradition in Western literature by a series of close readings of selected biblical texts in conjunction with a series of novels written in different languages from the eighteenth century to the twentieth that make central use of these biblical sources. One underlying concern of the course will be the nature of intertextuality, that is, how writers confront and transform their literary antecedents, and how a literary tradition articulates itself through a process of restless allusion. No previous familiarity with the Bible is presumed, and thus one of the goals of the course will be learning to read precisely and to appreciate the distinctive literary structures and conventions of the Bible.

Required texts

H. Fielding, Joseph Andrews

W. Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

F. Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

H. Melville, Moby Dick

F. Kafka, Amerika

The Holy Bible

Course Catalog Number:

152: The Middle Ages

Cultures of Desire in the Middle Ages: Medieval Literature on Love

Instructor: Frank Bezner

Comp Lit 152:1
MW 4-5:30
179 Dwinelle
CCN 17305
F. 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, on “courtly love”). Exploring this rich tradition via different genres, we will read vernacular and Latin love lyrics (e.g. Troubadour poetry, German Minnesang and Carmina Buarana), vernacular romances (e.g. Erec and Tristan), and theoretical treatises on love.  In reading and comparing these texts we will engage in literary analysis (form, imagery, recurrent elements, principal ideas, beginnings/ends, construction of a speaker/’I’, performance), explore the intersections of love literature and other discourses (medical, theological, legal), and discuss the relationship between our texts and the complex intellectual and social milieus in which they originated.

As no familiarity with the Middle Ages is required, we will discuss (sometimes after lectures, but mostly in a seminar format) some basic aspects of medieval literary culture, among them: authorship, literary institutions, manuscripts, the performance of literature. In consequence, the course can also be attended as an introduction into medieval literature and literary culture.

Language requirements: We will read texts in Latin, French, and German (with an emphasis on Latin and German). As medieval Latin, and particularly French/Occitan and German markedly differ from their modern form, all texts will be made available in English (mostly by bilingual editions). Students with knowledge of Latin, French, and German will profit from encountering an unknown variety of ‘their’ language, so in addition to English training in one other language (Latin or French or German) is recommended. Students should be prepared to engage with both a broad variety of texts and intensive close-reading.

Some of the texts we read:

–          selected Troubadour poems by Jaufre Rudel, Bernart de Ventadorn, Marcabru

–          selected poems from Minnesang (Walther of the Vogelweide, Heinrich of Morungen)

–          selected poems from the Carmina Burana (tr. Walsh)*

–          Andreas Capellanus, On Love (extracts)

–          Chretien of Troyes, The Knight of the Cart (tr. Staines)*

–          Hartmann of Aue, Erec (tr. Tobin)*

–          Gottfried of Strasbourg, Tristan (tr. Hatto)*

–          possibly: Dante, Vita Nuova (tr. Cervini/Vasta)*

All love poems will be made available in bilingual editions via bspace. Those marked with an asterisk, I recommend for buying.

Course Catalog Number:

155: The Modern Period

The Novel in India

Instructor: Harsha Ram

Tue-Thu. 3.30-5:00 p.m
Dwinelle 179
CCN 17311
H. Ram

Modern Indian literature is as linguistically diverse and culturally complex as India itself. » read more »

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:

155: The Modern Period

Beat Poetry­-And Its Kin­-At Home and Abroad

Instructor: Robert Kaufman

Comp Lit 155:1
T/TH 2-3:30
254 Dwinelle
CCN 17308
Professor R. Kaufman

Course Description: Seminar-lecture mix. Emphasis on close reading–lots of reading, and lots of careful re-reading!–with particular attention to the formal poetic-aesthetic dynamics (including metrics, tone, genre, structure, and related matters of form and style) and ethical/sociopolitical engagements of the poetry of the major “Beats” and of those poets from the United States whose work and dates overlap with the Beat movement, including Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Peter Orlovsky, Diane Di Prima, Gregory Corso, Michael McClure, Gary Synder, Bob Kaufman, Anne Waldman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Philip Whalen, Joanne Kyger, John Wieners, Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, Robin Blaser, Denise Levertov, Robert Creeley, John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Barbara Guest, James Schuyler,  et al); some brief re-considerations of Modernist predecessors, including William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Bertolt Brecht, Federico García Lorca,
Louis Zukofsky. While the course will spend vastly more time on poems than on documentary and contextual materials, we will pay significant attention to political and cultural pressures and movements–inside and outside the U.S.–that the poetry encountered, was at least partially shaped by, and in some cases helped re-shape. With reference to our course title: “At Home” will mean the poems written, and usually first published, in the U.S. (almost always in English);”Abroad” will mean consideration of three things: (1) the European, Canadian, Caribbean, Latin American, Asian, and/or African influences on the U.S. Beats and allied experimental poets, and in some cases, the poets’ experiences traveling, living, and working outside the U.S.; (2) translations–literally, of Beat poems; metaphorically, of Beat or alternative culture–into the poetry, criticism, and culture of French, Spanish, and German-speaking countries; and (3) poems written by European, Canadian, Caribbean, Latin American, Asian, and African poets who found themselves influenced by–or who found themselves in dialogue with­-Beat and related experimental U.S. poetry. In addition to poetry and poetry-focused literary and sociopolitical criticism, we will look at some works of cinema and philosophy.

(Note on non-English texts: Students will not be required to have proficiency in languages other than English, although ability to read in Spanish, French, and/or German will benefit students significantly, since we will often shuttle between those languages and English as we compare original and translated versions of various poems.)

Course Catalog Number:

171: Topics in Modern Greek Literature

Modern Greek History and Film

F 02:00-05:00 125 Dwinelle Instructor: Maria Kotzamanidou

Comp Lit 171
F 2-5:00
125 Dwinelle
CCN 17314
Maria Kotzamanidou

This course examines responses of the cinematic image to historical events concerning Greece from the beginning of the 20th century to the present. The course relies on the viewing of a series of films which are contextualized by a list of readings.

» read more »

Course Catalog Number: 17314

190: Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature

Anime: Critical Readings in Visual Culture

Instructor: Miryam Sas

Tu/Thur 12:30-2 and film screening: Tuesday 2-4PM
188 Dwinelle
CCN 17232/17320
Prof. Miryam Sas

This course is a senior seminar focusing on reading and understanding Japanese animation, or anime, as a medium from its earliest forms to contemporary works. We will think through  issues of digital culture, seriality, and the relation between anime and cinema; limited and full animation; cultural disaster and the post-war; bodies and sexuality, and queer/yaoi and otaku culture, as well as anime’s place within contemporary media theory.  We will view works by Miyazaki Hayao, Kon Satoshi, Anno Hideaki, Oshii Mamoru, and many others.

Required readings will be made available on bSpace and in a reader.

Course Catalog Number:

190: Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature

Joyce and Arlt in Modernism

Instructor: Francine Masiello

Comp Lit 190:2
Tu/Th 12:30-2:00
50 Barrows
CCN 17232
F. Masiello

This is a senior seminar devoted to the study of two modernist authors: the Irish writer James Joyce and the Argentinian Roberto Arlt. A paradox immediately confronts us when we draw such dissimilar and differently valued authors together: how can we competently situate Arlt, a marginal writer from the Latin American periphery, one who professes “to write badly” (while Borges, his local rival, makes claim to the precision of form), one who brings to literature the themes of delinquency and authoritarian rule, urban squalor, misogyny, and perversion, against the towering figure of Joyce, arguably the central figure of the modernist canon? » read more »

Course Catalog Number:


200: Approaches to Comparative Literature

Sacrifice Literature

Instructor: Anne-Lise Francois

Comp Lit 200:1
Th 2-5:00
225 Dwinelle
CCN 17356
A. Francois

“Sacrifice Literature” explores key concepts in critical theory (allegory, interpretation, latency, transference, sacrifice, image-making, textual pleasure, aesthetic value, the esoteric and exoteric, discipleship and discipline) and is designed as an introduction to representative critical debates in the field of comparative literature—debates concerning post-structuralism, Marxism and ideology critique, post-colonial and subaltern studies, feminism, psychoanalysis, and the critique of secularism. Taking the course title as an imperative (as well as a noun-phrase), we will focus on scenes of sacrifice, iconoclasm, sublimation, renunciation, repudiation, exchange, enclosure and conversion, while giving special attention to literary theory’s ambivalence toward representation and its compliance with the taboo on images. We will also explore imperatives to “sacrifice literature” in the critique of literature as an institution, of the realm of aesthetic judgment, and of close reading as the prevailing technique of the discipline.

Selections from Adorno, Agamben, Auerbach, Barthes, Bataille, Benjamin, Derrida, de Man, Fanon, Freud, Galeano, Guillory, Hegel, Henry James, Jameson, Barbara Johnson, Kafka, Kierkegaard, Lacan, Marx, Nietzsche, Ovid, Rousseau, Said, Silverman, Spivak, Strauss.

Course Catalog Number:

C 221: Aesthetics as Critique

Adorno's Aesthetic Theory

Instructor: Robert Kaufman

Comp Lit C221:1
Also listed as: Critical Theory 205 & Rhetoric C221:1
Mon 2-5:00
211 Dwinelle
CCN 17359
R. Kaufman

COURSE DESCRIPTION: About 2/3 or 3/4 of this seminar will involve sustained reading and discussion of Theodor W. Adorno’s last major work, which he was still finishing at the time of his 1969 death: Aesthetic Theory (1970). » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

258: Studies in Philosophy and Literature

Early Modern/Late Modern: Political Theology, Secularism, Literature

Instructor: Victoria Kahn

Comp Lit 258;1
Tu 2-5:00
201 Wheeler
CCN 17263
V. Kahn

What do we mean by “early modern?” How has the concept of the early modern been constructed? How have twentieth-century theorists and philosophers read early modern texts and with what consequences for contemporary theory? In this course, we will focus on a group of twentieth-century European critics who turned to early modern texts to make sense of the crisis of modernity during the interwar period. Rather than exploring how the early modern period anticipated modern ideas of liberalism, rights, and scientific progress (one standard reading of the period), these critics focused instead on the ways in which the early modern period contributed to a crisis of historicism and secular reason that in turn fueled new forms of political theology, including fascism and totalitarianism, in the twentieth century. Of particular concern to the modern theorists was a constellation of issues that are directly relevant to critical debates today: the meaning of political theology, the relationship between secularism and historicism, and the role of literary culture in the newly secular European nation-states. The moderns we will consider include Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss, Alexandre Kojève, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Kantorowicz, Hannah Arendt, Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar. The early moderns include Machiavelli, Hobbes, Shakespeare, and Spinoza

Course Catalog Number:

260: Problems in Literary Translation

The Poetics and Politics of Translation

Instructor: Chana Kronfeld

COMP LIT 260:1
Wed 2-5:00
125 Dwinelle
CCN 17365
C. Kronfeld

In this seminar we will explore developments in the field of translation studies that have taken it beyond the once common metaphors of fidelity and betrayal, of being faithful or unfaithful to the “original.”  We’ll focus on (mis)translations as symptomatic of the poetic and political dynamics of the negotiations between cultures in a particular historical moment. We’ll discuss a variety of approaches to the theory of translation, from system theory to postcolonial and globalization studies, both by reading critically and by theorizing from the translation practice itself. Central issues will include the role of translation in the construction of national and transnational literary histories, (un)equal power relations in the cultural negotiations between source and target text, recovering the role of agency in translation, and translation as intertextual practice.

Participants will experiment with collaborative translations of poetry from “their” language(s) and provide a comparative critical analysis of the poetics and politics implicit in influential translation projects in these languages.  The poetry of Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000), translated from the Hebrew, will serve as our anchor, providing both a case study and an alternative theoretical model.  We will read closely Amichai’s last book, Open Closed Open, where he foregrounds translation-work as valorized woman’s-work and offers a meditation on translation as a metonymy for poetry – for the translator/poet’s intertextual wrestling with the authority of the past or her/his struggles against the political and academic “Newspeak” of the present.

Guest discussions by local translators and translation scholars.

Students will work in small groups and present their translation and critical process to the seminar.  Collaborative oral and written projects will be encouraged.  Seminar paper: an annotated translation project with theoretical and historical introduction.



1)      Lawrence Venutti, The Translation Studies Reader, London& N.Y.:Routledge, 2000.

2)      Tejaswini Niranjana, Siting Translation: History, Post-Structuralism, and the Colonial Context, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

3)      Yehuda Amichai, Open Closed Open, trans. Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld, N.Y.: Harcourt & Brace [2000] 2006 (paperback edition).

4)      Course Reader (available from Instant Copying and Laser Printing, 2138 University Ave. 2nd week of classes).  The Reader includes extensive selections from Andre Lefevere, Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fame (out of print), as well as articles by Susan Bernofsky, Sacvan Bercovitch, Homi Bhaba, Jacques Derrida, Anuradha Dingwaney, Barbara Johnson,  Lydia Liu, Naomi Seidman, Mashweta Sengupta and others.

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