Introduction to Comparative Literature
Titles and Objects
In this course, we will analyze and compare a series of plays and films titled after objects: Plautus’s Pot of Gold and Rope, Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie (1944), Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), Yukio Mishima’s The Magic Pillow (1950), Eugene Ionesco’s Les Chaises (1952), Melvonna Ballenger’s Rain (1978), August Wilson’s Fences (1983; 2016), Lynn Nottage’s Mud, River, Stone (1999) and Poof (2004), Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Wig Out (2008), and Raul Castillo’s Knives and Other Sharp Objects (2009). What is the relationship between language and objects? How does literature become material? How does a title orient and condition the reception of a dramatic text as an object? How do objects, in their materiality, replicate formal features of plays and films (linguistic and visual textures, the shapes of plots)? How are they implicated in the making and unmaking of race and gender (dis)identifications? After considering some theoretical works on materiality and literature, we will use the reading of dramatic texts and films to interrogate the precarious dichotomies of subject and object, self and other, materiality and immateriality. We will also look for ways for bridging the gap between the so-called linguistic and material turns, which have shaped (and divided) the humanities in the past four decades.