Introduction to Comparative Literature
In this course we will self-reflexively explore the genre of the academic or campus novel in its historical development and contemporary permutations. How have campus novels evolved and what can they tell us about our own anxieties and desires for academic experience? What would it mean to imagine our own lives as part of a fictitious universe? We will read novels that focus on the experience of students and/or teachers on American college or university campuses, with detours into texts that deal with student life in Ireland, Russia and France. This should be a rewarding and enjoyable endeavor in its own right, but we will also use this focus as an occasion for an introduction to literary theory, particularly to notions of literary genre. Students will complete four writing assignments, including an outline for an imaginary academic novel, two analytical papers, and one mix of analysis and creative autobiography (the Batuman project).
Books will probably include:
Owen Johnson, Stover at Yale
Tom Wolfe, I Am Charlotte Simmons
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
David Lodge, Changing Places.
Helene Beer, The Journal of Hélène Beer
Jane Gallop, Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment.
Elif Batuman, The Possessed
Daniel Mendelsohn, An Odyssey
Sally Rooney, Normal People
Yuri Trifonov, Students or House on the Embankment