Introduction to Comparative Literature
Fantastic Beasts: The Supernatural, the Demonic, and the Magical in Literature
What do demons want? Why do spirits possess? How do humans and vampires interact? And when do the dead come back to life or remain in a limbo? In this course we will address the appearance of fantastic creatures in literature from across time, place, and language, and explore various theoretical modalities to contend with cultural representations of the supernatural. As we encounter angels and demons, dybbeks and Jinnis, zombies, vampires, and ghosts (oh my!) we will employ a comparative theoretical and historical approach to assess what these magical and monstrous beings do in texts, how they serve to construct meaning or, alternately, wreak textual havoc. And as we take a look at their creaturely anatomy, we will examine how they spell out and haunt categories of race, gender, and sexuality, and what they might tell us about legacies of violence and colonialism and about the human experiences of the body. Theoretical modalities such as psychoanalysis, Marxist literary criticism, posthumanism, queer and affect studies, and postcolonial approaches have all offered ways to observe the fantastic and the supernatural in literature. We will consult them in our investigation as a way to build foundational skills in the comparative study of literature and culture. Primary readings include works from English, French, Latin American, Arabic, Russian, German, Hebrew and Yiddish literatures.