Introduction to Comparative Literature
This class inquiries into how notions of time and subjectivity figure in different writing genres, literary traditions, and historical periods. In reading a diverse body of pre-modern and modern texts, we explore how time is constructed and articulated and how it is structured by narrative form and psychological content. We examine how diverse and competing temporalities underlie religious and secular worldviews and how they impact imaginaries of self and of society. We reflect on how articulations of temporality and historicity intersect with ideas of fate and free will, tradition and change, memory and imagination, and existential affect and collective reality. We pay close attention to how literary texts comprise multiple time horizons and we think through their relationship with character development, the interplay of events and processes, and the mediation of experience by cultural symbology. In our class, we also explore the politics of time in modernity, reflecting on the temporalities of nation-state and capitalism, and their interrogation by modernist writing. We will read novels, plays, poems, and essays from different literary traditions and adopt both thematic and historical approaches in studying the conceptualization of time and subjectivity in their imagined worlds.
Tentative book list: Sophocles, Antigone ;al-Isfahani, The Book of Strangersl Attar of Nishapur, The Conference of the Birds; Machiavelli, The Prince; Kushwant Singh, Train to Pakistan; Guy de Maupassant, African Wanderings; Virginia Wolf, Mrs. Dalloway; Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea; Wole Soyinka, A Dance of the Forests; Mohja Kahf, Hagar Poems; Abderrahmane Sissako, Bamako; Saint Augustine’s Confessions (excerpt); Jacques le Goff ’s Time, Work, & Culture in the Middle Ages (excerpt); Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Community (excerpt); Henri Bergson’s Time and Free Will (excerpt)