Comparative Literature Courses
Program | Faculty
| Master's | Doctoral
All courses carry 3 credits unless otherwise specified.
513 Literary Genre: Autobiography and Gender
A major or minor category of literature, or the concept of genre itself; readings in theory and close study of representative texts from several traditions. Recent topics include Autobiography and Gender, the literary nature of autobiography and the psychology of its composition. Examples from modern European literary texts and films.
514 Modern Poetry and Poetics
Selected major authors and movements in modern poetry from Symbolism to present. Backgrounds of contemporary poetry in European and American intellectual and literary history: modern experiments with poetic form. Influence of movements such as symbolism, surrealism, modernism and postmodernism, with their relation to contemporary art and aesthetics.
515 Modern Drama
Currents in Western drama since Ibsen. Possible topics: naturalism, symbolism, neo-Romanticism, expressionism, folk drama and fantasy, epic realism, and “grotesque” or “absurd” theater.
Romanticism as an international movement in literature and the other arts. The assimilation by the arts of the newly-discovered Individualism of French and German philosophy. Rejection of mimesis for an idea of art as a synthetic, original power which gains universality through the genius of the individual creator.
529 The Symbolist Movement
The literature of England, France, and Germany in the middle and late 19th century. The concept of the imagination, and concurrent aesthetic, epistomological, and ethical questions traced primarily through poetry, but also through drama and the novel.
540 Western Literature Cross-Currents with China
Impact of Western literature on modern Chinese literature from 1915 to 1937. Selected writers and literary movements of the modern Chinese Literary Renaissance. Recent topics: the creation of a new native Chinese literature; the response of Chinese authors and intellectuals to western literature and literary theory; theories of alterity and cross-cultural image.
Medieval Women Writers and Feminist Theory
Selected medieval and Renaissance women writers from the point of view of current feminist theory. Writers include Marie de France, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Margery Kempe, Angela of Foligno, Sor Juana de la Cruz, Christine de Pizan. Themes of love and desire in women’s writing; the models provided by Sappho, Plato, and the Bible; critical approaches derived from French feminism, feminist theologians, Marxist critiques, and object-relations theory.
Literature and Myth
Narrative patterns of myth and folktale in relation to the patterns of literary narratives. Emphasis on the theory of myth as it sheds light on “the order of events” and on character relationships in both mythical and literary narratives. Sumerian, Greek, and African myths; selections from theory and fiction from 1850 to the present.
International Film Noir
Film noir from its American heyday (1944-1958) to the new European cinema of the sixties (Godard, Truffaut, the Cahier du Cinema) and seventies (Fassbinder and the New German Cinema). How filmic texts explore the relationship between the representation of “reality” and the technical imperatives of cinema as an artistic medium. Film noir’s displacement of social mores; their constitution of reality in the light of formalist, feminist, and psychoanalytic theory.
Investigation of the varieties of narrative strategies used by writers, analysands, and theorists to describe the psychoanalytic experience. Texts include case histories from the view point of analyst and patient; biographical and autobiographical narratives; fiction in which primary text is the account of an analytic encounter; interpretive readings by theorists; and cinematic texts.
601 Literary Criticism I: Classic to Neoclassic
Problems in critical theory prior to modern period. Not necessarily chronological or limited to Occidental critics.
602 Literary Criticism II: Introduction to the History of Consciousness
Modern crises of consciousness, ethics, and form, as manifested in seminal works of avant-garde criticism and fiction.
612 European Epic Poetry
Literary analysis of major classical and Renaissance epics. Emphasis on their intrinsic qualities as works of art. Specific epic techniques and the epic tradition.
616 Contemporary Novel
Commitment and innovation in modern novel. Nature of literary and extraliterary influences, trends, and themes that define and establish current major traditions of the novel.
644 International Literary Relations
Cross-cultural theory and analysis. Topics and issues common to two or more different national issues common to two or more different national literatures, including the interplay of text, language, history, and national or cultural identity. Recent topics include Orientalism/Occidentalism, a study of reciprocal cultural images between West and East and their relationship to the psychology of colonialism.
Advanced study of a topic or special area in Comparative Literature.
The Female Subject
Relationships between the individual subject, representation, and the “real world”; the material, social, and economic context. How the woman writer constitutes a female subject. How she is seen in relation to another, subject or object. How to find a critical vocabulary to describe the female subject, to analyze her representation and remain aware of the context in which she appears. The appropriateness of such an analysis beyond first world literature. Theoretical models and syntheses include Marxist, psychoanalytical, post-structuralist, and feminist thought, tested on specific literary texts.
Buddhism and American Culture
The mutual impact of Buddhism and American culture in 20th- and 21st-century American literature, art, music, and popular culture, studied in relation to Buddhism’s Asian roots. The theory and practice of Buddhism in 20th-century America, and exploration of its cross-cultural multidisciplinary expression, ranging from literature to politics and sports. Topics include Buddhism in popular culture, Japanese and Chinese practitioners of the Way of Buddha, the Beat Generation and Buddhism in American literature, Thomas Merton and the East, Buddhist-Jewish/Christian encounter, war and non-violence, women and Buddhism.
Literature and Music
Relations between literature and music from Plato to Samuel Beckett. Music as a social phenomenon, a pattern of feeling or understanding, and a mode of interpretation. Topics include portraits of musicians and composers in literature and film, themes of inferiority in musical settings of drama and poetry, and the literary emulation of musical structure and style (“musicality”). Some background in music history or music theory and knowledge of one modern European language helpful.
Word, Image, Book: Politics and Aesthetics
Political dimensions of image making. Readings from Plato and Derrida, and excerpts from Biblical and post-Biblical commentary. Notions of icon and iconicity, grapheme, and epistemologies of sight, Renaissance devices and emblems in relation to questions of authorship and authority, and the flourishing of medieval and Renaissance narrative painting (biblical, mythological and post-Dante and Ariosto), the interactivity of words and images in books published after 1750. Illustration in novels and collections of poetry and drama, as well as imitations in poetry and in the novel of specific paintings and drawings. The development of picture books, comics, and graphic novels.
Travel and Empire
Examines the cultures of travel—writing, photography, and filmmaking—and the tropes of imperialism from British, French, and American colonial texts, and contemporary representations.
20th-Century Theorists: Foucault and Said
A critical survey on the writings of Michel Foucault and Edward Said, who have influenced theories on the human body, ethnic identity, sexuality, the violence of the state, post-structuralism, post-colonialism, historiography, material culture, and nationalism.
The Discipline and Its Discontents
Professional seminar considering both practical matters and theoretical concerns for new and current graduate students in Comparative Literature. Faculty members are invited to speak on the course they teach, their fields of research, and their assessment of the present and future of the discipline.
Aspects of Children’s Literature Children’s literature as a new canon raising specific theoretical questions of genre, audience relationship, and cultural setting. Close reading of texts from the U.S. and abroad. Topics include the canon, narrative structure, relations between text and image, psychoanalytic and developmental modes (Winnicott, Alice Miller, Jacqueline Rose, Piaget, Vygotsky), inter-textuality (relations to folktale, traditional and modern poetry), and social and historical contexts (Darnton, Zipes).
699 Master’s Thesis
703 Contemporary Theories of Literature
Intensive study of theories of literature having importance for contemporary criticism and scholarship.
750 Literary Theory: Post-structuralism Dialogue
Survey of major theoretical debates in structuralism/post-structuralism: Levi-Strauss, Lacan, Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, Irigaray. Michel Riffaterre’s argument with Roman Jacobson and Claud Levi-Strauss over Baudelaire’s sonnet “Le Chat,” Roland Barthes and Raymond Picard’s contention over the proper approach to Racine; Foucault and Derrida—and Lacan and Derrida—in conflict over who speaks for the mad; Irigaray and Lacan in disagreement over the construction of the feminine; Serles, Derrida, and Felman in context over John Austin’s Speech Act Theory.
751 Theory and Practice of Translation
Theoretical issues and practical problems raised by translation, in light of recent research. The role of translation and translated literature in cultural systems and in the history of literary development. Genre and form (poetry, dramatic literature), language register and tone, metaphor and imagery, word play. Readings in theory (Nida, Even-Zohar, Lefevere, Quine, Catford) combined with workshop practice.
752 Theory and Practice of Comparative Literature
Comparative Literature as literary theory and as academic practice. Nineteenth-century background and the rise of “literary studies”; traditional concepts of influence, periods, themes, genres, “extraliterary” relations, translation studies, and their development in modern theory. Questions of textuality, canonicity, cultural identity, the politics of cross-cultural literary images, metatheory, and institutional setting as they affect current practice.
780 Bibliography and Methods of Literary Research
Introduction to bibliography and methodology of comparative studies in literature.
Ulysses and the Rise of Modern Narrative
Joyce’s Ulysses in the light of the Greek, Italian, Irish, and English mythos, and drawing on French, Irish, and English narrative techniques; as a new response to nationalism indebted both to Ibsen and to the Anglo-Irish Revival; as a culmination of Joyce’s own artistic experiments in Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist, and Exiles, and as a harbinger of Finnegans Wake and a post-Einsteinian world.
The cinematic culture of contemporary Eastern Europe; emphasis on feature and documentary filmmakers from the former Soviet Union, Hungary, Poland, and the former East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. Differences in theoretical, ideological, and cultural practices between East and West; intersections of history and autobiography; cinematic uses of literature by Eastern bloc artists; the visual inscription of memory, loss, and national identity; issues of gender, love, and sexuality; a comparative treatment of strategies for examining the past.
Translation Techniques and Technologies
Covers a range of theories and technologies on how to translate faster and more accurately, incorporate new technologies, and become more aware of the changing market, including multilingual word-processing, terminology database, computer-aided translation, on-line dictionaries, html codes, and Internet discussion groups for translators.
Translation and Postcolonialism
Translation as a tool in the construction of colonized cultures and as resistance to such colonialization. Strategies for communication that may help open spaces for introducing complex cultural differences.
Translation and Identity Formation in the Americas
How translation functions as a fundamental part of our cultural histories. The outdated models of translation studies scholars. How many fiction writers in the Americas, including Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Julio Cortazar, Mario Vargas Llosa, Toni Morrison, and Nicole Brossard, among others, foreground the theme of translation in their work in order to explore multicultural and polylingual societies.
Advanced Translation Theory and Practice
Work on an extended translation project or a paper related to translation history or theory with a view toward publication. Students take turns presenting their work, using the class for constructive criticism, feedback, suggestions, and brainstorming. Discussion of readings in contemporary translation theory.
Ways of Worldmaking in Literary Texts
Recent concepts of worldmaking in art and literature; literary examples of interlocking and multiple worlds in the Western literary tradition from Symbolism to the present. Background in aesthetic theories of world-construction. The analysis of projected worlds of consciousness, of fused horizons, of the construction of cultural worlds, of worlds of discourse manipulated to challenge conventional world images. Attention to works that manipulate world-conventions and the problematics of linguistic representation.
Twentieth-century “modernism” in its various shapes, terms, and representative figures. Emphasis on the still-debated concept of modernism, in relationship to post-modernism and to continental European avant-garde movements, and the impact of Western modernism on other cultures, with guest lecturers. “Modernist” concepts of reality and representation; formal strategies including point of view and collage techniques; modernism’s relation to contemporary society. Discussion of literary texts in conjunction with theoretical and historical concepts.
Cinematic “I”/EYE: The First Person in Modern Film
Studies in comparative strategies of self-representation and interpretation in works by contemporary film and video artists. A consideration of seeing and speaking subjects constructed in autobiographical visual texts; within national and ethnic cultures; and as gendered authorial voices. Oral presentations, readings, discussions, and screenings. Some background in theory, cultural studies, contemporary literary or film/video studies recommended.
Cross-Cultural Problems in Literary Theory: Japanese and European Narrative
A cross-cultural problematics of the narrative voice in Japanese and European literature; reference to autobiographical writings and questions of subjectivity. Related issues include the nature and use of linguistic borrowings, and the connection between the choice of a narrative mode and the grammar and vocabulary of the language. The validity of cross-cultural criticism and the possibility of translation. Close readings and comparison of representative European and Japanese literary and critical texts.
797 Special Problems
Directed study of some problem in Comparative Literature. May be repeated for credit. Credit, 2-6.
Intensive, advanced study of a special research topic or theoretical issue in Comparative Literature.
Psychoanalysis and Literature
Psychoanalytic interpretation, its history, its contemporary theoretical foundations, its uses and misuses. Readings include selections from Freud, object-relations theorists, clinical cases, poems, and literary critics. Development of the ability to think psychoanalytically about people and texts.
Science Fiction, Psychoanalysis, and the State
The way psychoanalytic themes enter American science fiction between 1948 and 1960, and how such themes are used by science fiction writers of the time to express and respond to social and political tensions (e.g., McCarthyism). Works by Sturgeon, Bester, Harness, and Zelazny, in historical context and from a Lacanian psychoanalytic perspective.
An overview of the state of each participant’s research, to familiarize members with the problems and possibilities of a doctoral dissertation in Comparative Literature. The group’s composition determines the nature of invitations to potential guests, or the decision to concentrate on its own members’ discussions, with topics including: preparation for paper presentations at academic conferences, potential openings for positions at colleges and universities, and opportunities for funding for fellowships, grants, and post-doctoral research.
899 Doctoral Dissertation