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Graduate Courses

Graduate Courses Spring 2024

COMP-LIT 670 Medieval Women Writers - Jessica Barr, W 2:30-5:00

COMP-LIT 681 Interpreting and Translation Research and Practice I - Moira Inghilleri, Tu/Th 1:00-2:15

COMP-LIT 691TR Testimony and Resistance in African Literature - Kathryn Lachman, Tu 1:00-3:45

COMP-LIT 693B Aztec Manuscripts - Chris Couch, Th 5:00-8:00

COMP-LIT 791 Critical Decolonial Gender and Sexuality Studies (cross-listed with WGSS) - Corine Tachtiris and Svati Shah, Th 2:30-5:00

Graduate Courses Fall 2023

COMP-LIT 591SF International Science Fiction Cinema - Chris Couch, Tu 7:00-10:00 (graduate section)

COMP-LIT 682 Interpreting and Translation Research and Practice II - Özüm Arzik Erzurumlu, Tu/Th 1:00-2:15

COMP-LIT 691RS S-Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Translation - Corine Tachtiris, Wed 4:00-6:30

COMP-LIT 692S S-The Sociology of Film- Jeremi Marek Szaniawski, Mon 4:00-6:30

COMP-LIT 752 Theory and Practice of Comparative Literature - Rachel Green, Tu/Th 1:00-2:15


551 Translation and Technology

This is an introduction to the exciting world of translation and multilingual computing. The course covers a range of technologies that are useful for students of all languages, helping them expand their international communication skills. Technologies covered include multilingual word processing, desktop publishing, proofing tools, Web translation and design, video subtitling, and the transfer and translation of sound and image files. Open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates. Readings with discussion, experiments with latest technology, practice in lab.

559  Global Modernisms

Working outward from the tools and techniques used by modernist novelists in Europe and the Americas, this course explores the intersection of engagement and global modernism.  The course focuses on the ways that novelists move beyond social realism, using formalist methods to create engaged narratives that serve the purposes of social critique and national building in the tradition of Joyce, Faulkner, Garcia Marquez, and Morrison. Questions to be explored include the implied readership, boundaries between modernism and postmodernism, and the porous genre boundaries of the novel internationally. Reading will include Soseki, I am a Cat; Le Sueur, The Girl; Emecheta, The Joys of Motherhood; Sidwa, Cracking India; Roy, The God of Small Things; Pamuk, My Name is Red; Grenville, The Secret River; and Okri, The Famished Road.

597  NY, LA, Paris: Literature of the Francophone Diaspora

This course examines different theoretical approaches to diaspora alongside contemporary francophone fiction produced in New York, L.A., Paris, and Montreal. We will read novels, short stories and poetry by such major figures as Condé, Césaire, Pineau, Laferrière, Mabanckou, Nichapour, Dongala, and Waberi.

670 Medieval Women Writers

This course explores the rich world of writing by women in the Middle Ages from the point of view of current theoretical perspectives. Writers include Marie de France, Christine de Pizan, Jahān-Malek Kātun, Hildegard of Bingen, Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, and others. We will discuss themes including love and desire in women’s writing; representations of women in medieval literature and philosophy; gendered representations of sanctity; and critical approaches derived from feminist theory. No prior knowledge of medieval literature is assumed or required.

681 Interpretation and Translation Research and Practice I 

This is a required course for the Graduate Certificate in Translation and Interpreting Studies. This course is open to graduate students working in any discipline at UMass and the Five Colleges. While no prior experience in translation or interpreting is necessary, students must have a strong command of English and at least one other language. The course will introduce students to research in the field of translation and interpreting studies and to a number of practical skills required of professional translators and interpreters. Translation and interpreting will be viewed throughout the course as socio-cultural and ethical activities as well as linguistic ones. Students will work with written and spoken texts to develop an understanding of micro-textual elements and macro-textual structures and patterns and understand how to analyze both written and spoken texts. They will be introduced to consecutive and simultaneous interpreting skills using recorded texts in the language lab. Role plays will be conducted to familiarize students with the triadic nature of interpreted communication.  

682 Interpretation and Translation Research and Practice II

in Comp Lit 682 students will build on the knowledge and skills acquired in Comp Lit 681. Students will work on understanding the institutional and discursive structures of particular institutional domains, gain relevant vocabulary in English and other languages and practice translating, sight translating and interpreting a variety of relevant texts. This course is a designated “Civic Engagement and Service-Learning” course and endorsed by the office of Civic Engagement and Service-Learning (CESL) at UMass. A part of the course has been designed to provide opportunities for students to engage in a service project outside the classroom that is guided by appropriate input from a community partner and contributes to the public good. Selected project sites have been selected and students, with the help of faculty, will be matched with one or more community partners in the first three weeks of the semester. The CESL component of this course reflects the view that interpreting and translation are socio-cultural activities as well as linguistic ones. Your experiences of serving the community will increase your understanding of the social, cultural, and ethical complexities of the role of interpreters and translators. It will give you first-hand knowledge of the significance of interpreting and translation (and its absence) for members of communities for whom English is not their primary language. All projects will involve some additional reading of relevant literature.  

691A Literature and Music 

This course examines the relationship between music and the 20th- 21st-century novel. How has music influenced narrative form? How do texts appropriate musical elements in order to create the illusion of orality and presence? What political and ideological assumptions accompany music in literature? In our discussions, we will also address the status of musical metaphors in literary criticism. Readings will include selections from Abani, Kundera, Carpentier, Cortazar, Morrison, Chamoiseau, Coetzee, Djebar, Bak

691EA Literary Ethics/Literary Affects

Is the humanistic drive at the heart of liberal thought, both celebrated and problematized by Edward Said, a fundamentally conservative impulse? What are the ethics of reading literature in the neoliberal age? And what is the relationship between ethics and affects? Approaching these questions in the spirit of Said’s democratic humanism, this graduate seminar will explore ethical criticism (‘from Leavis to Levinas’) and adjacent concepts (e.g. cultural memory, perpetrator trauma, the liberal discourse of empathy) in the wake of histories of settler colonialism and racial capitalism. Key to our inquiry will be the place of genocide in philosophical thought. In this vein, we will read exciting recent work that conceptualizes Emmanuel Levinas and his primary themes (the other, justice, hope, hospitality, forgiveness) in conversation with major thinkers of postcolonialism and philosophies of liberation, including Frantz Fanon, Enrique Dussel, and Said himself. The course will progress towards a consideration of affect and affect theory as a decolonizing move for the ethical. Considering the work of Sara Ahmed and others, we will bring Levinas’ ‘lived embodiment’ into dialogue with concepts such as affective economies, intensities, and structures of feeling. We will conclude our inquiry in the realm of critical pedagogy. While our literary interludes will primarily focus on Arabic and Hebrew literatures, we may also read works from other linguistic traditions. Assignments are designed with professionalization in mind: students will prepare concise weekly responses, an academic book review, two presentations, and a conference paper that can be expanded into an article or dissertation chapter. Theoretical readings may include texts by Sara Ahmed, Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Judith Butler, Enrique Dussel, Frantz Fanon, Paolo Freire, Gil Hochberg, Dominique LaCapra, Emmanuel Levinas, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Raya Morag and Edward Said.

691GS  Reading the Global South

This course explores topics in Comparative Literature and the cultural politics of the Global South, taking as a point of departure the history of decolonization and theoretical writings on the postcolonial condition. We will begin by considering the relationship between anticolonial nationalisms and literary culture, the impact of print-colonialism on the grounds of comparison, and debates on the "third world" and the "postcolonial" as both political and literary designations. Interdisciplinary approaches to the question of uneven "development" and cultural "progress" will be further explored through readings on globalization and world systems analysis, theories of cosmopolitanism and literary transnationalism, and comparative writings on the terms of "modernity" and the stakes of lit erary "modernism." The final segment of the course emerges as an outgrowth of critiques of "modernity" and global theories of uneven development: the assertion of (temporal) alterity, literary incomparability, and cultural exceptionalism within the Global South will be explored through readings on linguistic difference, secularism, and the sacred - investigating the question of literary circulation through the prism of translation and the prospects of linguistic untranslatability.htin, Said, Levi-Strauss, Lacoue-Labarthes, and Derrida.

691MA  The Idea of Writing in the Middle Ages

This course will investigate the concepts of authorship, subject-construction, and reading in medieval literature. In the Middle Ages, the word "author" meant something quite different from what we understand it to mean today, and this distinct notion of authorship - associated with accepted authority rather than originality and with citational interrelationships between texts - had implications for medieval explorations of what it meant to write. Seminar readings will draw from medieval visionary and dream literature, vernacular and Latin prologues, and romance, as well as contemporary critical scholarship. All texts will be available in translation, but students will be expected to read in the original languages when possible.

691NS  Literature and the Formation of the Nation-State in the 19th Century

This course examines the formative role literature played in the process of nation-building in the Americas during the 19th century with particular emphasis on Argentina, Peru and the United States. Authors include-- but are not limited to-- James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ricardo Palma, Clorinda Matto de Turner, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and Esteban Echeverria. After a brief introduction to methodology and theory and a careful historical contextualization of each writer we will analyze the texts focusing on topics such as gender and romance, race and miscegenation, the past, and space/nature/frontier. 

691NW  Writing the New World

This course offers a hemispheric and comparative approach to the study of Anglo- and Latin American literature and culture from the late fifteenth until the eighteenth century, from the age of exploration to the late colonial period. We will look at a wide variety of texts produced in the wake of European imperial expansion in the Americas (e.g. letters, journals, natural histories, ethnographies, captivity narratives and travel accounts) that chronicle the creation of the so-called New World. How has exploration and travel writing produced the Americas for a European readership and what were the epistemological challenges authors were facing when writing the “New World”?  How did non-Europeans (e.g. indigenous and Creole writers) react to these representational practices and what revisionist accounts did they provide?  How was culture contact portrayed and how were racial ideologies constructed? These are just a few of the questions this course will address. 

691Q  Literary Translation Workshop 

In this workshop, students focus on the practical challenges and creative activity of literary translation. During weekly meetings, students discuss each other's translations along with essays on the craft of translation by leading translators, and become familiar with the practicalities of the contemporary world of translation. As students become familiar with the varying views on and descriptions of translation, they develop the ability to talk and write about translators' strategies and choices. Brief oral presentations and regular active participation is a major component of the workshop. Although the workshop is open to translators of varying levels, students should have a particular translation project in mind that they would like to work on throughout the semester since one of the goals of the workshop is to produce a polished, English version of a text. Translations from all languages into English are welcome. In addition, students research the translation history of a specific text and discuss it in a comparative context, carry out a short collaborative translation project with a classmate, and write a critical review of a recently published literary translation. At the end of the semester, students submit a final portfolio. Visits from translators, editors, and publishers are also a regular part of this workshop.

691RS  Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Translation

This course takes a critical look at issues of race, gender, and sexuality both in translated texts and in the translation profession. Readings will include: translation studies scholarship addressing race, gender, and sexuality; example translations dealing with these issues; and scholarship from critical race and ethnic studies and gender and sexuality studies. The objectives of the course include developing a reflective, ethical practice for translating discourse around race, gender, and sexuality as well as developing strategies to address the marginalization of certain identities in the profession (queering translation, combatting publication inequities for women authors and translators, increasing the number of domestic translators of color, etc.). Students will prepare a critical essay that can be developed into an article or dissertation chapter; or a translation with a critical reflection that can be submitted for publication.  


691TR Testimony and Resistance in African Literature


This course explores literary and cinematic representations of resistance and testimony from contemporary Africa. Students will encounter different forms of testimony, from official truth commissions to other, more personal forms of witnessing, in the context of the Rwandan genocide, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the postcolonial struggle and its aftermath in Algeria and North Africa, the cold war struggle over Angola. Our materials range from memoirs, essays, novels, and graphic novels to documentaries and feature films. How have writers and filmmakers sought to bear witness, to expose the limits of official memory, and to expand public dialogue about past events and present human rights abuses? What kinds of expressions of resistance emerge within these works, and how are they directed both to local and international audiences? How are testimony and resistance intertwined? Readings will include works by Diop, Achebe, Ngugi, Abani, Krog, Matar, Mbembe, Mbue, Kentridge, and Habila, among others. Students in all disciplines are welcome; the course is of particular relevance to those in African Studies, English, French and Francophone studies, Film Studies, History, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies.


692F Fauna and Flora: Ideas of Ecocriticism


This graduate seminar will offer an introductory overview of the broad field of ecocritcism and its interaction with literature. What is environment? In what ways do we interact with it? How does the environment figure in literature? What are implications of the environment on our language, actions and policies? In the light of these preliminary questions we will read critical environmental theory and diverse works of literature, exploring the ethnical, political, social, creative and aesthetic reverberations of these texts.


692S The Sociology of Film


A survey of film and media studies texts of Marxist, neo- and post-Marxist inspiration: the writings of SM Eisenstein, Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, the Frankfurt School (esp. Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer), Ernst Bloch, Roland Barthes, Raymond Williams, Fredric Jameson, Jacques Ranciere, Paul Coates, Lynn Spigel, John MacKay, Michael Cramer. Films under scrutiny will include early Soviet cinema, classical Hollywood genre films (High Noon and Johnny Guitar), European New Wave films (from France, Poland, the Soviet Union), New Hollywood popular fare (e.g. Jaws and The Godfather), as well as more recent productions. After looking at case studies discussed in the reading, we will apply a sociological and/or Marxist grid of interpretation to contemporary films from the US, Russia, Poland, South Korea, and others


693A  Critical Approaches to North African Literature

This seminar will address the dialogue between North African literature and critical theory since the 1950s. We will consider how writers from Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria engage with and contest prevailing theories of memory, nationalism, transnationalism, gender, language, ethnicity, subjectivity and trauma. Among the writers we will study are Kateb Yacine, Hélène Cixous, Jacques Derrida, Assia Djebar, Albert Memmi, Driss Chraibi, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Rachid Boudjedra, Hisham Matar, Albert Cossery, Yasmina Khadra, Leila Sebbar, Ahlam Mosteghanemi and Boualem Sansal. Students with working knowledge of French and/or Arabic are encouraged to read texts in the original when possible; all works are available in English translation and class discussions will be conducted in English.

693B Aztec Manuscripts

This course will explore Native American pictorial narrative manuscripts traditions of the Aztec, Maya, and Mixtec peoples, including historical, religious, and calendrical works, and related visual programs in preserved murals, ceramics, and other media, from monuments to mirrors. These manuscripts continue to play important roles in the preservation of Indigenous identity and solidarity and cultural identity within nation states, and the course will examine public, popular, and fine arts reviving, repurposing, and supporting resistance using this imagery.

693D  Truth in Representation

This seminar will sample the recent critical debate on truth, representation and relativism; we will look at a selection of scientists, critics, writers, and artists as well, in order to describe a variety of dances on the head of this pin. Ours will be a cross-disciplinary investigation of the claims on truth - or the will to truth - across a variety of narrative representations, e.g. in scientific (Oliver Sacks) or psychoanalytic case studies (Freud), in war reporting (Mathew Brady, Paul Fussell, Semezdin Mehmedinovic), in stand-up comedy (Richard Pryor), in film (Haneke) and theater (Beckett), in the graphic novel (Joe Sacco), as well as in more traditional literary texts (Kafka, Woolf, Ondaatje, Saer, Danticat).

695A  International Film Noir

Often referred to as the only indigenous American film style, "film noir" in its very appellation reveals that its major effects (for certain modern conceptions of cinema) lay elsewhere.  We will examine film noir in its American heyday (1945-1957) and how it came to be a major propelling force in the new European cinema of the 1960's (Godard, and the Cahiers du cinema).  How film noir displaces American social mores and their constitution of "reality" within the imaginary and symbolic fields, and within the symptomatic concretization of those fields that is normative (dominant) cinema.  How film noir both makes film different and allows already latent difference to be manifested.   How film noir takes shape in the U.S. as expression of the inexpressible (and the ‘unheimlich”) or, at least, of the allusion to it; which in the lens and on the screen of directors such as Godard and Fassbinder becomes pseudomorphic.

697D Writing Death in the Middle Ages

Using medieval literature for our case studies, this course investigates how writers write death. Beginning with a broader consideration of the theoretical problems of writing death that draws from Derrida, Gallop, and others, we will then use a series of medieval texts across a range of genres to deepen our understanding of how death functions textually. We will study the relationship between sanctity and dying, mystical death in relation to biological finitude, and literary treatments of grief and mourning. In the final weeks, students will be invited to share how our study pertains to and illuminates their own research interests, beyond the boundaries of the European Middle Ages.

697S International Screenplays 

This course proposes a survey of celebrated literary and filmic texts produced in a variety of countries (the US, the Soviet Union, France, Sweden, Italy, Poland and South Korea) interrogating the methodologies of filmic adaptation and the national specificities and technical limitations of screenplays/screenwriting. The course will also show samples of actual screenplays in foreign languages, explaining the cultural differences in format, emphasis and presentation of the "medium" that in the shooting script. Please note that this course is not a screenwriting/creative writing class. However, it may be of interest as well to those students who want to learn about techniques and efficient ways of storytelling in the screenplay format.

698N Practicum - New Teaching Assistants (offered every fall; required for new teaching assistants)

Introduction to teaching Comparative Literature: designing syllabi, teaching students to compare texts in written assignments and discussions, grading comparative analyses, and class management.

751 Theory and Practice of Translation (offered in alternating years)

A many-sided consideration of the practical problems and theoretical issues raised by translation. Practical aspects to be discussed include translation of genre and form (including poetry, dramatic literature), language register and tone, metaphor and imagery, word play. Lecture/discussion with workshop elements. 

752 Theory and Practice of Comparative Literature (offered in alternating years; required for all doctoral students)

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.


791 Critical Decolonial Gender and Sexuality Studies (cross-listed with WGSS)

As Talal Asad and Gayatri Spivak have argued, to translate another culture’s practices into the language of the scholar involves not only a linguistic shift, but an epistemological one as well. This course asks students to think critically about how those practices become subjects of scholarly knowledge production, particularly with respect to questions of gender and sexuality. Gender and sexuality have often been central to producing comparative perspectives on civilization that place the West ahead of the rest of the world. This course unpacks hierarchies that arrive in the form of ‘the woman question’ and ‘homonationalism’ in Western academic discourses, with a view to expanding how we may critique and undermine the uneven developmentalist ethos embedded within them. ‘Decolonialism’ is presented here as the term through which counternarratives to this ethos are being made legible in Euro-American academic contexts. We present a key set of these counternarratives by introducing students to how categories, subjects, and debates are both produced in postcolonial worlds, and how they are translated into particular conceptualizations and objects of study. We take gender, racialization, and sexuality as the key sites of inquiry in an interdisciplinary exploration of robust postcolonial and decolonial critique from Asia, Africa and the Americas. In building the critical language to address these developments, students develop their ability to think through how ideas move, via language, across, out, and through postcolonial worlds. In this light, the course will pay particular attention to the way language shapes discourse about racialized, sexual, and gender identities as well as shapes those identities themselves. 

791MN - S-Engagement and the Modern Novel

A comparative approach to the writing of James Joyce, William Faulkner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Toni Morrison.  These writers are linked in their ability to reveal and comment upon their cultures, their ideological perspicuity, and yet their avoidance of polemic or didacticism.  An exploration of their textual methods that make possible these effects will include the following topics:  speaking from the margin; scrupulous meanness; localism and the creation of imaginative space; mythic structuring as a narrative mode; symbols, reification, and dissociated metaphors; apparitions and voices; repetition as a narrative device; methods of stream-of-consciousness; the power of focalization; modernist and postmodernist strategies.  A broad comparative perspective will be set through student reports on additional authors.   

For additional translation courses see Translation and Interpreting Courses