Graduate Courses

From the recent Andalusian play, “Clytemnestra. Una mujer.” Faculty expert, Kathleen L. Komar. Banner image: John Locke. Faculty expert, Kirstie McClure.

Spring 2018

Comparative Literature C263: Crisis of Consciousness in Modern Literature

Instructor: Kathleen L. Komar

Preparation: reading knowledge of one appropriate foreign language. Study of modern European and American works that are concerned both in subject matter and artistic methods with growing self-consciousness of human beings and their society, with focus on works of Kafka, Rilke, Woolf, Sartre, and Stevens. May be concurrently scheduled with course C163. Graduate students required to prepare papers based on texts read in original languages and to meet as group one additional hour each week.

Comparative Literature C287: Reading across Culture

Instructor: Anjali Arondekar

What is it we do when we try to understand words, habits, gestures, and beliefs not our own? Do we understand something foreign to us by immersing ourselves in it or by standing apart? Does ability to understand something foreign imply taking universal standpoint? Can we make judgments about beliefs other than our own? Questions of cultural interpretation have long history in both Western and non-Western cultures. Discussion of history of questions about cross-cultural interpretation and comparative interpretation of cultures in both comparative literature and cultural anthropology. Reading of some very complex and influential works by such writers as Claude Lévi-Strauss, Amitav Ghosh, James Clifford, Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, and Erich Auerbach. Concurrently scheduled with course C187.

Comparative Literature M294 (Seminar 3): Literary Theory: Imagining Climate Change

Instructor: Stef Craps

Climate change, arguably the defining issue of our time, is usually treated as a strictly scientific, economic, or technological problem. However, it also raises profound questions of meaning, value, and justice, as it challenges taken-for-granted ways of viewing and inhabiting the world. The early twenty-first century has witnessed the emergence of a wave of literary texts and other cultural artifacts that adapt or reinvent conventional modes of representation in an attempt to capture and convey the nature and meaning of climate change and the urgency required to tackle it. This course explores how contemporary literature and culture more generally are grappling with the problems posed by a warming planet. It pays particular attention to the formal innovations demanded by climate change, a phenomenon whose sheer magnitude and complexity defy familiar forms of narrative, and to the ways in which creative writers and other artists address inequalities in the global distribution of responsibility for and vulnerability to climate change in their work. A selection of recent humanities scholarship theorizing climate change and its cultural framings and impacts will provide a background for the discussion of a wide range of literary and artistic responses across different genres and media, from novels, stories, poems, and plays to essays, films, artworks, and new media projects.

Comparative Literature: M294 (Seminar 2): Literary Theory: Memory, Violence, and the Implicated Subject

Instructor: Michael Rothberg

This seminar will serve both as an introduction to the field of cultural memory studies and as an occasion to reflect on the question of historical responsibility. We will begin by reading classic and contemporary texts on individual and collective memory by such scholars as Maurice Halbwachs, Sigmund Freud, Pierre Nora, Jan and Aleida Assmann, Jeffrey Olick, Astrid Erll, and Ann Rigney. We will then focus in more depth on the ethical and political problems that arise from the retrospective confrontation with violent histories. We will explore the dilemmas of justice, reparation, reconciliation, and forgiveness and the status of beneficiaries, heirs, and other latecomers who are “implicated” in traumatic histories without having been direct participants. We will consider a wide range of contemporary literary, cinematic, artistic, and theoretical texts dealing with the aftermaths of Atlantic slavery, the Holocaust, South African apartheid, the Vietnam War, and European colonialism as well as ongoing situations such as contemporary globalization, climate change, and settler colonialism. Among the intellectuals and artists we will likely consider are: Hannah Arendt, Berber Bevernage, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jacques Derrida, Saidiya Hartman, Marianne Hirsch, Karl Jaspers, William Kentridge, Jamaica Kincaid, Mahmood Mamdani, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Bruce Robbins, and Michel-Rolph Trouillot. Since the course is meant to provide an opportunity to develop new ways of thinking about social and historical relationality, students will be encouraged to draw on their own research interests and explore histories beyond those mentioned here. Prior to the first seminar meeting, please watch Michael Haneke’s 2005 film Caché.

Comparative Literature 290 (Seminar 1): Contemporary Theories of Criticism

Instructor: Aamir R. Mufti

Advanced course in theory of literature focusing on structuralist, psychoanalytic, and Marxist approaches.

Comparative Literature 290 (Seminar 2): Contemporary Theories of Criticism: Writing of the Disaster

Instructor: Eleanor Kaufman

Taking lead from Maurice Blanchot’s work by this title, examination of series of 20th-century French and Francophone literary writings that take up–almost all in indirect, elliptical, or paratactic fashion–question of disaster. Consideration of how range of authors utilize disjunctive and often nonrepresentational style to portray psychic realities associated with war, genocide, colonization, revolution, and personal upheaval. Most texts address, however obliquely, World War II and its aftermath, Holocaust, or Algerian revolution. Authors considered may include Blanchot, Camus, Dib, Djebar, Duras, Fanon, Genet, Jabès, Mammeri, Perec, and Sartre. Texts read in French with discussion in English.

Comparative Literature M294 (Seminar 1): Literary Theory: Foucault and Althusser: Structure, Political Economy, Confession

Instructor: Eleanor Kaufman Ursula K. Heise

This course will provide an eclectic introduction to the work of Louis Althusser and especially Michel Foucault, by focusing on three common lines of inquiry these otherwise strikingly different thinkers shared.  In both cases, we will consider major works from the 1960s and 1970s alongside more recently collected course lectures and archival materials.  We will also look at some of the now extensive work on Foucault and neoliberalism while trying to frame our inquiry in different terms.