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Comparative Literature Courses
Spring 2009



Any literature course in any language, including English, at the 300 level or above
counts towards the Comparative Literature major or minor.



CPLT 202 (3) History of European Literature II

Mr. Cantor, Instructor
1230-1345 TR
CAB 138

IMPORTANT: Students in this course must register both for the lecture & for a discussion section, which will meet once a week. Discussion sections will be closed for registration until the first scheduled meeting of the course; at that meeting students will fill out section request forms, and on that basis will then be assigned to a discussion section.

This course satisfies the Second Writing Requirement and can be counted toward the English major for 3 hours of "Literature in Translation."

This course is required of all Comparative Literature majors, but all interested students are welcome. It also may be counted toward the English major as three hours of “Literature in Translation.” This course will satisfy the Second Writing Requirement.

CPLT 247 Holocaust Literature

Mr. Jeffrey Grossman

1400-1515 TTh

This course examines how writers of different backgrounds working in various languages, genres and modes seek to respond to the event commonly referred to as the Holocaust. How does that event impinge on writing, thought and memory in the post-1945 period? In what ways have have poets, historians, philosophers, etc. themselves often survivors, bystanders, even perpetrators (or the children of survivors, bystanders or perpetrators) dealt with this event? Is it possible to confront the Holocaust in all its violent and catastrophic proportions? What kind of writing or commemoration, if any, is adequate to the task? What does it mean to "remember" the Holocaust? Is this a private or a public act, or in some sense both? What does it mean for survivors to remember if, as Primo Levi says, even the memory of a traumatic event is itself traumatic? How do the memories of survivors compare with those of bystanders and perpetrators? What do the attempts to remember and write about the Holocaust say about the problem of memory and trauma in the wake of violent catastrophe? And finally, what do writings about the Holocaust have to tell us more generally about the problem of genocide in history, a problem that both preceded the Holocaust and that, as suggested by more recent cases (Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia), refuses to go away?

This course will begin by presenting a brief overview of the history of the Holocaust and of the Nazi ideology that made it possible. We will then explore the various questions raised here by reading, viewing (in the case of film) and discussing a series of works on the subject. These works will be drawn from contemporary survivor and perpetrator accounts, memoirs, fictional and poetic responses, one or, possibly, two films and a number or critical readings.

Readings to include: Primo Levi, Hannah Arendt, Charlotte Delbo, Borowski, Appelfeld, David Grossman, Adorno, Agamben, and others. We will screen excerpts from Claude Lanzman’s 9 ½ hour film Shoah. Requirements: one short paper (5-7 pages); one long paper (10-12 pp).

CPLT 300 Contemporary Literature and Criticism

Ms. Jennifer Wicke

1400-1515 MW

CAB 311

SPTR 385/CPLT 305 Fiction of theAmericas

Mr. Gustavo Pellón

1530-1800 T WIL 141B

In this seminar, we will study the centuries long “conversations” between North American and Spanish American writers.  Principally through short stories and some novels, we will examine their mutual fascination.  Our reading list will include works by Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, Horacio Quiroga, John Reed, Mariano Azuela, William Faulkner, Jorge Luis Borges, John Barth, Julio Cortázar, Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, Margaret Atwood, Manuel Puig, Silvia Iparraguirre, E. L. Doctorow, and Cormac McCarthy.   The class will be conducted in English, and students may read Spanish American works in English translation or Spanish according to their ability or desire.

CPLT 342 Contemporary Drama

Ms. Lotta Lofgren

This is the second half of a two-semester course on modern and contemporary American and European drama (with a few forays into other regions), covering post-Absurdism to the present. The first half is not a prerequisite. We will examine postwar quests for dramatic and theatrical structures relevant to a socially and morally chaotic world.

From a study of reactions to the Theatre of the Absurd, we move to an investigation of contemporary drama, celebrating the success of women and minority playwrights in our own period. These playwrights, earlier deprived of a voice, have transformed theater of the past fifty years.

We will read plays by Ntozake Shange, Tom Stoppard, Egon Wolff, Wole Soyinka, Derek Walcott, Maria Irene Fornes, Athol Fugard, Tony Kushner, Luis Valdez, Caryl Churchill, Suzan-Lori Parks, and others.

Course requirements: two short papers, a long paper or a project (one option is to write your own play), a final exam.

CPLT 346/ MARX & HIS LEGACY Voris/Kaiser 

Monday, 15.30-18.00 CAB 224

What is relevant in Marx's teachings when almost all communist societies have disappeared? This is of course a Cold War question. It ties Marx's fortunes to that of the Soviet Bloc. By contrast, we would like to recognize (as all European universities do) the importance of Marx as a thinker and explore in his works (1) the notion of a political semiology (materialism and language, subject and agency); (2) the critique of social mythology (ideology, incl. sexual ideology, culture and politics); (3) the history and criticism of capitalism (dialectical materialism). In the second half of the seminar, we will trace the impact of Marxist theory and aesthetics on contemporary critical theory, incl. gender theory (Althusser, Kristeva, Jameson, etc., as well as MacKinnon, Coward), and on modern literature and film (Virginia Woolf, Brecht, Eisenstein, Tony Kushner).

We will conclude our work by a reading of Jacques Derrida's SPECTRES DE MARX, engl. SPECTERS OF MARX, THE STATE OF THE DEBT, THE WORK OF MOURNING, AND THE NEW INTERNATIONAL. The central ambition of the seminar (for us as students and critics of literature and theory) is to contribute to an understanding of what we mean when we speak of a "materialist theory of literature."

CPLT 351 Apocalypse Now: The Destruction of the World in Literature

Mr. Benjamin Bennett

1230-1345 TR CAB 118

The course will keep the implicit promise in its title.  There will be blood and guts, the film Apocalypse Now will be viewed and discussed, as will its model in Conrad’s “The Heart of Darkness,” and to the extent that translations are available, some of the most violent World War One visions of the German expressionists will be included.  But in the midst of all this, a serious conceptual project is meant to go forward:  the development of an understanding of the origin and vicissitudes of the concept “world.”  In an age where we speak glibly of “the planet” and of “global” concerns, that concept has come out of focus.  The course will go back in history a bit to examine several obviously value-laden notions of world—the relatively loony idea of destroying time itself with dynamite in Conrad’s The Secret Agent, the apparent opposition between world and science in Dürrenmatt’s The Physicists, the world as a changeable object in Brecht’s version of Marxism, totalitarian thinking as the end of the world in Thomas Mann and other authors, the French Revolution as the same in Büchner, world as the infernal machine of fate in tragedy from the Greeks to Cocteau—and will ask whether the concept can ever be other than value-laden.  Room will be left in the reading list for suggestions from the students.  A midterm paper and a longer final paper will be required.

CPLT 482 Turn of the Century Literature

Ms. Jessica Feldman

1100-1215 TR BRN 328

Literature written in England between 1880 and 1914 will be our principal subject, although we will also study  visual art and  French literature of the period. During this turn- of -the century period Modernism developed in England, but we’ll also hear a cacaphony of voices as Old Guard writers, New Woman novelists, Sensationalists, and Decadents explore such varied topics as anarchy, sexuality, empire, advertising and fame, and spirituality. Authors and artists will include Charles Baudelaire, Aubrey Beardsley, Rachilde, Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, J.K. Huysmans,  Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, Vernon Lee, Sarah Grand, Alice Meynell, Richard Marsh.

CPLT 492 Independent Study

CPLT 497 Honor Thesis

Mr. Randolph Pope




FRTR 221: Joan of Arc from Medieval to Modern Times

Ms. Deborah McGrady

How to describe Joan of Arc? As a cross dresser, heretic, sorceress, warrior or martyr? These descriptions and more have been used to define Joan of Arc across the ages. Beyond the 2000+ artistic works dedicated to Joan in the past 600 years, political movements, governments, and the Church have used her mystique to promote widely diverse agendas. What makes Joan of Arc so malleable? What can we learn about the self and public identity in studying her case? What can we discover about the writing of history and the creative process in examining the conflicting accounts of her life and her significance? How are we to understand the continued presence of Joan in modern society? To begin answering these questions, we will examine Joan's trial as well as her portrayal in modern world arts - from Shakespeare's shocking portrayal of Joan to Japanese graphic novels, from silent film to modern dance. This class will include a visit to the Staunton Blackfriar's performance of Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part I, funded through the generous support of the Mead foundation. THIS COURSE WILL BE TAUGHT IN ENGLISH.

1230-1345 TR CAB 324

RUTR 232 Amerika Through Russian Eyes

Ms. Margarita Nafpaktitis

From revolution to Cold War to perestroika to post-communism, American visions of Russia have changed. Russian representations of America have been changing, too. This course explores how ideas of America are refracted through another culture's lens and grounds them within the dynamic context of Russian cultural, social, and political life.        

JPTR 332/532 Introduction to the modern Japanese literature (1890's to the present)

Ms. Michico Wilson

This course is an introduction to the rich, diverse modern Japanese literary tradition, from early 1900s to the present. We interpret and “re-read” major works in English translation from socio-cultural and gender perspectives in the spirit of comparative literary criticism.  Some of the issues to be examined are the writers’ pursuit of self-identity, sexuality, the image of “eternal” women; a conflict of giri/ninjo, nature worship; the meaning of connections in contemporary society.  The selections include works that range from those purely lyrical, to political, satirical, and erotic, sci-fi, to spiritual. Writers include Sôseki Natsume (1867-1916), the first modern writer to delve into the human psyche; Ôgai Mori (1862-1922), the surgeon-turned writer; Ryûnosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927), Japan’s O Henry; Junichiro Tanizaki (1886-1965), a master of eroticism and classical Japanese aestheticism.  Also, Naoya Shiga (1883-1971), the "god" of "I-Novel"-autobiographical fiction; Shûsaku Endo (1923-), Japan’s foremost Christian writer; two Nobel laureates, Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972) and Kenzaburo Ôe (1935-); Harumi Murakami, the suave, urbane writer of the new generation; Minako Oba, the consummate writer of human psychology, and Banana Yoshimoto, the healer.



Mr. Kandioura Drame

Prerequisite: French 332


This course will explore aspects of African literatures and cultures. It will focus on selected issues of special resonance in contemporary African life. Oral literature and its continuing impact on all other art forms. Key issues in French colonial policy and its legacy in Africa: language, politics, education. The course will examine the image of the postcolonial state and society as found in contemporary arts, paintings, sculpture, music, and cinema. Selections from painters like Cheri Samba (Democratic Republic of Congo), Werewere Liking (Cameroun) and sculptors like Ousmane Sow, including such popular icons as Mamy Wata and forms such as Souwere glass painting; from musicians like Youssou Ndour (Senegal), Cheb Khaled (Algeria), Seigneur Rochereau, Tshala Muana (DRC), Salif Keita (Mali), and Cesaria Evora (Cape Verde); from Mande, Peul, and Kabyle oral literatures in French translation; from filmmakers D.D. Mambety, Moussa Sene Absa, and Ngangura Mweze. Visit to National Museum of African Arts depending on availability of funding. The final grade will be based on contributions to discussions, a mid-term exam, 2 papers, and a final exam.

 ENMC 372 South Asian Film and Literature

Ms. Mrinalini Chakravorty

This course will examine the politics of desire and dissent in South Asia through the intertextual lens of their representation in film and literature. That the violent and non-violent protest movements against colonialism in South Asia emerged through the management of bodies, sexuality, and gender, is well known. In our study of the overlay of visual and textual representations of social and political dissent, we will revisit questions about the relationship between aesthetic movements, national resistance, and the production of certain gendered cultural and social norms. Specific cinematic movements will be placed in dialogic relation to literary ones so that a new sense can emerge of how normative as well dissident sexual identities are consolidated through dominant fields of representation in the South Asian context.

Spectacular moments of socio-political dissent will be framed for us by films ranging from the social realism of art house cinema to the absurd excesses of bollywood melodrama, to more contemporary hyper-realistic and diasporic films. Some of the directors whose work we will view include Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Ligy Pullappally, Mani Ratnam, and Santosh Sivan.

Alongside these, we will engage with salient protest novels that represent South Asia in realist, modernist, surrealist, pulp, and magically real terms such as those by Rao, Desai, Rushdie, Roy, Sidhwa, Selvadurai. Historically, we will cover a lot of groundconsidering moments of gendered socio-political unrest within the freedom struggle, the partition, and in postcolonial South Asia. In querying the ways in which desire, and certain limits posed on desiring bodies, propel economies of socio-political struggle in this region, this course aims to provide a nuanced understanding of the ways in which popular and literary culture have negotiated the restrictive binds of "tradition" and "modernity," "purity"

and "abjection," "caste" and "outcast," that have become a commonplace shorthand in thinking about South Asian modernity.

This course will require weekly attendance for screenings of long, fanciful, and at times, riveting, films.

ENSP 419/MDST 419
Global Indigenous Media, Mr. David Golumbia

In this class we will look closely at the media productions of members of groups that we today know under difficult categorizations such as "aboriginal," "indigenous," "tribal," "First Nations," "Native Americans," and "Indians." We will look first and foremost at media created by members of these groups, and secondarily at media, literature and theory about them. Our attention will be double: we will look at these media objects to learn from and about them, and we will at the same time discuss what we find in this media tells us about the idea of modernity. We will look at media produced by indigenous cultures from around the globe, in hopes of seeing commonalities and differences in them. The class will focus mostly on feature and short films such as Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner), Ten Canoes, Smoke Signals, and Whale Rider, along with a selection of written texts (including works by writers like Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, Amos Tuotola, Yang Erche Namu, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Mahasweta Devi, Rigoberta Menchu, and others). We will also look briefly at new media and also visual art in the Kluge-Ruhe collection. Readings in the emerging area of media studies criticism of indigenous media and anthropology of media, including Media Worlds (ed. Faye Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod, and Brian Larkin) and Global Indigenous Media (ed. Pamela Wilson and Michelle Stewart). Taught primarily via discussion. Presentations, short papers, and a longer final paper. Fulfills second writing requirement. Prerequisites: one prior class in English, Media Studies, Anthropology, or an appropriate topic in another discipline, or permission of instructor. Open to third years and above.

FREN 540/840 Literature of the 18th Century

Ms. Jennifer Tsien

One of the most important movements in Western intellectual history, the Enlightenment, laid the foundations for our current conceptions of democratic government, religious toleration, freedom of speech, and the scientific method, among other things. Its proponents defied the king and the church in order to bring their countries into a new era and, inadvertently, to spark the French and American Revolutions. The readings for this course will focus largely on works by French authors, but they will also feature texts from the British and American Enlightenment. The authors in question will include Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Emilie du Châtelet, and John Locke. We will particularly focus on strategies, such as humor and fiction, used by the authors in order to hide their provocative ideas from government censors. Primary readings will be supplemented by modern critical reactions to the Enlightenment by thinkers such as Foucault, de Man, and Habermas.

Class discussion will be in French.


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