Fall 2004 Graduate Courses
COML 501.401 History of Literary Theory
This course will consist in an exploration of crucial issues in literary criticism and theory, a field that has undergone massive changes. We will go back to a number of foundational texts in a genealogical manner (Plato, Aristotle, Longinus, Kant, Nietzsche, Foucault, Lacan, Derrida, Benjamin) and also work from a few key concepts, such as "mimesis", "canonicity", "ideology," "authority," "performativity" or "subjectivity" in order to problematize the ways in which we read literature. Most of the texts will be taken from the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2001). Course requirements: one oral report based on bibliographical research and one paper (15 pages). No final exam.
COML 505.401 Arabic Literature and Literary Theory
This course takes a number of different areas of Literary Theory and, on the basis of research completed and in progress in both Arabic and Western languages, applies some of the ideas to texts from the Arabic literary tradition. Among these areas are: Evaluation and Interpretation, Structuralism, Metrics, Genre Theory, Narratology, and Orality.
COML 512.401 Issues in Folklore Theory
The Issues course is a pre-professional. That is, there is an opportunity to hone research and writing skills appropriate to professional dissemination, through scholarly conferences and monographic publication. The theme changes each year. This year it will be on "The Survival of the Text." Once not so long ago, folklore, literary study, and most of the other humanistic disciplines had canonical texts which everyone in a discipline could be presumed to have read. This course will read and discuss the historical, sociological, rhetorical, and aesthetic history of forms collected from "the folk." Included will be a concern with Renaissance and Enlightenment concerns with taxonomies, how they were adapted to the development of vernacular literatures. Thus, romantic nationalism and cosmopolitanism will be investigated in two or three centers of learning, not necessarily British or American. Text analysis in China, Japan, India, Ghana, and Mexico City are possible examples. The choice will depend in good part on the professional interests of those enrolled in the course. We will look closely at some of the simple forms commonly assigned to folk performance and transmission: epic, ballad, Marchen, set dances, and the various theatrical presentational forms.
There will be one short paper, eight to ten pages, designed to be read aloud to others in the same field: professional conferences, job interviews, or scholarly communities. A one or two page grant proposal, possibly related to the paper topic, will also be required. Optional: an article length essay, to be judged in terms of finding a publishable subject, and presenting it in the form acceptable to a specific publication.
The readings will include one or two monographic studies, an on-line web search, and quite a few studies of committees of correspondence within a Republic of Letters.
COML 525.401 Topics in the Philosophy of Science
This course is a graduate level survey of topics in philosophy of biology, with a special emphasis on metaphysical and epistemological issues relevant to other areas of philosophy. He course begins with an analysis of Darwin's formulation of evolutionary theory, his main influences, and the scientific methods he employed. We will go on to consider a number of topics debated in the current literature including function, fitness, adaptation, the unit of selection, reductionism, and the nature of species. We will conclude by considering what modern evolutionary theory tells us about progress, contingency, and human nature.
COML 529.401 Proverb, Riddle, and Speech
Through readings and collaborative projects this working seminar will explore the place of metaphor in the genres of proverb and riddle and examine their position in oral communication in traditional and modern societies. Critical readings of former definitions and models of riddles and metaphors will enable students to obtain a comprehensive perspective of these genres that will synthesize functional, structural, metaphoric, and rhetoric theories.
COML 556.401 Ancient Interpretation of the Bible
The purpose of this course is two-fold: first, to study some of the more important ways in which the Bible was read and interpreted before the modern period; second, to consider the uses to which some contemporary literary theorists have put these ancient modes of interpretation as models and precursors for their own writing. The major portion of the course will be devoted to intensive readings of major ancient exegetes, Jewish and Christian with a view to considering their exegetical approaches historically as well as from the perspective of contemporary critical and hermeneutical theory. Readings of primary sources will be accompanied by secondary readings that will be both historically oriented as well as theoretical, with the latter including Hartman, Kermode, Todorov, and Bloom.
COML 582.402 Walter Benjamin
The course will offer a survey of Walter Benjamin's major writings, including his autobiographical texts, essays in literary and cultural criticism, as well as philosophy of language. Discussion and readings will be in English (students with a knowledge of German will be able to read the texts in the original). Requirements: class participation, one research paper.
COML 585.401 Queer Theories and Histories
This course introduces students to several classic texts in the history and theory of sexuality. We will consider the politics and meaning of non-normative sexualities and genders across time and in different cultural locations. After working through several key texts in the field, we will turn to contemporary debates about transgender politics, gay pride and gay shame, the meaning of 'queer', and responses to HIV/AIDS. We pay particular attention to questions of queer historiography, considering the intersection between developmental narratives of the individual and the community. Readings by Sigmund Freud, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Michael Warner, Gayle Rubin, Cherrie Moraga, D.A. Miller, and others. One seminar paper and a class presentation.
COML 586.301 Proseminar in 20th Century Art: 20th Century Theory and
This seminar is an introduction to twentieth century aesthetic theory, methods, and criticism. Major issues to be discussed include: the theory of autonomy and self-reflexivity in the visual arts, the structuralist paradigm and its relevance for the visual arts, poststructuralist and Marxist critiques of modernism, Marxist and Feminist approaches to spectacle, spectatorship, and commodity fetishism, and the relation of vision to constructions of identity and power. Among the authors we will read are: Kant, Woelfflin, Saussure, Krauss, Marcuse, Barthes, Levi-Strauss, Derrida, Marx, Freud, Lacan, Mulvey, Armstrong, Althusser, Butler, Foucault, and Deleuze. The emphasis in this seminar will be on class participation, with one introduction to a theorist and a final exam also required.
COML 588.401 The Idea of the Model in Literature and Art
To think about "the model" in the arts is to think about representation, a subject embroiled in controversy for the past century and a half in both literature and the visual arts. Avant-gardists, feminists, and philosophers all worried about the model's paradoxes: an exaggerated agency in the figure of the muse and a complete depersonalization in the figure of the passive object of the gaze. Of course, these concerns can be seen in ancient myths about art, in Shakespeare's sonnets, in nineteenth-century novels such as Hawthorne's The Marble Faun. But Modernism was particularly paradigmatically obsessed with the model, teaming with works called "Portrait of a Lady" or "La Poseuse, " and just as loaded with denials of any connection between artwork and human subject. From Seurat to Cindy Sherman, from Hawthorne and Eliot to Jean Rhys and Christopher Bram, the course will sample key treatments of the "sitter" in visual and verbal art.
We will also consider other meanings of the word "model"- stereotype, prototype, miniature, ideal, predecessor. The Pop revolution undermined the idea of a pre-existing reality that provides a subject (or object) for art. Instead, it saw representation as creating the reality it depicts, a notion traceable to Wilde and Whistler (and ultimately to Pygmalion and Galatea), but coming into its own in the philosophy of Baudrillard, novels by Pynchon and DeLillo, and recent films such as Johan Grimonprez's Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y and The Matrix. The model raises the teasing contradictions apparent in the term "virtual reality": the unreal real, the resultant antecedent, the powerless determiner. These have become inescapable considerations in contemporary aesthetics.
Readings will include classic modernist texts by Woolf, Stein, Pound, Eliot, and Joyce; postmodern fictions by Nabokov, Pynchon, DeLillo, and Grimonprez/Zizek; contemporary feminist and gender-revising works by Bram, Lipton, Chevalier, and Nafisi; and an array of twentieth-century painters and photographers.
Assignments will be 25 pages of writing (either one long or to shorter papers) and an informal class presentation. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of this course, students are welcome from English and other national literature departments, Comparative Literature, Art History, Fine Arts, and Women's Studies.
COML 610.401 Proseminar in Classical Sociology
An overview of the German, French and Anglophone traditions in sociological theory. The major focus will be on the works of Marx and Engels, Weber, Simmel, Durkheim, Mead, and DuBois. The works of Nietzsche and Freud will also be considered.
COML 617.401 Contemporary Approaches to Culture and Society
A critical examination of recent history and theory in cultural and social anthropology. Topics include structural-functionalism; symbolic anthropology; post-modern theory. Emphasis is on major schools and trends in America, Britain, and France.
COML 630.401 Introduction to Medieval Literature: Discourse, Power,
and Selfhood in Medieval French Literature
An introduction to Medieval French literature by close readings of key representative works from among hagiography, chanson de geste, romance, lyric, historiography and theater. The course will consider the creation and the functioning of these new generic forms in the French vernacular, with particular attention to questions of authority, "truth," and language. Focus will be on the first-person authorial subject, politicial and religious ideologies, and representations of gender. Texts to be studied include La Chanson de Roland, Chrétien de Troyes's Lancelot, la Quête du Graal, Joinville's Vie de Saint Louis, Christine de Pizan's Cité des Dames, and François Villon's Lais.
COML 632.401 Dante's Commedia
A close reading of the Inferno, Purgatorio and the Paradiso which focuses on a series of interrelated problems raised by the poem: authority, representation, history, politics, and language. Particular attention will be given to Dante's use of Classical and Christian model texts: Ovid's Metamorphoses, Virgil's Aeneid, and the Bible. Dante's rewritings of model authors will also be studied in the context of the medieval Italian and Provençal love lyric. The course will be taught in English and cross-listed with Comparative Literature. Students taking it for Italian credit will do the readings and written assignments in Italian.
COML 641.401 Studies in Italian Renaissance: Love and Anger in the
This course seeks to explore the interplay between passions and the production of culture in early modern Italy. Love and anger are both taken here as troublesome emotions. Their mutual combination, as well as their relation to other disruptive passions, such as melancholy, jealousy, envy, and pride, will serve as the point of departure for a comparative investigation on the representational power of both the written and the visual arts in developing gestural and rhetorical conventions about different discourses on the passions. The underlying rationale of these discourses is certainly bound up with the stoic advocacy of detachment and freedom from disturbance-an ethical engagement that recurs not only in poetry and art, but also in writings on medicine, politics, and architecture as the ideal condition for dwelling in the ideal city. In the intellectual arena of the time, however, this ethical engagement is often challenged by an equivalent and thus paradoxical commitment towards the emotional life. This ambivalent approach occasions anxiety for both the defender of detachment and the defender of the emotions.
This course investigates precisely this formal and conceptual anxiety and how it was subsequently handled in the European reception of Italian satirical and sentimental writings. Two contrasting models of the relationship between art and the emotions will lead the discussions-art as a taming device against passion, and passion as the source of artistic inspiration. Apart from a thorough examination of medical, literary, and artistic material, we will also engage in recent debates in philosophy (De Sousa, Nussbaum, Bodei) as well as in anthropology (Turner, Myers, Lutz). Among the authors and artists who may be considered for the final research project are Alberti, Valla, Ficino, Piccolomini, Poliziano, Leonardo, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Dürer, Brandt, de Rojas, Vives, Erasmus, Ariosto, Dossi, Rabelais, Cardano, Titian, Montaigne, and Caravaggio.
COML 651.401 Studies in the 17th Century: The Royal Machine: Louis
XIV and the Versailles Era
The years during which Louis XIV ruled over Versailles are considered emblematic of French culture. They also mark what is called the Golden Age of French literature. We will read works by many of the classic authors of the French tradition - among them, La Fontaine, Molière, Racine, and Sévigné. We will consider the relationship between these works and the vision of an all-powerful monarchy, the royal machine, being constructed by Louis XIV. We will read the works authored by the Sun King himself - his Mémoires and La Manière de montrer les jardins de Versailles - as the ultimate illustrations of this royal fiction. We will read these literary works in conjunction with some of the theoretical reflections they have inspired: for example, Louis Marin's Le Portrait du roi and Michel Serres's Le Parasite. Finally, we will read sections of Michel Foucault's Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique and his Surveiller et punir in which this period plays a crucial role.
COML 654.401 History, Memory, Trauma
This course will be devoted to study of the theory and practice of representation of the past in major European traditions during the modern era, with special emphasis on three topics of broad concern: revolution, genocide, and national becoming. The object of inquiry will be construed broadly, to include all manner of historiographic, artistic, filmic, literary and rhetorical representation of the past. Each of the three segments of the course will begin with examination of important theoretical readings in conjunction with case studies in major European traditions that have been among the central foci of this theoretical work (French Revolutionary history, Holocaust, English nationalism). Next we will add analogous Russian cases to the picture (Russian Revolution, Gulag memory, Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great as national myths). Finally, at the conclusion of each segment students will bring theoretical tools to bear on the national traditions and contexts relevant to their own work. Our readings in the theory and philosophy of history and historiography will include works by: Anderson, Caruth, Guha, Hegel, LaCapra, Putnam, Ricoeur, White and others.
COML 669.401 19th Century Studies: Modernity and Early 19th-Century
Nineteenth-century France - and particularly Paris - saw the emergence of many of the social, economic, and cultural phenomena we associate with the "modern" age. This class reads literature and art from the time alongside more recent theoretical and historical reflections to explore the significance of modernity. How did historical forces shape cultural trends? How did literature and art define what it means to be modern? Nineteenth-century writers and artists to be studied include Balzac, Baudelaire, Daumier, Flaubert, Manet, Stendhal, and Zola. Theorists include Benjamin, Bourdieu, Clark, Marx, and Simmel.
This seminar will focus upon the career of Ian Hamilton Finlay from concrete poet to garden and landscape designer. We shall explore both his various sites (e. g. Little Sparta, the Max Planck Institute, Stuttgart, and Stockwood Park, Luton, among others) and his writings about landscape design, concentrating upon both his claims for garden-making and his invocation of historical precedents and analogies. This concentration upon Finlay, in its turn, will open up issues of meaning in landscape design, the collaboration of word & image, and the larger context of the land art movement.
During the first six weeks Finlay’s career will be explored in detail. Then three weeks will be spent on issues arising from that focus – looking at meaning, land art, etc. The remaining weeks will be taken up with student presentations.
Student presentations may take various forms: research projects chosen individually and approved by the instructor, but it is also hoped to have students prepare materials for a catalogue of an exhibition of Ian Hamilton Finlay to be held in the gallery of the Rare Book Room, Van Pelt Library, during September 2005 (in conjunction with an international conference of Word and Image Studies).
Detailed schedule of topics will be announced at the start of the semester. Meanwhile students should consult the following three texts: Yves Abrioux, Ian Hamilton Finlay. A visual primer (rev. ed. London, 1992); Wood Notes Wild. Essays on the poetry and art of Ian Hamilton Finlay, ed. Alec Finlay (Edinburgh, 1995); Jessie Sheeler, Little Sparta. The garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay (London, 2003)
COML795.401 History of Poetics
COML 797.401 Communicating Memory
This course considers the theoretical and empirical literature concerning the construction of social memory in relation to media products and processes. Students will undertake individual research projects investigating memory constructions in professional media routines and through ritual processes of group maintenance.
|Last modified August 30, 2004
Maintained by Stephen Hock and Mark Sample
in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania