Graduate Course Descriptions
FALL 2006

COML 501.401 History of Literary Theory
Undergrads Need Permission from Instructor
T 12-3 Copeland/Platt
Cross listed with ENGL 571/FREN 512/GRMN 534/SLAV 500
CLST 511, ROML 512

This course on literary theory will have a strong historical component. We will be tracing out the transformation of key problems in foundational texts ranging from antiquity to the post-modern age, including works by Plato and Aristotle, Longinus, Augustine, Dante, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Benjamin, Foucault, Lacan, and Derrida (authors represented on the Comparative Literature Theory exam list), leading to our most contemporary concerns with postcoloniality, race, and gender. Our readings will help us to understand the disciplinary and institutional transformation of literary studies in the last few decades. We will look at the production and revision of such issues as text and culture, language and signification, representation, affect and the body, ownership and authority, canonicity, power and ideology, history and nation, and the constitution of the subject. Course requirements: three short papers (7 pages), and one oral report (accompanied by bibliography) as a final project.*

COML 505.401 Arabic Literature and Literary Theory
Distribution III: Arts and Letters
TR 1:30-3 Allen
Cross listed with COML 353/NELC 434

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 526.401 In Defiance of Babel: The Quest for a Universal Language
M 2-5 Verkholantsev
Undergrads Need Permission from Instructor
All Readings in English
Cross listed with SLAV 526/ENGL 705

The course explores the historical trajectory from antiquity to the present day of the idea of discovering or creating an ideal universal language as a medium for explaining the essence of human experience and a means for universal communication.

The possibility of universal communication has been as vital and thought-provoking a question throughout the history of humanity as it is at the present. Particularly, the idea that the language spoken in the Garden of Eden was a language which perfectly expressed the essence of all possible objects and concepts has occupied the minds of scholars for at least two millennia. In defiance of the myth of the Tower of Babel and the confusion of languages, there have been numerous attempts to overcome divine punishment and discover the path back to harmonious existence. For theologians, the possibility of recovering or recreating a universal language would allow direct experience of the divinity, for philosophers it would enable apprehension of the laws of nature, for mystic-cabalists it would offer access to hidden knowledge. Today, this idea still continues to provoke scholars and it echoes in the modern theories of universal grammar and underlying linguistic structures, as well as in various attempts to create artificial languages, starting with Esperanto and ending with a language for cosmic intercourse. 

COML 535.401 Christianity and the Late Antique Religious Revolution 
W 3-6 Strousma
Cross listed with RELS 535

The Seminar aims at identifying the different dimensions of the major transformations of the very idea of religion in the Near East and the Mediterranean during the first five centuries of the common era. Among these transformations, which amount to what one can call a religious revolution, are the deep changes in the perception of the self, the disappearance of blood sacrifices as a major, public and central religious ritual, among both Jews and pagans, the development of what one can call "the scriptural turn", and the new importance of religious community for the shaping of identity, both personal and collective. We will focus on the meeting of religious traditions from East and West, and will seek to identify the role of Christianity in this complex development.

Two books of sources in translation have been ordered for the students: A.D. Lee, Pagans and Christians in Late Antiquity and R. Valantasis, Religions of Late Antiquity in Practice

COML 536.401 Goethe's Novels -
W 1-3 MacLeod
All Readings and Lectures in English
Cross listed with GRMN 535

COML 554.401 British Women Writers
Undergrads Need Permission
M 12-3 Wallace
Cross listed with ENGL 553/WSTD 553

This course considers the relationships of premodern women to writing and to the places of their lives and travels. The relationship of premodern women to territory is particularly tenuous and fraught. Women, particularly aristocrats, were expected to leave their homes and native ground and marry into unfamiliar cultures in foreign landscapes: is homesickness originally a female complaint, before it is taken over by males dreaming of England from their distant colonial postings? Catholic English women, following the Reformation, continued living communally in continental Europe. Here too homesickness is a factor, expressed in their careful conservation of medieval English writings (Julian of Norwich, the fourteenth-century English anchoress, survives as written and conserved by seventeenth-century English women). Continents were often figured as naked female figures. Tensions at faith frontiers (east and west) were often expressed through conflicts over or within particular female bodies: figures to consider here include saints Dorothea of Montau and Rose of Lima. Women sometimes occupied places, knowingly or not, where earlier generations of women had lived, in quite different cultural and religious circumstances: places such as Wilton and Welbeck. The study of a particular place over time might make an interesting research essay. The question of continuing nun-nostalgia in Protestant cultures might also be raised. So too the question of women and travel: how did Margery Kempe manage to traverse the face of the known world, avoid injury, and return to compose her text? As centuries pass, do women travel less?

This course questions traditional periodizations by shooting the medieval/ Renaissance divide and by considering arguments of advance and decline for women. Does the rise of the university, for example, bring a diminution of educational opportunities for women? Is the Middle Ages to be seen, as some feminist historians have seen it, as a feminine 'golden age'? Does the coming of the 'Renaissance' reduce female options to that of marriage or marriage? How do both the observant and oppositional activities of women shift as we move from Catholic through Lollard to Protestant cultures? We might consider here the writings of Protestant Elizabeth I and embroideries of Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots; other authors might include Anne Askew, Isabella Whitney (fl. 1567-1573), Mary Herbert (1562-1621), Elizabeth Cary (1585?-1639), and Rachel Speght (c. 1597-16??). Such developmental narratives can be challenged by others suggesting strange resemblances over time, featuring women occupying liminal places: the anchoress; the pregnant woman. We can thus read Trotula texts (female-authored gynaecological manuals), a manual for female recluses (Ancrene Wisse), a mystical text by a woman who uses her body as a spiritual laboratory (Julian of Norwich) and best-selling texts by Renaissance women who will not survive pregnancy. We can match texts from women centuries apart: such as Christine of Markyate (1096-1160), who defied family expectations of marriage to live as a recluse, eventually leaving us with an extraordinary lifestory and a psalter of her own; and Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, a playwright much reviled by Virginia Woolf who, nonetheless, wrote several plays imagining all-female academies long before Virginia penned A Room of One's Own.

On Saturday 11 November there will be a one day conference at Penn dedicated to issues of medieval/Renaissance periodization. There will be visiting Faculty speakers: but the event is chiefly envisioned as an opportunity for graduate students to explore these issues; this course might be seen as a conduit to that event.

Assessment will be by one long essay, preceded by a one-page brainstorming abstract earlier in the semester.

COML 556.401 Ancient Interpretation of the Bible
Benjamin Franklin Seminars
Dist. III Arts and Letters
TR 10:30-12 Stern
Cross listed with JWST 356/JWST 555/NELC 356/RELS 418

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 588.401 Modernism: Contemporary Issues in the Arts
Undergrads Need Permission
T 3-5 Steiner
Cross listed with ENGL 591

This course examines key themes in visual and verbal art since the 1960s: beauty, reproduction, the model, consumerism, interactivity. Texts will include literary works (M. Shelley, Pynchon, Morrison, Bram, Chevalier); art catalogues (Picasso, Lee Miller, Warhol, Wilke, Dumas); and theoretical articles (Jakobson, Barthes, Baudrillard). Works from the early and late twentieth century will sometimes be paired to help us construct a picture of contemporary culture by understanding its salient differences from modernism.

Asignments will be 25 pages of writing (either one long or two shorter papers) and a 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 597.401 Modern Drama: Shakespeare: Text, Scrit, Performance, Performance History
Undergrads Need Permission
T 9-12 Mazer
Cross listed with ENGL 597

This course examines the scholarly enterprise of "stage-centered analysis" by considering the ways that contemporary theatre artists make theatre events out of older, canonical scripts. What is the relation of script to performance, and of printed text to playhouse script? How do scholars understand and analyze contemporary performance? How does our scholarly understanding of historical performance--both the original performance, and subsequent performance in the intervening centuries--affect contemporary performance and how we write about it? Using Shakespeare and his contemporaries as the test case, we will examine scholarship about playhouses and stage conventions, and theories of early-modern subjectivity, acting, and performativity, and consider these issues as they are manifest in contemporary theatrical theory and practice.

COML 610.401 Proseminar in Classical Sociology
W 9-12 Collins
Cross listed with SOCI 602

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, and Mead, and on subsequent developments in these classical schools of theory and research.  

COML 617.401 Contemporary Approaches to Culture and Society
Permission Needed from Department
T 10-1 Ghosh
Cross listed with ANTH 617

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 620.301 Geography and the Novel
T 3-5 DeJean
Cross listed with FREN 660, ENGL 748

Is the novel somehow inherently trans-national? How did the novel escape the confines of the national borders within which it began its modern existence? Why did the quintessential genre of the here and now become cosmopolitan?

This course will move between theory of the novel and literary history. On the theory of the novel side, we will consider recent works, in particular the studies by Margaret Doody and Michael McKeon, that suggest in different ways that the romance-novel divide, long held to be absolute, is perhaps a false problem. (We will also look at more "nationalistic" studies, Ian Watt's for example, that respect the romance-novel divide.) On the literary history side, we'll consider what may have been the most significant factor in the regeneration of prose fiction that is known as the birth of the modern novel: the rediscovery, in 17th-century England and France, of the so-called Greek novel. We'll read at least two of the Greek novels that captivated 17th-century readers and altered the course of European prose fiction.

The tie that binds these two ways of approaching prose fiction is the question of geography. We'll use the insights found in Franco Moretti's wonderful Atlas of the European Novel to contrast the two dominant geographical models between which the novel alternates: big-world roaming and small-world claustrophobia.

Some of the questions that we'll ask include: why is it that some novelists such as Jane Austen systematically construct constricted and constricting universes, worlds in which characters never see the wide world? Why do others-Voltaire, Mary Shelley--move their characters all over the globe, or at least all across Europe? And why do still other novelists (Lafayette) alternate between cosmopolitan fictions and claustrophobic ones? Finally, in what ways does the big world outside always invade even the most confined fictional universes?

The course will be taught in English. All reading will be available in English. French titles will also be available in French. Students wishing to take the course for French credit will do the reading and at least some of the writing in French.

A note on books: I'll order some copies of Moretti, but students might want to pick one up on Amazon. Ditto for Reardon's anthology of Greek novels. It's a bit dear, but used copies are easily found online. And you can always xerox the novels we'll read from the copy on reserve.

COML 630.401 Introduction to Medieval Literature - CANCELLED
M 2-4 Brownlee
Cross listed with FREN 630

COML 635.401 Literature, Religion, and the Bible in Enlightenment Germany
M 1-3 Richter
Cross listed with GRMN 630, RELS 623

At a time when contemporary culture is markedly engaged in a repudiation of secularism and a return to religious belief, it may be interesting to explore the Enlightenment as a mirror image and origin of our present situation. The Enlightenment has long been understood as a trans-European effort to counter, if not flatly reject religion, superstition, the church, and divinely instituted monarchy. Recent scholarship challenges this conception and urges us to think of the Enlightenment engagement with religion and the Bible as a productive encounter. Enlightenment thinkers and writers in Germany (including members of the Haskalah) presided over an explosion of biblical scholarship, exegesis, interpretation, theologizing, and literary adaptation. As Jonathan Sheehan argues, the Enlightenment did not reject the Bible—the Enlightenment changed it. Topics will include: pietism, gender, and subjectivity; theodicy; the Berlin Haskalah; anti-semitism; Spinozism and radical Enlightenment; translation and exegesis. Authors will include: Lessing, Mendelssohn, Klopstock, Herder, Goethe, Jung-Stilling, Kant, Moritz, and Maimon, as well as new scholarship by Sheehan, David Sorkin, Jeffrey Freedman, Jonathan Hess, and others. French and English Enlightenment texts will also be brought in. Parallel readings in German and English. Discussion in English.

COML 700.401 South African Literature
W 9-12 Barnard
Cross listed with ENGL 775, AFST 775

In this advanced seminar, we will consider South African writing from the 1970s to the present. We will track the cultural shifts that accompanied the transition from apartheid to democracy. Readings will include all genres: poetry, drama, short fiction, novels, and essays. The course will also have a strong theoretical component and will therefore be useful to all graduate students with an interest in the relationship between literature and politics. Requirements include an oral presentation on any assigned topic and a final paper, which may or may not be based on the presentation, depending on the student's evolving interests. Texts include: Percy Mtwa and Mbongeni Ngema, Woza Albert!; Athol Fugard, Statements, The Port Elizabeth Plays, A Lesson from Aloes, My Children, My Afrika!; Jeremy Cronin, Inside and Out (please order now from in South Africa); Miriam Tlali, Muriel at Metropolitan (second-hand copies available from; Sindiwe Magona, Mother to Mother, Fatima Dike, So What's New?; Andre Brink, Dry White Season; J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians, Life and Times of Michael K and Age of Iron; Nadine Gordimer, July's People, None To Accompany Me and selected stories; Mark Behr, The Smell of Apples, Ivan Vladislavic, The Restless Supermarket and selected stories (from; Phaswane Mphe, Our Hillbrow (from; Zakes Mda, Ways of Dying and The Heart of Redness; essays by Albie Sachs, Njabulo Ndebele, Achmat Dangor, Marlene van Niekerk, Achille Mbembe and others.

COML 761.401 British Modernism: Empire of English: Issues in Comparative Fiction
T 12-3 English
Cross listed with ENGL 761

We will consider a range of theoretical and practical problems connected with the global system of Anglophone cultural production and exchange. A syllabus has yet to be determined, but is likely to include readings drawn from four main areas: 1) the recent history of the English language and the rise of new vernaculars and idiolects, as described by linguists like David Crystal (English as a Global Language) and literary critics like Matthew Hart ("Synthetic Vernaculars") and Evelyn Nien-Ming Ch'ien (Weird English); 2) theories of economic and cultural globalization, including the world systems analysis of Immanuel Wallerstein, the theories of cosmopolitanism advanced by Ullrich Beck and Bruce Robbins, and the debates over nationalism and sovereignty surrounding the work of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri; 3) the formal and institutional aspects of "world fiction" as described by literary critics and sociologists such as Pascale Casanova (World Republic of Letters) and Grahan Huggan (The Postcolonial Exotic); and 4) a range of novels and films that will help us test and refine the broader lines of argument. These may include work by Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things), Ken Loach (Riff Raff; Bread and Roses), Keri Hulme (the bone people), Lynne Ramsey (Ratcatcher), Jessica Hagedorn (Dogeaters), and Nuruddin Farah (Maps). Check back on September 1st for a final version of the syllabus.

Students will make one short (15-minute) and one long (30-minute) oral presentation, as well as writing a full-length term paper.

COML 796.401 Media, Culture and Citizenship: Histories, Debates, Paradigms
M 5-7 McCarthy
Cross listed with COMM 820, CINE 793

This graduate seminar asks students to engage the varied literature on citizenship in media and cultural studies. Readings include some foundational texts in political theory as well as works by such scholars as Michel Foucault, Toby Miller, Aiwa Ong, Nikolas Rose, Meghan Morris, Chantal Mouffe, Laurie Ouellette, Micki McGee and Lisa Duggan. Our orientation within this material is evaluative with respect to (at least two) questions: How can we understand media and culture as arenas for the reproduction of forms of civic discourse and paradigms of the citizen/person? How do researchers, critics, activists and engaged intellectuals move from the macrolevel of theory (e.g. "governmentality"), populated by conceptual monoliths (e.g. the institution, the state, the corporation), to the messy and contradictory microworlds of practice and experience in which subjects and citizens make--and remake--themselves?  We will focus on the ways that civic discourse and cultural discourse enmesh across a range of sites, including media texts and realms of production, distribution, and reception.  Screenings and assignments emphasize methods and practices in applying theories of media citizenship to visual culture, including short exercises in archival research designed to develop skills in working with primary sources.


Last modified June 8, 2006
Maintained by Peter Gaffney
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania