Graduate Course Descriptions
Fall 2008

COM 501.401 History of Literary Theory
Undergrads Need Permission
W 12-3 Kaul
Cross listed CLST 511, GRMN 534, ROML 512, SLAV 500, ENGL 571

Over the last three decades, the fields of literary and cultural studies have been reconfigured by a variety of theoretical and methodological developments. Bracing--and often confrontational--dialogues between theoretical and political positions as varied as Deconstruction, New Historicism, Cultural Materialism, Feminism, Queer Theory, Minority Discourse Theory, Colonial and Post-colonial Studies and Cultural Studies have, in particular, altered disciplinary agendas and intellectual priorities for students embarking on the "professional" study of literature. In this course, we will study key texts, statements and debates that define these issues, and will work towards a broad knowledge of the complex rewriting of the project of literary studies in process today. The reading list will keep in mind the Examination List in Comparative Literature--we will work towards complete coverage but will ask how crucial contemporary theorists engage with the longer history and institutional practices of literary criticism.

There will be no examinations. Students will make one class presentation, which will then be reworked into a paper (1200-1500 words) to be submitted one week after the presentation. A second paper will be an annotated bibliography on a theoretical issue or issues that a student wishes to explore further. The bibliography will be developed in consultation with the instructor; it will typically include three or four books and six to eight articles or their equivalent. The annotated bibliography will be prefaced by a five or six page introduction; the whole will add up to between 5000 and 6000 words of prose. Students will prepare "position notes" each week, which will either be posted on a weblog or circulated in class.

COML 505.401 Arabic Lit and Literary Theory
For Undergrads: Dist. Crs. Arts & Letters Class of 09 and Prior
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 521.401 Boccaccio in Kaleidoscope
T 4-6 Kirkham
Cross listed with ITAL 537, GSOC 537

Readings across the full range of Boccaccio's writings, from his earliest fiction (Diana's Hunt, Filostrato, Filocolo, the epic Teseida), to his mid-career activity (Life of Dante, Decameron), late biographical writings (e.g., Concerning Famous Women) and Dante commentary. Emphasis (about half the course) on the Decameron with selections from the other works, including his correspondence with Petrarch. Texts will be explored through multifaceted approaches that have characterized specifically Boccaccian traditions of interpretation. These will include philological foundations of textual analysis, literary-historical readings, feminist scholarship, word-image studies applied to the rich visual heritage inspired by Boccaccio's encyclopedic textual corpus (some 8,000 images during the manuscript era), and a distorting reception history that has narrowed his identity to the supposedly 'lewd' author of racy novellas. Our aim will be to restore a fuller sense of a writer both medieval and proto-humanist, situating him in his relationship to classical antiquity, his venerated Dante, and his revered friend Petrarch. Reading knowledge of Italian preferred but not required. Texts will be available in both languages; class conducted in English.

COML 533.401 Dante's Commedia I
R 1:30-4:30 Brownlee
Cross listed with ITAL 531

A close reading of the Inferno Purgatorio and 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. Students taking it for Italian credit will do the readings and written assignments in Italian.

COML 539.401 Memory, Trauma, Culture
Undergrads Need Permission
T 3-5 Weissberg
Cross listed with GRMN 540, ENGL 588, JWST 540

In recent years, studies of memory (both individual and cultural) have rivaled those of history, and have produced alternative narratives of events. At the same time, research has also focused on the rupture of narrative, the inability to find appropriate forms of telling, and the experience of a loss of words. The notion of trauma (Greek for 'wound') may stand for such a rupture. Many kinds of narratives, most prominently the recollections of Holocaust survivors, are instances in which memories are invoked not only to come to terms with traumatic events, but also to inscribe trauma in various ways.

In this seminar, we will read theoretical work on memory and trauma, discuss their implication for the study of literature, art, and culture, read select examples from Holocaust survivors' autobiographies (i.e. Primo Levi, Eli Wiesel), and discuss visual art (i.e. Boltanski, Kiefer) and film (i.e. Resnais, Lanzmann, Spielberg).

COML 552.401 Time and Space in German Media Discourses
Undergrads Need Permission
M 1-4 Koch
Cross listed with GRMN 550, CINE 550
This course will be taught from September 8 through October 20

This seminar discusses the construction of space and time in German cinema and other media. These two notions will be explored throughout the history of ideas in philosophy, social theory and film aesthetics--including the shifts in different formations of the public, the discourse on the mass as social phenomenon and addressee of mass culture. Philosophers and film theorists such as Kracauer, Balazs, Heidegger and others will be discussed. All readings and discussion in English.

COML 573.401 Postmodernism and Afro-American Lit
W 3-6 Tillet
Cross listed with AFRC570, ENGL 570

Since the 1970's, there has been a proliferation of African-American literary texts which take slavery as their central theme. These 'neo-slave narratives' bear significant features frequently associated with the postmodern aesthetic such as indeterminacy, self-reflexivity, and unrepresentability (to name a few) while they also respond to and wrestle with post-Civil Rights anxieties about legal desegregation, affirmative action, and civic membership.

Riffing off Anthony Appiah's well-known essay 'Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Postmodern' this class will focus on 'neo-slave narratives' to similarly ask: What is the relationship, if any, between the 'Post' in 'Post-Civil Rights' and the 'Post' in 'Postmodern' in African-American literature? In order to grapple with this question, we shall focus on texts by Toni Morrison, Ishmael Reed, Haile Gerima, Rita Dove, Kara Walker, Octavia Butler, Wynton Marsalis, and Charles Johnson and foreground our theoretical approach in works by Jacques Lyotard, Linda Hutchinson, Cornel West, bell hooks, Wahneema Lubiano, Greg Tate, Marc Anthony Neal, Phillip Brian Harper, and Madhu Dubey.

COML 582.401 Topics in Aesthetics
W 2-5 Guyer
Cross listed with GRMN 580, PHIL 480
Undergrads Need Permission

Topics in aesthetics this semester will focus on classics in twentieth-century aesthetics from both the "continental" and "analytic" traditions. Authors to be studied will include John Dewey, R.G. Collingwood, Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Frank Sibley, Theodor W. Adorno, Nelson Goodman, Arthur Danto, Stanley Cavell, and Richard Wollheim. Topics will include the cognitive, emotional, moral, and political significance of aesthetic experience, and the ontological, semantic, and historical character of art. Written work for the course will consist of one short paper and one term paper.

COML 585.401 Chicano/a Studies
Undergrads Need Permission
M 3-6 Padilla
Cross listed with ENGL 592, LALS 592

This class will familiarize students with cultural works by Chicanas/os (people of Mexican descent living in the US) in the twentieth century, as well as with numerous key texts in the history and theory of Chicana/o Studies. We will move chronologically in our study of a variety of novels, poems, plays, and films, while being guided by several historical and cultural coordinates. These will include oral traditions, the Mexican Revolution, the Chicano Movement and social protest, notions of mestizaje, and articulations of gender, class, and sexual identities. In our readings of secondary materials we will pay particular attention to border theory and hemispheric studies, while examining the relationship among Latin American, American and Chicana/o studies.

Primary texts may include Americo Paredes's George Washington Gomez, Jovita Gonzalez and Eve Raleigh's Caballero, Arturo Islas's The Rain God, Sandra Cisneros's Woman Hollering Creek, Lorna Dee Cervantes's Emplumada, Oscar Zeta Acosta's Revolt of the Cockroach People, Cherrie Moraga's Heroes and Saints, Helena Maria Viramontes's The Moths and Other Stories, Ernesto Galarza's Barrio Boy, plays by El Teatro Campesino, Ron Arias's The Road to Tamazunchale, John Rechy's The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gomez, and Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands / la frontera.

Likely films include The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, Zoot Suit, Come and Take it Day, Born in East L.A., Senorita Extraviada, Salt of the Earth and Lone Star.

Secondary readings will include work by critics such as Norma Alarcon, Tomas Almaguer, Angie Chabram-Dernersesian, Mike Davis, Kirsten Silva Gruesz, Stuart Hall, Curtis Marez, Douglas Massey, Mae Ngai, Mary Louise Pratt, Jose Quiroga, Roger Rouse, Jose David Saldivar, Ramon Saldivar, George Sanchez, Rosaura Sanchez, Doris Sommer.

COML 601.401 Medieval Education
W 9-12 Copeland
Cross listed with CLST 618, ENGL 524

This course will cover various important aspects of education and intellectual culture from late antiquity (c. 400 A.D.) to the later Middle Ages (c. 1400 A.D.) across Europe. We will look especially at how the arts of language (grammar, rhetoric, dialectic) were formalized and "packaged" in late antique encyclopedias, treatises, and compendia, and at how later theorists and systematizers recombined and reconfigured knowledge systems for new uses (monastic schools, cathedral schools). We will trace how the earlier and later Middle Ages differentiated between elementary and advanced reading, how children and childhood are represented in educational discourse, and how women participated in (or are figured in) intellectual discourse. Finally, we will consider how universities changed ideas of intellectual formation, and how vernacular learning in the later Middle Ages added yet another dimension to the representation of learning. Along with the standard evidence of treatises, institutional statutes, and student "guides" (from various periods), we will also look at examples of intellectual biography and reminiscences of famous teachers by their students. While the focus will be primarily on the language arts, we will have some opportunities to consider the impact of new learning in the sciences of the quadrivium.

CANCELLED--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 classic schools of theory and research.

CANCELLED--COML 617.401 Contemporary Approaches to the Study of Culture and Society
Permission Needed from Department
M 2-5 Petryna
Cross listed with ANTH 617

First-year anthropology graduate students. 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 620.401 Studies in the 18th Century: What Was the Enlightenment?
W 4-6 DeJean
Cross listed with FREN 660

We will read a number of the most influential texts of the Enlightenment, works that can be said to have shaped the social and political consciousness that we think of as characteristic of the age, works such as Rousseau's Emile and his Confessions and the meditations on freedom of religious expression that Voltaire contributed to 'affaires' such as the Affaire Calas. We will try to understand the structure of what may well be the most emblematic work of the Enlightenment: the Encyclopédie edited by Diderot and d'Alembert. We will ask why the novel played such an important role in the dissemination of Enlightenment ideas. To this end, we will read certain of the best-known 18 th-century novels, for example, Montesquieu's Lettres persanes, Voltaire's Candide, and Graffigny's Lettres d'une Péruvienne. All our discussions will be guided by a central question: What was the bond between the Enlightenment and censorship?

COML 630.401 Introduction to Medieval Literature: The Grail and the Rose
M 2-5 Brownlee
Cross listed with FREN 630

A close reading of the two dominant works of 13th-century France: the Queste del Saint Graal and the Roman de la Rose. The seminar will have a double focus:

1) A series of interrelated problems raised by these two texts and by their juxtaposition, including mimesis, allegory, continuation, and closure. Particular attention will be given to how these texts represent the object of desire (grail vs. rose) and to the function of the chivalric vs. the erotic quest. In addition, we will study how the two texts thematize reading, interpretation, and the production of textual meaning.

2) The profoundly productive interplay between literary and philosophical discourses (so characteristic of 13 th-century France). In this context we will read Alain de Lille's Complaint of Nature and Heldris de Cornouailles's Le Roman de Silence, as well as excerpts from Thomas Aquinas (Summa theologica). Especially important will be issues of rhetoric, dialectic, and truth; as well as desire and gender.

COML 682.301 Contemporary Issues in Critical Theory, Literary & Cultural Studies
R 3-6 de la Campa
Cross listed with ENGL 571.301, SPAN 682.301

This course will focus on leading critical issues pertaining to literary and cultural studies today. The initial emphasis will be on clarifying conceptual paradigms as much as possible, outlining their historical evolvement in the 20th Century first, then their spheres of dissemination and contradiction, and finally looking at the ways they can be deployed in analyzing literary and cultural texts (short stories, novels, poems, films, videos, music or other forms). The list of issues and questions will include the following:

Textual Revolution since Romanticism: How does the concept of modern literature unfold through the legacy of textual critiques that derive from Sausurean, formalist, Frankfurt School, reception theory, close reading, structuralist, semiotics, and post-structuralist modes of reading and understanding?

Postmodern, Postcolonial and Subaltern proposals of the past twenty years. Do they offer new points of departure for literary and cultural studies or just a graduate school version of multicultural pluralism? Are the profound differences between the British and Hispanic legacies of colonialism in the Americas highlighted or erased through these discourses? What are the claims of diasporic, post-nationalist and post-humanist forms of writing and reading? What role does feminism play in them?

Culture and New citizenry. Are contemporary subjects susceptible to a powerful aesthetic pull which post-humanistic theories fail to address? Is there such a thing as an aesthetic of globalization? Can it be studied critically? Does literature play a role in it? Do theorists such as Badiou, Agamben, Virno, Negri and Deleuze bring us past the linguistic turn and the various posts it has imbued?

Performativity. A look at various notions surrounding this general trope; specifically how it impacts modes of writing and reading, as well as the idea of creativity, autobiography and culture brokering prevalent in the pull towards techno-mediatic globalization and cultural studies. What is the work of literature in this sphere?

Mappings and Periodization: How do such notions as Black Atlantic, Cosmopolitanism, Coloniality, Transatlantic, New Republic of Letters, New Ethnic Constructions, Queer Theory, among others, address the current moment of disciplinary work?

The final list of writers, critics and theorists is still in progress. It will constitute a selection of creative writers and sell as theorists. Some likely entries are: Jorge Luis Borges, Damiela Eltit, Roberto Bolaño, Clarice Lispector, Severo Sarduy, J. Ranciere, Antonio Negri, Slavoj Zizek, Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau, Paul de Man, Homi Bhabha, Gayatri Spivak, J. Derrida, R. Barthes, A. Badiou, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Nelly Richard, G. Deleuze, Clarice Lispector, Fredric Jameson, Richard Rodriguez.

This course will be taught in English.

COML 685.401 Literary Critical Theory in Japan
W 2-5 Kano
Cross listed with EALC 755

COML 776.401 Topics in History and Theory: Sculpture Parks and Sculpture in Parks
T 1:30-4:30 Hunt
Cross listed with LARP 770

This research seminar will explore the history of the public display of sculpture and the contexts contrived for it, including its contemporary forms and contemporary settings (both architectural and landscaped). Students will visit the Storm King Art Center in New York, consult three recent collections of essays on our subject and produce a final project.

This final project, depending on the student's own interests and discipline, can be either a design for the site installation of a sculpture already in existence, or the design of a sculptural piece for an existing site (in both cases designs will be accompanied by a brief description and justification of the scheme), or a critical essay on one modern sculpture park. All projects to be approved by the instructor in advance.

Three texts to be studied are:
The Fran and Stark Collection of 20th Century Sculpture at the Getty Sculpture and the Garden Sculpture in Arcadia


Last modified June 29, 2008
Maintained by Daniel DeWispelare
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania