Graduate Course Descriptions
Fall 2010

COML 501.401 History of Literary Theory
TBA Staff
Undergrads Need Permission
Cross listed with GRMN 534

COML 505.401 Arabic Lit & Lit Theory
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 508.401 World Views in Collision
T 1:30-4:30 Kirkham
Cross listed with ITAL 562

This course explores the impact of paradigm shifts on culture. Radical conflicts developed in 16th- and 17th-century Europe when Protestant reformers, scientific discoveries, and geographical explorations challenged a long-held Medieval worldview and the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, which pursued its own reform at the Council of Trent (1545-1563). How did these historical upheavals influence changing styles in poetry and art from the high Renaissance to Mannerism and the Baroque? What kinship connects the twentieth century with this historical past? Readings will include: Machiavelli's comic play Mandragola, the vitriolic polemic involving Martin Luther, Thomas More, and King Henry VIII; Tommaso Campanella's Utopian dialogue The City of the Sun, selections from Galileo and The History of the Council of Trent by the Venetian Paolo Sarpi; poetry from Petrarch to Marino and Marinismo, parallel examples in the visual tradition from Leonardo to Bernini; and on the modern end, John Osborne's Luther, Bertholt Brecht's Galileo, and a classic Hollywood film Utopia, Frank Capra's Lost Horizon.

COML 526.401 In Defiance of Babel: The Quest for a Universal Language
R 5-8 Verkholantsev
Cross listed with SLAV 526/ENGL 705

This is a course in intellectual history. It explores the historical trajectory, from antiquity to the present day, of the idea that there once was, and again could be, a universal and perfect language to explain and communicate the essence of human experience. 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 more than two millennia. In defiance of the myth of the Tower of Babel and the confusion of languages, they strived to overcome divine punishment and discover the path back to harmonious existence. For philosophers, the possibility of recovering or recreating a universal language would enable apprehension of the laws of nature. For theologians, it would allow direct experience of the divinity. For mystic-cabalists it would offer access to hidden knowledge. For alis nineteenth-century philologists the reconstruction of the proto-language would enable a better understanding of human history. For contemporary scholars, linguistic universals provide structural models both for human and artificial languages. For writers and poets of all times, from Cyrano de Bergerac to Velimir Khlebnikov, the idea of a universal and perfect language has been an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Above all, the course examines fundamental questions of what language is and how it functions. Among the course readings are works by Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Dante, Horapollo, Bacon, Giordano Bruno, John Wilkins, Cyrano de Bergerac, Jonathan Swift, and Zamenhof.

COML 533.401 Dante’s Comedia 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 Proven¨al love lyric. The course will be taught in English and cross-listed in Comparative Literature. Students taking it for Italian credit will do the readings and written assignments in Italian.

COML 549.640 The Persistence of Empire
T 6-8:40 Burri
Contact LPS and the MLA program for permission (215.898.7326)

The scholar of empire Alexander Motyl has noted that lists no fewer than 10,513 books with empire in the title. This seminar asks why the concept of “empire” should, today, so dramatically engage historians, politicians, writers, and other intellectuals, as well as a broad general public. It seeks an answer by examining some of the central political ideas, historical case studies, and literary texts that form basic reference points for current thinking about empire. Recent discussions of empire have been fueled, in part, by the demise of Soviet empire and the ascent of unipolar American power -- an ascent that now appears stalled. In this context, what can past empires, whether ancient Greek, Roman, or British, tell us about the limits of American power? Then again, stories of imperial “decline and fall” are as old as civilization itself, and they accompany every phase of empire building, from beginning to end. Are predictions about the decline of American power just a new chapter in an ancient book of apocalyptic warnings -- or is this really the end? And how do empires actually “end,” anyway? Some scholars have begun to argue that current globalizing trends simply repackage the older concept of empire. By studying the roots of empire, its various manifestations, the experiences of its subjects, and the theories that underpin it, this seminar aims to provide a better understanding of the ongoing and much-debated phenomenon of globalization. Because empire is fundamentally about preserving order, the stability of the post-war international order created by the United States is always implicit in discussions of empire. New approaches to creating global stability, new guarantors for international order, and new rivals are on the horizon, making the issues raised by empire more urgent than ever. What role will the European Union and its “normative power” play in the next phase? And to what extent is the United Nations an expression of a new worldwide liberal empire, or what Michael Ignatieff calls “empire lite”? Seminar lectures and readings situate key issues in the course, while seminar assignments encourage students to develop expertise in specialized areas of their own interest.

CANCELLED -- COML 578.401 Chicana/o Literature
R 12-3 Padilla
Undergrads Need Permission
Cross listed with ENGL 593

COML 582.401 Walter Benjamin
T 3-5 Weissberg
All readings and lectures in English
Undergrads Need Permission
Cross listed with GRMN 580

Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) is a philosopher whose writings on art, literature, and politics have had tremendous influence on cultural studies. He has been variously described as one of the leading German-Jewish thinkers, and a secular Marxist theorist. With the publication of a new four-volume collection of this works in English, many more of his writings have been made accessible to a wider public. Our seminar will undertake a survey of his work that begins with his studies on language and allegory, and continues with his autobiographical work, his writings on art and literature, and finally on the imaginary space of the nineteenth-century.

COML 599.401 Transitional Objects: Between Old and New Media
T 3-6 King
Undergrads Need Permission
Cross listed with ARTH 590, CINE 501, ENGL 569

D. N. Rodowick has argued that the digital arts Ņare the most radical instance yet of an old Cartesian dream: the best representations are the most immaterial ones because they seen to free the mind from the body and the world of substance.Ó In this seminar, we will explore new media in relation to cinema, photography, and related forms of visual representation. We will examine the fate of materiality, the body, the world of substance, and the experience of duration in twenty-first century forms of media, and consider whether or not the digital represents a significant break from the analog. Texts by D. W. Winnicott, Gilles Deleuze, and others; film and media works by Paul Chan, Jeremy Blake, Ryan Trecartin, and others.

COML 628.301 Medieval Media & Alfonso The Learned
W 5-8 Solomon
Cross listed with SPAN 630

This seminar explores Alfonso X (1221-1284) monumental and opulent Codice Rico manuscript of Las cantigas de santa Maria. Drawing on recent concepts from media studies including connectivity, remediation, recursion, augmented space, and the relation between visual sensation and graphic information we will examine the 200 miracles stories and songs, and the more than 1200 image panels in this monumental manuscript. Throughout the course we will consider Alfonso’s notion of a Marian Monarchy in which he positioned himself as the prime mediator between the Virgin Mary and Christendom. All students will learn to read medieval Galician-Portuguese, the language Alfonso used to compose the Las cantigas. As a prerequisite, students must have a strong reading knowledge of one Romance language or Latin. The course will be taught in English.

CANCELLED -- COML 630.401 Intro to Medieval Lit
T 2-5 Brownlee
Cross listed with FREN 630

COML 661.301 Love Letters: 1650-1789
W 4-6 DeJean
Cross listed with FREN 662

In many ways, love letters are in a class by themselves. To begin with, more than any other form, they force us to confront the question of authenticity. For centuries, readers have been faced with the same dilemma: how do we know that a love letter is real? In fact, the status of many famous love letters has never been determined, and we will consider such notable examples as the Lettres portugaises, considered by many a novel, by others a collection of authentic letters. We will also look at an unidentified manuscript in the collections of Van Pelt library: it’s in epistolary form, but are the letters it contains real or fictional? We’ll use these examples as ways of considering the question of authenticity: what does authenticity mean in an early modern text? Why was authenticity important to early modern readers, and is it still important today?

In addition, the love letter is among the first genres to inspire a contemporary tradition of theorizing. We will read a number of early theories of the love letter, as well as art poétiques explaining how to write a good one. We will consider in particular the way in which the love letter was gendered, in a more pronounced way than any other early modern form. All during the period we will consider, commentators contended that women wrote the best love letters – in fact, that love letters were both fundamentally feminine and the essence of female style. With this received idea in mind, we will consider some of the most famous love letters by writers both female and male: Sévigné and Julie de Lespinasse, Diderot and Laclos.

The love letter also played a paradoxical role as the (sentimental) foundation on which the quintessential Enlightenment genre, the epistolary novel, was built. We will read the novels generally considered the masterpieces of that form, Rousseau’s Julie and Laclos’s Liaisons dangereuses. And we will juxtapose these male fictions of female desire with the visions proposed by women writers: Graffigny’s Lettres d’une Péruvienne, Riccoboni’s Lettres de Mistriss Fanni Butlerd.

The love letter was also often proclaimed to be a quintessentially French genre. We will read Richardson’s Pamela, in order to test the truth of this claim.

Finally, we will consider the material conditions in which love letters were produced, sent, and kept hidden from prying eyes – from the postal system to the desks on which they were written, from the pockets in which they were carried to the purses and drawers in which they could be locked away.

COML 682.401 Contemporary Literary Theory
T 2-5 Laddaga
Cross listed with SPAN 682

The course will provide an introduction to some of the central problematics of contemporary literary and critical theory. We will read and analyze essays by, among others, Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger, Charles Taylor, Pierre Bourdieu, Bruno Latour, and Franco Moretti. Course taught in English.

COML 766.401 War, Form, and Theory
M 6-9 Saint-Amour
Cross listed with ENGL 765

At this seminar's heart is the question of war's relationship to time. If form allows us to anticipate experience, then war would always be a war against form-against the prospect of forestructuring Ņthe decision at armsÓ through prophecy; tactics and strategy; the laws of warfare; codes of military ethics; narratives of sacrifice and destiny; categories such as the sublime, the beautiful, and the uncanny; gendered divisions of labor and vulnerability; and the lineaments of mode and genre. Yet these forms are also the means by which we recognize war as war. Are there forms in war, then? Or only forms before war, and in war's wake only the ruin of form, to be remade toward the next war?

We will also be centrally concerned with war's many relationships to teaching and scholarship in the humanities: as imperiling force, as enabling condition, as variously indispensable and indefensible object of study. When does theory understand itself as the continuation of warfare by other means? When, by contrast, does critical discourse turn to the subject of war as a way of phenomenalizing its own self-conception? How do students of representation and discourse assert or disavow their professional competency when it comes to war? To consider these questions, we will pay particular attention to the Ņnuclear criticismÓ of the 1980s; to trauma studies and its critics; to recent work on terror, sovereignty, and cosmopolitanism; and to the 2009 PMLA special issue on war.

Readings from among: Immanuel Kant, Carl von Clausewitz, Giulio Douhet, Virginia Woolf, Ford Maddox Ford, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Elizabeth Bowen, Hans Erich Nossack, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jonathan Schell, Russell Hoban, Elaine Scarry, Gilles Deleuze and Fˇlix Guattari, Paul Virilio, Paul Mann, Michael Walzer, Dominick LaCapra, Ruth Leys, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, W. G. Sebald, Judith Butler, Giorgio Agamben, Talal Asad.

COML 767.401 Moderism
W 6-9 Perelman
Cross listed with ENGL 773

A graduate seminar under the rubric Temple-Penn Poetics. Readings from about the 1940s to the 1970s will include Charles Olson, George Oppen, Gwendolyn Brooks, Melvin Tolson, Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, H.D., Aimé Césaire (in translation), Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Allen Ginsberg. Emphasis on the meaning of "late modernism" as a rubric, on the historical context as affecting poet and text--including WWII, the bomb, the Holocaust, colonial relations, debates on race and rights, gender and sexuality, the question of national culture. We will investigate and critique some of claims in poetics; thus the essays and ancillary texts of poets will be deployed. There will be some critical reading on the meanings and pursuits of late modernism. This course will be co-taught by Bob Perelman, University of Pennsylvania and Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Temple University. Professor Perelman will be in charge of grading Penn students; Professor DuPlessis will be in charge of grading Temple students. Enrollment is limited to graduate students. Some schedule and student adjustments may be necessary to accommodate calendar differences between the schools. Requirements: TK, but commensurate with graduate-level study.

COML 769.401 Postcolonial Feminisms
W 3-6 Loomba
Cross listed with ENGL 769

COML 773 Raced Space
T 9-12 Davis
Cross listed with ENGL 770

This seminar is concerned with spatial and racial constructions. Experience occurs within a place, yet social theory has often lacked the inclusion of space. In the last decades of the twentieth century, however, new geographers advocated strongly for integrating space into the formulation of social theories because to separate spatial processes from social processes defies the logic of understanding that phenomena occur in a specified or given place. Currently, spatial parameters or boundaries of experience are increasingly mapped by scholars whose theoretical concerns range from postmodernism and global feminism to the body and prisons. Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, David Harvey, Doreen Massey, Edward Soja, Daphne Spain, Yi-Fu Tuan, and Linda McDowell, for example, form a partial list of those who have argued for a spatial hermeneutic. The feminist geographers writing in Nancy Duncan's Bodyspace, for instance, have insisted on including the human body as the subject of geographical knowledge, and the body has become one of the key spaces in postmodern readings of place.

But what of race? How do we interrogate the relationships between race, racial conditions and space (whether bodily, global, or textual)? Focusing on the social geography that makes exclusion and containment acceptable, we will examine the normalizing of restrictive legal practices and social controls that produced a specific system of race-based identity and social relations in the United States, in particular in the American South. How do regulatory boundaries delimit not merely access to space, but also subject formation and agency? Are geographical claims implicit in the transgression of legal attempts at racial exclusion and similar practices of power and privilege?

Readings include social geographers, legal cases, the Black Public Sphere Collective; and literary and social theorists. Primary texts selected from Toni Morrison, A Mercy; William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!; Charles Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition; Langston Hughes, Scottsboro Limited; Ernest Gaines, A Lesson before Dying; Aishah Rahman, Unfinished Woman Cry in No Man's Land While a Bird Dies in a Gilded Cage; Amiri Baraka, Dutchman; Suzan-Lori Parks, Topdog/Underdog; Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist; Edwidge Danticat, The Farming of Bones; Natasha Trethewey, Bellocq's Ophelia; Fannie Hurst, Imitation of Life; Nella Larsen, Passing; Olympia Vernon, Eden; Richard Wright, Eight Men; Randall Kenan, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead; Yusef Kumunyakaa, Magic City.

Last modified May 7, 2010
Maintained by Daniel DeWispelare
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania