Graduate Courses
Fall 2011

COML 501.401

W 5-8 Kazanjian

Permission Needed From Instructor
Cross listed with ENGL 600, GRMN 534, ROML 512

History of Literary Theory

This course will survey what has come to be know in literary and cultural studies as “theory” by tracking the genealogies of a select range of contemporary practices of interpretation. We will examine how these contemporary practices take shape as readings of classical, medieval, early modern, and modern texts. We will also consider how certain aspects of classical, medieval, and early modern texts have been left behind and, perhaps, still hold promise for literary theory today. This will allow us to address the following questions. What are some of the historical and rhetorical conditions of emergence for contemporary critical theories of interpretation? What does it mean to interpret literature and culture in the wake of the grand theoretical enterprises of the modern period? How do conceptions of power and authority in literature and culture change as symbolic accounts of language give way to allegorical and performative accounts? Active class participation, a class presentation, and a final term paper will be the primary requirements of the course. A central, practical goal of the class will be to aid students in preparing for their MA Exam (for the exam reading list, click here).

COML 524.401

R 1:30-3 Brownlee

Cross listed with ITAL 5352

Poetics and Politics of the Modern Lyric Self

The course will explore the development of a new authorial subject over the course of the trecento, in the works and the life of Petrarch. Our principal focus will be a reading of the Canzionere (the Rime Sparse) with special attention to "confessional" and "conversionary" first-person narrative modes, to the divided first-person subject, and to the poetics of the lyric collection. In the Trionfi we will explore the poetics of erudition in a first-person mode that attempts a new kind of vernacular poetic practice with a different relation to the Dantean model. The Secretum will reveal the full religious dimension of the divided Petrarchan self, in a dialogic context in which his deeply problematic relationship to Dante as privileged precursor plays an important role. Issues of Petrarch's epic (and in part political) voice will feature in our reading of selections from the Africa, which will also explore his use of genealogical tropes of authority. The Petrarchan self in history and politics will be studied in his Coronation Oration (at the occasion of his being crowned poet laureate at Rome in 1341), and in his hortatory letters to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV. Taught in English.

COML 531.301

W 12-3 Vinitsky

Cross listed with RUSS 541

Russian Awakenings: Western Mysticism and 19th-Century Russian Culture

This course will consider the role of western mystical legacy (from Jakob Bohme to Madame Blavatsky) in 19th-Century Russian literature and culture. From the late 18th to early 20th century, Russia witnessed several surges (or awakening s) of mysticism. As a rule, these mystical waves came from the West (usually t hrough German intermediacy) and tended to coincide with critical historical junctures, such as the moral crisis at the end of the reign of Catherine the Great (the rise of Russian Free Masonry), the Russian victory over Napoleon and the establishment of a new European order (the emergence of Russian mystical/political circles of the 1810s), a deep ideological schism in the Russian intelligentsia in the 1860s (the rise of Russian spiritualism), and finally, the revolutionary period in the first decade of the 20th century.

All readings will be available in English, although reading in the original is encouraged. Discussion will be in English.

COML 637.401

T 12-3 Sanchez

Cross listed with ENGL 735, GSWS 735

Early Modern Sexualities

This seminar will examine the relationship between four intersecting but distinct fields of study: feminist theory, queer theory, the history of sexuality, and early modern literary criticism. During the first part of the semester, we will read some of the key texts that have shaped feminism, queer theory, and the history of sexuality as fields of study (readings may include work by Foucault, MacKinnon, Rich, Rubin, Sedgwick, Butler, Bersani, de Lauretis, Berlant, Spivak, Warner, Halperin, among others). During the second, we will read a range of early modern literary texts and critical commentary to think about how theoretical debates have related to early modern studies (we will focus primarily on poetry by Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Wroth, Lanyer, Marvell, Milton, Rochester, and Behn). Throughout the semester, we will consider the following questions about how past and present critical conversations have been constituted and challenged. What can a study of past representations of gender and sexuality teach us that a focus on contemporary structures and representations cannot? How can feminist and queer theory focused on contemporary debates and politics help us better to understand past experiences and ideologies of gender and sexuality? What do studies of literary or artistic representations of women, men, and erotic relations tell us about “sex”—as anatomical category, as gender ideals and norms, as physical intimacy, as desire and identification— that historical or sociological methods do not?

COML 651.401

W 4-6 De Jean

Cross listed with FREN 650

The Invention of Paris

Paris is among a handful of truly mythical cities. Indeed, it is the only modern city that has enjoyed this status for centuries.

It was during the period 1650-1730 that Paris was transformed. To begin with, Paris was literally transformed: new neighborhoods opened up; new monuments were added to the cityscape. Paris then became the first modern city ever to be represented as more than the sum total of its buildings and its inhabitants. Rather than a mere city like many others (London, Amsterdam, Rouen), it became promoted as the intellectual, cultural, and artistic capital of Europe, the premier destination for tourists and consumers of luxury goods: it became in short a legendary space.

As soon as the legend of Paris had taken root, authors began for the first time to set their works in real settings in the cityscape of Paris. We’ll read some of the first plays to advertise Parisian contexts – from Corneille’s La Place royale to Molière’s Le Tartuffe. We’ll look at some of the earliest novels whose plots depend on their use of settings, both prosaic and glamorous, from the city of Paris – from Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves to Préchac’s L’Illustre Parisienne.

We’ll look at reality – in the form of contemporary maps of the city of Paris – as well as fiction. We’ll compare opposing views of Paris – Molière’s bourgeois space and Lafayette’s aristocratic city, for example. And we’ll consider above all the transformation of a real city into a space of dreams, a place where anything was possible and where temptation was everywhere: we’ll ask ourselves why this happened and why it happened when it did. We’ll end by reading the original Parisian fantasy novels: Marivaux’s Le Paysan parvenu and Prévost’s Manon Lescaut.

Course Materials/Textbooks for this course will be available at the Penn Book CENTER (130 S. 34th Street; (215) 222-7600).

COML 682.401

W 4-7 de la Campa

Cross listed with SPAN 682

Literary Theory

This course will cover the field of contemporary theory through its most productive paradigms of the past few decades. These will include the following: a) various models of deconstructive work, b) new approaches to literary communities and comparative literature, c) debates around coloniality and subalternity, d) transatlantic mappings. The special focus will be on how these paradigms apply and at times define Latin American and Hispanic literary and cultural areas. In that pursuit, we will look at three modes of instantiation: theoretical sources as such, specific works of criticism, samples of literary and cultural production.

COML 714.401

R 9-12 Copeland

Cross listed with ENGL 715

Gloss and Commentary

Gloss and commentary are the sinews and nerve system of medieval textuality. But so pervasive are these forms that we often take them for granted, consulting them for the data they can yield up about interpretive trends and future literary production. In this seminar we will look more closely at the formal, rhetorical, and material history of gloss and commentary, from late antiquity to the later Middle Ages, in Latin and vernacular traditions, in sacred and secular domains. We will also look briefly at some non-Western fields of sacred commentary: Qur’anic exegesis, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Hebrew bible. The main topics we will cover can be summarized as follows: terminologies, formats, and character of gloss and commentary; the nature of large free-standing commentaries and examples of learned and literary texts that supported this particular form of critical approach; and interactions between text and commentary that gave rise to important theoretical understandings of letter and sense, literal and figurative (or allegorical) interpretation, authorial intention, and the interpretive control of the commentator. More particularly we will look at late antique and medieval definitions of gloss and commentary; ideological appropriations through the power of the limited gloss; the mise-en-page of commentaries (interlinear and marginal commentary vs. free-standing); commentators’ prologues (the accessus and its forms); the emergence of catena (or chain) commentaries; and the self-marking of commentators. What do expositors call their commentaries and how do they name their own roles? Under what constraints (legal, theological, philological) do commentators labor, and how do they mark those constraints? What conventions emerge for denoting commentative intertextuality? What kinds of texts tend to support free-standing commentaries, and under what conditions does a marginal commentary become a free-standing commentary? What is the relationship between commentary and summa? And finally, how does a successful commentary transform the reception of a literary or sacred text, or an intellectual tradition, and what role does its formal rhetoric play in reshaping the understanding of a text?

We can (and will) cover these topics through glosses and commentaries that have been translated into English (or through English-language studies on them); but students who know Latin and other languages (including medieval vernaculars) can take these questions further into their own fields (and the readings can be adjusted according to individual inclinations). Non-medievalists are welcome. Classicists will find much to think about in studying medieval commentaries on classical texts; and early modernists/modernists will find important insights for their own work on the ages of print by studying the technologies of manuscript annotation and transmission. We will have ample opportunity to look at the importation of gloss and commentary systems into vernacular literatures (primarily English and French).

Last modified August 1, 2011
Maintained by Cliff Mak
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania