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Graduate Courses
Fall 2012


COML 501.401

T 2-5 Copeland
Permission Needed From Instructor
Cross listed with CLST 511, GRMN 534, ROML 512

History of Literary Theory

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

Cross Cultural Analysis
W 2-5 Allen

Cross listed with COML 353, NELC 434

Arabic Lit & Lit 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 533.401

R 1:30-4:30 Brownlee
Cross listed with ITAL 531

Dante's Comedia I

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 581.401

R 9-12 Corrigan
Cross listed with CINE 592, ENGL 592, ARTH 590

The Essay Film

At least through much of the nineteenth century, the essay was perceived by many as a secondary, less creative genre of writing, suspected for its incidental, public, and parasitic nature. Others, such as Walter Pater, T. W. Adorno, and Roland Barthes, have been considerably more appreciative, often, like Pater, seeing the essay as the "strictly appropriate form of our modern philosophical literature." The first part of this seminar will examine the different possibilities and debates that have described this particular form of writing from its sixteenth-century beginnings in the works of Montaigne (when, in Foucault's words, "commentary yields to criticism") through twentieth-century theories and practices of the essay from Lukacs and Adorno through Umberto Eco, Roland Barthes, and Christa Wolf. The majority of the course, however, will concentrate on the reincarnation of this literary form as the essay film, and in this context we will investigate the work of Chris Marker, Jean-Luc Godard, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Erroll Morris, Derek Jarman and others. Rather than assuming experience with film scholarship and film history, we will use this course as at least a partial introduction to both. Students will be encouraged to develop their own positions and arguments (most notably in a final research project). My own emphasis, however, will be on 1) the historical and cultural conditions that encouraged essayistic writing, 2) the formal and expressive possibilities made exclusively available by the essay, and 3) the larger issues raised by the essay about the relation of writing to creativity or originality, to the politics and industry of a public domain, and to aesthetic categories such as romanticism, modernism, and postmodernism. Besides the primary research project, students will submit one shorter essay and, at some point in the semester, lead the seminar in a short discussion.

COML 582.401

T 2-4 Weissberg
Undergrads Need Permission
Cross listed with GRMN 580, PHIL 480

Hannah Arendt

The course will study Arendt's political theory, as developed in The Origins of Totalitarianism, and her writings on literature in the essays collected in The Jewish Writings and Men in Dark Times, as well as relationship between both. We will also consider literary examples by Lessing, Heine, Melville, Kafka, and others.

COML 592.401

F 9-11 Beckman
Undergrads Need Permission
Cross listed with ARTH 593, CINE 591


Topics in Contemporary Theory: Film Theory

Topics in Contemporary Theory will introduce students to key issues, debates, and authors in contemporary theory. Course topics will include Film Theory, Theories of Gender and Sexuality, as well as focused readings of particular authors, (e.g. Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault).

For Fall, this course will involve reading recent works in film theory, focusing in particular on the ways in which contemporary debates about cinema's relationship to evolving moving image practices require us to rethink our relationship to earlier models and interpretations of film theory.

COML 620.401

M 2-4 DeJean
Cross listed with FREN 660


Studies in the 18th Century: What Was the Enlightenment?

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 18th-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?

The course will be taught in English; readings are in French. The reading may be done in English as well. Students interested in this option should speak with the instructor.

COML 630.401

T 2-5 Brownlee
Cross listed with FREN 630


Medieval French Literature

Description TBA.

COML 637.401

M 12-3 Degrazia
Cross listed with ENGL 735

Shakespeare and Secularity [Cancelled]

Periodization knows no better mechanism to account for the transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern than secularization. But secularization is also used in the study of the early English drama to describe the transition after the Reformation from the medieval cultic mysteries to the London commercial stage. How does the secularization of the big narrative (and its corollaries in political, philosophical, and aesthetic thought) relate to that of Shakespeare's stage? How can secularizing concepts drawn from other discourses (for example, occupation, disenchantment, sublation, profanation) be brought to bear on critical terms more familiar to literary forms (typology, symbol, metaphor, character and plot)?

We will begin with the York Corpus Christi cycle before moving to Shakespeare. Areas of focus will include: the supersession of divine right by realpolitik in the second tetralogy (Richard II to Henry V), the Pauline ambience of Comedy of Errors, Pericles, and The Winter's Tale, the godforsaken world of King Lear, the BC/AD setting of Cymbeline and Anthony and Cleopatra, and the messianic role of Judaism and Islam in Merchant of Venice and Othello. Supplementary readings will include: Schmitt, Adorno, Blumenberg, Koselleck, Agamben (on the secularization debate); Chambers, Records of Early English Drama (REED) series (on pre- and post-Reformation stage history); Beckwith, Parker, Diehl etc. (on Christianity in the mysteries and the plays). Requirements: routine class reports and one term paper.

COML 694.401

M 2-5 Solomon
Cross listed with SPAN 694

Cinema Transgresivo: Paracinema from Spain and Latin America

This seminar is designed to provide an overview of significant movements, traditions, and periods in Spanish and Latin American cinema by focusing the way specific films break with or stand against prevailing artistic and ideological imperatives. Each week is dedicated to one movement or period, one feature film, and a cluster of shorts and clips from relevant works. We begin by examining early Spanish filmmaker Segundo de Chomón and his departure from the “Cinema of Attractions” practiced by filmmakers such as George Méliès. We continue by interrogating the 1931 film Limite by Brazilian filmmaker Mario Peixoto and the way it breaks from European avant-garde cinema and the work of Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel. The seminar moves on to explore the technological innovations of Spanish filmmaker Val de Omar and his non-narrative opposition to the hegemony of narrative cinema in Francoist Spain. Returning to Latin America, we review the Brazilian udigrudi (underground) movement and the work of Ze Mojica (Coffin Joe) and the challenge to the ideas of Cinema Novo in Brazil. Moving back to Spain, the seminar looks at the metacinematic work Arrebato (1980) by Iván Zulueta and its break from politically engaged New Spanish Cinema (NCE) that flourished in the final years of Franco's dictatorship. We will review how the Ukamau Group and the narrative elements in Bolivian Filmmaker Jorge Sanjinés's Yawar Mallku (Blood of the Condor) stand in opposition to the documentary imperative promoted by New Latin American filmmakers such as Carlos Álvarez, Fernando Birri, Octavio Getino, and Fernando Solanas. In the wake of the Tlatelolco crisis in Mexico, we explore the rise of provocative filmmakers such as Rafael Corkidi, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Juan Moctezuma who provide a paracinematic alternative to the state sponsored New Mexican Cinema of Casals, Ripstein, and Hermosillo. Returning to the Iberian Peninsula, the seminar evaluates the Barcelona School and the works of Pere Portabella and Jacinto Esteva including Esteva's manifesto film Dante no es unicamente severo (1967). We end the seminar by exploring the rise of narcocinema in Mexico in relation to the longstanding Mexican genre of border cinema. The course is taught in English and students from Cinema Studies and Comparative Literature are welcome. A reading knowledge of Spanish is helpful, but not absolutely necessary.

COML 785.401

R 3-5 Poggi/Platt
Cross listed with ARTH 785, RUSS 785


Russian Avant-Garde: Text, Image, Objects, Action

The Russian avant-garde was an era of explosive aesthetic, theoretical, political and social experimentation. In this course, we will study the main movements, works, figures and events of visual art, literature, film and other media from the high point of Russian symbolism at the turn of the century up to the rise of Socialist Realism in the early 1930s. Topics will include, but will not be limited to: Symbolism (Belyi, Blok, Ivanov); Futurism (Mayakovsky, Pasternak, Khlebnikov, the Burliuks, Guro); Neo-Primitivism (Goncharova, Larionov, early Malevich); Acmeism (Mandelstam, Akhmatova); Formalism (Jakobson, Shklovsky, Eikhenbaum); Rayism; Zaum (trans-sense) poetry; Constructivism (Tatlin, Gabo, Lissitzky, Melnikov); Ornamental Prose (Babel, Zoshchenko, Shaginian); Suprematism (Malevich, Puni); Productivism (Tatlin, Rodchenko, Stepanova, Popova); Montazh and early Soviet film (Kuleshov, Eisenstein, Vertov, Klutsis, Kulagina); Factography Tretiakov); Socialist Realism avant la lettre (Gorky, Gladkov).

COML 790.401

R 6-9 Love
Cross listed with ENGL 790, GSWS 790


Queer Methods

Is there a queer method? To address this question, we will consider strategies critics in the field have undertaken in order to queer the disciplines: critiques of historicism, the affective turn, queer materialism, low and high theory, queer empiricism, experiments in phenomenology, extravagant formalism, assemblage theory, erotohistoriography, and subcultural studies, among others. At the same time we will address the politics of style that have always been central to the field. Taking up longstanding debates about queer universalism, we will consider to what extent queer studies is or ought to be anchored to specific sexual communities, histories, and acts, or whether queer can be understood as a vector that might cut across any form of inquiry. We will look at both foundational and recent texts in the field, including work by Gayle Rubin, Gloria Anzaldúa, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Michel Foucault, Michael Warner, Teresa De Lauretis, D. A. Miller, Leo Bersani, Judith Butler, Cherríe Moraga, Lauren Berlant, Cathy J. Cohen, Lee Edelman, J. Jack Halberstam, Jasbir Puar, Ann Cvetkovich, Sara Ahmed, José Esteban Muñoz, Lisa Duggan, Kevin Floyd, Elizabeth Freeman, Gayle Salamon, Roderick Ferguson, Laura Kipnis, Tim Dean, and others.

COML 790.402

W 6-9 Rabaté
Cross listed with ENGL 790.402


Return to Lacan

Jacques Lacan has gained international visibility in the fifties when he attacked the Americanization of psychoanalysis, an “ego-psychology” geared to social adaptation that forgot the meaning of Freud’s texts. His battle-cry of a “return to Freud” entailed an original development of psychoanalysis understood as a more rigorous scientific discourse that was brought in close contact with philosophy, literature and politics. But if Lacan borrowed from disciplines such as linguistics, anthropology, semiotics, logic and mathematics, his point of departure remained the “talking cure” promulgated by Freud. The ambition of this seminar is to provide a survey of Lacan’s ideas by focusing on his readings. First, we will concentrate on his original interpretation of Freud’s main texts, especially when Freud deals with Doctor Schreber, Dora, Hamlet and the Young Homosexual Woman. We will then will work by couples, surveying Lacan’s links with Alexandre Kojève and Hegel, Lévi-Strauss, with Althusser, with with Merleau-Ponty, with Adorno and Horkheimer, with Derrida, Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy, with Levinas, with Badiou, with Zizek, and finally with Judith Butler. The texts we will use are the published translations of Lacan’s seminars (I, II, III, VII, XI, XVII, and XX) as well as the new translation of Ecrits (2007). We will also use on-line resources.

Last modified August 30, 2012
Maintained by Cliff Mak
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania