Graduate Courses

Fall 2013

COML 501.401

R 3-6 de la Campa
Permission Needed from Instructor
Cross listed with CLST 511, GRMN 534, ROML 512

History of Literary Theory

This course will focus on leading critical issues pertaining to literary and cultural studies today. The main emphasis will be on clarifying conceptual paradigms as much as possible, outlining their historical evolvement through readings of classical, medieval, and variously modern texts, in each case looking at ways in which these traditions continue to inform and imbue contemporary literary theory. The following are some of the issues and questions to be considered: How does the concept of literature unfold through the legacy of textual critiques that derive from philological, formalist, Frankfurt School, reception theory, structuralist and post-structuralist modes of reading and understanding? Have postmodern, postcolonial and subaltern constructs offered new points of departure? What are the claims of diasporic, post-nationalist and post-humanist forms of writing and reading? Do gender and race theories play a significant role in them? Lastly, in what way do recent turns toward flat or descriptive modes reading, as well as the focus on materialities of culture, challenge methods of close reading?

COML 521.401

R 1:30-4:30 Brownlee
Cross listed with ITAL 537

Vernacular Boccaccio

A close reading of a set of Boccaccio’s key vernacular works, including the Filocolo (his first independent literary text, an elaborate “adventure” romance), the Amorosa visione (a 1st-person allegory, his only work in terza rima), the Tratatello in laude di Dante (his laudatory, “mythical” biography) and the Decameron (his vernacular masterpiece). We will focus on issues of structure, language, genealogy, history, and authority. Special attention will be given to Boccaccio’s “hybridity” and to his rewritings of model authors in Latin, Italian, and French (esp. Ovid, Dante, and the Roman de la Rose).

The course will be taught in English. Students taking it for Italian credit will do the readings and written assignments in Italian.

COML 542.401

T 1:30-3:30 Macleod
All readings and lectures in English
Undergrads need permission
Cross listed with GRMN 542

Romantic Print Culture

German book readers of the nineteenth century were increasingly not only interacting with text, but with images as well. This seminar explores the flood of illustrated books and journals in the Romantic period, considering issues such as: economics (an enlarged and aspirational middle class consumer audience); new reproductive print technologies; aesthetic shifts/theories of illustration; women as readers and editors; new book forms (albums, almanacs, Taschenbücher). We will make use of the holdings of the Penn Rare Books Library, and will also visit the exhibition "The Enchanted World of German Romantic Prints 1770 – 1850," which will open at the end of 2013 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

COML 542.640

M 5:30-8:10 Richter

MLA Proseminar: Eco-Criticism, Sustainability, and the Humanities

Among the many centers and institutes for the environment and sustainability cropping up at universities worldwide, we also find the occasional center for environmental humanities. What role can and should the humanities play in the burgeoning field of environmental studies? Where and how can scholars of the humanities insert themselves usefully into the conversation? The relatively new field of Eco-Criticism is certainly one way. Beginning in the mid-1990s, eco-critics have explored key concepts such as nature, the non-human, sustainability, ecology, and environmental justice and ethics in relation to works of literature, art, film and philosophy. This collaborative seminar has three goals: 1) to acquaint students with key essays and concepts in eco-criticism; 2) to practice eco-critical analysis on sample works of literature, art and film; and 3) to assess the role the environmental humanities might play in the politics and practice of sustainability in connection with several case studies (e.g., preparing for sea level rise, responding to weather-related disasters, promoting alternative energies, challenging corporate polluters).

COML 549.401

F 2-4 DeJean
Cross listed with FREN 550

Origins of Modern Prose Fiction; The Parisienne: Sex, Seduction, and the Origins of Modern Prose Fiction

In France, a new departure for narrative fiction in prose originated in the mid-17th century. A number of works then published are now referred to as the first modern novels.

Many of the original modern novels told the story of a previously unheard of character: a sexually liberated woman with control of her body and her sexual pleasure. Since no other European tradition portrayed female characters in this way, such heroines came to be seen as characteristically French. And this type of heroine continued to feature prominently in the French novel at least through the end of the 19th century.

We’ll read the stories of the original sexually liberated heroines in French literature – from Villedieu’s Mémoires de la vie de Henriette-Sylvie de Molière to Marivaux’s Vie de Marianne and Prévost’s Manon Lescaut. We’ll think about how the work often called the first modern novel, La Princesse de Clèves, might relate to these contemporary fictions. We’ll also read the first classic of French erotic literature, L’École des filles, in order to consider another prose tradition known as characteristically French, the erotic novel, as well as woman’s place in that tradition. We’ll look ahead to much later novels – Zola’s Nana in particular – and think about the long-term evolution of this particularly French heroine.

Finally, we’ll discuss the identification of this new heroine with another figure first prominent at the moment when the novel became modern, la Parisienne, a woman allegedly more knowing and sophisticated than urban women elsewhere in Europe.

Class discussion will be in English; readings will be in French. The course is open to advanced undergraduates WITH PERMISSION OF THE INSTRUCTOR.

COML 555.401

W 12-3 Vinitsky
Undergrads need permission
Cross listed with RUSS 555

History of Emotions: Russia and the West

One of the most eccentric heroes of Yuri Olesha's novel Envy (1927), contemplates a spectacular farewell parade of individual human emotions, rejected by the new, Soviet, collectivist regime: love, envy, friendship, etc. Clearly, emotions for him have rhetorical, ideological, and historical nature. They can be legitimate and illegitimate, they can be extinct, like some species of animals and plants, they can be banned, and even violently annihilated by the government (along with the social groups, the collective subjectivity which they express). To replace them, either naturally or by means of violence, "a new series of states of the human soul" must be installed. The hero believes that this historical process is inevitable, and the only thing the patriot of the old subjectivity can do is to organize a farewell procession of the departed emotional culture, a conspiracy of the doomed feelings.

Yet, can the feelings, related to the "old" culture, be completely destroyed? Can they survive in some new, cryptic, forms? Do feelings have history? How do they influence history? Do "pure," "natural," emotions exist? How do political regimes control the emotional sincerity of their subjects? What is the role of emotions in the formation of certain cultural communities (a family in the age of sensibility; a circle of political conspirators, etc.)? What is the role of literature in cultivating and preserving certain emotional modes (styles, codes, or regimes)? How do people interpret and express their emotions in different periods and in different national traditions?

In this course, we will try to apply these and similar questions to the emotional history of Russian culture considered within theoretical frameworks offered by Western and Russian scholars of emotions (Stearns; Reddy; Rosenwein; Plumper; Steinberg; Veselovskii; Zorin; Todorov, etc.). We will also try to realize (in a way) the dream of Olesha's hero and "resurrect" a number of emotions which played an important role in Russian cultural history. In doing so, each student of our class will be granted a historically delicious emotion he/she will be responsible for – melancholy, rapture, love, anger, shame, envy, empathy, etc.

COML 556.401

TR 10:30-12 Stern
Cross listed with JWST 356, JWST 555, NELC 356, NELC 556 RELS 418

Ancient Interpretation of the Bible

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 590.401

R 12-3 Jaji
Undergrads need permission
Cross listed with ENGL 590

Auditory Cultures: On Sound and Double Consciousness

W.E.B. Du Bois published The Souls of Black Folk in 1903 using musical incipits from the sorrow songs to begin each chapter, laying a template for theorizing the lived experience of race in the U.S. in sonic terms. In the next decades writers continued to foreground sound in debates about the link between cultural forms and identity, and particularly the uses of the vernacular. For scholars like James W. Johnson, Alain Locke, and Zora Neale Hurston anthologizing and interpreting African American cultural production involved tracing auditory forms of music, sermons, and folklore alongside literature. This class will take their approach as a starting point, to examine the role of sound in primary works by key figures working around and across Black Atlantic from 1890-1939, with some context before and after this period. Authors studied will include Paul Laurence Dunbar, Sol Plaatje, John and Nokutela Dube, Langston Hughes, Jessie Fauset, Nicolás Guillén, Claude McKay, and Leon Gontran Damas along with composers Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Florence Price, and performers Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday. These primary texts will be read in conversation with theoretical works that foreground auditory sensibilities by thinkers including Theodor Adorno, Jacques Attali, Josh Kun, Angela Davis, Farah Jasmine Griffin and others. We will also draw on recent special issues of American Quarterly (September 2011) and Social Text (Spring 2010) devoted to sound.

COML 599.401

M 2-4 White
Cross listed with ARTH 593, CINE 590, GSWS 594

Independent Women’s Cinema: Aesthetics, Politics, and Institutions

The concept of women's cinema, with its ambiguities--by women, or for women? popular or feminist?--has been debated within feminist film scholarship for three decades. Does it still have salience within postfeminist popular culture? With a focus on genealogies of women's independent filmmaking and in the contemporary context of changing technologies and critical cultures, this course looks at authorship and aesthetics, festivals and nonprofits, and the ambivalent relation between US independent cinema and Hollywood on the one hand and constructions of "world cinema" on the other.

COML 602.401

F 2-4 Locatelli
Cross listed with ITAL 602

Literary Theory

Description TBA.

COML 630.401

T 2-5 Brownlee
Cross listed with FREN 6300

Medieval French Literature: Woman as Author in Late Medieval French Literature

The seminar begins by looking at key portrayals of woman, love, marriage, and authority in Machaut’s Remede de Fortune and in the anonymous Quinze joyes de mariage. We then focus on the transformative corpus of Christine de Pizan (1364-1430) who, for the first time in the French tradition, combined living female experience with the authoritative identity of the professional author. We will follow the various strategies (both courtly and learnèd) by which Pizan established herself as a striking Parisian success at the beginning of the 15th century as we read and analyze a series of her key works, including Le Duc des vrais amants, La Cité des dames, Le Livre des Trois Vertus, and La Vision Christine. Special attention is given to questions of self-representation, mimesis, allegory, realism, and social context. We end by considering how Pizan’s example is utilized by later authors, especially in the Jehan de Saintré of Antoine de a Sale.

The course is taught in English, with readings in dual language editions (Old French & Modern French Translations) for FREN, and English translations provided for COML.

COML 634.401

W 5-8 Jarosinski
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with GRMN 672

Reading Modernity

In this course we will examine Modernism and the avant-garde as concepts in literature, theater, and criticism. Both terms in the seminar title will be significant to our work, as we ask not only how to define and debate "modernity" today, but also how to understand various notions of "reading" and cultural analysis that emerge during the period and live on in various ways today. In addition, we will take account of important technological, social, and economic developments marking modernity, focusing our attention on the ways in which they intersect and interact with cultural production, cultural politics, and perception itself. Readings will include key texts by representative authors, including Benjamin, Kafka, Barthes, Kracauer, Brecht, Adorno, Baudelaire, Eliot, Woolf, and others. The final section of the course is concerned with contemporary debates surrounding Modernism's relation to Fascism and the juxtaposition of Modernism and Postmodernism.

Last modified July 2, 2013
Maintained by Cliff Mak
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania