Graduate Courses
Fall 2016

COML 501.401      History of Literary Theory

T 1:30-4:30               Copeland

Undergrads Need Permission

Cross listed with CLST 511, ENGL 600, GRMN 534, SLAV 500


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.


COML 504.401      Environmental Media: Archaeology, Anthropology, Ecology

M 6-9                        Mukherjee

Cross listed with CINE 505, ENGL 505


We will be engaging with an array of film and media texts and objects to understand the mutual entanglements of media and environment. Media Infrastructures like fiber optic cables are part of the environment and elements mined from the environment find themselves in digital media devices. In this course, we ask:  In what ways does the environment shape media? How can we connect the aesthetics and politics of ecocinema? The course is organized in three sections. In the first part, we will be engaging with mediated representations and visualizations of the environment including depictions of ecological disasters and GIS modeling of climate change. The second section shall deal with the environmental impact of media infrastructures such as the energy dynamics of data servers/cloud computing and radiation from cell towers. Towards the end of the course, we examine ways of conceptualizing media as environment with a particular focus on media geology and media ecology as research methods to study media phenomena


COML 517.405      CU in India: Living Traditions of Indian Literature

MW 10-11                Patel

Cross listed with SAST 217, SAST 517


C.U. in India is a hybrid, domestic/overseas course series which provides students with the opportunity to have an applied learning and cultural experience in India or South East Asia where students participate in 1) 28 classrom hours in the Fall term 2) a 12-day trip to India or South East Asia with the instructor during the winter break visiting key sites and conducting original research (sites vary) 3) 21 classroom hours at Penn in the Spring term and 4) a research paper, due at the end of the Spring term. Course enrollment is limited to students admitted to the program. For more information and the program application go to This is a 2-CU year-long course. DEADLINE TO REGISTER IS MARCH 31st


COML 524.401      Petrarch:  Poetics and Politics of the Modern Lyric Self

R 2-5               Brownlee

Cross listed with ITAL 535


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 (1304-74). Our first 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 541.401      Haunted House: Russian Realism in the European Context        

No Prior Language Experience Required

W 2-5        Vinitsky

Cross listed with RUSS 544




In this class we will examine works of major Russian Realist writers, painters, and composers considering them within Western ideological contexts of the 1850-1880s: positivism, materialism, behaviorism, spiritualism, etc. We will focus on Russian Realists’ ideological and aesthetic struggle against Romantic values and on an unpredicted result of this struggle -- a final “spectralization” of social and political realities they claimed to “mirror” in their works. Paradoxically, Russian Realism contributed to the creation of the image of Russia as a house haunted by numerous apparitions: nihilism and revolution, afflicted peasants and perfidious Jews, secret societies and religious sects. The “spectropoetics” (Derrida) of Russian Realism will be examined through works of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Leskov, Chekhov, as well as paintings by Ilya Repin and operas by Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky. Requirements include one oral presentation, mid-term theoretical survey essay, and a final paper. Relevant theories include M.H. Abrams, Brookes, Levine, Greenblatt, Castle, and Derrida.


COML 546.401      The Novel and Marriage

All Readings and Lectures in English

Permission Needed from Instructor

M 2-4                        DeJean

Cross listed with ENGL 546, FREN 537, GSWS 536


Historians have argued that early novels helped shape public opinion on many

controversial issues.  And no subject was more often featured in novels than

marriage.  In the course of the 18th and the 19th centuries, at a time when

marriage as an institution was being radically redefined, almost all the best

known novels explored happy as well as unhappy unions, individuals who decided

not to marry as well as those whose lives were destroyed by the institution.

They showcased marriage in other words in ways certain to provoke debate.  We

will both survey the development of the modern novel from the late 17th to the

early 20th century and study the treatment of marriage in some of the greatest

novels of all time.  We will begin with novels from the French and English

traditions, the national literatures in which the genre first took shape, in

particular Laclos' DANGEROUS LIAISONS, Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Bronte's JANE EYRE, Flaubert's MADAME BOVERY.  We will then turn to works from the other European traditions such as Goethe's ELECTIVE AFFINITIES and Tolstoy's ANNA KARENINA.  We will begin the course by discussing the novel often referred to as the first modern novel, THE PRINCESS DE CLEVES.  This was also the first novel centered on an exploration of questions central to the debate about marriage for over two centuries—everything from the question of whether one should marry for  love or for social position to the question of adultery.


Each week, we will discuss the changing definitions of the word “marriage” in various European languages.  We will also discuss the laws governing marriage as a civil and as a religious institution were evolving in various European countries.


All readings will be in English.


Open to advanced undergraduates with the permission of the instructor.



 COML 554.401     Premodern Women/Writing

M 9-12          Wallace

Cross listed with ENGL 553, GSWS 553


Was bleibt? What remains of me when I am dead and gone? This haunting question was especially acute for premodern women unable to control their own textual production, hence afterlife. How then does a lived, biological and historical life become a life, a written artefact; how does that first written text mediate down to us via manuscripts, printed editions, popular translations, strategic revivals, chance discoveries, etc. And how did a premodern woman come or qualify to be remembered by others? So often the answer here appears to be: through egregious misbehaviour. What, not unrelatedly, prompted attempted enclosure of women in convents, houses, and religious houses? What distinctive cultures did such all-female spaces generate? How and why were they mourned, once convents were abolished in Reformation Britain, and how does desire for all-female society live on?

Things were difficult for educated women c. 1150, but they got much worse. The rise of universities, seen as a distinctive sign of progress in western societies, saw increased opportunities for men coupled with, calibrated against, diminished chances for women. No woman after 1150 approached the multi-faceted achievements of Hildegard of Bingen (musician, natural scientist, cosmographer, dramatist, fashion designer, preacher, and author); still in the 1920s Virginia Woolf finds herself being yelled at on the college lawns of Oxbridge before retreating to London, a more sympathetic venue.

These and other issues will be approached through a Smorgasbord of texts, open to the full range of critical approaches and offering a long view of women and writing, c. 1100-1700. Texts will be drawn from four historical phases, beginning with a quartet predating the secure establishment of universities: Hildegard of Bingen (briefly), Christina of Markyate (and associated artwork, made for and depicting her), Marie de France, sublime romancer and fabulist, and Heloise, epistolarienne.

Phase II concentrates upon Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, two East Anglian women who actually met, but whose written texts differ greatly. Julian meditates questions of love and death, memory, and the body with an intellectual brilliance second to none in English tradition; only anti-theological prejudice keeps her off the Comp Lit theory list. Margery, au contraire, could not write her own text, but hired a male amanuensis/ scribe/ co-author to compose the first autobiography (some say auto-hagiography) in English. Hope Emily Allen, of Bryn Mawr (where her archive resides), brought Margery into an astonished world in the 1930s; more recent earthquakes include the gay agon of Margery Kempe (1994) by Robert Glück, co-founder of the New Narrative Movement in San Francisco in the early 1980s.

Part III considers whether a woman may write or script her own life in conditions of extreme political pressure and societal disruption, specifically here the English (and European) Reformation-- when women are so often crushed, beheaded, burned, or sacrificed as political pawns: wives of Henry VIII, the nun of Kent, Anne Askew, and Margaret Clitheroe come to mind. Isabella Witney, working woman, provides welcome relief in using printed literacy to advance her own career, although London proves a cruel lover. Mary Sidney lives secludedly at Wilton, in a great house that was once a great convent, reading psalms, like nuns long before her; her psalmic verse marries brilliant poetic experimentalism with Calvinist terror. Elizabeth Carey writes the first closet drama in English by drawing Miriam, Queen of Jewry, from newly-translated Josephus; she then disgraces herself by becoming Catholic and mothering four brilliant daughters (who copy and conserve the text of Julian of Norwich). This they must do abroad, as Catholic nuns; Mary Ward, a Catholic from Yorkshire, joins them in exile, but founds an international order for women who will not be enclosed. Her vast archive, closed to the public for centuries, is now available. Aemilia Bassano, daughter of an Italian court musician, publishes a remarkable collection of verse as Aemilia Lanyer that includes the first English country-house poem. This explores the reverse of enclosure: women happily gathered in female society must soon be scattered, following the iron logic of the marriage market.    

Finally we come to the English civil war and the Restoration, and to Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (and Aphra Behn). Two texts that we will visit in Van Pelt tell an eloquent story: the vast, lavishly-funded tome of Cavendish’s plays, and Behn’s meagre play text. Cavendish eagerly keeps up with contemporary science, authors a feminist sci-fi utopia in Blazing World, and strategically exploits the resource of her own beauty. Cavendish continues to ponder the possibilities of all-female society, in both her Convent of Pleasure and, more seriously, her Female Academy. Such longing for female places of learning endures, in various forms, through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

These premodern texts may be studied in and of their own time, or as they emerge into print and public consciousness in later centuries; the 1930s, for example, is a remarkable medievalist decade. 

One long essay, with opportunities for class reports.


COML 570.401      Animal Studies: Representation, Critique, Engagement

Undergrads Need Permission

M 12-3          Cavitch


Cross listed with ENGL 573

Animal Studies is an unsettled and unsettling field—one that continues to develop within and across a great variety of disciplines, including affect studies, behavioral sciences, disability studies, environmental and sustainability studies, ethics, gender studies, law, literary criticism, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, queer theory, race and ethnicity studies, and sociology.  To manage, without discounting, this breadth and flux, we will place special emphasis on representation (privileging literature, but with forays into screen arts, portraiture and other plastic arts, new media, and robotics), critique (the reflexive, skeptical application of criticism and critical thought), and engagement (including cross-species modes of material interaction, interpersonalism, and intersubjectivity).  Our chief (but not exclusive) companion-species in pursuing “the question of the animal” will be canine, for reasons having to do with that species’ 1) broadly representative relation to animality, 2) highly distinctive co-evolutionary history with humans, and 3) central place in much of the best and most influential work in Animal Studies.  We’ll address a variety of questions, many of which will emerge from class-discussion, but which will certainly include:

-What stories do we tell about animals, and why?

-Do animals have/tell stories about themselves and about us?

-What are the meanings and stakes of anthropomorphism?

-What is the place of animality (including our own) in the history of both humanistic and post-humanistic thinking?

-What does animality teach us about consciousness, individuality, personhood, character, selfhood?

-How do understandings of animality relate to markers such as class, gender, race, sexuality, ableness, and species?

-What is the value of theoretical models of cross-species identity, difference, and indeterminacy?

We will study a selection of literary and documentary works from antiquity to the present, in a variety of forms and genres (e.g., novels, short stories, poetry, memoirs, beast fables, children’s literature, and science fiction), alongside critical and theoretical works in Animal Studies.  Likely authors include: J. R. Ackerley, Giorgio Agamben, Aesop, Elizabeth Bishop, Matthew Calarco, Geoffrey Chaucer, J. M. Coetzee, William Cowper, Colin Dayan, Jacques Derrida, Temple Grandin, Lori Gruen, Donna Haraway, Vicki Hearne, Franz Kafka, Jack London, Thomas Mann, Anat Pick, Rainer Maria Rilke, Peter Singer, Harlan Weaver, Kari Weil, and Virginia Woolf.


-attendance and participation at every seminar meeting

-several very short writing assignments

-at least one in-class presentation

-a conference-style final paper (8-10 pages), with an accompanying proposal pitched to an actual call-for-papers or forthcoming conference

Also, there will be a very short, but important, assignment due at the first class meeting.  Assignment details will be made available over the summer.


COML 575.401      South African Literature and Film

Undergrads Need Permission

M 3-6                        Barnard


AFRC 572, CINE 572, ENGL 572

In this course we will immerse ourselves in South African culture and politics from the apartheid-era to the present.  Weekly modules will include: Sophiatown and Global Modernity; The Sestigers (60’s generation) and Cultural Resistance; Prison and the National Imaginary; Cry White Season: Anti-Apartheid Fiction and Film; Comedy, Grotesque, and the Transition; “Madiba Magic” and Politics of Enchantment; Remapping the Racialized City; The TRC: Testimony, Trauma, and Redemption; AIDS and Biopolitics; Queering the National Family; The Gangster and the State; Representing Marikana; and Black Consciousness: Then and Now. The selection of literary works is to some extent shaped by the most teachable films. Few of these are masterpieces; but their flaws are revealing and by incorporating them into our discussions, we will be better able to reflect on the marketing and circulation of “South Africa” as ideoscape and the mediation and emplotment of historical events.  The syllabus, in sum, will enable us to think together in an interdisciplinary and transnational fashion, so that the course will be of interest not only to specialists, but to all students of modernism and postcolonialism. 

Our filmography will comprise both feature films and documentaries, including 8-10 of the following: Have you Seen Drum Recently? Black ButterfliesIn Darkest Hollywood,Come Back, Africa!More than Just a GameCry FreedomDry White Season,MapantsulaEndgameInvictusMax and MonaTsotsi, Hijack StoriesYesterdayRed Dust, Forgivenness, Skoonheid (Beauty), Cape of Good HopeConversations on aSunday AfternoonJerusalemaDear MandelaMiners Shot Down and Threnody for the Victims of Marikana.  Our list of literary texts will comprise poetry, novels, and memoir/autobiography; works that may be included are: Gordimer, A World of Strangers; Modisane, Blame me on History; Brink, Dry White Season; Biko, I Write What I Like; Cronin, Inside; Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians and Disgrace; Naidoo, Island in Chains; Lewin, Stones against the Mirror, Mda, Ways of Dying; Krog, Country of My Skull; Vladislavic, The Exploded View; Mhlongo, Dog Eat Dog; plus selected poetry by Breytenbach, Jonker, Serote, Rampolokeng, and Cronin. (Please note that the readings do not overlap with the 2015 graduate seminar on South Africa and Global Modernity.)  Requirements: two class presentations (one on a film and one on a literary work) and a paper of 15-20 pages.


COML 582.401      Hannah Arendt:  Politics and Literature

All Readings and Lectures in Englihs

T 3-5               Weissberg

Cross listed with ARTH 560, GRMN 580, PHIL 480


The course will study Arendt's political theory, as developed in The Origins of

Totalitarianism, and her controversial book Eichmann in Jerusalem. 

It will also consider essays collected in Men in Dark Times.


COML 582.402      Ekphrasis

All Readings and Lectures in English

W 2-4                        MacLeod

Cross listed with  ARTH 560, GRMN 580


What happens when a text gives voice to a previously mute art work?  Ekphrasis - the verbal representation of visual art - continues to be a central concern of word and image studies today. The understanding of ekphrasis as an often hostile paragone (competition) between word and image exists alongside notions of a more reciprocal model involving a dialogue or "encounter" between visual and verbal cultures.  The affective dimension of the relationship -- ekphrastic hope, ekphrastic fear -- has also been prominent in recent scholarship.Drawing on literary works and theories from a range of historical periods and national traditions, the course will examine the aesthetic and ideological implications of ekphrasis.  Why are certain literary genres such as the novel privileged sites for ekphrasis?  How can art history inform our understanding of such encounters, and to what extent can we say that it is a discipline based in ekphrasis?  What can we learn from current work on intermediality, narrative theory, and translation?  Can we also talk about musical ekphrasis?  Readings from Homer, Philostratus, Alberti, Lessing, Pater, Keats, Kleist, Sebald, Mitchell, Louvel, Genette, among others.


COML 590.401      Anti-Imperialist and DeColonial Thought in Latin America:

From Revolution and Development to New Social Movements and the 21st Century Left

R 6-9               Sternad Ponce

Cross listed with ENGL 590, GSWS 589, LALS 590


This course addresses 20th and 21st century critiques of modern imperialism in Latin America.  We will analyze and compare radical responses to conditions of imperial, colonial, and neocolonial forms of domination and locate these along a continuum that includes anti-colonial, revolutionary, developmentalist, and decolonial thought, and new social movement knowledge. The course begins with foundational studies of the economic geographies of imperialism and uneven capitalist development as represented in dependency theory and world systems theory. A unit on developmentalist responses to imperialism and unequal development will consider developmentalism beyond its purely economic consequences to also address developmentalism as ideology. This will include examination of neoliberal development strategies, the biopolitics of poverty that have been consolidated with them, and their relationship to gendered forms of violence and exploitation. A unit on revolutionary thought considers revolutionary nationalist and anti-imperialist ideology, the experience of armed struggle for the formation of revolutionary consciousness, as well as racial and gender ideologies embedded within revolutionary discourses. Units on decolonial thought and Latin American Subaltern Studies will focus on thinkers who foreground questions of epistemology and representation, offering important theoretical tools for analyzing recent subaltern-popular movements. We will consider the mutual imbrication of patriarchy and and coloniality through consideration of decolonial feminist and communitarian feminist thought. Finally, we will examine recent scholarship on Latin American social movements that theorizes the forms of power these movements enact and the ways they contest (and sometimes collude with) neoliberal forms of governmentality.  We will also consider the “new left” in Latin America, tensions between progressive state regimes and the subaltern popular movements that brought them to power, and critiques of 21st century neocolonialism. Knowledge of Spanish language not required.

Course readings may include work by the following authors: Samir Amin, Armando Bartra, Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, John Beverley, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Domitila Barrios de Chúngara, Partha Chatterjee, Fernando Coronil, Arturo Escobar, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Enzo Faletto, Enrique Dussel, Bolívar Echeverria, Jean Franco, Alvaro García Linera, María Lugones, Antonio Gramsci, Eduardo Gudynas, Roberto Fernández Retamar, James Ferguson, María Lugones, André Gunder Frank, Ernesto Che Guevara, Ernesto Laclau, Rosa Luxemburg, V.I. Lenin, Julieta Paredes, Pablo Mamani-Ramirez, José Carlos Mariátegui, Walter Mignolo,  Francisco de Oliveira, , Mary Louise Pratt, Anibal Quijano, José Rabasa, Ileana Rodríguez, Emir Sader, María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, Roberto Schwarz, Rita Segato, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, Martistella Svampa, Sylvia Wynter, Raúl Zibechi.


COML 593.401      Contemporary Novel: Literature, Politics, Economy

T 1:30-3:30               Elkann/Finotti

Cross listed with ITAL 581



COML 602.401      Literary Theory:  A Historical Outline

T 2-4               Locatelli

Cross listed with ITAL 602



COML 630.401        The Woman in Late Medieval French Literature

T 2:00-5:00  Brownlee

Crosslisted with FREN 630


The seminar begins by looking at key portrayals of woman, love, marriage, and authority in Machaut’s Remede de Fortune. 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, and La Vision Christine. Special attention is given to questions of self-representation, mimesis, allegory, realism, and social context. We next consider Paris et Vienne’s stylized resolution of the (carefully staged) conflict between love and marriage, before looking carefully at the problematic representation of courtly love, woman, and chivalry in the Jehan de Saintré of Antoine de a Sale, the first historical novel in French.

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 787.401      Photo Painting

Permission Needed from Instructor

T 1:30-4:40               Silverman

Cross listed with ARTH 794, ENGL 778


By 1842--three years after the official invention of photography--photographers had already begun hand-coloring their daguerreotypes, and a century and a half later Richter started smearing and spattering paint onto small photographs, and exhibiting them along with his abstract and figurative paintings.  By the mid-1850's, many artists were also painting from photographs, sometimes by projecting them onto their canvases, and treating these projections as preparatory drawings.  They called the resulting images "photo paintings." And although it became increasingly "disreputable" to work in this way as the century progressed, Eugene Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet, Henri Fantin-Latour, Edgar Degas and Edouard Vuillard all made paintings that are in one way or another "photographic." Some of them also saw photography as the gateway to a new kind of figurative painting.

Abstraction hardened the distinction between art and photography, and brought these medium-crossings to an end.  However, photo painting resurfaced in the 1950s and 1960s, and although it initially seemed ironic, it has outlived the movements that made this reading possible.  As we can now see, photo-painting is a far more complex and multi-faceted way of generating images than those generally associated with Pop, Institutional Critique and Appropriation.

We will begin this seminar with the two most important practitioners of nineteenth century photo painting, Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas.  We will then direct our attention to a group of twentieth and twenty-first century photo-painters: Richard Artschwager, Marlene Dumas, Richard Hamilton, Gerhard Richter, Wilhelm Sasnal, and Luc Tuymans.


COML 794.401      Radical India:  Histories, Literature, Debates

R 12-3           Loomba

Cross listed with ENGL 794