Graduate Courses
Fall 2017


COML 501.401                        HISTORY LITERARY THEORY

                                                    T 6-9                   Kazanjian

                                                    UNDERGRADS NEED PERMISSION

                                                    Cross listed with CLST 511/ENGL 600/GRMN 534/

                                                    SLAV 500


This course will survey what has come to be known in literary and cultural studies as “theory” by tracking the genealogies of a select range of contemporary practices of interpretation. In particular, 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? How might we bring frameworks of globality and translation to bear on literary and cultural criticism? A central, practical goal of the class will be to aid students in preparing for their MA exam, so we will do our best to work through a significant amount of the material on the exam list.


COML 522.401                        CHAUCER AND BOCCACCIO

                                                    T 9-12                Wallace

                                                    UNDERGRAD NEED PERMISSION

                                                    Cross listed with ENGL 525


Boccaccio and Chaucer are two of the great western authors of the Middle Ages, with exceptional geographical range, social inclusiveness, and female identification. Chaucer took more from Boccaccio than from any other writer but never acknowledged him by name: why was that? Perhaps Chaucer and Boccaccio are just too much alike: disciples of Dante, admirers of Petrarch, sons of the international mercantile class attempting to come to terms with French-based, courtly society.

Chaucer twice travelled to Italy in the 1370s, visiting Genoa, Florence, and Milan. Briefed to borrow Italian support for England's endless war with France, he immersed himself in Italian (which he knew exceptionally well) and its literatures. He returned home with manuscripts of at least two Boccaccian texts: the Filostrato (reworked into Troilus & Criseyde, which then spawned Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida), and the Teseida (Knight's Tale, then Shakespeare's Two Noble Kinsmen).  Having grasped the greatness of Italian literary tradition, and the feebleness of English, in his House of Fame, Chaucer completed Troilus and turned to the framed storytelling of his Canterbury Tales. Clearly inspired by the Decameron, Chaucer became an encyclopaedist of literary genres, fitting in tales of great men (from Boccaccio's De casibus virorum illustrium) and great women (from Boccaccio's De mulieribus claris). And, like Boccaccio, he explored the widest range of contemporary issues, including Judaism and Islam, and their dealings with Christianity; rural poverty and peasant cunning; urban trickery and the ruin of great cities; sexual mythologies (why can women talk their way out of anything?); exoticism and romance; alchemy and sodomy; saintliness and superstition; relic worship and relic forgery; Crusading and the follies of war.

Some talented speakers of both Italian and Middle English will take this class, ditto Latin and French, so we'll be well served for studying, or making reference to, the original languages. But not everybody can read everything, so we'll pool resources. One work not much taught that we can consider, via parallel text, is the Elegia di madonna Fiammetta, which sees Boccaccio writing as a woman abandoned by her lover. Which raises the question: why do Boccaccio and Chaucer take so much time, and evidently pleasure, putting themselves into the bodies of (imagining themselves as) women? Answers to this question might help explain why so many contemporary women poets (often minority women) have taken to Chaucer: Sylvia Plath, Lavinia Greenlaw, Marilyn Nelson, Caroline Bergvall, Patience Agbabi, Jean Binta Breeze, Pattie McCarthy. Do women artists in Italy find comparable inspiration from Boccaccio?

Chaucer and Boccaccio remained paired in English imagining into the English Renaissance, where (ironically) Boccaccio was found more acceptable: whereas Chaucerian poetry seemingly changes genre with each new tale, Boccaccio's Decameron suggests greater generic stability through its one hundred  novelle.  Boccaccio thus becomes an acceptable model for English Renaissance style, remaining hugely influential (as Guyda Armstrong shows) in English for 500 years.  Chaucer, au contraire, is suddenly declared difficult, and in need of glossing.  We'll explore the cultural afterlives of these two poets, down to the differing film treatments of Pasolini and into the unspooling present.

We'll begin by using a translation of Chaucer, Troilus & Criseyde, making some reference to passages in the original. Texts in Italian will be supplied by the instructor.  We will then read Chaucer, slowly, in small instalments, in Middle English.

There will be scope for class reports (short ones); examination by one long essay (not too long).

Texts required:

Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, ed. Jill Mann (Penguin). This has excellent apparatus and glosses; other editions in Middle English may be used.

Boccaccio, Decameron, tr. G.H. McWilliam (Penguin). Preferred translation, but cf also that of Wayne Rebhorne (Norton, the complete version).

Chaucer, Troilus & Criseyde, tr. B.A. Windeatt (Oxford World Classics).

Texts not required:

David Wallace, Chaucer: A New Introduction (Oxford UP, 2017)

David Wallace, Decameron (Cambridge UP, 1991)


COML 533.401                        DANTE’S WORKS

                                                    R 2-5                  Brownlee

                                                    Cross listed with ITAL 531



COML 544.401                        ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES

                                                    W 2-5                 Wiggin

                                                    UNDERGRADS NEED PERMISSION

                                                    Cross listed with ENVS 543/GRMN 543/SPAN 543


Environmental Humanities: Theory, Methods, Practice is a seminar-style course designed to introduce students to the trans-interdisciplinary field of environmental humanites.  Weekly readings and discussions will be complemented by guest speakers from a range of disciplines including ecology,

atmospheric science, computing, history of science, medicine, anthropology, literature, and the visual arts.  Participants will develope their own research questions and a final project, with social consideration given to building the multi-disciplinary collaborative teams research in the environmental humanities often requires. 


COML 549.401                        WOMEN WRITING IN THE LONG 17th CENTURY

                                                     F 2-4                   DeJean

                                                     Cross listed with ENGL 537/FREN 550/GSWS 550


This course will be taught in English; writing can be done in French or in English.  The course is open to advanced undergraduates with permission from the instructor.

The 17th century was the formative period for modern French literature, the so-called grand siècle that gave the French tradition the greatest number of works still considered classics of French literature.  The age from 1640-1715 was also the greatest moment ever for women’s participation in French intellectual life.  Women writers, for instance, both invented and dominated the production of the most important genre to trace its origins to the 17th century, the modern novel.  The first fairy tale was published by a woman; during the early decades of that genre’s existence, most of its important practitioners were women.  Women published major works in every significant literary form of the age, from tragedy to memoirs.  During no other century in the French tradition did women know anything like this kind of visibility.

All over Europe, from Italy and Spain to German, publishers took note of the success story of French women’s writing and began to translate best-selling works in French with a speed never heard of before – often the same year as their original publication.  And nowhere was this more true than in England, where even Scudéry’s immense novels quickly appeared in English.  Lafayette’s Princesse de Clèves was available in English and was even adapted for the London stage within a year of its first French edition.  As a result, these works by women writers became basic reading all over the European continent.  Novels by Scudéry and Lafayette were actively promoted all through that formative period for modern prose fiction, the 18th century. 

We’ll read a variety of works fictional and non-fictional – from novels and fairy tales, from memoirs to the periodical press.  And because translation into English was so widespread in the 17th century, students will be able to read all the works in English if they choose.


COML 558.401                        QUEER THEORY AND EARLY MODERN LIT 

                                                    T 12-3                Sanchez

                                                    UNDERGRADS NEED PERMISSION

                                                    ENGL 538/GSWS 538


n this seminar we will examine the history, key terms and concepts, and current debates of the intersecting fields of queer theory and early modern studies. We will also consider possible future directions for queer early modern scholarship through readings of selected poems, plays, film, and new media (primary texts include work by Ovid, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Donne, and Lanyer). Guiding questions will include: How are we to understand the relationship between embodiment, race, gender, desire, and sexual fantasy and practice in literary representation? What methods of reading and research best allow us to approach texts written before “sex” and “sexuality” had acquired the modern meanings we now take for granted? How does attentiveness to the queer or normative potential of interpretive methods that would seem unrelated to eroticism help us to approach a better understanding of early modern culture? For instance, how do assumptions about normative scripts for maturity, anxieties about accuracy and anachronism, or the simple exclusion of race, gender, and sexuality as categories of analysis shape close reading, historical contextualization, or archival research? What modern reinterpretations of early modern literature and culture (e.g. performance, film, video games, the NY Shakespeare Exchange Sonnet Project) reveal about changes in modern norms and ideals?


              COML 570.402                        OBJECT THEORY

                                                    T 1-3                   MacLeod

                                                    UNDERGRADS NEED PERMISSION

                                                    ALL READINGS & LECTURES IN ENGLISH

                                                    Cross listed with ARTH 573/ENGL 573/GRMN 573


This seminar will investigate the rise of and ongoing scholarly concern with “objects” and “things,” which has emerged from fields such as anthropology and art history as a category of renewed interest for literary scholars, too.  We will investigate key contributions to theories of the object by thinkers such as: Mauss, Barthes, Heidegger, Latour, Benjamin, Bill Brown, Jane Bennett, among others.  Literary readings will accompany these theoretical texts.




COML 577.401                        AESTHETICUS EXTREMUS             

                                                    M 3-6                 Bernstein

                                                    UNDERGRADS NEED PERMISSION

                                                    Cross listed with ENGL 589


Starting with Anne Hutchinson’s antinomianism, the seminar will focus on the resistance to aesthetic and political authoritarianism and conformity and forms of individual and collective dissensus. Ports of call may include Poe (“The Poetic Principal” and poems), African-American sorrow and work song, Emerson, Dickinson (with special attention to the manuscripts), Dunbar, Stein, Williams (Spring and All and In the America Grain), Stevens, Reznikoff, Tolson, Zukofsky, Sterling Brown, Olson, Creeley, Baraka, Spicer, Guest, Ashbery, and contemporaries including Peter Gizzi, Tracie Morris, NourbeSe Phillip, Harryette Mullen, Susan Howe and the new Best American Experimental Writing edited by Morris and me.  All this subject to revision! Syllabus will be posted in summer:



COML 602.401                        LITERARY THEORY:  A HISTORICAL OUTLINE

                                                    T 3:30-5:30                   Locatelli

                                                    Cross listed with ITAL 602




COML 618.401                        MEDIEVAL POETICS

                                                    R 6-9                  Copeland

                                                    Cross listed with CLST 618/ENGL 721


This is a comparative course on medieval stylistic practices, formal innovations, and especially theories of form. Our common ground will be the theories that were generated in learned and pedagogical traditions of medieval Latinity (with their roots in ancient thought about poetic form).  We will also collaborate on the particulars of the European vernacular cultures that stamped their interests on the interplay of language, genre, and form.  Questions common to all the literary traditions may be the social, ethical, and epistemological roles of poetry.  Other common questions include the distinctively medieval terms of interpretive theory and practice; technologies of interpretation; theories of fiction (fabula); the histories of the language arts; transformations of the terminology of figurative language; grammatical orthopraxis and permitted “deviation”; and material texts.  As we turn from interpretive to generative categories, we will consider how arts of poetry find their linguistic and stylistic focus in the vocabularies of individual vernacular traditions.    


          COML 621.401                        READINGS IN SOVIET HISTORY

                                                   W 2-5                 Nathans

                                                    Cross listed with HIST 620/RUSS 618



COML 627.401                        SOUTH ASIAN LIT AS COMPARATIVE LIT

                                                    M 3:30-6:30                 Staff

                                                    Cross listed with SAST 627


This course takes up the question of reading South Asian Literature both as a collection of diverse literary cultures, as well as the basis for a methodology of reading that takes language, region, and history into account. It takes as a starting point recent work that foregrounds the importance of South Asian language literatures, and their complex inteactions, to an understanding of South Asian literary history, as well as critiques of the concept of world literature that question its underlying assumptions and frequent reliance on cosmopolitan languages such as English. In what ways can we describe the many complex interactions between literary cultures in SOuth Asia, rooted in specific historical contexts, reading practices, and cultural expectations, while maintaing attention to language and literary form? How, in turn, can we begin to think of these literatures in interation with larger conversations in the world? With these considerations in mind, we will examine works of criticism dealing with both modern and pre-modern literatures, primarily but not exclusively focused on South Asia. Topics will include the concept of the cosmopolis in literary and cultural history, the role of translation, the transformations of literature under colonialism, and twentieth centure literary movements such as realism and Dalit literature. Readings may include works by Erich Auerbach, Frederic Jameson, Aijaz Ahmad, Gayatri Spivak, Aamir Mufti, Sheldon Pollack, David Shulman, Yigal Bronner, Shamshur Rahman Faruqi, Francesca Orsini, Subramanian Shankar, Sharankumar Kimbale, and Torlae Jatin Gajarawala. We will also examine selected works, in English and in translation, as case studies for discussion. This course is intended both for students who intend to specialize in the study of South Asia, as well as for those who focus on questions of comparative literature more broadly.



COML 630.401                      THE ROMAN DE LA ROSE AND THE FRENCH VERNACULAR                                                    CANON

                                                   T 2-5                   Brownlee

                                                   Cross listed with FREN 630


This course is required of all Teaching Assistants in French and Italian in the second semester of their first year of teaching. It is designed to provide instructors with the necessary practical support to carry out their teaching responsibilities effectively, and builds on the practicum meetings held during the first semester. The course will also introduce students to various approaches to foreign language teaching as well as to current issues in second language acquisition. Students who have already had a similar course at another institution may be exempted upon consultation with the instructor.



COML 710.401                      FASCISM AND RACISM:  A LOVE STORY

                                                   W 10-1                          Hanchard

                                                   Cross listed with AFRC 710/LALS 710/HIST 710



What is the relationship between fascism and racism in modern politics, and how have black political thinkers and organizations understood this relationship? This graduate level course is designed to familiarize students with the historical and contemporary literature on fascism as a phenomena of modern politics, and the importance of racial politics and ideologies to its constitution. Students will become familiar with the contributions of Black political actors, organizations and thinkers in Europe, Africa, Asia and the New World to fascism's defeat in the 1920's and 1930's, as well as more contemporary efforts to curb more contemporary fascist movements, regimes and aesthetics in late modernity. Antonio Gramsci, Robert Paxton, Michael Mann, C.L.R. James, George Padmore, Aime Cesaire, Suzanne Cesaire and Hannah Arendt are among the thinkers, theorists and activists students will encounter in this course. The overarching aim of his course is to identify fascism in both historical and contemporary contexts as a very specific form of political organization and rule, and its interrelationship with racism, nationalism and xenophobia.



COML 715.401                      SEMINAR IN ETHNOMUSICOLOGY

                                                  W 2-5                 Muller

                                                  UNDERGRADS NEED PERMISSION

                                                  Cross listed with MUSC 705/AFRC 705/ANTH 705/

                                                  GSWS 705




This course is cross-listed with MUSC 705 (Seminar in Ethnomusicology) when the subject matter is related to African, African American, or other African Diaspora issues. Recent courses offered include "Reading Women in Jazz," "Popular Music and the Ethics of Style in the Caribben," "Music and Tourism in the Caribbean," and "Imagining Africa Musically." See the Africana Studies Department's course list at for a description ofthe current offering.



COML 790.401                      RECENT ISSUES IN CRITICAL THEORY

                                                  W 6-9                 Kazanjian

                                                  Cross listed with ENGL 790/GSWS 790