Spring 2003 Graduate Courses
COML 538.401 RENAISSANCE GOTHIC
There is no question that the distinguishing feature of the Renaissance in England, as in Italy, was the feature for which it was named: its interest in the revival of antiquity. As many have noted, the project of classical revival was vexed from the start: a good millennium stood between the modern and the ancient; what survived the duration was in fragments and in ruins. But England, located on the outermost verge of the Empire, had a singularly fraught relation to the classical past, particularly after the Reformation. Once Protestant England broke from Catholic Rome, how could it return to the authority of Rome for its heritage? How could ancient Rome be extricated from the popish Babylon of modern Rome? This seminar will explore various responses to this dilemma. In an age that invested authority in antiquity, what were the alternatives to classicism? Where outside the classical tradition could antiquity be located? Our exploration will be conducted under the auspices of the term Gothic to suggest -- not (certainly not!) some early version of the Middle Ages - but rather those barbaric hordes that destroyed Roman civilization. In other words, the Gothic will serve as a rubric under which to examine various strains and stances resistant to classicism, among them, the primitive, the savage, the barbarous, the uncouth, the rustic, the effeminate, the Asiatic, and, in time -- mannerism. It is our contention that this peculiarly English Renaissance anti-classicism (or posture of anti-classicism) has slipped through the periodizing cracks. In attempt to recuperate other notions of antiquity in sixteenth-century England, we will be looking at a wide array of cultural forms and practices: typography, architecture, versification, philology, historiography, ethnography, law, antiquarianism, and last but in no way least, "literature." We will be reading works by Spenser, Lyly, Puttenham, Ascham, Sidney, Shakespeare, Milton, Campion/Daniel, Florio's Montaigne, Jonson, and others.
COML 540.401 EPIC LOVE
The conspicuous and heterogeneous literary material inspired from the legendary deeds of Arthurian and Carolingian knights was assembled and popularized during the Middle Ages in forms of cantari and for the pleasure of widely differentiated audiences. During the Renaissance, the same material underwent a process of literary sophistication in a way that conditioned profoundly the cultural imagination of Europe. In this course we will study the complex process that transformed the popular genre of the Medieval cantare into the more literary and theoretically refined forms of the chivalric romance (romanzo cavalleresco) and the heroic poem (poema eroico). Refashioned in this way, masterpieces like Ariosto's Orlando furioso and Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata contributed profoundly to the formation of a modern concept of literature. These works conveyed a new idea of narrative whose primary goal is not anymore the anecdotic account of historical or legendary deeds, but a strong claim for fiction and its poetic autonomy. The reading will include Ariosto's Orlando furioso and Tasso's Gerusalemme excursi will complement the study of the texts.
COML 542.401 TOPICS IN 18th C. BRITISH LIT: SWIFT AND HIS CIRCLE
Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745) wrote one of the great English classics, Gulliver's Travels (1726), and one of the two most difficult books in the cannon of English literature, A Tale of a Tub (1704), but we tend to focus on him for these classics and a few prose works which anthologizers admire. This course, by contrast, treats Swift and his contemporaries as Swift interacts with Pope, Gay, the Scriblerian circle, his circle of Irish friends, his relationship with a circle of women admirers and collaborators, and his disciples. We will read Swift's major writings, of course, so that his primacy as the greatest satirist in English becomes clear, yet we will also examine Swift's love of the bagatell, of light verse, and of codes and ciphers and games. We will see him as the creator of a tradition that would continue with Sterne, Carroll, Lear, and Housman -- as the father of light verse -- and we will see his constant love of the homo ludens side of literature. Yet at the same time we will see Swift as a serious exponent of anti-colonialism (here of the colony Ireland) before colonialism emerged as a major issue in Western thought.
COML 544.401 POSTMODERN RELIGIOUS THOUGHT
Is religious belief possible in the absence of a "transcendental signified?" Some commentators have argued there is little possibility for dialogue between postmodernism and theology, while others envision postmodernism or deconstruction as potential allies of religious thought and commitment. Recently, Jacques Derrida has written that deconstruction is best understood not as a weapon in the war against faith but as an exercise in philosophical hygiene that pursues theology of its desire for metaphysical security. In a move similar to Karl Barth's early 20th century theology, Derrida calls for the preservation of the freedom of God beyond metaphysics, to liberate religious thought from its "philosophical ego" in order to set free "a faith lived in a venturous, dangerous, free way," as he puts it. If Derrida's perspective is viable, could postmodernism be understood today as a resource both for criticizing the nostalgia for unmediated presence in theology, on the one hand, and for articulating the possibility of God without the security of a philosophical foundation, on the other? Topics for this seminar will include metaphysics and theology, the death of God, apophatic mysticism and deconstruction, interreligious dialogue, erasure of the stable self, ethics without foundations, naming God as woman, breakdown of metanarratives, and the question of God beyond Being. Readings will include primary source material authored by Kierkagaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Barth, Nishitani, Levinas, Derrida, Kristeva, Irigaray, and Girard.
COML 572.401 ART, ARTISTS AND SOCIETY
Applications of communicational, social, and psychological principle to the study of the creation and appreciation of aesthetic objects and events. Artistic processes and products viewed in terms of cultural and historical, definitions of the nature of art and the role of the artist.
COML 591.401 LIFE AND LETTERS OF PAUL
Paul thought himself Jewish. Others have credited/blamed him as the real founder of Christianity! The purpose of this course is to learn how to understand a noted author/thinker of the past on his own terms and in relationship to his own world. The specific subject matter is PAUL, a Jewish adherent and spokesman for the "Jesus movement," in the Greco-Roman world during the first century of the Common Era (CE). The larger historical context is Judaism and Christianity in their first two centuries CE.
COML 600.301 LATIN DECOMPOSITION
Latin poetics emphasizes anthropomorphic formalism: a poem is beautiful when its parts cohere with the elegant efficiency of the human body. But what happens when this formalism confronts deformity or even formlessness in its subject matter? This course will trace the theme of the disintegration of the human body in Latin literature from antiquity to the Renaissance, with occasional detours into comparative material in other literatures and frequent consideration of relevant theoretical texts. One focus will be on the tradition of poems about plague that begins with Lucretius; other readings will reflect the interests and backgrounds of the seminar's participants. (Students with limited Latin should bring other expertise to the class; contact the instructor for advice.)
COML 603.401 LANGUAGE AND CULTURE IN SOCIETY
Anthropological study of languages and contributions of linguistics to study of culture and culturally pattered behavior. Types of speech and cultural communities; linguistic and cultural change (acculturation, pidginization, standardization, etc.) and its interpretation (genetic, typological, areal, evolutionary).
COML 620.401 STUDIES IN THE 18TH CENTURY: THEATRE AND THEATRICALITY
In this course, we will examine a wide range of theatrical works from the 18th century: from the comedies of Lesage (considered in relation to Molière) and Marivaux to the "bourgeois" theatre of Nivelle de La Chaussée and Diderot; and from Voltaire's neo-classical tragedies (considered in relation to Racine and Corneille) to the theater of the French Revolution. In addition and in relation to these texts, novels constructed or written as dramatic dialogues, such as Diderot's Le Neveu de Rameau and Sade's La Philosophie dans le boudoir, will also be explored. From a formal perspective, we will trace the evolution of dramatic genres and of literary theatricality more broadly defined, with consideration paid both to the social and historical context in which these developments took place, and to both eighteenth-century and contemporary theoretical considerations of drama, performativity, and the "theatrical" (from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to J.L. Austin to Judith Butler). From a thematic point of view, we will investigate such topics as: the pedagogical and ideological position of the theater in French society; familial and social relations and institutions; political and philosophical discourses of Enlightenment; the place (or non-place) of desire and the body; and the function of pathos and the ridiculous. Reading, discussion, and course papers in French. Undergraduates and auditors by permission of instructor.
COML 630.401 Discourse, Power, and Selfhood in Medieval French Literature
An introduction to Medieval French literature by close readings of key representative works from hagiography, chanson de geste, romance, lyric, and theater. The course will consider the creation and the functioning of these new generic forms in the French vernacular, with particular attention to questions of authority, "truth," and language. Focus will be on the first-person authorial subject, political and religious ideologies, and representations of gender. Texts to be studied include La Vie de Saint Alexis, La Chanson de Roland, Aucassin et Nicolette, Chrétien de Troyes's Lancelot, Christine de Pizan's Cité des Dames, François Villon's Lais, and Adam de la Halle's Le Jeu de Robin et de Marion and Le Roi de Sicileas.
COML 640.401 STUDIES IN SPANISH RENAISSANCE: IMAGINING THE
MEDITERRANEAN IN EARLY MODERN EUROPE
This course will examine representations of the Mediterranean--that place in between Europe and Africa, Christianity and Islam, East and West--in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. We will read a wide range of texts, from classical precedents (Aeneid) to captivity narratives to romance representations of Muslim-Christian relations (El Abencerraje). Central questions include: how are "European" identities negotiated in relation to Africa; what is the relationship between literary representation and imperial expansion; how do early modern notions of "race" emerge in an Old World context; what is the place of gender in representations of the exotic, on the one hand, and the domestic, on the other.
COML 706.401 CULTURE/POWER/IDENTITIES
The seminar provides a forum for critically examining the interrelationships between culture, power and identities, or forms of difference and relations of inequality. The central aim is to provide students with an introduction to classic and more recent social theories concerning the bases of social inequality and relations shaped by race, class, national, ethnic and gender differences. The class will have a seminar format emphasizing close analysis and discussion of the required readings in relation to a set of overarching questions concerning the nature of power, forms of social inequality and the politics of identity and difference.
COML 725.401 CHAUCER
The exact shape and content assumed by this course will depend on the interests brought to the table by folks at our first meeting, or before (see last paragraph). But here are a few thoughts:
The course will concentrate mostly on the Canterbury Tales (since Troilus was covered in a graduate class last year), but we might read Henryson's Testament of Cresseid (and consider its mediation of the tale to Shakespeare via Thynne's 1532 edition); we might also read The Legend of Good Women. I would like to match up The Canterbury Tales with the framed narrative from which it derived, borrowed or stole one sixth of its narratives: Boccaccio's Decameron (much translated and imitated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and an important influence on drama). Boccaccio's text both celebrates a precocious city-state and generates European- and Mediterranean-wide perspectives, including close encounters with the east and Barbary. Tunisia is only two hundred miles from Sicily; England is in every sense more remote. And yet Chaucer does, of course, attempt to imagine England-his native, eccentric, and marginal country- within and as part of these greater European spaces.
Topics to explore might include: Divisions of Labor. As the "General Prologue" to CT suggests, Chaucer is fascinated (energized, alarmed) by new and highly specialized divisions of labor: these seem both to threaten traditional organicist conceptualizings of society and religious 'wholeness' and to suggest new and undreamed of imaginings, social and sexual (witness the Pardoner). It was in the great cities of Italy and Flanders that such divisions of labor were most intensively developed: Florence, Milan, Ghent, and Bruges. In addition to Decameron tales, then, we might explore representations by Flemish artists, especially Bruegel and Bosch.
Female eloquence. Perhaps the most singular aspect of Chaucer's oeuvre is his consistent concern for, investment, in female speaking. He mythologizes the ability of women to be "suddenly avyse," that is, to speak unscripted in pressured situations; he also affects to marvel at (while actively fashioning) the unbidden flow of female wordage (witness the Wife of Bath), a movement associated with the awakening and exercise of sexual power.
Voicing and bodying forth. In setting such store by female eloquence-his surest protection against masculine rage-Chaucer also focuses attention upon the bodies that give voice and the role of bodies in generating eloquence and sustaining civilized life. And part of this extends, of course, to his own presence in the text: his self-representations as pilgrim, narrator, or failed lover; his own implied presence as first public reader of his fictions. Which brings us to:
Poetics and performance. Chaucer's poetry presents and imagines itself as written for oral performance: that is, to be read aloud and bodied forth by one speaker to the hearing and visual appreciation of many. This aspect of Chaucer has as yet been little considered; Chaucer is generally studied as finished (posthumously edited) text. We might begin exploration of performative Chaucer by paying some attention to our own ways of reading and "bodying for" (often neglected in graduate classes). How does it differ, for example, to read Chaucer aloud as a woman/man/Englishman/American, etc?
After Chaucer. We might read the fifteenth-century Tale of Beryn, which continues the pilgrimage forward to arrival in Canterbury. We might consider how Chaucer plays in the Reformation. We might consider Chauceriana of the 1590s: The Cobbler of Canterbury, which imagines tales told in a boat going down the Thames; Spenser's riffs on Sir Thopas and the Squire's Tale; dramas deriving from Chaucer, including Patient Grissil; and then there is Dekker and company, Fair Constance of Rome (1600). Folks interested in later adaptations, literary and filmic, might add to our list: the Powell-Pressburger A Canterbury Tale (1944); Pasolini's Racconti di Canterbury; Ted Hughes; David Dabydeen. Not all of this can be addressed in class, of course, but folks might find points of departure from the class into more distant and exotic areas of research.
I would be interested to get feedback before the class: anything we are leaving out that could add to commune profit? Any suggestions for must-read secondary, critical, and theoretical sources?
COML 776.401 TOPICS IN LANDSCAPE HISTORY AND THEORY: FRENCH LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE
The seminar is designed to explore the history, historiography and criticism of French landscape architecture in its cultural contexts. A reading knowledge of French is desirable but it is not required.
The seminar during the first eight weeks will consider in depth a selection of historical material and sites: these will include design by Androuet du Cerceau, and Vaux-le-Vicomte, Versailles, Chantilly, Marly, Ermenonville, Desert de Retz, Monceau, and Mereville. Illustrated presentations by the instructor will be followed by class discussions based on assigned weekly readings.
Following Spring Recess, when a week-long visit to Paris is planned for visiting a selection of key sites, six further sessions will be devoted to modern and contemporary designs. The Paris trip is not required.
COML 790.401 THEORY AND LITERARY HISTORY: GIVING THE GIFT IN THEORY
AND LITERARY HISTORY
The aim of this graduate seminar will be to investigate a number of philosophical and literary texts focusing around the notion of the gift. Our point of departure will be the concept gift seen in its anthropological sense as a binding reciprocal practice underpinning all sociability (Mauss) but also as a dangerous limit to be transgressed (Freud, Melanie Klein, Bataille). Beyond the potlatch, does the problematic of the gift open onto that of sacrifice as emblematized by Abraham (Kierkegaard) or can it allow us to sketch a principle of generosity (Descartes)? In the post-Heideggerian tradition that takes its bearings from the availability of a world that is somehow given (Es gibt Sein) , contemporary meditation of the conditions of possibility of giving (Marion) leads us to qualify the thesis that a gift is impossible as such (Derrida) or only leads to spurious economies (Baudelaire). If time is both the dimension of my future death and an excess of unforeseen data, art and literature can emerge as practices that exceed most economies (Duchamp).
The main theoretical texts we will read are Marcel Mauss's The
Gift, The Georges Batille Reader, Derrida's Given Time: Counterfeit
Money, Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, Jean-Luc Marion's Being Given:Toward a Phenomenology of
Giveness, Freud's Dora, and Lewis Hyde's The Gift. Literary texts will include: poems by Baudelaire, Mallarme, Rilke, and Ezra Pound; novels by Georges Bataille
(My Mother), Vladimir Nabokov (The Gift), and H.D. (The
Gift); plays by Moliere (The Miser) and Joyce (Exiles); plus a trip to PMA to see Duchamp's Etant
|Last modified January 08, 2003
Maintained by Stephen Hock and Mark Sample
in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania