Graduate Course Descriptions

COML 509.401 Kierkegaard
W 2-5 Dunning
Cross listed with RELS 539

Critical examination of selected texts by Kierkegaard.  Discussion of such issues as the pseudonymous writings and indirect communication, the theory of stages of religious development, the attack upon establishment religion, the psychological dimension of Kierkegaard's thought, and his relations to his predecessors, particularly Hegel.  

COML 536.401 Goethe’s Novels
W 1-3 Macleod
Cross listed with GRMN 535

With each of his major novels, Goethe intervened decisively and provocatively in the genre and wider culture.  This seminar will analyze three of Goethe's novels spanning his career: (1) the sensational epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther; (2) the bildungsroman Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship; and (3) the novel of adultery Elective Affinities.  We will also look ahead to his archival novel Wilhelm Meister's Journeyman Years.  Particular attention will be paid to the ways in which these novels address questions of modernization--technology and secularization, to name only two--through the lens of individuals who understand themselves in relation to artistic media.  Seminal scholarship on the novels (e.g. Benjamin, Lukacs) will be considered in addition to recent critical approaches.

COML 541.401 Haunted House: Russian Realism in European Context
W 12-3 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 1850s-1880s: positivism, materialism, behaviorism, spiritualism, etc.  We will focus on the 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.  No prior language experience required.

COML 552.401 Foreign Affairs: Travel in Post-War German and Austrian Film
T 3-6 Meyer
Cross listed with GRMN 550/CINE 550

This course will focus on the representation of travel in post-war German and Austrian cinema. The trope of travel in post-war German and Austrian film allows for the cinematic exploration of questions linked to nation, national identity, and history. Issues such as self and other, historical burdens and responsibilities, migration, transnationality, colonialism, race, gender, and religion are advanced via cinematic representations of travel. The course traces the use of the trope of travel in post-1945 German and Austrian film as a reflection of and intervention in discourses on nation and national identity.  Within these cultural contexts, these discourses are inextricably bound to the historical burdens of fascism and the Holocaust. The opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and German reunification in 1990 have further complicated conceptions of German nationhood. Prior to the lifting of the Iron Curtain, East and West Germany had found themselves on opposing edges of the ideological abyss separating two superpowers, Now, a reunited Germany has begun to assume a
geopolitical position in the center of Europe, a fact that was also underlined in 2004, when a number of former Eastern Bloc countries joined the European Union. Meanwhile, in the wake of the 1955 State Treaty, Austria had sidestepped the participation in a public discourse on nation and the crimes of the Nazi past, a discourse that had long since begun to dominate the German cultural landscape. Since Austria’s entry into the European Union in 1995, though, it, along with its EU partners, has been confronted with questions concerning the expansion of the EU towards the east and the ways in which Turkey’s possible entry into the EU might alter European notions of national identity.

Over the course of the semester, we will screen films by, for instance, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Margarethe von Trotta, Frank Beyer, Tom Tykwer, Michael Haneke, Ayse Polat, Fatih Akin, Peter Timm, and Barbara Albert. Our discussions of the films will be framed by a selection of theoretical texts and secondary sources by, among others, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Eric Rentschler, Thomas Elsaesser, Sabine Hake, Randall Halle, Johannes von Moltke, and Robert Stam and Ella Shohat.

COML 586.301 20th Century Theory and Criticism
T 3-5 Poggi
Cross listed with ARTH 586

This semester is an introduction to 20th century aesthetic theory, methods, and criticism.  Major issues to be discussed include: the theory of autonomy and self-reflexivity in the visual arts, the structuralist paradigm and its relevance for the visual arts, poststructuralist and Marxist critiques of modernism, Marxist and Feminist approaches to spectacle, spectatorship, and commodity fetishism, and the relation of vision to constructions of identity and power.  Among the authors we will read are: Kant, Woelfflin, Saussure, Krauss, Marcuse, Barthes, Levi-Strauss, Derrida, Marx, Freud, Lacan, Mulvey, Armstrong, Althusser, Butler, Foucault, and Deleuze.  The emphasis in this seminar will be on class participation, with one introduction to a theorist and a final exam also required.  

COML 587.401 Cinema and the Sister Arts
T 4-6 Kirkham
Cross listed with ITAL 586/CINE 584

This course explores cinema as a pan-generic system constructed of other art forms, including fiction, theater, painting, photography, music, and dance.  The interrelationships between film and its sister arts will be discussed: (1) with respect to the historical emergence of cinema as a new medium that evolved from antecedents in painting, photography, and (melo)drama; (2) as a reflection of an individual director's own style and programmatic choices (e.g. Visconti in his relationship with opera); and (3) to consider how the conscious citation and appropriation of non-verbal narrative forms function emblematically to enhance cinematic meaning (e.g. in musical commentary on a soundtrack; in the incorporation of folksongs to serve "realism;" in the use of dance as a metaphor for social interaction or sexual seduction).  Emphasis will be on Italian cinema, with occasional comparisons that draw in films and texts from other national cultures.  Each week class discussion will focus on one film.  Students will present a final class report on a film of their choice (with prior approval of instructor) and submit a final 15-20 page paper based on the report.  Reading knowledge of Italian desireable but not required.  

COML 594.401 Post-Colonial Discourse: Literary and Cultural Analysis in the Era of Globalization
T 9-12 Krishnan
Cross listed with ENGL 595/SAST 620

By way of literary and historical texts we will consider the differences and overlaps in artistic and theoretical concerns that mark the shift from postcolonial to globalization studies. Is “postcolonial” superseded by “globalization”, or does the latter approach extend and enrich the critical impetus of the former? Discussions will center on recent fiction, political theory and economic history.

COML 603.401 Language and Culture
T 1:30-4:30 Agha
Cross listed with ANTH 603

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 630.401 Introduction to Medieval Literature
W 2-4 Brownlee
Cross listed with FREN 630

This course will be centered on a reading of the 13th century Roman de la Rose--the single most widely read and influential literary work of the French Middle Ages.  We will study the ways in which the Rose redefines the status of the French vernacular as a "canonical" literary language, while establishing itself as the new foundational work in the French canon.  Special attention will be given to how the Rose deploys conflicting discourses of desire and knowledge.  We will begin by situating the Rose within the preceding French literary tradition, both lyric and narrative, focusing on the privileged examples of the grand chant courtois of the trouveres and on Chretien de Troyes' Lancelot.  We will conclude with Christine de Pizan's polemical rewritings of the Rose in the early 15th century.

COML 653.401 Melodrama and Modernity
R 6-8 Majithia
Cross listed with SAST 651/CINE 793

Film history and cultural criticism once approached melodrama as a failed and lowbrow  form of tragedy characterized by excessive rhetoric, one dimensional characterizations, and schematized moral polarizations. Scholarship of the last few decades, however,  exhibits a newfound interest in the genre or mode, particularly within psychoanalytic, Marxist, feminist,and postcolonial frameworks. This course  surveys the  body of that scholarship with a focus on these last two. If as Peter Brooks argues, melodrama is a mode for the modern age, how does a sense of the postcolonial modern come to be visualized and articulated in cinema through melodrama? In this course, we will focus on  temporality and change, two markers of modernity, to consider how melodrama, particularly in the South Asian context, alternatively centers on and addresses women by emphasizing the body as a key node or site of signification. How does the melodramatic focus on the body and excess allow us to reconsider and perhaps productively put into crisis concepts that have served to fix femininity such as stardom, fantasy, the male gaze, and the female voice? We will contextualize our discussion within the larger history of  the representation of women in melodramatic film by considering Hollywood racial melodramas and film from other postcolonial and national cinemas.

COML 689.401 Space and the Political Imagination
T 3-6 Nadal-Melsio
Cross listed with SPAN 689

In this seminar we will explore the ways in which space has shaped thepolitical imagination and, in turn, how the political has informed spatial experience. From Plato’s Republic to Situationist practices, space has often emerged as a corrective to a purely abstract understanding of power and the political. It has since taken a variety of roles, from an ally to state control to a resilient remnant of historical memory to the experiential site of the urban everyday. Topics for discussion will include: the city, the spatial politics of everyday life, power, utopianism, the spectacle, sovereignty, governmentality, the monument and memory, urban insurrection as an event and globalization. The first two thirds of the seminar will be devoted to careful critical readings of key theorists of space--Henri Lefebvre, Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, Guy Debord, Kristin Ross, Jacques Rancière,  Giorgio Agamben, David Harvey, Fredric Jameson.  Once the conceptual framework of the discussion has been established, each student will introduce materials, taken from her own field of expertise, that explore spatial questions to the class.  Requirements: informed class discussion, short weekly reaction papers, an class presentation, project proposal, and a final paper or exam. Readings will be provided on a weekly basis.  

COML 697.401 After Postmodernism:  Aesthetics and Politics in Recent Literature and Film
W 5-8 Laddaga
Cross listed with SPAN 697

In the last quarter of a century a deep and widespread change in artistic and literary practice has been taking place. This process of change has accompanied the vast technological, social and political transformations that we usually describe with the term of "globalization." It is a process that it is not particularly easy to identify, describe and analyze from the perspective of our usual disciplinary framwork, in as much as a lot of the most interesting productions of recent years take the form of trandisciplinary projects, artists' and writers' initiatives that attempt to connect and mediate not only different media, but also the field of art and the fields of political activism, scientific practice or economic production. An increasing number of artists and writers have been, in the course of the last decades, focusing their efforts not so much in producing art works than in setting up platforms for large numbers of individuals to engage in the collaborative production of
texts, exhibitions or films, and, at the same time, participate in processes of social and political organization. We will propose a theoretical framework to analyze these productions, and use the conceptual and methodological tools acquired in reading a series of recent art works, narratives, films and collaborative trandisciplinary projects

COML 706.401 Culture/Power/Identities
R 2-4 Lukose
Cross listed with EDUC 706/ANTH 704/URBS 706

This 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 736.401 Reading, Writing, and Printing in England and American: 1600-2007
M 9-12 Stallybrass
Cross listed with ENGL 736

This course will focus upon the material culture of reading, writing, and printing from 1600 to the present, although with a particular emphasis on 1600-1800. We will explore the theoretical implications of authorship, anonymity, imitation, plagiarism and the central role that recycling (of type, images, and texts) played in the making and remaking of books in early modern England and America. The course will also be an introduction to the extraordinary collections at the Library Company, the Free Library, and the Rosenbach Library, as well as at Penn, and will give students a chance to find the archives that will be relevant for whatever research they will undertake for their degrees.

The main books for the course will be the Bible, Hamlet, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Cervantes’s Don Quixote, the New England Primer, Hariot’s Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, Richardson’s Pamela, and Franklin's Autobiography. I have chosen these texts both for their diversity of genres and for their long afterlives. Hamlet, for instance, was far more influential (for actors, poets, novelists, philosophers, politicians, literary theorists among others) in 2000 than in 1600. And Shakespeare’s Sonnets, which had little influence in the early seventeenth century, played a central role in the trial of Oscar Wilde and in definitions of sexuality in the 1890s.

COML 773.401 Afro-American Lit: Theorizing Space in African-American Literature

R 9-12 Davis
Cross listed with AFRC 770/ENGL 770

This seminar is concerned with space as materiality and idea in texts by African American writers. Space, inseparable from social processes and social relations, provides another site for thinking about literature. For example, approaching space as a site of struggle over value and meaning involves examining narrative and the structures underpinning and driving narration itself. However, space also embodies physical and material dimensions that turn on issues of power. Spatial constructions, spatial parameters, and boundaries of experience permeate political, social, economic, and psychological dimensions but are often overlooked as manifestations of culture and environment. Increasingly integrated into the formulation of social theories, space attracts scholars whose theoretical concerns range from postmodernism and globalization to the body and prisons. Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, David Harvey, Doreen Massey, Edward Soja, Daphne Spain, Yi-Fu Tuan, Nancy Duncan, and John Berger, for example, form a partial list of those who have argued for a spatial hermeneutic.

How do we interrogate the relationships between race, racial conditions, and space (whether bodily, global, or textual)? How do African American writers confront and represent racialized spaces? How do regulatory boundaries delimit not only access to social and economic space, but also to subject formation and agency? Are African American texts inscribed with an awareness of the social functions of spatial practices? Do African American texts represent space as central to the production of race-based identities and social relations?

Readings from social geography, literary and cultural theory, the Black Public Sphere Collective, and Harriet Jacobs, Frances Harper, Charles Chesnutt, W.E.B. Du Bois, Nella Larsen, James Baldwin, Etheridge Knight, Ntozake Shange, Melvin Dixon, Edwidge Danticat, Randall Kenan, Brenda Marie Osbey, and Shay Youngblood

COML 776.401 Topics History and Theory:  Open Places and Open Spaces: The Design and Use of American Landscapes
T 2-5 Hunt
Cross listed with LARP 770

We shall use the work of Thomas Church, Garrett Eckbo, Fletcher Steele, Dan Kiley, Lawrence Halprin, and Martha Schwartz to explore how modern landscape architects have been treated, criticized, written about.  In other words, we shall at the same time both explore the work of six influential but different modern designers and examine how they have been presented (by themselves, by their critics, and eventually by ourselves).

In five cases, we will assign ourselves a basic work on each designer, and use these publications – supplemented by other readings of their work that students will provide through individual research projects – as case studies in interpretation, criticism and even self-presentation; students are urged to have their own copies for close study in class.  For the sixth designer, Halprin, there is (astonishingly) no publication of his oeuvre, nor monographic discussion of it, as exists (more or less) for the others: that in itself will be the focus of our attention, and students will be asked to explore different items both by Halprin himself and by others writing about his individual projects (NB the Architectural Archives holds the Halprin papers).

Thomas Church Landscape Architect. Designing a Modern California Landscape, edited Marc Treib (San Francisco: Stout Publishers, 2003).
-  Marc Treib & Dorothée Imbert, Garrett Eckbo: Modern Landscapes for Living (Berkeley: U of California Press, 1997).
-  Robin S Karson, Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect: An Account of a Gardenmaker’s Life, 1885-1971 (New York: Abrams/Sagapress, 1989).
-  Dan Kiley and Jane Amidon, Dan Kiley: The Complete Works of America’s Master Landscape Architect (Boston: Bullfinch Press, 1999).
The Vanguard Landscapes and Gardens of Martha Schwartz, edited Tim Richardson (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2004).

A final paper will draw back from the six designers and write more theoretically about selected aspects of landscape architectural criticism and how it has been conducted in the recent past.   “Six of one, or half a dozen of the other” is a colloquialism that signifies that there is not much to choose between two things: but we shall ask what critiques are better or worse than others; what critics have succeeded in saying about – what do they fail to grapple with in – the works of the six selected designed we shall study; we shall ask whether the built work escapes sufficiently good scrutiny in published criticism or whether it is adequately treated.

COML 795.40 The Sound of Poetry, the Poetry of Sound

R 6:30-9:30 Bernstein
Cross listed with ENGL 795

The seminar will follow up on the 2005 MLA Convention Presidential Forum and  its many related panels. The focus is on the poetics of sound and related issues of poetry and performance, including Jacques Attali's Noise, Reuben Tsur's What Makes Sound Patterns Expressive, Andrew Welsh's Roots of Lyric, and essays in Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word and Adelaide Morris's Sound States. Among the poets who might be considered: sound poems by Schwitters, Ball, and Khlebnikov; Hugh MacDiarmid, Basil Bunting, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, Mina Loy, Charles Olson,  Robert Creeley, Amiri Baraka, Christian Bok, Louis Zukofsky, Lorine Niedecker,  Harreyette Mullen; songs by Woody Guthrie and Charlie Patton; sound poetry by Khlebnikov.  Susan Howe seminar and KWH visit. This is just a sketch, though; stay tuned. Suggestions welcome.


Last modified December 20, 2006
Maintained by Daniel DeWispelare
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania