Graduate Course Descriptions
COML 540.401 Theatre and Deception in the Renaissance
T 1:30-3:30 Finotti
Cross listed with ITAL 540
In Renaissance courts life acquires a theatrical character. The courtier moves
on a stage that conditions his behavior and discourse. How does the extraordinary rebirth of comic theater connect to this wide-spread theatricalization of courtly life? 1) From sacred to profane theater. 2) Performances and translations of Plautus. 3) Italian, English and European tradition: from Aretino to Shakespeare. 4) The comic character of
sixteenthy-century dialogues 5) Satyrs, shepherds, gods, and the birth of
melodrama. The course will be conducted in English.
COML 577.401 Difficult Women: Stein, Loy, Riding, Moore, HD
M 12-3 Perelman
Cross listed with ENGL 589
Two preliminary frames, one primarily literary, the other social: 1) a brief look at "The Men of 1914" (Eliot, Pound, Joyce, and Lewis) to scan for their fashion tips on the latest in masculine taste, with special emphasis on the distaste expressed for Lil's excessive fertility in "A Game of Chess" in *The Waste Land*; and 2) a quick account of Margaret Sanger's crusade for birth control, focusing on her varying strategies of public address. With these matters on the table, we will then look at the writing and the public (and in some cases, not-so-public) careers of H.D., Mina Loy, Marianne Moore, Laura Riding (and her later incarnation as Laura Riding Jackson), and Gertrude Stein. The fascinating and instructive difficulties of these five writers will not coalesce into a coherent paradigm opposing the masculinist proclivities of Pound, Eliot, et al., nor will they display all that many similarities in relation to the various agitations for women's rights that were occurring around them. But their different oeuvres were literary and cultural interventions that retain their power.
For the first class, please read *The Waste Land*, as well as the pieces (Pound's "The Hard and the Soft in French Poetry" among other things) that I will post on the class Blackboard site.
COML 582.401 Aura and Reflection: Theory of Art, Media, and Aesthetics of Walter Benjamin
Special seven-week course taught by Professor Dr. Hartmut Boehme
One three-hour meeting per week, plus two additional meetings to be scheduled by the professor.
Meeting times will be Mondays from 3:00 - 6:00 pm on the following dates:
Cross listed with GRMN 580
The international Benjamin fad is over. Now is the time to explore the achievements and limits of Benjamin’s thinking in a historic as well as theoretic, hermeneutical as well as the critical context. Central to the seminar are writings on the questions of art, media and aesthetic theory. Through these, we will present and discuss the traditions, concepts, and development of Benjamin’s thinking starting from his first writings of his youth (1914/15) to his death in 1940. The tightly interwoven nature of Benjamin’s style and content is matched by few other philosophers. Therefore, we will discuss the expanse of genres in which his thinking takes form: theory becomes literary and literature becomes a form of reflection. Crossover between genres makes Benjamin’s texts difficult. The seminar should increase the students’ understandings of Benjamin’s way of thought through a reconstruction of the methodology of the texts. – Texts to be discussed in class will be available online.
COML 584.401 Becoming Modern: The German-Jewish Experience
T 3-5 Weissberg
Cross listed with GRMN 581/RELS 429/HIST 490/JWST 490
In a recent book, Yuri Slezkine described the twentieth century as a “Jewish Age”—to be modern would essentially mean to be a Jew. In German historical and cultural studies, this linkage has long been made--only in reference to the last years of the German monarchy and the time of the Weimar Republic. Indeed, what has become known as “modern” German culture—reflected in literature, music, and the visual arts and in a multitude of public media—has been more often than not assigned to Jewish authorship or Jewish subjects. But what do authorship and subject mean in this case? Do we locate the German-Jewish experience as the driving force of this new “modernity,” or is our understanding of this experience the result of this new “modern” world?
The graduate course will be accompanied by a conference, to be held at Penn on March 30, 2007.
COML 595.401 Georges Bataille
R 1:30-3:30 Richman
Cross listed with FREN 680
Georges Bataille holds a special place among the central literary and intellectual figures of the twentieth century. How to read this controversial polymath in relation to the formative interwar movements---especially surrealism---while respecting the specificity of his contribution to contemporary theory and criticism is the guiding question for our overview of his central works. Primary texts therefore
will be compared with works by Breton and Leiris, as well as complemented by the readings proposed by Barthes, Foucault and Derrid and the current generation of readers.
Conducted in English; texts available in French. Primary texts on order include: Histoire de l’oeil, Le Bleu du ciel, L’Expérience intérieure, La Littérature et le Mal, l’Age d’homme, Les manifestes du surréalisme, and Le Collège de sociologie. A bulkpack will provide selected articles spanning Bataille’s career. Criticism will be placed on reserve.
COML 603.401 Language in Culture and Society
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 606.401 Sophists: Ancient Texts and Post-classical Interpretations
M 2-5 Copeland/Rosen
Cross listed with GREK 602/ENGL 705
The teachers, rhetoricians, and philosophers of 5th-century Athens known
collectively as the Sophists were controversial in their own time, and
they have occupied a controversial place in intellectual and cultural
history ever since. Plato polemicized against them, Aristophanes
satirized them, Aristotle refuted them, and generations of rhetorical
theorists in Greek and Latin attempted to differentiate their art from
the supposedly debased model of sophistic rhetoric. All this despite the
fact that in their day many of them could be considered foundational
thinkers in areas we would call anthropology, linguistics, psychology
and cultural studies. Sophistic thought found its way indirectly but
powerfully into the Middle Ages, where it represented both a despised
falsification of philosophical argument and a dangerously attractive
logic of paradoxes and /insolubilia/. Culturally the (spectral) figure
of the Sophist served as image of both the familiar and the outsider,
linked intimately with academic identity but also with the falsifier and
heretic. As in Antiquity, so in later periods the Sophist came to embody
anxieties about persuasive discourse and negation. But in the thought of
Hegel and then Nietzsche, the Sophists were recovered and
“rehabilitated” as a crucial moment in the history of philosophy, and
among modern intellectual historians (Untersteiner, Jaeger, de Romilly)
as well as philosophers (Heidegger, Derrida) their contributions have
In this course, taught jointly by medievalist Rita Copeland and
classicist Ralph Rosen, we study the Sophists in classical antiquity and
in and their post-classical reception. We will begin by getting as close
as possible to them through the fragmentary records that remain of their
own ideas and arguments, and then we will look at how they were
represented philosophically by Plato and Aristotle as well as culturally
by Aristophanes. We will study their afterlife in Late Antiquity and
especially the Middle Ages, in both Latin and vernacular contexts, with
special attention to the seductions of “sophistic” as a form of logic
and to the ways that the Sophist defined heresy debates in England. We
will consider the central role that they came to play in Hegel’s
understanding of the history of philosophy and in Nietzsche’s
antifoundationalist thought. Throughout the semester we will also be
considering twentieth-century philosophical and historical reassessments
of their importance.
The readings for the course will all be available in English for
students who do not read Greek or Latin.
COML 634.401 Reading Modernity
W 2-4 Jarosinski
Cross listed with GRMN 672
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 incude 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.
COML 638.401 Etymologies of Medieval Song
M 2-5 Brownlee/Dillon
Cross listed with FREN 638/MUSC 710
COML 640.401 Maurophilia and the Early Modern Construction in Spain
R 1:30-4:30 Fuchs
Cross listed with SPAN 640
This course examines the place of Moorishness in Spain over the long sixteenth-century, from the alleged maurophilia of Enrique IV to the “historiador arábigo” of the Quijote. In order to historicize our reading of literary maurophilia, we will trace the negotiation of Spain’s Andalusi heritage in its material culture—architecture, fashion, chivalric games, and so forth. We will also examine how Spain’s Moorishness is exoticized in its European reception. Readings will include El Abencerraje, the romancero morisco, Las Guerras Civiles de Granada, “Ozmín y Daraja,” Don Quijote. Taught in English.
COML 653.401 Feeling Modern
W 5-8 Majithia
Cross listed with SAST 610/ASAM 510/CINE 793
In this course we will focus on postcolonial and global modernity as they are imagined through cinema. Foregrounding the concept of affect, we will consider topics such as: the role of mass affect as mass culture; nationalism, community, sentimentality, and nostalgia; film technology and film industry development as productive of a history of the senses; affect and the (gendered and racialized) subject and body, film genres and the development of postcolonial modernisms; style; cinephilia and the production of publics; representations of popular religiosity; and the relationship between feeling and ideology. We will examine films that suggest particular affective states. Our study will be interdisciplinary and readings will draw on fields of cinema, area studies, cultural studies as well as anthropology, philosophy, and history.
COML 689.401 Essayism and the Question of Everyday Life
M 4-7 Nadal
Cross listed with SPAN 689
In this seminar, we will trace the emergence of everyday life as critique. Such a critique operates from the phenomenological, from the quotidian as experiential, that which is in a constant estate of becoming, into the epistemological, that which, if politically charged, can trigger an ontological change—an event, if you will. As we will see, the receptivity of the essay as form is uniquely suited to the task, as it foregrounds a heightened attention to the material (a recognition) that counteracts the alienating potential of philosophical abstraction. Readings will include: Zambrano, Heller, Ors, Lukács, Lefebvre, Heidegger, Unamuno, Badiou. Some of the texts will be only in Spanish (Ors and Zambrano).
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 773.401 Gendering African-American Modernism
R 3-6 Davis
Cross listed with ENGL 770/AFRC 770