Graduate Course Descriptions
Spring 2009

COML 503.401 History and Language of Italy
T 1:30-3:30 Finotti
Cross listed with ITAL 501
Conducted in English

This course will explore the connections between Italian language/languages and the political, social, cultural history of Italy. We will also address questions related to nationhood, Emigration, Ethnicity and Identity. This course will be open to advanced undergraduates and will be taught in English.

COML 525.401 Experiments in Ethics
W 1-3 Bicchiere
Cross listed with PHIL 525

How mutual expectations influence trust, fairness and cooperation.

COML 527.401 Religious Others/Middle Ages
M 2-5 Fishman
Cross listed with HEBR 583/HIST 523/JWST 523/RELS 523

This course will explore attitudes toward monotheists of other faiths and claims made about these "religious Others" in real and imagined encounters between Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Middle Ages. Strategies of "othering" to be analyzed -- claims about the Other's body, habits and beliefs -- include those found in works of law, theology, literature, art and polemics. Attention will be paid to cases of cross-cultural influence, both conscious and unconscious. Primary sources will be provided in English, but student research papers should utilize primary sources in their original languages.

COML 532.401 Narrative Theory: Fictional Minds and Narrative Unreliability
T 1:30-3:30 Bernaerts
Cross listed with DTCH 530/ENGL 590

This course will explore recent trends in narrative theory, focusing on the representation of minds in fiction and on narrative unreliability. The work of narratologists such as Dorrit Cohn, Monika Fludernik, James Phelan, Ansgar Nünning and Alan Palmer will form the basis for discussions on unreliable narrators, mad narrators, self-conscious and naïve narrators, the representation of thoughts in fiction and the mind style of fictional characters. Literary works that will be discussed may include texts by authors such as Nikolaj Gogol, Edgar Allan Poe, Ken Kesey, Ian McEwan and a selection of modern Dutch and Flemish fiction. All works can be read in English translation.

COML 534.401 Women in Poetry: From the Trobairitz to the Petrarchans
T 4-6 Kirkham
Cross listed with ITAL 534/GSOC 534

This course presents poetry by women and about women. The first half will trace a Romance lyric tradition from the 12th-c. Provencal troubadours and their female counterparts, the trobairitz, into the Sicilian School of the Duecento, the Tuscan Dolce Stil Novo, Dante’s early Stony Rhymes,” and Petrarch’s 14th-c. love poetry. The second half of the course will be dovoted to Renaissance lyric, when Petrarchism becomes a European fashion, producing numerous polyvocal anthologies, or “virtual salons.” We shall consider how Petrarch’s “Scattered Rhymes” undergo a transformation in Petrarchismo, why this literary mode makes possible a flowering of poetry by women, how the women adapt a first-person male lyric voice to their own purposes (as maiden, wife, widow, courtisan, virtuosa), and how they gain acceptance by the male establishment (e.g., Bembo, Della Casa, Michelangelo, Varchi, Bronzino, Cellini) in the art of poetry as “epistolary” exchange, or dialogue, linking members of a cultural community. Our female authors will include Vittoria Colonna, Chiara Matraini, Tullia d’Aragona, Isabella di Morra, Gaspara Stampa, Veronica Franco, and Laura Battiferra degli Ammannati. Their varying critical reception will raise larger questions: how do women enter a national literary history? Is their presence less stable than that of male authors? Do all-female canons reflect lines of literary influence or do they relegate women to a kind of virtual matroneum that segregates and diminishes the female voice? Undergraduates welcome, after prior consultation with instructor.

COML 592.401 Reading Gilles Deleuze
M 3-5 Beckman
Cross listed with ARTH 593/CINE 591/ENGL 591/FREN 591

At a moment when the influence of Gilles Deleuze is broad, this course offers students the opportunity to read closely some of Deleuze’s writing, including but not limited to his work on cinema, as well as some of the texts he co-authored with Félix Guattari. Course readings will focus on primary texts, including: Cinema 1: the movement-image/ Gilles Deleuze; Cinema 2: the time image / Gilles Deleuze; Coldness and Cruelty, Anti-Oedipus: capitalism and schizophrenia; and A thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia. Requirements: Close reading of texts; participation in class discussion; class presentations; 20-25 page research paper.

COML 598.401 Aesthetics: Emotion in Arts
T 3-6 Guyer/Camp
Cross listed with PHIL 585

This course will investigate historical and contemporary philosophical views on the role of the emotions in the arts. Do we have genuine emotional responses to works of art - to fiction? paintings? music? If so, what are the conditions under which we do and don't have such emotional responses? When are such responses appropriate? In particular, does an appropriate aesthetic attitude require emotional distance from the object of the artwork? Is it inappropriate to respond emotionally to morally depraved artworks? How do formal devices induce, constrain, and otherwise alter our emotional responses to art? Readings will be drawn from philosophers including Jean-Baptise Du Bos, David Hume, Edmund Burke, Moses Mendelssohn, Henry Home Lord Kames, Arthur Schopenhauer, Edward Bullough, R.G. Collingwood, Stanley Cavell, Tamar Szabo Gendler, Richard Moran, Kendall Walton, and others.

COML 582.401 Topics in Aesthetics
W 2-5 Guyer
Cross listed with GRMN 580, PHIL 480
Undergrads Need Permission

Topics in aesthetics this semester will focus on classics in twentieth-century aesthetics from both the "continental" and "analytic" traditions. Authors to be studied will include John Dewey, R.G. Collingwood, Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Frank Sibley, Theodor W. Adorno, Nelson Goodman, Arthur Danto, Stanley Cavell, and Richard Wollheim. Topics will include the cognitive, emotional, moral, and political significance of aesthetic experience, and the ontological, semantic, and historical character of art. Written work for the course will consist of one short paper and one term paper.

COML 687.401 The Spanish Connection
M 1-3 Fuchs
Cross listed with ENGL 539/SPAN 687

This seminar will examine the place of Spain in early modern English culture. The premise is that to make sense of England's strategies of self-definition and self-representation in the sixteenth and early-seventeenth century we must, paradoxically, turn to Spain. For despite the differences created by the Reformation, English incursions in the New World, and the conflicts in Ireland and the Netherlands, England remained, both culturally and politically, in Spain's debt. In a period that begins with the marriage of Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon, and that briefly rehearses the dynastic allegiance at mid-century, when Mary Tudor marries Philip II (and, again, as farce, with the attempted "Spanish marriage" of Charles I), the two nations remained closely linked by literary and imperial preoccupations and by England's insistent imitation of Spain's primacy. Topics will include the role of Spain as imperial and cultural model, the production and dissemination of the Black Legend, and the creation of an English literary canon from Spanish materials. The goal will be to move beyond the Armada moment, with its emphasis on conflict, to the multiple and productive connections that characterize the period, particularly in terms of English literary nationalism. Readings will range from pamphlets and travel narratives to translations of Spanish originals to Elizabethan and Jacobean drama.

COML 690.401 Theory and Practice of the Novel
R 3-5 Wiggin
Cross listed with GRMN 689

COML 691.401 Literature and the Arts in the Age of Globalization
T 1:30-4:30 Laddaga
Cross listed with SPAN 690

Which conceptual and methological resources do we need to describe the main transformations in the arts in the last three decades (in an age of globalization)? The course will attempt to provide some possible answers to this question through the consideration of a series of artistic tendencies of these years: the expansion of a writing of the self; the interest in forms of collaborative production; the exploration of new technologies. We will analyze books by, among others, César Aira, Nicola Barker, and Emmanuel Carrere, films by Lars von Trier, Gus van Sant, and Lucrecia Martel, and artworks by Gabriel Orozco, Thomas Hirschhorn, and Pierre Huyghe.

COML 697.401 Critical Race Studies and the Iberian Atlantic
M 2-6 Hill
Cross listed with SPAN 697

This course is an introduction to critical race studies in which we will apply critical theory on race to a transatlantic corpus of Spanish-language texts that range from the 16th to the 19th centuries, and from poetry to drama, sermon, and essay. Authors of primary texts include Bartolomé de las Casas, José de Acosta, Garcilaso el Inca, Francisco Dávila, Benito Feijoo, José Gumilla, Luis Peguero, and Manuel Ascensio Segura. Requirements: a review (1000 words) of a book on colonial literature published in the last three years; a 15-minute in-class discussion starter (response to assigned theoretical piece or primary text); mid-semester précis of research project with annotated bibliography; research project final paper (25 pp.). Discussions in English.

COML 706.401 Culture/Power/Identities
T 4:30-6:30 Hall
Cross listed with ANTH 704/EDUC 706/FOLK 706/URBS 706

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, ethnic, national and gender differences. Theories discussed in the course provide analytic tools for examining the role of social institutions, such as education, for mediating social hierarchy and difference. 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 Topics in Chaucer: Advanced Chaucer Seminar
M 12-3 Wallace
Cross listed with ENGL 725

The contents of this seminar will be adapted to fit the particular interests of those taking it—so please write to me with your picks and pans. This will be an advanced Chaucer seminar: an opportunity to read those texts of Chaucer often ignored, such as the Boece, the Romaunt of the Rose, the Tale of Melibee and even the Parson’s Tale. We will want to read the dream poems, but also continental texts associated with them, such as (connecting with the Book of the Duchess) Machaut’s Jugement du roi de Behaigne. The New Chaucer Society’s biennial meeting will be in Siena in 2010, so we can tune up by coupling Chaucer with some Italian writing: Boccaccio’s Filostrato and Teseida, his de casibus and de mulieribus historiography (for the Monk’s Tale and the Legend of Good Women, respectively), and also his Decameron; aspects of Dante’s Commedia; Petrarch. We will consider and compare attitudes to pagan antiquity in Chaucer and the Italians, taking some points of departure from Kenelm Foster’s The Two Dantes. We will also survey the field of contemporary Chaucer criticism. Each member of the seminar will have the opportunity to survey a particular subfield or topic and then to make a class report.

Chaucer is so capacious that a vast range of critical and scholarly interests may be pursued. These might include theories of dreams; literary theory; rhetorica; diets and bodily regimens; English and continental identities and locations; multilingualism; gender theory; lyrics, lyricism, and music; saints’ lives and hagiography; alchemy; chivalry; representations of Judaism and Islam; the Orient; the visual arts (with comparative reference to Netherlandish painting, up to Brueghel and Bosch); the evolution of parliament and parliamentary procedure; the English Rising of 1381 (and comparable popular rebellions in Paris and Florence); Paris and the Hundred Years’ War; Prague as Europe’s most sophisticated and complex city; Anne of Bohemia, queen to Richard II; London; the division of urban labor; manuscript production (with several local texts to ponder); early printed editions of Chaucer; uses of Chaucer in Reformation debate and polemic.

This course will concentrate chiefly on the period of Chaucer’s lifetime, 1343-1400. But folks wishing to stretch to a later period, especially the Renaissance, can bid for class and curricular time. Students are of course free to work on whatever topic they choose for their research paper. The instructor takes particular interest in contemporary neo-Chaucerian performances by sound poet Caroline Bergvall, Af-Am poet Marilyn Nelson, Chaucer rapper Baba Brinkman, bard of Brooklyn Charles Bernstein, and operatic librettist Wendy Steiner (premiering her Loathly Lady at Penn in spring 2009). These will not feature much in this particular class, but independent pursuit of such interests will be encouraged. This course may interest some Comp Litters; it is designed chiefly for hardcore medievalists, Renaissance allies, and the fascinated few.

Examination: by one long essay with research component.

COML 776.401 Topics in History and Theory: Understanding Venice: Multi-Disciplinary Research Seminar
T 1:30-4:30 Hunt
Cross listed with LARP 770

COML 790.401 The Stigma Archive
M 3-6 Love
Cross listed with ENGL 790/GSOC 790

This course explores the history and theory of social stigma across a range of disciplines. Stigma indicates both a literal marking of the flesh and the “uptake” of the body into an abstract sign of inferiority. Both wound and symbol, the term offers a useful way to describe the paradoxical abstraction and hyper-visibility of social others. During the semester, we will consider the importance of stigma in the origin of modern categories of identity; we will also attempt to mediate between abstract, top-down accounts of stigma and first-person accounts of the corporeal and psychic effects of social exclusion.

The course is divided into two parts. In the first part, we will trace the origin of stigma in the ancient world as well as its afterlife in discourses ranging from statistics to criminology to the human sciences. In the second part, we will focus on a single text—Erving Goffman’s 1963 sociological classic Stigma: On the Management of Spoiled Identity. We will read Goffman’s book alongside the texts that he draws on: a range of mid-century memoirs, novels, case studies, and autobiographies by and about social others (everything from circus performers to drug addicts to homosexuals to ex-cons). We will draw on recent work in queer, critical race, and disability studies and will frame our conversation in terms of recent debates about the potentials and dangers of comparative studies of difference and inequality.

Readings by: Goffman, Michel Foucault, Helene Cixous, Georges Canguilhem, Frantz Fanon, W. E. B. Du Bois, Rosemary Garland Thomson, Kenji Yoshino, Martha Nussbaum, Lennard Davis, Roderick Ferguson, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Sander Gilman, Anne Anlin Cheng, Jean-Paul Sartre, James Baldwin, William Burroughs, Nathanael West, Susan Seizer, and others.


Last modified October 28, 2008
Maintained by Daniel DeWispelare
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania