Graduate Course Descriptions
Spring 2011

COML 552.401 The German Connection
M 3-6 Richter
Undergrads Need Permission
All Readings and Lecture in English
Cross listed with CINE 550/GRMN 550

From the early 20th century, German cinema has played a key role in the history of film. Seminar topics may include: Weimar cinema, film in the Nazi period, East German film, the New German cinema, and feminist film.

COML 556.401 Ancient Interpretation of the Bible
TR 10:30-12 Stern
Cross listed with NELC 556/RELS 418

The purpose of this course is two-fold: first, to study some of the more important ways in which the Bible was read and interpreted before the modern period; second, to consider the uses to which some contemporary literary theorists have put these ancient modes of interpretation as models and precursors for their own writing. The major portion of the course will be devoted to intensive readings of major ancient exegetes, Jewish and Christian with a view to considering their exegetical approaches historically as well as from the perspective of contemporary critical and hermeneutical theory. Readings of primary sources will be accompanied by secondary readings that will be both historically oriented as well as theoretical, with the latter including Hartman, Kermode, Todorov, and Bloom.

COML 573.401 Ellison and Morrison
W 3-6 Beavers
Undergrads Need Permission
Cross listed with AFRC 570/ENGL 570

Ralph Ellison ‘s novel, Invisible Man, was an instant success, becoming a fixture in the American literary canon. However, his career taken as a whole could be considered a failure. His struggle to complete his second novel, Juneteenth, an odyssey that lasted over 40 years, could be read as testimony either to his ineptitude or his hubris. Toni Morrison, by contrast, is the author of nine novels, a Nobel laureate, and widely considered one of the most gifted writers of her generation. Her work is the focus of a massive critical enterprise by literary scholars all over the world. In this seminar, we will place the fictions and essays of Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison into conversation, and in so doing , ruminate upon the novel’s role in fashioning a polyvocal concept of American citizenship, as well as its ability to fully imagine the African American subject. We will also consider both writers’ contribution to our critical vocabulary and the role each has played in making American literary criticism a more dialogic practice.

COML 574.401 The Graphic Novel: Where Language and Image Meet
MW 2-3:30 Staff
Cross listed with GRMN 575/DTCH 275/GRMN 275

In this course, we will focus on the medium of the graphic novel. First, we will look at its literary history (medieval iluminated manuscripts, Hogarth, Goya, Toepfer, leading us into the 20th and 21st century). Next, we will investigate how graphic novels or comics work, studying them as hybrid word-and-image forms in which two narrative tracks--one verbal and one visual-- create a 'double vision' genre. We will pay special attention to the material comics are made of (words, images, color, ... as well as typical formats) but also to its grammar: the panels (frames), gutters (the empty spaces between the panels) and spatial construction of the page, and aspects such as pace. The differences between the European, American and Asian (especially Japanese) traditions will form a central focus throughout the entire course, with special attention being paid to one of the key countries in the European BD (bande dessinee) tradition, to wit Belgium, which even has a national museum and a biennial festival dedicated to this '9th Art'.

COML 578.401 Racial Enlightenment
R 12-3 Yang
Undergrads Need Permission
Cross listed with ENGL 593

This course examines eighteenth-century writings on race in the Enlightenment period, with a focus on natural history, philosophy, and aesthetic theory. We will explore topics including cultural and species distinction, global circulations of commodities between the East and West Indies, the transatlantic slave trade, the casta system of racial classification in the Americas, religious and scientific explanations of blackness, and visual representations of exotic others. Readings will include scientific texts by Linnaeus, Maupertuis, Buffon, and Blumenbach; philosophies and aesthetic theories of Rousseau, Burke, and Kant; accounts of slavery by Edward Long; and key literary texts such as Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

COML 578.401 Cinema and the Sister Arts
T 1:30-4:30 Kirkham
Cross listed with CINE 548/ITAL 588

This course explores film as a pan-generic system constructed of other art forms. Ricciotto Canudo, in a classic taxonomy, calls it “the Seventh Art” (after the plastic arts Painting, Architecture, Sculpture, and the kinetic arts Dante, Poetry, and Music). The interrelationships between film and its sister arts will be discussed 1) with respect to the historical emergence of cinema in the first decades of the 20th century as a new medium that evolved from antecedents in Old Master 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); 3) to consider how the conscious citation and appropriation of non-verbal narrative forms function emblematically to enhance cinematic meaning (e.g., embedded tableaux vivants that reproduce famous paintings; 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 paper based on the report of 15-20 pp. Reading knowledge of Italian desirable but not required. Open to upper-level undergraduates and graduate students. No prerequisites.

COML 599.401 Cinema and Science
W 6-9 Gaycken
Undergrads Need Permission
Cross listed with ARETH 590/CINE 501/ENGL 569

The overlap between cinema and science constitutes something of a disciplinary faultline—a blind spot from both the perspective of cinema studies as well as the history of science. And yet the amount and variety of moving images used in scientific contexts are vast. This seminar will provide an intensive introduction to this emerging area of study, ranging from laboratory-based, primarily analytic applications to the uncharted territory of cinema in the service of popular science. Texts by Daston and Galison, Cartwright, Foucault, Fleck, Crary, Gunning, will help us to create a framework for discussion. The seminar will culminate with a paper based on original research.

COML 599.402 Reenactment in Cinema
M 12-3 Margulies
Undergrads Need Permission
Cross listed with CINE 501.402/ENGL 569.402

Re-enactment, a common strategy for reconstructing past events in cinema, has, in the last four decades gained a new critical currency as a way to articulate history and the embodied self. We will consider the ritual, psychological and evidentiary connotations of reenactment in cinema and in related practices (commemorative pageants, mass theatrical spectacles, battle reenactments; psychoanalysis and tribunals) as well as its currency in contemporary art. The course explores the impetus for self-revision in cinema’s appropriations of pedagogic, clinical and legal models (such as talking cures, psychodrama, public testimony and truth and reconciliation commissions) to deal with the past and we ask when and how it matters that the person herself act her story; the part reenactment plays in memorial and testimonial practices; what is the interface between theatrical and therapeutic repetition and how verbal recall differs from mimetic replay. We discuss a number of classic and contemporary reenactment films, It’s All True (Welles); Attempted suicides (Antonioni); Chronicle of a Summer,(Morin and Rouch); Shoah (Lanzmann); Close up (Kiarostami), S21 the Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (Rithy Panh) and Andrea Tonnaci’s Serras da Desordem (Hills of Chaos, 2007) featuring the original protagonists on camera. We also discuss the role of reenactment in social documentaries, historical and biographical films.

COML 604.301 France and its Others: The Ethnographic Detour in French Modernism
R 3-5 Richman
Cross listed with FREN 609.301

In this course we explore the French specificity of a critical perspective resulting from the ethnographic detour into other cultures. Variously referred to as “anthropological thinking,”the “sociological revolution, “or the “ethnological imagination,” this mode of self-reflection traces its antecedents to the Renaissance discovery of the New World, just as it projects its influence into the period of de-colonization. The results figure among the most innovative social, political, literary and artistic productions of French intellectual and cultural history. Following a brief overview of the formation of this “hoary tradition” in the sixteenth century and its revolutionary legacy for the Enlightenment, we consider its role in the development of key critical concepts among the precursors to modernism, including Marx on “commodity fetishism,” Nietzsche on Dionysian pessimism, Frazer on taboo and Freud’s archaeology of the Egyptian sources of monotheism.

The bulk of our readings, however, concentrate on its contribution to the ethnographic strain of French modernism. Here, too, the emphasis is on the remarkable vitality of an approach that forged new genres and forms, whether Segalen’s ethno-fiction, Artaud’s theatre of cruelty or Jean Rouch’s ethno-cinema. Moreover, we will examine the strong inter-texual ties among our central figures, thereby providing an important lens by which to reread at least one strand of the French twentieth century.

Primary authors are Montaigne, Segalen, Durkheim, Mauss, Artaud, Bataille, Leiris, Genęt, Lévi-Strauss, and Tournier, accompanied by a bulkpack of critical sources including Derrida and Said. A screening of Jean Rouch’s “Les Maitres Fous” will also be included.

COML 634.401 Reading Modernity
T 5-8 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 include 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 683.401 Modernisms Across Borders
W 5:30-8:30 Platt/Saint-Amour/Rabaté/Jaji/Joshi
Cross listed with ENGL 573/SLAV 683

Seminars on modernism are usually taught within a single geographic area, cultural tradition, period, language, medium, and disciplinary framework. Yet modernism was a border-crossing phenomenon, and it may productively be studied as such. A recent turn toward global and transnational paradigms is one of the few traits shared by modernist studies across multiple disciplines. "Modernism Across Borders" will take advantage of this commonality among diverse sites of inquiry, treating modernism as a transborder phenomenon while also probing the limitations and still-latent potential of such an approach. The course will be taught by a team of faculty members and is intended to appeal to students in a variety of programs. Each instructor will lead the seminar for two meetings and attend at least one other meeting. Each student will choose one instructor as adviser in course work that culminates in a paper presented in a conference at the end of the semester. Instructors include: Tsitsi Jaji, Priya Joshi (Temple), Kevin Platt (who will be present as moderator at all seminar meetings), Jean-Michel Rabaté and Paul Saint-Amour.

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

The course will propose a conceptual framework for the description and analysis of Latin American texts, films and artworks of the last quarter of a century. We will discuss the works of, among others, César Aira, Mario Bellatín, Roberto Jacoby, Gabriel Orozco, Carlos Reygadas, and Lucrecia Martel. The course will be taught in English.

COML 708.401 Literary and Cultural Theory of Africa and the African Diaspora
T 6-9 Jaji
Cross listed with AFRC 708/ENGL 775

This course has two priorities. In the first place, we will read a number of influential works of theory which have and continue to shape the field of Africana studies, bearing in mind questions of whether, why, and how it makes sense to think of African and African Diaspora cultural expression in tandem. To this end we will survey the “state of the field” by looking at key primary texts recent research has engaged with, while tracing some of the unexpected sites where the work of theorizing took place – autobiography, oratory, early anthropology, performance practices and visual arts. A second priority is to rehearse an archive of theory that centers on the intellectual labor of black women. This approach is grounded in the matrifocal dimension of many African, African American (understood hemispherically) and Black European cultures. Readings may include Ama Ata Aidoo, Ifi Amadiume, Anthony K. Appiah, James Baldwin, Ken Bugul, Maryse Condé, Carol Boyce Davies, W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Gilroy, Stuart Hall, Zora Neale Hurston, Claudia Jones, Audre Lorde, Achille Mbembe, Kobena Mercer, V.Y. Mudimbe, Stephanie Newell, Lynn Nottage, Sarah Nuttall, Sol Plaatje, Eslanda Goode Robeson, the Sistren Collective, Maria Stewart. Assignments will include a research term paper, an annotated bibliography and a syllabus related to their own research interests.

COML 795.401 Unsettling the Word: Attack of the Difficult Poems
M 6-9 Bernstein
Cross listed with ENGL 795

Unsettling the Word: The Attack of the Difficult Poems (The Aversive Poetics of Estrangement, Disburbance, Expropriation, Abnormality, and the Pataqueerical)

Seminar visits by Johanna Drucker on both the word made visible and aesthetic complicity; Jerome McGann on textual conditions; Michael Davidson on disability; Marjoie Perloff on Uncreative Genius; and Al Filreis on radio, pedagogy, and PennSound. Approaches clinical and unclinical to cornucopia of abnormal texts, from Poe and Dickinson, Baudelaire and Mallarmé, to Stein and Zukofsky, Eigner and Weiner, Scalapino, Brossard, Howe, and Bök, with special reference to Jarry, Russian Futurism, Dada, and Wittgenstein. Conception/syllabus in formation, check back here for updates. More info and updates/changes here.


Last modified December 1, 2010
Maintained by Daniel DeWispelare
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania