Graduate Courses
Spring 2013

COML 528.401

R 2-5 Platt/Djagalov
Undergrads need permission
Cross listed with RUSS 528

From Late-Soviet to Non-Soviet Literature and Culture

The aims of this course are threefold: to introduce students to some signature literary and cultural texts form roughly the post-Stalin era to the present, to equip them with relevant theoretical approaches and concerns, and finally, to offer a space where they can develop their own research projects. A major theme will be the relations between "Russian" literature and history, in which literature is not only a mimesis of the historical process but often an active agent. Throughout, we will be particularly attentive to the periphery of literature. In the first place, this means an expanded geography, the inclusion of non-Russian Soviet and emigre writers before and after 1991, as well as an effort to theorize their structural position. Secondly, we will adopt the late Formalists' understanding of literary periphery as the genres, cultural forms, institutions, and phenomena that abutted the literary field and affected its processes. Depending on student interest, our attention to these objects of inquiry could be directed toward bardic song and the later lyric-centric Russian rock, samizdat and literary internet, thick journals and literary prizes, Soviet-era dissidence and today's protest culture.

COML 542.401

W 2-4 Dayioglu-Yucel
Undergrads need permission
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with GRMN 542

The Harem as a Space of Exoticism and Cultural Transfer

The Harem has been the object of Western imagination and exoticism for many centuries. Lately, the interest in the Harem has emerged from within Islamic societies. The TV-show “Muhtesem Yüzyil” (Wonderful Century), screened weekly on Turkish TV, played an important role in this process and led to new discussions on what was ‘really’ going on in the Harem in Turkey itself. This course seeks to explore the importance of the Harem as a place shifting between the imaginary and the real and its role in cultural transfer. Imagined or not, the conception of the Harem was as much a part of cultural transfer as the many women from different cultures living in the Harem were. Nowadays, media plays a crucial part in cultural transfer which, for example, leads to a rising number of tourists from Arabic countries visiting the Harem in Istanbul, triggering new forms of cultural transfer in contemporary life. We will analyze historic and contemporary literary texts, paintings and visual media such as the above mentioned TV-show, along with critical analyses in texts by Edward Said, Assia Djebar and Leila Sebbar, among others.

COML 564.301

R 9-12 Saint-Amour
Cross listed with ENGL 564.301

War, Form, and Theory

At this seminar’s heart is the question of war’s relationship to time. If form allows us to anticipate experience, then war would always be a war against form—against the prospect of forestructuring “the decision at arms” through prophecy; tactics and strategy; the laws of warfare; codes of military ethics; narratives of sacrifice and destiny; categories such as the sublime, the beautiful, and the uncanny; gendered divisions of labor and vulnerability; and the lineaments of mode and genre. Yet these forms are also the means by which we recognize war as war. Are there forms in war, then? Or only forms before war, and in war’s wake only the ruin of form, to be remade toward the next war?

We will also be centrally concerned with war’s many relationships to teaching and scholarship in the humanities: as imperiling force, as enabling condition, as variously indispensable and indefensible object of study. When does theory understand itself as the continuation of warfare by other means? When, by contrast, does critical discourse turn to the subject of war as a way of phenomenalizing its own self-conception? How do students of representation and discourse assert or disavow their professional competency when it comes to war? To consider these questions, we will pay particular attention to the “nuclear criticism” of the 1980s; to trauma studies and its critics; to recent work on terror, sovereignty, and cosmopolitanism; and to the 2009 PMLA special issue on war.

Readings from among: Immanuel Kant, Carl von Clausewitz, Sigmund Freud, Virginia Woolf, Ford Madox Ford, Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, David Jones, Theodor Adorno, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jonathan Schell, Russell Hoban, Elaine Scarry, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Paul Virilio, Paul Mann, Michael Walzer, Dominick LaCapra, Ruth Leys, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Judith Butler, Giorgio Agamben, Mary Favret, Rob Nixon.

COML 573.401

R 12-3 Beavers
Undergrads need permission
Cross listed with AFRC 570, ENGL 570

Topics in Afro-American Lit

African American literary criticism begins as a vindicationalist project that seeks to mediate expressive culture’s role in the verification of African Americans’ place in the human family and demonstrate racialized being as a product of rationality. In the latter stages of the century we see a move toward a more vexed notion of culture whose central nodes are performativity and improvisation. This course will move across a broad set of concerns: intellectual history, hermeneutical practice, canon formation, periodization (e.g. modernism and postmodernism), and theorizing the African American subject. In studying the development of African American critical practice in the 20th and 21st Centuries, we will examine the distinction between “secondary” and “primary” sources in order to consider the ways expressive cultural forms like the sermon and the folktale (and the subsequent literary forms to follow) blur such distinctions by being both critical and performative. Obviously, the discursive properties of race, class, gender, and sexuality will be central to our effort to historicize interpretive practices. However, it will be equally important to see the critical project in relation to the efforts to achieve social equality and political agency. Authors in the course may include Sterling A. Brown, William Braithwaite, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, J. Saunders Redding, Toni Morrison, Hortense Spillers, Barbara Christian, Houston Baker, Henry Louis Gates, and Paul Gilroy. We will be joined by guest lecturers who will offer additional perspectives at various points in the term. Coursework will consist of a formal presentation and a critical paper due at the end of the term.

COML 576.401

F 2-4 Elkann
Cross listed with ITAL 584
All readings and lectures in English

Jews in 20th Century Italian Lit: Does Jewishness Exist? The Presence and Influence of Jews in 20th C. Italian Lit

The course will deal with the following books, Italo Svevo, "La coscienza di Zeno"; Alberto Moravia, "Gli indifferenti"; Giorgio Bassani, "Gli occhiali d'oro"; Primo Levi, "Se questo è un uomo"; Natalia Ginzburg, "Lessico famigliare"; Umberto Saba, "Scorciatoie e racconti. Il Canzoniere"; Alain Elkann, "Piazza Carignano"; Alessandro Piperno, Con le peggiori intenzioni".

COML 600.401

W 2-5 Farrell
Cross listed with LATN 602


Exploration of selected themes in Vergil's works, with an emphasis on aspects that have been particularly important in recent research. Some of these include intertextuality within the epic tradition and between epic and tragedy; philosophical and particularly ethical approaches to literature; discourse theory as it relates to expressions of dissent.

COML 618.401

T 3-6 Verkholantsev
Cross listed with RUSS 618

Cultural History of Medieval Rus’ (800-1700)

Russian 618 offers an overview of the literary, cultural, and political history of Medieval Rus' from its origins up to the Petrine reign (early 18th century), the period that laid the foundation for the Russian Empire. The focus of the course is on the Kievan and Muscovite traditions but we also look at the cultural space of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland (the territory of today's Belarus and Ukraine). The course takes a comparative and interdisciplinary approach to the evolution of the main cultural paradigms of Russian Orthodoxy viewed in a broader European context (vis-à-vis Byzantium and the Latin West). We learn about the worldview of medieval Orthodox Slavs by examining their religion, ritual, spirituality, art, music, literature, education, and popular culture. Classes are conducted in English. Readings are in Russian and English. English translations of primary sources are available for those with no or limited Russian competence.

COML 730.401

W 2-5 Loomba
Cross listed with ENGL 730

Global Early Modern: Periodization, Race and Global Contact 1550-1650

Description TBA.

COML 780.301

T 2-5 Waltham-Smith
Permission Needed from Department
Cross listed with MUSC 780.301

Seminar in Theory: Touching Deconstruction/Touching Music

For Derrida, music is perhaps the supreme touchable-untouchable: the object of his "strongest desire," yet "completely forbidden." He fears that he does not know how to touch music, but, more than that, he fears that deconstruction's touch might be fatal to it, for like Nietzsche, Derrida figures philosophy as the hand clapped over the mouth of song. Perhaps this danger that deconstruction might extinguish what it touches also explains why there are few compelling attempts within music theory and musicology to bring this body of philosophical thinking to bear on the experience of music. When recent efforts in music studies to attend to music's sensuous materiality and the body in performance all-too-readily fall prey to deconstructive critique, the possibility of contact between these two modes of thinking becomes yet more difficult to grasp. And yet, because deconstruction arguably represents the most sustained and critically reflective engagement with phenomenology in recent Continental philosophy, it is an indispensable resource for the urgent and ambitious task facing the study of music today.

This seminar will explore the complex relationship between phenomenology and French, post-Heideggerian deconstruction and will ask what is at stake--musically, ethically and politicall--in these debates for how we think about what music is and how we experience it. Derrida's confrontation with Nancy in Le toucher, in which he stages a series of tangential debates with key figures in the phenomenological tradition, will form the backbone of the reading for the course. Alongside some writings of Derrida and Nancy, we shall read short texts by their principal interlocutors across the history of Continental philosophy, including Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Lévinas and Deleuze. We shall also consider a number of musical stage works that seem to theorize the concept of touch in music, and examine?as we move from Rameau, through Mozart and Verdi, to Wagner and Strauss?how music increasingly puts in question the possibility of ever touching music. Other musics and soundscapes outside this canon will be chosen depending upon the group's interests.

COML 793.401

T 1:30-4:30 Bersani, Leo
Cross listed with ARTH 797, CINE 797

Seminar in Contemporary Art: The Subject of Love

Concepts and representations of love in certain philosophical, literary, and psychoanalytic texts, as well as in film and painting, from Plato to Godard. If love is constituted by the very language used to "describe" it, we could perhaps also argue that the construction of love as a psychic reality is inseparable from the elaboration of particular forms of subjectivity. To represent and to theorize different modes and objects of human love is, at least implicitly, to propose varying structures of selfhood. A history of amorous imagery and discourse re-enacts and reformulates the Foucaldian project of tracing the "hermeneutics of subjectivity" in Western culture. We will be testing this hypothesis first in a few texts from Antiquity (by Plato and Sophocles), and then, primarily, in modern works by Freud, D.H. Lawrence, Henry James, Proust, Duras, Claire Denis, Jarman, Rohmer, and Godard. With Jarman and Godard, we will also be examining the mimetic and frictional relations between film and painting.

COML 795.401

M 12-3 Bernstein
Cross listed with ENGL 795

Poetics of Identity: Textual-Aesthetic-Social--Technological

An investigation of the multiple senses of identity for poetry, poetics, and literary scholarship. Starting with a preliminary look at conceptions of idenity in Poe, Hawthorne and Freud, the seminar will frame its considerations in terms of the frame analysis of Erving Goffman, Geroge Lakoff, and John Berger. Poetics of translation will be addressed via Yunte Huang and Walter Benjamin, as well as Pound and Zukofsky. The relation of language, ideology, gender, and identity will be considered through readings of Basil Bernstein on class codes in speech, as well as Luce Irigaray, Rosmarie Waldrop, and Nicole Brossard. Textual scholarship and the identity of the poem will be taken up via a study of Emily Dickinson’s holographs vs printed version of her poems, paying special attention to Susan Howe’s advocacy of “sumptuary values.” The status of the object of art (whether its identity is intrinsic, extrinsic, or in-between) will be taken up via Duchamp, Michael Fried, Robert Smithson, and Samuel Delany on Hart Crane. One session will focus on Jewish secular/ethnic identity. Two seminars will be spent on Gertrude Stein and the play of identity, looking also into recent controversies about her World War 2 years. There will also be case studies of poets, including possibly Robert Grenier (class visit), Larry Eigner, Melvin Tolson, Langston Hughes, Audre Lord, Adrienne Rich, David Antin, Tan Lin, Lyn Hejinian, and Caroline Bergvall.

COML 795.402

T 9-12 Wallace
Cross listed with ENGL 795
Undergrads need permission

Dante and Afterwards

This necessarily experimental course will consider engagement with Dante by poets and artistes coming after him, particularly writers in English (but with openings to Comp Lit). The syllabus will be tailored to meet the needs and interests of folks attending the first class, or who express desiderata in anticipo. Experts in related fields may attend: Stuart Curran (Romantics) and Jean-Michel Rabaté (modernism) have already agreed to make guest appearances. We need not envisage a chronological trudge through the centuries, but topics and authors might include:

  • Chaucer, House of Fame; Troilus and Criseyde, Books I-III; “De Hugelino.”
  • Renaissance: slimmer pickings here, but a host of incidental references that could be pursued via Toynbee, and Boswell (see below), from Foxe, Actes and Monuments, to Milton, Paradise Lost.
  • Eighteenth century: how Dante gets folded into anti-Catholic discourses post 1707; Voltaire’s anti-Dantism; Thomas Warton, Poet Laureate, on Dante’s “disgusting fooleries”; Dante as “A Methodist parson in Bedlam” (Horace Walpole).
  • Romantics: early part-Englishings of the Commedia, and in 1802 the first full translation, by Irishman Henry Boyd. The first line-by-line translation by H.F.Cary (1814), endorsed by Coleridge and then Wordsworth, and carried by Keats in his knapsack. Shelley, a brilliant Dantist: Triumph of Life (terza rima); A Defence of Poetry (1821) Blake (as illustrator, more than as poet)
  • Victorian: fondness for embellishing “scenes from Dante,” rather than grappling with the Commedia tout court. Tennyson, “Ulysses”; Arthur Hallam; Thomas Carlyle and the Brownings.
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti: a turn to the Vita nuova and the cult of Beatrice.
  • Nineteenth-Century Americans: Lorenzo da Ponte (1749-1838), born in a ghetto, Mozart’s librettist, later Professor of Italian at Columbia.
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, complete translation (1867), with support of Charles Eliot Norton and James Russell Lowell, and the Harvard “Dante Club”; Fanny Appleton.
  • H. Cordelia Ray (Oxford-Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers)
  • Modernists: Ezra Pound (distantly related to Longfellow, devotee of Rossetti), Cantos.
  • T.S. Eliot: “Dante” (1929); Waste Land; “Little Gidding” (1942), etc.
  • Irish Dantes: Yeats, a little (Pound served him as secretary, on and off, 1913-16).
  • Joyce, from Stephen Hero to Finnegans Wake; acquired a Vita nuova at Trieste.
  • Beckett, More Pricks than Kicks (1934); Happy Days?
  • Heaney, Field Work (“Lough Beg”), Station Island (“Lough Derg”), critical writings.
  • 20th c. Caribbean and African-American Dantes: Derek Walcott, Epitaph for the Young (1949); Omeros (1990)
  • Amiri Baraka, The System of Dante’s Hell (1965)
  • Gloria Naylor, Linden Hills (1985)
  • Eternal Kool Project, hiphop Inferno
  • Filmic and TV Dantes: William B. Ramous, Francesca da Rimini (1907)
  • Henry Otto, Dante’s Inferno (1924)
  • Spencer Williams, Go Down, Death (1944, incorporating a 1911 Italian silent)
  • Peter Greenaway and Tom Phillips, TV Dante (1988/90)
  • Contemporary Dantes: To include Caroline Bergvall, 48 Dante Variations
Participants will write one long essay, will have the opportunity to preview their work during the last two weeks of class, and may give class reports on their areas of expertise. This will be a collaborative effort; none of us can pretend to know all fields.

Texts: Class will be taught through parallel Italian-English texts, and it’s not utterly crucial we all follow the same edition (because the Italian text of the Commedia is remarkably stable; because variants in translating are themselves part of the interest). There are many excellent translations to choose from. For a first investment, however, I would recommend Allan Mandelbaum in 3 vols, Bantam Classics, because: 1) he engages in a real poetic agon, but knows the Italian; 2) notes are helpful but not overpowering; 3) very cheap.

Also recommended:
  • Durling and Martinez (Oxford UP): excellent translating, super-scholarly notes
  • Robin Kirkpatrick (Penguin): brilliant, deeply-insider translatingCharles S. Singleton (Princeton UP): prose translation, the 6 vol Daddy of English Dantes
  • Very likely a required text: Eric Griffiths and Matthew Reynolds, Dante in English (Penguin), anthology
Recklessly Select Bibliography:
  • Boswell, J.C., Dante’s Fame in England… 1477-1640 (1999)
  • Burwick and Douglas (eds), Dante and Italy in British Romanticism (2011)
  • Havely, N.R., ed., Dante’s Modern Afterlife (1998); Dante in the Nineteenth Century (2011)
  • Iannucci, I.A. (ed.), Dante, Cinema and Television (2004)
  • Looney, Dennis, Freedom Readers: the African-American Reception of Dante (2011)
  • Toynbee, Dante in English Literature… c. 1380-1844, 2 vols (1909)
  • Wallace, David, “Dante in English,” in Jacoff (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Dante

Last modified January 11, 2013
Maintained by Cliff Mak
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania