Graduate Courses

Spring 2015

COML 509.401

R 3-5 Hellerstein
Undergrads need permission
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with ENGL 591, GRMN 509, JWST 509, YDSH 509

Jewish Women Writers

"Jewish Women Writers" is a graduate seminar also open to advanced undergraduates. The seminar will consider works by Jewish women who wrote in Yiddish, Hebrew, English, and other languages in the late 19th through the 20th century. The texts, poetry and prose, will include both belles lettres and popular writings, such as journalism, as well as private works (letters and diaries) and devotional works.

The course will attempt to define "Jewish writing," in terms of language and gender, and will consider each writer in the context of the aesthetic, religious, and national ideologies that prevailed in this period.

Because students will come with proficiency in various languages, all primary texts and critical or theoretical materials will be taught in English translation. However, those students who can, will work on the original texts and share with the class their expertise to foster a comparative perspective. Because we will be discussing translated works, a secondary focus of the course will, in fact, be on literary translation's process and products. The syllabus will likely select works by some of the following writers, as well as by others , perhaps suggested by the students:

Yiddish: Miriam Ulinover, Roza Yakubovitch, Celia Dropkin, Anna Margolin, Rokhl Korn, Dvore Fogel, Kadya Molodowsky, Malka Heifetz Tussman
Hebrew: Esther Raab,Yocheved Bat Miriam, Dahlia Ravikovitsh, Yona Wallach
English: Mina Loy, Adrienne Rich, Irena Klepfisz, Linda Zisquit, Jacqueline Osherow, Shirley Kaufman
German: Elsa Lasker-Schueller

Yiddish: Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn, Esther Singer Kreitman, Rokhl Brokhes, Fradl Shtok, Malka Lee, Kadya Molodowsky, Chava Rosenfarb, Blume Lempel, Rikuda Potash
Hebrew: Dvorah Baron, Esther Ra'ab, Amalia Kahana-Carmon
English: Anzia Yezierska, Edna Ferber, Cynthia Ozick, Leah Vincent, Pearl Abraham, etc.

COML 532.401

R 1:30-4:30 Hoegaerts
Undergrads need permission
Cross listed with GRMN 555, DTCH 530, HIST 531

History of the Human Voice in Western Europe: 1790-1930

The overall goal of this course is to show how notions of 'humanity' and its distinction from the 'sub- human' have changed throughout the modern period, using interpretations of the voice and its articulations of humanity as a yard-stick. From the late eighteenth century onward, as scientists discovered more about the workings of the throat, the voice was increasingly seen as a physical -- rather than as a spiritual -- phenomenon. Entrenched in specific bodies, voices were therefore believed to 'say' something about their owners: 'savages' were supposedly free of stammering, women's speech betrayed their inherent softness, and the deaf were considered to be incapable of expressing abstract thought through their sign language.

COML 535.402

TR 10:30-12 Williams
Cross listed with COML 226, SAST 227, SAST 527, ENGL 595

The Hindi Nation and Its Fragments

This course will trace the formation and contestation of a Hindi national public during the colonial and post-colonial periods, utilizing the post-colonial critical thought of writers in English like Partha Chatterjee, Gayatri Spivak, and Aijaz Ahmed, but also of critics writing in Hindi like Namvar Singh, Ashok Vajpeyi, Rajendra Yadav, etc. Attention will be given to the manner in which the contours and character of this imagined community have been debated in the context of different literary, social, and political movements, with particular emphases given to aspects of gender, caste, and regional identity. Central to class discussions will be the question of what constitutes a language or literature, and consequently what relation those concepts can have to nation in a multilingual state such as India. Readings will be in translation.

COML 545.401

W 2-5 Vinitsky
Cross listed with RUSS 545

Russian Dead Poets Society

This course, designed for the lovers of poetry, will focus on close readings of the works of marvelous Russian poets from the 18th to the 20th c. These poems will be read against a broad historical and cultural background. Our goal will be to "resurrect" the distinct voice of each poet as a part of a cultural myth of Russian poetry. The list of dead poets to be summoned includes a number of major names, such as Gavriil Derzhavin, Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Alexander Blok, Osip Mandelshtam, and Iosif Brodsky, as well as a "short list" of minor, yet very representative and provocative, authors such as the notorious "pornographic" poet Ivan Barkov and a "ghost poet" Kozma Prutkov.

COML 563.401

W 3-6 Gamer/Steinlight
Undergrads need permission
Cross listed with ENGL 560

The Novel: Form, History, Theory

This graduate seminar will serve as an introduction to the history and theory of the novel. Half of our time will be spent reading works of fiction, and the other half will be devoted to theoretical accounts of the genre. We will ask what competing forms have shaped the novel as well as what historical and ideological conditions brought those forms into being. Since the novel is often understood as narrating the transition to modernity, we will consider the relationship between its form and what might be called a process of becoming. Readings in fiction will span the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, and may include novels by Defoe, Goethe, Radcliffe, Austen, Scott, Dickens, Flaubert, and Woolf, along with theory and criticism by Lukács, Bakhtin, Auerbach, Watt, Barthes, Jameson, Moretti, Lynch, Armstrong, Gallagher, Woloch, and more.

COML 564.401

R 12-3 Saint-Amour
Undergrads need permission
Cross listed with ENGL 564

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; and recent work on terror, sovereignty, and cosmopolitanism.

Possible readings from among: Kant, Clausewitz, Woolf, Ford, Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Adorno, Derrida, Foucault, Schell, Hoban, Jones, Fussell, Scarry, Deleuze and Guattari, Virilio, Mann, Walzer, LaCapra, Hardt and Negri, Sebald, Butler, Agamben, Asad, Weizman.

COML 580.401

M 12-3 Lesser/Fraas
Undergrads need permission
Cross listed with ENGL 574, HIST 574

Introduction to Bibliography from Gutenberg to Google Books

This course introduces students to the theory and practice of bibliography, the study of the relationship of texts to their physical production and material forms. We will survey the history of textual production and reproduction from the beginning of hand-press printing in the 15th century to the contemporary digital moment, in order to understand what the particularities of these practices can teach us about how the texts we study came to be the way they are (to paraphrase Michael Suarez). Students will gain technical expertise and experience through a series of hands-on exercises in bibliographic analysis, textual criticism, and editing, but we will also emphasize a bibliographic "way of seeing" that can be brought to bear on literary criticism, cultural studies, and historiography, beyond the technical work of bibliography.

COML 582.401

M 3-5 Fleishman
Undergrads need permission
All readings and lectures in English Cross listed with GRMN 580, PHIL 480


This seminar will offer a comprehensive and in-depth look at one of modernity'smost provocative and controversial thinkers. Proceeding chronologically, we will examine all of Nietzsche's major writings: from the early essays through the hopefulness of the 'free spirit' period, from the calculating genealogies to the inchoate and chaotic fragments of the posthumously published Will of Power, from the profoundly strange and terrifying Zarathustra to the fevered final works. Throughout the semester, students will be invited to consider Nietzsche's philosophical inheritances (from, for instance, Kant, Hegel, and Schopenhauer) and influences (on Heidegger, Foucoult, Deleuze, Derrida and many others). Discussions in English, but students are invited to read texts in the original where appropriate.

COML 584.402

W 10-12 Weissberg/Weitzman
Undergrads need permission
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with GRMN 581, JWST 490

The Origins of Jewish Studies

Reading and discussion course on selected topics in Jewish history. The instructors are visiting scholars at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. Topic and seminar title for Spring 2015: Topics in Jewish Studies: The Origins of Jewish Studies. Course description for Spring 2015: This is a reading course that grants seminar participants access to Katz Center fellows, some of the best scholars in Judaic studies from around the world. The aim of the course is to expose students to these scholars and their work, to get to know them as people, learn from them at high level, and understand their approach to the field. Over the course of the spring semester there will be four 3-session modules. Students will meet with 4 different fellows for 3 sessions each. The weekly 90-minute classes will be held at the Katz Center on Wednesdays from 10:30 am - 12 pm, and participants will be encouraged to then stay for lunch and the fellows' seminar which runs from 12:30 - 2:30 pm.

COML 593.401

M 2-4 Finotti/Elkann
Cross listed with ITAL 581

Minorities, Invention and Narration

What are the central features of a minority group? Why did minorities have such a strong impact on the cultural, social, political history of Europe and - in particular - of Italy? What is the relation between reality and invention, memory and creation in the identity of minorities and in their relation with the dominant groups? The course will focus on different kind of disparities that shaped the novel of the last century, in relation to racial, regional, linguistic, esthetic, religious, social and sexual minorities.

COML 619.401

M 12-3 Brownlee/Verkholantsev
Undergrads need permission
Cross listed with FREN 619/HIST 619/SLAV 619/ENGL 524

East and West in Medieval Europe: Bohemia as Center in Age of Luxemburgs

The seminar will examine a range of topics in Medieval Studies viewing European medieval civilization as encompassing the whole ("global") geographic and cultural space of Europe and ignoring reference to contemporary socio-political division of Europe into "Western" and "Eastern." As a case study, the course focuses on the 14th-century Holy Roman Empire from Henry VII to the Emperor Sigismund, and particularly on the reign of Charles IV, in a context in which Prague becomes the imperial capital and Bohemia a center of Europe. A detailed examination of this monarch's vision of a "Global Europe" will allow us to explore a network of connections, a network that stretches from Prague to the farthermost western, eastern and southern corners of the European continent. We will examine correspondences and differences between various linguistic, textual, political, and religious communities, while attempting to show how Latin and Slavic European cultures were interwoven. Some of the titles from the reading list are Charles IV's The Life of St. Wenceslas and Autobiography, The Golden Bull, Dante's Letters & Monarchia, Machaut's Jugement of the King of Bohemia, Petrarch's Epistolae & Poems, Froissart's Prison of Love, Johannes von Tepl's The Plowman of Bohemia, The Life of St. Constantin the Philosopher, fragments from Czech, French, Italian, Polish, Hungarian and Rus medieval chronicles, etc. All reading will be done in English, with original language versions always available.

COML 624.401

F 2-5 Patel
Cross Cultural Analysis
Cross listed with SAST 624/SAST 324/COML 324

Sanskrit Literature and Poetry

This course will focus solely on the specific genres, themes, and aesthetics of Sanskrit literature (the hymn, the epic, the lyric, prose, drama, story literature, the sutra, etc.) and a study of the history and specific topics of Sanskrit poetics and dramaturgy. All readings will be in translation.

COML 683.401

W 2-5 Platt/Poggi
Undergrads need permission
Cross listed with ARTH 783/SLAV 683/ENGL 573

Modernisms Across Borders

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. This experimental, interdisciplinary seminar will devote the first two hours of each three-hour class to discussion of readings in the study of modernism. The third hour will be devoted to a presentation and discussion of a work in progress a project either of a member of the course, or of a guest. Seminar discussions will be led by a number of Penn faculty. Conveners of the overall course are Christine Poggi and Kevin M. F. Platt. Students are encouraged to bring work in progress, either on the basis of past seminars or independent projects, to form the basis for their projects in this seminar.

COML 684.401

W 3:30-6:30 Kennedy
Undergrads need permission
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with GRMN 684, PSCI 683

After Idealism: Political Thought in Germany from Weber to Habermas

This seminar explores political thought in Germany from the Imperial state of the early 20th century through its fragmentation and division and into the reunification of east and west Germany in 1992. Much of this period was "after idealism" philosophically and politically,the preface to pessimism and "the passing of political philosophy" as articulated in the Enlightenment (Shklar),but fascinating period of thought and argument. Among our texts are Habermas (philosophy), Weber (sociology),Schmitt (law), Juenger (literature) & their contemporaries. Students are not expected to read texts in the original, although having German will greatly expand your range and the depth of your reading.

COML 696.401

T 2-4 Moudileno
Cross listed with FREN 696/AFST 696

Postcolonial Theory in Francophone Contexts

This seminar will introduce students to keys texts and influencial figures coming from, focusing on, or relevant to Francophone postcolonial contexts. Following a brief review of Anglophone postcolonial criticism, readings for the course will fall under three categories:

1) Authors from the 1940s to present who have focused almost exclusively on (post)colonial issues pertaining to Africa, the Caribbean and/or postcolonial France, such as : L.S. Senghor, Albert Memmi, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, Edouard Glissant, Patrick Chamoiseau, Abdelkebir Khatibi, Assia Djebar, Valentin Mudimbe, Achille Mbembe, Françoise Vergès.

2) Contemporary European, African and North American literary critics like Christopher Miller, Françoise Lionnet, Gayatri Spivak, Jean-Marc Moura, Charles Forsdick, H. Adlai Murdoch, Dominic Thomas, Alec Hargreaves.

3) Humanities scholars whose work would not necessarily be labeled "postcolonial" but is nevertheless relevant to postcolonial criticism (Derrida, Rancière, Balibar, Kristeva, Bancel, Blanchard).

COML 736.401

M 9-12 Stallybrass
Cross listed with ENGL 736

Material Texts

This course will focus upon the material culture of reading, writing, and printing from 1400 to 1900 in England and America, although students will be welcome to develop twentieth-century topics (e.g. on Mercedes de Acosta's bible with its photograph gallery of her "saints," including Greta Garbo). We will do hands-on research on the extraordinary collections of manuscripts and printed texts at the Library Company, the Free Library, the Rosenbach Museum, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation as well as at Penn, and the course will give you a chance to find archives and to develop publishable projects that will be relevant to whatever research you will go on to do. The topics that we will explore will include religious and sexual censorship, the manuscript circulation of poetry, the politics of the alphabet, writing and printing the American Revolution, and letter-writing practices.

COML 787.401

T 1:30-4:30 Silverman
Cross listed with ARTH 794/ENGL 790

Pictorial Photography

This course is about pictorial photography: large-format analogue and digital images that look "scenic" or "staged," require a prolonged and attentive viewing, and are destined for the wall of a museum. Until quite recently, most of us associated this kind of photography with the 70s, 80s and early 90s, i.e., with poststructuralist theory and the aesthetics of postmodernism. It seemed a perfect illustration of the axiom that a photograph is only a representation—or, better yet, a representation of a representation, since everything is a cultural construction. But not only has pictorial photography continued unabated, it has gained more and more momentum. It has also proven resistant to all of our attempts to derealize it—to treat it as a tool, a commodity, a fiction or any other kind of human artefact. Something else is happening here, something big and important, and we need to figure out what it is. As everyone with a theoretical interest in contemporary art already knows, in 1977 Douglas Crimp organized an exhibition called "Pictures," and thirty-three years later Michael Fried published a book on pictorial photography. These two events are oppositionally connected; Crimp defined his show against Fried's "Art and Objecthood," and Fried reasserts the argument he makes in "Art and Objecthood" through his readings of pictorial photography. But Crimp's exhibition and Fried's book are more than two arrows moving in slow, motion across a three-decade divide. There are also many other players in this drama, some of whom offer very different accounts of pictorial photography, but all of whom seem to think that it is more than a blip on the screen of art history. This is, I believe, because the stakes are not just aesthetic, intellectual and political, they are also ontological. Pictorial photography is an important chapter within a larger narrative—one that began with the first pinhole camera, and will end only when we do. This narrative is the story of our relationship to the world. Since this chapter of the narrative begins with Pictorialism and Camera Work, that is also where we will begin.

Last modified January 9, 2014
Maintained by Cliff Mak
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania