Undergraduate Course Descriptions
Fall 2008



COML 057.401 Great Books of Judaism
Benjamin Franklin Seminar
Gen Req III, Arts and Letters, Class of 2009 & Prior
TR 10:30-12 Stern
Cross listed with JWST 151, NELC 156, RELS 027

The study of four paradigmatic and classic Jewish texts so as to introduce students to the literature of classic Judaism. Each text will be studied historically -- "excavated" for its sources and roots -- and holistically, as a canonical document in Jewish tradition. While each text will inevitably raise its own set of issues, we will deal throughout the semester with two basic questions: What makes a "Jewish" text? And how do these texts represent different aspects of Jewish identity? All readings will be in translation.

COML 100.401 Introduction to Literature
Registration required for LEC and REC
Cross Cultural Analysis, Class of 2010 & After
Arts & Letters Sector (all classes)
MW 12-1 Todorov
REC 402 F 12-1; REC 403 F 2-3, REC 404 F 1-2
Cross listed with ENGL 100

This course introduces students to the world literary process as well as various methods of literary analysis using mainly confessional and revelatory writings as they tend to be shorter and personally engaging. The works represent different national literary traditions, epochs and trends. They involve both fictional and actual confessional works, fictionalized and authentic autobiographies, first person singular narratives, personal diaries, soul-searching stories, love letters, discourses of intimacy, lyric and dramatic monologues, self-revealing and self-aggrandizing accounts, philosophical soliloquies. All lectures and course work are in English.

COML 102.401 Problems in Folklore
Freshman Seminar
T 1:30-4:30 Ben-Amos
Cross listed with FOLK 102, NELC 105

The idea and study of folklore are central to the understanding of culture, literature, society, and history in the age of multi-culturalism, ethnicity, nationalism, and globalization. The seminar explores problems, methods and theories involved in the study of folklore and its position and relevance to traditional and modern societies.

COML 106.401 Gender and Sexuality Studies: Queer Theory/Queer History
Hum & Soc Sci Sector (new curr only)
MW 2-3:30 Love
Cross listed with ENGL 105, GSOC 105

What is sexuality? Does it exist in the body or in the mind? Is it a collection of actions, desires, and fantasies, or is it rather a disposition, a way of seeing oneself, an identity? Does what we want depend on who we are? Does what we do define who we are? This course will address such questions by introducing students to several classic texts in the history and theory of sexuality and by looking at key moments in the struggle for sexual and gender freedom. The history we trace will focus on the effects of the "invention of homosexuality" in the late-nineteenth century; the history of butch/femme community; the cultural moment of Stonewall and gay liberation; the "Sex Wars" of the 1980s; women of color and queer of color critiques; responses to HIV/AIDS; and the emergence of the transgender rights movement. We will also consider the meaning of "queer," global sexualities, same-sex marriage, the politics of emotion, and gay normalization. Three short papers (5 pages each); a mid-term; a final exam.

COML 118.401 Iran Cinema: Gender, Politics, Religion
Cross Cultural Analysis for Class of 2010 and After
Dist Crs Arts and Letters for Class of 2009 and Prior
MW 2-3:30 Minuchehr
Cross listed with CINE 118, GSOC 118, NELC 118

Post-Revolutionary Iranian cinema has gained exceptional international reception in the past two decades. In most major national and international festivals, Iranian films have taken numerous prizes for their outstanding representation of life and society, and their courage in defying censorship barriers. In this course, we will examine the distinct characteristics of the post-revolutionary Iranian cinema. Discussion will revolve around themes such as gender politics, family relationships and women's social, economic and political roles, as well as the levels of representation and criticism of modern Iran's political and religious structure within the current boundaries. There will be a total of 12 films shown and will include works by Kiarostami, Makhmalbaf, Beizai, Milani, Bani-Etemad and Panahi, among others.

COML 126.401 Fantastic and Uncanny Literature
Arts and Letters Sector (all classes)
TR 10:30-12 Weissberg
Cross listed with GRMN 242

What is the "Fantastic"? And how can we describe the "Uncanny"? The course will examine these questions, and investigate the historical background of our understanding of "phantasy," as well as our concepts of the "fantastic" and "uncanny" in literature. Our discussions will be based on a reading of Sigmund Freud's essay on the uncanny, a choice of Friedrich Schlegel's and Novalis' aphorisms, and Romantic narratives by Ludwig Tieck, E. T. A. Hoffman, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and others. All the texts will be available in English, in English translation, and no knowledge of a foreign language is required.

COML 193.401 Great Story Collections
Gen Req III: Arts and Letters for Class of 2009 and Prior
MWF 11-12 Azzolina
Cross listed with FOLK 241

This course is intended for those with no prior background in folklore or knowledge of various cultures. Texts range in age from the first century to the twentieth, and geographically from the Middle East to Europe to the United States. Each collection displays various techniques of collecting folk materials and making them concerete. Each in its own way also raises different issues of genre, legitimacy, canon formation, cultural values and context.

COML 203.401 World Literature: Italian Literatures of the World
TR 10:30-12 Benini
Cross listed with COLL 228, ITAL 203

Italian 203 is an introductory course aimed to offer students the opportunity to discover Italian Literature and Civilization through readings and reflections upon significant texts of the Italian literary and artistic tradition. From the underworld of Dante to the love poetry of Petrarch, from the political vision of Macchiavelli to the scientific revolution of Galileo, from the modernist fragmentation of Pirandello to the postmodern creations of Calvino, up to the latest trends in Italian cinema, it explores a wide range of literary genres, themes and cultural debates by analyzing texts within their socio-political context. Students will expand vocabulary, improve skills in critical interpretation and reinforce written and oral competences in Italian through class discussions, presentations, short papers and research projects.

Readings and discussion in Italian. Prerequisite: Italian 202 (with which it may be taken concurrently by permission) or an equivalent course taken abroad. Required for Italian Literature majors/minors.

COML 218.401 Perspectives in French Literature
Cross cultural analysis for Class of 2010 & After
Literatures of the World
Cross listed with COLL 221, FREN 221
TR 10:30-12:00 Richman
Section 402 MW 11-12 F 11-12 Prince
Section 403 TR 1:30-3 Staff
Section 404 MWF 2-3 Staff

COML 234.401 The World of Dante
TR 12-1:30 Kirkham
Cross listed with ITAL 232

The Divine Comedy will be read in the context of Dante Alighieri's fourteenth-century cultural world. Discussions, focused on selected cantos of the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, will connect with such topics as: books and readers before the invention of printing (e.g., how manuscripts were made from sheepskins, transcribed, and decorated), life in a society dominated by the Catholic church (sinners vs. saints, Christian pilgrimage routes, the great Franciscan and Dominican religious orders), Dante's politics as a Florentine exile (power struggles between Pope and Emperor), his classical and Christian literary models (Virgil's Aeneid, Ovid's Metamorphoses, the Bible), and his genius as a poet in the medieval structures of allegory, symbolism, and numerology. Illustrations of the Comedy, from early illuminated manuscripts to Renaissance printed books in the University of Pennsylvania Rare Book Collection and contemporary film will trace a history of the forms in which the poem has flourished for seven hundred years. Class conducted in English. The Divine Comedy will be available in a text with facing English and Italian versions. May be counted toward an Italian Studies major or minor.

COML 239.401 Oriental Tales/Exotic
Dist Crs Arts & Letters for Class of 2009 and Prior
TR 1:30-3 Yang
Cross listed with ENGL 241

This course explores the china-mania that spread across England and Europe in the eighteenth century, from chinoiserie vogues in fashion, tea, porcelain, and luxury objects, to the idealization of Confucius by Enlightenment philosophers. The course seeks to interpret the multiple ways in which Asia was imagined and understood by Europeans during a period of increased trade between East and West. The course will consist primarily of British and French literature and art of the 18th century. Texts will range from Oriental tales, novels, plays, and poetry, to newspaper essays and economic, scientific, and philosophical tracts. The course is designed to provide historical background to contemporary problems of orientalism, sinophilia, and sinophobia.

COML 244.401 The Image of Berlin
TR 4:30-6 Swope
Communication Within the Curriculum
All readings in English
Cross listed with GRMN 238

Berlin was arguably the twentieth century's most important city. It produced some of the world's most innovative art, architecture, literature, theater and film during the 1920s, yet went on to become Hitler's capital in the 1930s. It was the iconic city of the Cold War as its Western sectors received U.S. aid during the Berlin airlift and as its neighborhoods were torn asunder by the Wall in 1961. It is a city defined as much by its image and its symbolic force as by the reality of life along its boulevards and in its apartment buildings. This course will examine Berlin's image in the twentieth century from the heyday of the cabarets to the new palaces of glass and steel in which today's parliament and chancellor conduct the affairs of state. Key source material will include poetry, political manifestoes, travel guides, short stories and films by Berliners, Germans from other towns and visitors from the English speaking world. Alfred DŲblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz, Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories, John LeCarre's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Billy Wilder's A Foreign Affair, Bob Fosse's Cabaret, Wim Wenders's Wings of Desire and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others are important texts and films to be treated during the semester.

While exploring perceptions of Berlin in Germany and elsewhere, this course will give students the opportunity to improve their critical speaking skills. Two oral presentations, one at mid-term, the other at semester's end, will constitute seventy percent of students' final grades. The first of these assignments will ask each student to choose a major figure from the course and analyze the role of Berlin in that figure's work and thought. The second assignment asks students to work in teams as 'travel guides' giving a thoughtful 'walk' through a given period in Berlin's cultural history, complete with images of points of interest and sites represented by the artists and intellectuals featured in the course. Also, because Berlin's history is so specifically tied to political agendas, we will stage lively classroom debates from time to time, participation in which will account for another fifteen percent of each student's grade.

COML 257.401 Jewish Literature of the Middle Ages in Translation: Maimonides and His Image
Benjamin Franklin Seminar
Dist Crs Arts & Letters for Class of 2009 and Prior
M 2-5 Fishman
Cross listed with JWST 153, NELC 158, NELC 458, RELS 223

COML 266.401 Introduction to Modern Hebrew Literature: Songs, Poems, and National Identity
Cross Cultural Analysis for Class of 2010 & After
Literatures of the World
TR 10:30-12 Gold
Cross listed with COLL 227, HEBR 259, HEBR 559, JWST 259

Considering the historical and political background, this course shows the leading role of Hebrew songs in the creation and development of the Zionist-Jewish-Israeli national identity. Many of the formative literary texts that accompanied the Modern Zionist movement and the State of Israel were put to music and sung. (For example: Hatikva, the Israeli anthem, was originally a Zionist poem; Gouri’s poem Bab El- Wad became a secular “prayer” featured at Israeli war memorials.) As the country evolved, so did its music, but poetry continued to be transformed into Hebrew songs. The course analyzes the genre’s ideological and psychological functions by studying the lyrics and the relationship between word and melody. Works span over a hundred years; from classics like Bialik, Alterman and Amichai to Hanoch and Idan Reichel. The content of this course changes from year to year, thus students may take it for credit more than once.

COML 269.401 Nazi Cinema
Dist Crs Arts & Letters for Class of 2009 and Prior
TR 10:30-12 Richter
Cross listed with CINE 250, GRMN 257

This course explores the world of Nazi cinema ranging from infamous propaganda pieces such as "The Triumph of the Will" and "The Eternal Jew" to entertainments by important directors such as Pabst and Douglas Sirk. More than sixty years later, Nazi Cinema challenges us to grapple with issues of more subtle ideological insinuation than we might think. The course also includes film responses to developments in Germany by exiled German directors (Pabst, Wilder). Weekly screenings with subtitles.

COML 282.401 Modern Hebrew Lit & Culture in Translation: The Image of Childhood in Israeli Lit and Film
Cross Cultural Analysis for Class of 2010 and After
Arts & Letters Sector (all classes)
TR 1:30-3 Gold
Cross listed with CINE 329, NELC 159

This course examines cinematic and literary portrayals of childhood and it will take advantage of the recent boom in Israeli filmmaking. Israeli works constitute more then half of the course's material but European film and fiction play important comparative roles. The course analyzes how film, poetry and prose use their respective languages in their effort to reconstruct the image of childhood, retrieve fragments of past events and penetrate the child’s psyche. Many of the works are placed, and therefore discussed, against a backdrop of national, collective, or historical conflicts. Nonetheless, private traumas (such as madness, abuse, or loss) or an adult’s longing for an idealized time are often the central foci of the stories. These personal issues and the nature of individual memory will be discussed from a psychological point of view. There are 5-6 film screenings; the films will also be on reserve at the library for those students unable to attend the screenings. The content of the course changes from year to year, and therefore, students may take it for credit more than once.

COML 283.401 Jewish Folklore
Cross Cultural Analysis for Class of 2010 and After
Gen Req II, History and Tradition for Class of 2009 and Prior
TR 10:30-12 Ben-Amos
Cross listed with FOLK 280, JWST 260, NELC 258

The Jews are among the few nations and ethnic groups whose oral tradition occurs in literary and religious texts dating back more than two thousand years. This tradition changed and diversified over the years in terms of the migration of Jews into different countries and historical, social, and cultural changes that these countries underwent. The course attempts to capture their historical and ethnic diversity of Jewish folklore in a variety of oral literary forms. A basic book of Hasidic legends from the 18th century will serve as a key text to explore problems in Jewish folklore relating to both earlier and later period.

COML 289.401 Multiculturalism: Theory and Practice
T 1:30-4:30 Sanday
Cross listed with ANTH 290, GSOC 291

"The challenge in renewing the ethnographic and anthropological voice in the 21st century is not the disappearance of difference, of different cultures, or of ways of organizing society any more than it is not the disappearance of class, capital, unequal exchange, power, or gender relations. On the contrary, the challenge is that the interactions of various kinds of cultures are becoming more complex and differentiated at the same time as new forms of globalization and modernization are bringing all parts of the earth into greater, uneven, polycentric interaction." - Michael Fischer, Emergent Forms of Life and the Anthropological Voice, 2003

This course introduces anthropological theories of culture and multiculturalism and the method of ethnography as these apply to understanding diversity in contemporary life. After learning the basic concepts through reading key texts and writing response papers, students will apply the concepts by (1) writing an ethnic autobiography; (2) critiquing a film or novel with a multicultural theme; and (3) conducting a mini-ethnography of a multicultural site of their choice. These projects are designed to encourage students to reflect on the meaning of multiculturaliam from three different angles: personal experience, media representation, and participant observation of diversity in a multicultural site (which could be at Penn). The goal is to learn about the role and the impacts of diversity in the US vis-a-vis constitutionally guaranteed rights to liberty, equality, and democratic justice.

COML 291.401 Slought Foundation Seminar in Contemporary Culture: Post-History*
W 5-8 Levy
Cross listed with ENGL 294
*Please note that this is a year-long course!*

This unique 2008-2009 undergraduate seminar will provide students with an opportunity to participate in a curatorial project at Slought Foundation, a non-profit cultural organization affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania. This year-long course will combine critical theory and practice by providing students with classroom instruction as well as hands-on experience in realizing a major publication about contemporary culture.

In the first semester, students will explore the concept of “post-history” in the work of Braco Dimitrijevic, a renowned conceptual artist whose writings and visual practices (recently displayed on the faćade of Fisher-Bennett Hall) question the whims of history, the vagaries of chance, and the fickleness of celebrity. What catapults certain people into the historical limelight, for instance, while others remain a mere "casual passerby"? The class will explore the concept of "post-history" as well as the related concept of the “post-human” through the work of authors, filmmakers, and theorists such as Michel Foucault, Bruno Latour, Mary Shelley, Werner Herzog, Achille Mbembe, and Francis Fukayama. The second semester will culminate in a contribution to the publication about Braco Dimitrijevic as well as participation in the editorial process. The publication will consist of newly commissioned essays as well as “Tractatus Post Historicus,” a seminal work by the artist from 1976.

Course requirements include a two-semester commitment, the completion of assigned readings, and a final paper. Familiarity with contemporary culture is encouraged, but not required. Please note that students will be expected to occasionally meet outside of class to assist with the publication process and participate in museum visits. Enrollment in this seminar is limited to 8 students maximum, and permission from the instructor is required. To apply, please submit a brief letter outlining your experience and interest in this course, including contact information, school affiliation, and grade level, to Aaron Levy, c/o Department of English/FBH 311, as well as by email to adlevy@english.upenn.edu

COML 300.401 Food and Culture of Italy
Dist Crs History and Tradition for Class of 2009 and Prior
M 2-5 Finotti
Cross listed with ITAL 300

Food is culture. Food is language. The course will explore the anthropology of food and the cultural aspects of gastronomy in Italian History. We will focus on the communication through food not only in social life but also in different textual genres: narrative, poetry, cinema, visual arts, advertising. The class will be taught in English. The reading material and the bibliographical references will be provided in a course reader. Further material will be presented in class. Requirements include class attendance, preparation and participation, a series of oral responses, and a final oral presentation.

COML 302.401 Odyssey and Its Afterlife
MWF 1-2 Murnaghan
Cross listed with CLST 302

As an epic account of wandering, survival, and homecoming, Homer's Odyssey has been a constant source of inspiration for modern readers and writers as they contend with the nature of heroism, the sources of identity, and the challenge of finding a place in the world.

This course will begin with a close reading of the Odyssey in translation, with attention to Odysseus as a post-Trojan War hero; to the roles of women, especially Odysseus' faithful and brilliant wife Penelope; and to the uses of poetry and story-telling in creating individual and cultural identities. We will then consider how later poets, novelists, and filmmakers have drawn on the Odyssey to construct their own visions, looking at works, or parts of works, by Virgil, Dante, Tennyson, Joyce, Derek Walcott, Louise Glück, Margaret Atwood, and the Coen brothers.

COML 312.401 Theatre and Dance in the Weimar Republic
TR 12-1:30 Kant
All readings in English
Cross listed with GRMN 310, THAR 275

"In the jungle of cities"* - Theater and Performance in the Weimar Republic

*--Bertold Brecht

The first third of the 20th century saw an extraordinary shift in the development of the arts in most Western European states: the entire set of values, codes and traditions that had been accepted was revolutionised. In Germany, the destruction caused by World War I, the collapse of the monarchy, socialist and Bolshevik revolutions, a general national crisis and the loss of confidence in the state made it an extreme case in the European context. Artists in many cities, but particularly in Berlin, articulated radical notions of modernity and concepts of an avant-garde and attacked the accepted sense of art and performance; they reformulated the relationship between ideas, social commitment and artistic expression. The making, consuming and digesting of performance art, the way in which theater and performance entered the public communication circuits became part of the new and radicalised world in an hitherto unimagined way. With the establishment of the Weimar Republic, all sorts of modernisms and avant-garde concepts found a spiritual and physical home in the modern architectural buildings of cities and provincial municipalities. Fantasies of the early twentieth century were now being lived and acted out. The more the political and economic systems of Weimar Germany collapsed, the more the arts seemed to flourish. The social tensions and contradictions in the first democratic republic of Germany found a particularly strong agent in theater and the arts. The end of the Weimar era also marked the end of this time of radical experimentation. Weimar theater - its protagonists and its concepts went into exile. This course examines a variety of performances - their texts, staging, productions and receptions - of the Weimar Republic, with emphasis on the theatrical practices in Berlin. The course will focus on the notion of modernity and compare different concepts of what was considered modern in drama, opera, dance and cabaret. Finally, we follow the expelled artists across the world.

COML 353.401 Arabic Literary Theory
Dist Crs Arts and Letters for Class of 2009 and Prior
TR 1:30-3 Allen
Cross listed with COML 505, NELC 434

This course takes a number of different areas of Literary Theory and, on the basis of research completed and in progress in both Arabic and Western languages, applies some of the ideas to texts from the Arabic literary tradition. Among these areas are: Evaluation and Interpretation, Structuralism, Metrics, Genre Theory, Narratology, and Orality.

COML 390.401 Latin American Literature of the 20th Century
Literatures of the World
Cross Cultural Analysis for Class of 2010 and After
TR 10:30-12 Salessi
Cross listed with COLL 223, LALS 396, SPAN 390

COML 401.401 Russian Poetics
Literatures of the World
Cross Cultural Analysis for Class of 2010 and After
TR 10:30-12 Steiner
Cross listed with COLL 226, RUSS 401

COML 403.401 Advanced Hindi: Modern Literature
Literatures of the World
Prior Language Experience Required
MW 5:30-7 Staff
Cross listed with COLL 226, SAST 430

CGS CGS CGS CGS


COML 090.601 American Women and Literature
Dist Crs Arts and Letters for Class of 2009 and Prior W 5-8 Nichols
Cross listed with ENGL 090, GSOC 090

Being American, and being a woman, have not been stable identities, but have been (and continue to be) reshaped over time. In this class, we will chart a history of writing by American women, beginning just before the American Revolution, and continuing to the present. Rather than viewing American women's writing as a consistent whole, we will be considering the diverse ways these women addressed issues of national and gender identity. We will also look at how these women negotiated between the two, particularly during periods in which women were legally excluded from certain kinds of participation in the national and political spheres due to their gender and/or race. How did their writing, by virtue of its creation, respond, implicitly or explicitly, to these legal definitions of the American? How did these women imagine ways of being American and being a woman? Though the class has a longer historical sweep, our focus will be primarily on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and will include poetry, novels, short stories, and some selected journalism and critical texts. We will read works by Phillis Wheatley, Emily Dickinson, Zitkala-Sa, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sarah Orne Jewett, Frances Hopkins, Nella Larsen, Edith Wharton, and Flannery O'Connor. Class requirements include weekly short responses, two close reading papers, and a final exam.

COML 191.601 Classics of the Western World I
Arts and Letters Sector (all classes)
W 6:30-9:30 Hoffsten

This course will approach selected classic works of Western culture up to the Middle Ages with two purposes in mind. First, we will try to see how our notions of authority, agency, will and history have been shaped by these texts, in particular by epic and tragedy; further, we will consider how such concepts in turn have been complicated by the authors recognition of the power of desire and shifting definitions of gender and identity. Second, we will look at how we identify a "classic" in our culture, and will try to understand what sort of work it does for us. Texts to be read may include: Homer's Iliad and Odyssey; Euripides' Bacches; Sophocles' Oedipus the King; Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound; Aristophanes' Frogs; Virgil's Aeneid; The Confessions of Saint Augustine, and Dante's Divine Comedy. All works will be read in translation.

COML 360.401 Introduction to Literary Theory
Dist Crs Arts and Letters for Class of 2009 and Prior
W 6-9 Copenhafer

Whatever literature is, it is an unruly object, one that comprises philosophical, historical and political dimensions. “Literary Theory” is the name given to the unenviable task of trying to define literature, its unique language, its structure and its end. In this course we will consider several of the major strains of “theory” — criticism that is informed by Marxism, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, queer theory, postcolonial theory and rhetorical theory. Our selection of texts will range from ancient to modern and include, among others: Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Freud, Derrida, Benjamin, Butler and Fanon. Throughout the course we will accept the ambition of theory to offer definitions of literature while we nevertheless pay careful attention to the ways in which literature appears always to exceed the grasp of theory. Course requirements include several short response papers (2-3 pp. in length) and a longer final paper (10-15 pp.).


Last modified June 29, 2008
Maintained by Daniel DeWispelare
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania