Undergraduate Course Descriptions
Fall 2009

COML 094. 401 Introduction to Literary Theory
TR 12-1:30 Rabaté
Cross listed with ENGL 094

This course provides an exposure to the main discourses and practices of theory understood as literary and cultural theory. We will start with early formulations of the problem of interpretation with Plato and Aristotle, then move on to modern and contemporary approaches. We will survey the main concepts of Formalism, Structuralism, Post-structuralism, Psychoanalysis, Marxism, Feminism and Deconstruction. We will engage with Post-colonial studies, Cultural Studies and Queer Theory. We will use the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2001). Requirements: One oral report, two short papers (8 pages) and a final research paper (15 pages). No final exam.

COML 100.401 Introduction to Literature
Registration required for LEC and REC
Cross Cultural Analysis – class of ’10 and after
Arts & Letters Sector (all classes)

LEC MW 12-1 Todorov
REC 402 on F 12-1
REC 403 on F 2-3
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 101.401 Introduction to Folklore
Hum & Soc Sci Sector (new curr only)
TR 1:30-3 Ben-Amos
Cross listed with FOLK 101, NELC 181, RELS 108

The purpose of the course is to introduce you to the subjects of the discipline of Folklore, their occurrence in social life and the scholarly analysis of their use in culture. As a discipline folklore explores the manifestations of expressive forms in both traditional and modern societies, in small-scale groups where people interact with each face-to-face, and in large-scale, often industrial societies, in which the themes, symbols, and forms that permeate traditional life, occupy new positions, or occur in different occasions in everyday life. For some of you the distinction between low and high culture, or artistic and popular art will be helpful in placing folklore forms in modern societies. For others, these distinctions will not be helpful. In traditional societies, and within social groups that define themselves ethnically, professionally, or culturally, within modern heterogeneous societies, and in traditional societies in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia, Folklore plays a more prominent role in society, than it appears to play in literate cultures on the same continents. Consequently the study of folklore and the analysis of its forms are appropriate in traditional as well as modern societies, and any society that is in a transitional phase. Key concepts in the study of folklore are “orality” and “literacy” and they will guide us through our lectures and discussions.

COML 107.401 Painters and Poets
TR 3-4:30 Pellicone
Cross listed with ITAL 100

In this semester when we contemplate the relationship between the arts and the city of Philadelphia, we will also consider the way that painters and poets mapped the crossroads between artistic expression and civic participation. We will consider the relationship between aesthetics and ethics, with particular emphasis on the way that painters and poets often rivaled and surpassed the work of philosophers during the Italian Renaissance. Readings will include selections from Plato, Horace, Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Alberti, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Cellini, and Vasari. All readings will be in English and no prior knowledge of Italian will be expected.

COML 118.401 Iranian 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 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 Lit: 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 213.401 Saints and Devils in Russian Literature
Arts and Letters Sector (all classes)
MW 3:30-5:00 Verkholantsev
All lectures and readings in English
Cross listed with RUSS 213/RELS 218

This course is about Russian literature, which is populated with saints and devils, believers and religious rebels, holy men and sinners. In Russia, where people’s frame of mind had been formed by a mix of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and earlier pagan beliefs, the quest for faith, spirituality and the meaning of life has invariably been connected with religious matters. How can one find the right path in life? Is humility the way to salvation? Should one live for God or for the people? Does God even exist?

In “Saints and Devils,” we will examine Russian literature concerning the holy and the demonic as representations of good and evil, and we will learn about the historic trends that have filled Russia’s national character with religious and supernatural spirit. The founder of Russian absurdist and fantastic writing, Nikolai Gogol will teach us how to triumph over the devil. Following a master storyteller, Nikolai Leskov, we will delve in the spiritual world of the Old Believers—Russia’s persecuted religious non-conformists. In Anton Chekhov’s stories and Alexander Pushkin’s poetry we will contemplate Russia’s ambivalent ideal of womanhood: as a poetic Madonna or as a sinful agent of the devil. Immersed in the world of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, we will ask ourselves whether indeed “beauty will save the world.” Finally, Leo Tolstoy, who founded his own religion, will teach us his philosophical and moral lessons.

In sum, in the course of this semester we will talk about ancient cultural traditions, remarkable works of art and the great artists who created them. All readings and films are in English. Our primary focus will be on works by Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Leskov, Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Bulgakov, as well as films by Protazanov and Kurasawa (yes, a Japanese director). All readings and lectures in English.

COML 215.401 Arabic Literary Heritage
Gen Req. III: Arts and Letters Sector-Cl of 09 & Prior
TR 1:30-3 Allen
Cross listed with NELC 233

This course provides a survey of the genres and major figures in Arabic literary history from the 6th century up to the present day. Selected works are read in translation; poetry is discussed first, then belles-lettrist prose. Selected suras from the Qur'an are read as the centerpiece of the course. Each set of texts are accompanied by a collection of background readings which place the authors and works into a literary, political and societal context. This course thus attempts to place the phenomenon of "literature" into the larger context of Islamic studies by illustrating the links between Arab litterateurs and other contributors to the development of an Islamic/Arab culture on the one hand and by establishing connections between the Arabic literary tradition and that of other (and particularly Western) traditions.

COML 218.401 Perspectives in French Literature
Cross Cultural Analysis – Cl of ’10 & After
Literatures of the World
TR 10:30-12 Richman
Cross listed with COLL 221, FREN 221

Section 402 MW 11-12; F 11-12 Prince
Section 403 TR 1:30-3 Staff
Section 404 MWF 2-3 Staff

CANCELED--COML 232.401 Literature and Revolution
Ben Franklin Seminar
TR 130-3 Wiggin
Cross listed with GRMN 234

Literature as a whole is often understood as an inherently conservative cultural institution. This seminar, on the other hand, considers literature as an agent of sometimes radical social change. We explore the varied and creative answers to the perennial question about how to write a progressive literature. We begin by considering Plato’s banishment of poets from the good state as well as Aristotle's defense of the utility of poetry. Further readings on literature and revolution are culled from diverse times and places: pamphlets by Martin Luther; essays by Voltaire, Thomas Paine, and Friedrich Schiller; Büchner's brutal drama Woyzeck; Mariano Azuela's novel of the Mexican revolution The Underdogs; plays and theoretical writings by socialist Bert Brecht (Mother Courage and Her Children); Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, and others. Seminar participants will jointly author a blog exploring literature’s revolutionary possibilities.

COML 238.401 Autobiographical Writing
TR 10:30-12 Weissberg
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with GRMN 235

How does one write about oneself? Who is the “author” writing? What does one write about? And is it fiction or truth?

Our seminar on autobiographical writing will pursue these questions, researching confessions, autobiographies, memoirs, and other forms of life-writing both in their historical development and theoretical articulations. Examples will include selections from St. Augustine’s confessiones, Rousseau’s Confessions, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, as well as many examples from contemporary English, German, French, and American literature. All reading and lectures in English.

COML 266.401 Modern Hebrew Lit and Film: Generation of the State of Israel
Cross Cultural Analysis – Cl of ’10 & after
Literatures of the World
Arts & Letters Sector (all classes)
TR 10:30-12 Gold
Cross listed with COLL 227, HEBR 259, HEBR 559, JWST 259

"I Want to Die in My Bed", a young Yehuda Amichai's anti-war poem, led the rebellion of Israeli authors in the 1950s. Scholars would later call Amichai and his peers “The Generation of the State,” because they were the first authors to publish in the State of Israel (after it was established) and they forged its literary future. These “rebels” distanced themselves from the Zionist father- figures and their ideological focus. Poets, like Nathan Zach, promoted the use of common language while A.B. Yehoshua and Amos Oz wrote anti- heroic short stories. The class will be conducted in Hebrew and the texts read in the original. There will be 3-4 short papers and a final exam. The content of this course changes from year to year, thus students may take it for credit more than once.

COML 267.401 Seeds of Modern Drama
Ben Franklin Seminar
Dist. Crs. Arts & Letters – cl of ’09 & prior
TR 10:30-12 Mazer
Cross listed with THAR 275

This course examines western drama from the middle of the nineteenth century through the First World War, which aspired to new levels of theatrical and social realism, and then experimented with piercing the boundaries of the realism that it had just achieved. Readings will include plays by Ibsen, Strindberg, Hauptmann, Wedekind, Synge, Shaw, Granville Barker, Elizabeth Robins, and Chekhov.

COML 268.401 Nietzsche’s Modernity and the Death of God
MW 2-3:30 Jarosinski
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with GRMN 248

“God is dead.” This famous, all too famous death sentence, issued by the 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, also signaled the genesis of a radical challenge to traditional notions of morality, cultural life, and the structure of society as a whole. In this course we will examine both the “modernity” of Nietzsche’s thought and the ways in which his ideas have helped to define the very concept of Modernity (and, arguably, Postmodernity) itself. In exploring the origin and evolution of Nietzsche’s key concepts, we will trace the ways in which his work has been variously revered or refuted, championed or co-opted, for more than a century. We will survey his broad influence on everything from philosophy and literature to music and art, theater and psychology, history and cultural theory, politics and popular culture. Further, we will ask how his ideas continue to challenge us today, though perhaps in unexpected ways. As we will see, Nietzsche wanted to teach us “how to philosophize with a hammer.” This will be our task throughout the course as we take his work into hand as a potentially powerful tool for thought. Ultimately, we will ask not only if it can still deliver formidable blows, but how we might wield it most skillfully, guided by a spirit of challenge, sedulous reading, and critical precision. Readings will draw on the work of several key cultural and historical figures, including Rainer Maria Rilke, Hermann Hesse, and Thomas Mann; Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung; Jean-Paul Sartre, Hannah Arendt, and Martin Heidegger; Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini; Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault; Richard Nixon and Jerry Seinfeld.

COML 282.401 Dreams and Madness in Israeli Lit and Film
Cross Cultural Analysis – Cl of ’10 & after
Arts & Letters sector (all classes)
Literatures of the World
TR 1:30-3 Gold
Cross listed with JWST 102, NELC 159

This course analyzes modern and post modern film fiction and poetry that highlight dreams, fantasy and madness in the Israeli context. The Zionist meta-narrative tells of an active, conscious, and rational enterprise of Israeli nation-building. Yet, its subversive shadow-side lurks in literary and cinematic nightmares, surrealist wanderings and stories packed with dreams. This tension exists in the Hebrew Literature of the twentieth century and persists in contemporary films and writings that question the sanity of protagonist and artist alike. Although S.Y. Agnon, the uncontested master of Hebrew literature, denied ever reading Freud, his works suggest otherwise. His literary heirs, A. Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, the pillars of the Israeli canon, often speak in the symbolic language of the subconscious. Israeli film classics like The Summer of Avia, as well as newly released works like Sweet Mud, also confront similar issues. English and German works by Kafka, Woolf and Plath play a comparative role.

COML 283.401 Jewish Folklore
Cross Cultural Analysis – Cl of ‘10 & after
Cultural Diversity in US – Cl of ’12 & after
Gen Req. II: Hist & Trad – Cl of ’09 & 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 287.403 Cinema and the Balkans
TR 3-4:30 Mazaj
Cross listed with CINE 290, SLAV 290

This course will be a study of Balkan cinema, with a focus on a wide range of films that were made in response to the 1990s crisis in the Balkans. While the Balkans may be familiar as one of Hollywood’s favorite fantasy nightmares—the bloodthirsty Transylvanian count and vampire, Vlad Tepes-Dracula, or Cat People’s horrific historical Serbs who morphed into ferocious black panthers now living in the heart of Manhattan—Balkan cinema is an often overlooked but one of the richest and most significant cinemas of Europe today. While tracing the history of Balkan cinema, the main focus of the course will be on films made during and after the Balkan war in the 1990s, by filmmakers such as Milcho Manchevski, Emir Kusturica, Srdjan Dragojevic, Goran Peskaljevic, and Danis Tanovic. These directors achieved great success in their native countries as well as abroad, and started appearing regularly at all major international film festivals. As such they not only mark a significant moment in thinking about the nation but show how a nation has come to depend on the persuasive power of cinema to articulate itself. As we recognize the difficulties in asserting Balkan culture as a unified one, the aim of the course will be to explore an astonishing thematic and stylistic consistency in the cinematic output of the Balkan region. Looking at these shared issues—the turbulent history and volatile politics, a semi-Orientalist positioning sometimes seen as marginality and sometimes as a bridge between East and West, encounters between Christianity and Islam, a legacy of patriarchy and economic dependency--we will examine how cinema of the Balkans testifies to a specific artistic sensibility that comes from a shared socio-cultural space.

COML 288.401 Postwar American Poetry
Dist Crs. Arts & Letters – Cl of ’09 & prior
TR 1:30-3 Bernstein
Cross listed with ENGL 288

English 288 in an introduction to postwar American poetry (1945-present) – the Beats, San Francisco Renaissance, Black Mountain, Confessional, Black Arts, Chance, Talk, Performance, New York School, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, Visual, Digital, Sound and Conceptual; poetry on and off the page, near and at the edge. Extensive use will be made of sound files of the poets readings their poems. Several sessions will be devoted to class discussion with visiting poets. English 288 is a discussion-based course, with much supplemental material available on our website. The course requirements consist of a weekly journal response to the readings and a creative/interactive experiment on one or more of the assigned poems (such as imitating, rewriting, performing, or reordering the poem). No previous experience with poetry required. Permission of the instructor is required: email with a brief note about why you are interested in the course. For more detailed information on this course, view the syllabus

COML 289.401 Multiculturalism: Theory and Practice
Cultural Diversity in US 0 Cl of ’12 & after
T 1:30-4:30 Sanday
Cross listed with ANTH 290, GSOC 291

COML 291.401 Word and Art, Action and Concept
Permission Needed from Instructor
Year Long Course
Dist. Crs. Arts & Letters – Cl of ’09 & prior
W 2-5 Levy
Cross listed with ENGL 294

In this course, we will explore a series of exemplary artworks from 1971 that all experiment with language. They attest to crucial issues for our generation: the desire for a new epistemology of art, the desire for new ways of connecting with the public, and the desire to question political authority. For artists such as Vito Acconci, Dennis Oppenheim, Shusaku Arakawa, Hans Haacke, Braco Dimitrijevic, and Peter Weibel, a page suddenly began to seem too small to contain movement. Calling into question the disciplinary and museological structures of their time, these artists began to define language not as representational but rather as presentational, combining spoken-word recordings with proto-architectural constructions and performances ranging from street provocations to theme parks and even floating islands. Through works such as these, such artists brought words into closer relation to physical space and physical objects, and the artist into closer relation to a newly participatory audience. Distinguishing the politically traumatic and compelling events of 1968 from their later symbolic realization in the cultural happenings of 1971, we will explore how 1971 may be the axial moment of contemporary art history, a point at which language experimentation reached a critical apex. If 1968 is the populist apex of a certain revolutionary fervor, 1971 represents its eruption in conceptual art. We will explore the parallel visual and written manifestations of that crucial decade.

Students will be asked to write 4 papers of 6-8 pages each, to participate in class discussions, and to give one class presentation.

COML 296.401 Classical Epic and Pagan Romance
Dist Crs Arts & Letters- Cl of ’09 & prior
TR 10:30-12 Copeland
Cross listed with ENGL 229

COML 343.401 19th C. European Intellectual History
Dist. Crs. Hist & Trad – Cl of ’09 & prior
Cross listed with HIST 343
MW 2-3:30 Breckman

COML 395.401 Globalization and the Fate of Literature
Ben Franklin Seminar
Dist. Crs. Arts & Letters – Cl of ’09 & prior
W 2-5 English
Cross listed with ENGL 395

The process called globalization has been going on for centuries, but the last few decades have witnessed a dramatically rapid emergence of new systems and technologies of global exchange. Our task in this class will be to consider the ways these developments are affecting literature – reshaping both the internal form of literary works themselves and the larger system of literary marketing and consumption. We will look at some of the more influential stories of the global that have been offered by contemporary English-language novelists: “world fictions” that seem to cut loose from any particular national literary tradition or framework in order to map their themes and characters onto a space of constant and often troubling transnational contact. And we will put these narratives into the context of a literary world system that is establishing new genres, new readerships, new vehicles of distribution and promotion, new relations between print, film, television, and video.

Reading for the course will consist of seven or eight major literary works in the emergent canon of “global English,” possibly including novels by Salman Rushdie, Doris Lessing, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, J.M Coetzee, V. S. Naipaul, Jessica Hagedorn, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ken Saro Wiwa, William Gibson, Witi Ihimaera, Michael Ondaatje, or Athol Fugard. We will also study several recent films, including at least two that were adapted from these novels. Throughout the semester we will also be reading essays and excerpts from some of the major scholars and theorists of globalization, including economists, sociologists, and anthropologists as well as literary critics. Written work will include three one-hour exams and a 15-page term paper based on independent research and submitted in draft as well as final form.

The course is intended as an introduction; no previous coursework or background is expected. It is, however, an Honors seminar designed for Franklin Scholars in the College and Joseph Wharton Scholars at Wharton. Others will be admitted by permission as space allows.


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.

Last modified March 23, 2009
Maintained by Daniel DeWispelare
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania