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Undergraduate Courses
Fall 2011




The following courses fulfill the COML *theory* elective requirement for majors:

COML069, COML104.401, COML104.402, COML126, COML201, COML247, COML309, COML343, COML355, COML419

The following courses fulfill the COML *non-Western or postcolonial studies* elective requirement for majors:

COML057, COML118, COML215, COML235, COML239, COML256, COML266, COML283, COML395


COML 031.401

TR 10:30-12 Loomba

Cross listed with ENGL 031

Renaissance Literature and Culture

This course will introduce you to some of the most exciting and vital issues and texts-- historical, cultural and literary-- of Renaissance England. We will read a variety of men and women who take us into pre-modern worlds that are significantly different from our own, and yet help us understand our own modernity. Hence the readings will range from Shakespeare's plays or Donne's poems to a speech by Queen Elizabeth's or Columbus's letter announcing the “discovery” of the America. We will try to understand the fashioning of various identities --such as those of gentleman, lady, monarch or subject --at this time. We will trace the changing meanings of gender, the family, love, authority, the nation and race. And most importantly, we will see how literary texts contribute to these meanings in their own distinctive ways.

Students will be graded on the basis of class participation, a mid-term and a final examination.

COML 057.401

Ben Franklin Seminar
TR 10:30-12 Stern


Cross listed with JWST 151, NELC 156, RELS 027

Great Books in Judaism

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 065.401

TR 9-10:30 English

Cross listed with ENGL 065

20th Century British Literature -- CANCELLED

This is an introductory survey of British fiction since 1900, covering some of the important novels and novelists of the past hundred-plus years. There is no single theme unifying our readings; rather, we will be exploring a number of interrelated questions concerning the genre of the novel and the politics of literary form; the relationship between modernism and postmodernism; and the shifting dynamics of Englishness and Britishness during a century of imperial contraction and transnational repositioning. Novels will include: Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, Jean Rhys's Voyage in the Dark, Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies, Sam Selvon's Lonely Londoners, Doris Lessing's The Fifth Child, Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting, Zadie Smith's White Teeth, and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. Written work will consist of several short midterm exams, a 3-5 page essay, and an 8-10 page essay.

COML 069.401

TR 12-1:30 Jaji

Cross listed with ENGL 069

Poetry and Poetics

This class is an introduction to reading and listening to poetry and critical work on poetics with care and imagination. We will cover a range of formal concerns (meter, rhetorical figures, prosody etc.) during the course of the semester, and our study will focus on how ideas about poetic form circulate across historical periods and geographic space. We will begin by surveying one of the most familiar and durable poetic forms, the sonnet, from Petrarch?s poems for Laura to Shakespeare's poems for the enigmatic W.H. to the protest sonnets of Jamaican-born Claude McKay. The course will place such apparently local movements as the Harlem Renaissance in a global context. For example, how do we understand Langston Hughes, the quintessential Harlem renaissance "blues poet" more fully when we consider his translations of Federico Lorca (Spain), Nicolás Guillén (Cuba) and Jacques Roumain (Haiti)? While most of the texts studied are written, we will spend some time discussing spoken word, dub poetry and hip hop.

COML 070.401

TR 9-10:30 Ellis

Cross listed with ENGL 070, LALS 060, GSWS 060

Latina/o Literature

In this introductory course, we will engage literature and other artistic forms by Latinos. The term Latinos represents a heterogeneous group of 50 million migrants, exiles, dual- and split citizens, refugees, documented and undocumented workers of Spanish Caribbean and Latin American descent. While historical, class and racial differences qualify this group, three essential things distinguish it: a distinct relation to English and Spanish, the fact of displacement into el norte, and a maintained cultural and/or economic connection to the departed site.

We will study various forms including music, poetry, film and performance art, among them, Gloria Anzaldúa’s poetics that presents the entire U.S., not just the banks of the Rio Grande, as a shifting borderland, Miguel Piñero’s poetry of extreme pleasure and suffering within language itself, Reinaldo Arenas’ narrative obsession with Cuba, as it expelled queers and questioning artists from the Revolution, and with desire, and performances of insistent memory by John Leguizamo and Carmelita Tropicana, for whom the body is the main artistic tool. Several themes will come into view: stereotypes of Latinos generated in films like Zoot Suit, West Side Story and Scarface; the differences of migrant “journeys” and rural or urban forms of labor in relation to the Latina/o artistic imaginary; the violence of heteronormativity in Latina/o and dominant U.S. cultures; the crises of representation for Latina/o artists, of whom realism and “personal narratives” are demanded. In addition to those noted above, Ana Castillo, Pedro Pietri, Coco Fusco and Junot Díaz will be read. The films The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Piñero, Improper Conduct and Balseros will be viewed.

COML 100.401

Cross Cultural Analysis, Arts and Letters Sector

LEC MW 12-1 Todorov
REC 402 F 12-1; 403 F 2-3


Registration required for LEC and REC
LEC and REC cross listed with ENGL 100

Introduction to Literature

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

Humanities and Social Science Sector

TR 1:30-3 Ben-Amos


Cross listed with FOLK 101, NELC 181

Introduction to Folklore

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 104.401

Arts and Letters Sector

TR 10:30-12 Steiner


Cross listed with ENGL 104

The 20th Century

This course is an introduction to twentieth-century works, concepts, and movements crucial to an understanding of the contemporary arts. It will proceed decade by decade, from expatriate bohemians through modernist abstractionists and the avant-garde, the "lost generation," surrealism, socially committed art, existentialism and the absurd, pornography, pop, camp, feminism, postmodernism, the Culture Wars, digital art, bio-art, and more. We will observe works on the syllabus responding both thematically and formally to the century’s cataclysmic wars, social revolutions, and changing communications technologies. Though virtually every cultural assumption operative in the heydays of Stein, Joyce, Stravinsky, Picasso, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Warhol, Dylan, and Mapplethorpe is now up for grabs, the best hope we have to navigate our current aesthetic vertigo is to examine the path that led us here.

COML 104.402

TR 12-1:30 Chang

Cross listed CINE 104, ENGL 104, CINE 104

Monsters in Film and Literature

Why do monsters have such lasting popular appeal in film and literature? From medieval dragons to intergalactic aliens, monsters reveal our fascination with the supernatural and the grotesque, with scientific experimentation and the boundaries of what it means to be human. Every culture has its own way of representing the unknown and sublimating its deep-seated fears of contamination and invasion—often through the figure of the monster. In this course we will study films featuring a wide assortment of monsters and the literature that inspires and reproduces them across a range of genres, cultures, and time periods. Films may include: Nosferatu, Frankenstein, The Fly, 28 Weeks Later, The Elephant Man, Godzilla. Authors may include: Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, H.P. Lovecraft, and Octavia Butler. This course includes an introduction to film analysis and readings in cultural studies and literary theory. There are no prerequisites.

Mandatory film screenings are scheduled once a week in the evenings. Assignments will include quizzes and in-class exams, two 4-5 page essays, and a collaborative research project on a monster of your choice.

COML 113.301

Critical Speaking Seminar

TR 12-1:30 Al-Naser

Malcolm X: Voicing the Revolution

Malcolm X is remembered as one of the most commanding, radical voices of the 1950's and 60's, for representing and articulating a powerful critique of the ideological underpinnings of racial oppression in the United States. He is also remembered as a poignant orator, as a man capable of writing and delivering forceful speeches. However, these two legacies are not unrelated; in fact, Malcolm's ability to mobilize his audience relied on an intersection of the power of critique and the power of delivery. In this class, we will read texts and watch videos of some of Malcolm X's most poignant speeches and pay attention, on the one hand to some of the key themes and concerns, such as his call for a black revolution, his representation of race in America, his views on the place of African Americans in the world, and of course his thoughts on the ethics and politics of violent resistance. On the other hand, we will also search the texts for signs of the spoken moment: an awareness of audience, a reliance on emphasis and repetition, and strategies of conversion.

As a Critical Speaking seminar, this course will offer students the opportunity to improve their public speaking skills through class discussion, class debates, and individual and group presentations. Students will be encouraged to explore personal convictions, to articulate and defend different or opposing points of view, and to regularly participate in oral communication assignments.

COML 118.401

Cross Cultural Analysis

MW 2-3:30 Minuchehr


Cross listed with CINE 118, GSWS 118, NELC 118

Iranian Cinema: Gender, Politics, Religion -- CANCELLED

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

Arts and Letters Sector

LEC TR 10:30-12 Weissberg
REC 402, 403, 404


Registration required for LEC and REC
LEC and REC cross listed with ENGL 102, GRMN 242

The Fantastic and Uncanny in Literature

What do we call fantastic? And what appears to be uncanny? Are these general notions, or can the fantastic and uncanny be historically grounded?

This course will explore these questions and consider tales from the Romantic period to the early twentieth century. Literary examples will include works by German, French, American, and English writers (Heinrich von Kleist, Adelbert von Chamisso, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Gérard de Nerval, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Prosper Merimée, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary Wollestonecraft, Lewis Carroll). Essays by Sigmund Freud, Tzvetan Todorov, and others will frame the discussion. All readings will be in English.

COML 150.601

Humanities and Social Science Sector

T 5:30-8:30 Lavery


Cross listed with RUSS 193

War and Representation

Representations of war have been created for as many reasons as wars are fought: To legitimate conflict, to celebrate military glory, to critique brutality, to vilify an enemy, to mobilize popular support, to generate national pride, etc. In this course we will examine a series of representations of war drawn from the literature, film state propaganda, memoirs, visual art, etc. of Russia, Europe and the United States of the twentieth century.

COML 163.402

MWF 10-11 Mukherjee

Cross listed with SAST 163.402

Empire and Popular Culture: India and the Imperial Metropole -- CANCELLED

This course will explore the everyday experiences of the British empire of those who were located physically in the “metropolitan home”. Beyond the politics and economics of empire, this course studies the impact of the empire on the everyday lives of the British in the imperial age. Structured around how a Briton living at ‘home’ might come to experience the empire through his/her encounters in everyday life, with the diverse cultural images and artefacts circulating since the turn of the nineteenth century, the course will look at how these popular images of the Indian empire came to be informed by—and in turn helped inform—shifting imperial notions of masculinity, sexuality, class, race and even spirituality.

COML 201.401

MW 2-3:30 Mask

Cross listed with ARTH 290, CINE 201, ENGL 291

Western Genre in Film

The western is one of the defining genres of American film. Many westerns are nostalgic eulogies, which recall the early days of the expansive, untamed American frontier. Westerns are usually set during the second half of the 19th century, in geographically south-western locations with sweeping landscapes or rugged terrain. Some westerns recall America’s colonial period. As one of the more malleable film genres, the western has emerged in a variety of permutations and national cinemas. Its lexicon has inspired directors and captivated audiences in nations including Italy, Japan, Germany and Spain. Legendary for its imagery, the western is infamous for its ideology. Its celebrated literary and cinematic forms rationalized the displacement, subordination, conquest and extermination of North America’s indigenous populations. This course investigates the western genre in film from the perspective of genre studies, feminist film theory, structural analysis as myth, and film history. Screenings, readings, papers and attendance are required.

COML 203.401

Literatures of the World
Arts and Letters Sector

TR 3-4:30 Benini


Cross listed with COLL 228, ITAL 203

World Lit: Italian

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

Arts and Letters Sector

TR 3-4:30 Verkholantsev


Cross listed with RELS 218, RUSS 213

Saints and Devils in Russian Literature

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

W 2-5 Allen

Cross listed with NELC 233

Arabic Literary Heritage

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

Literatures of the World
Cross Cultural Analysis
Arts and Letters Sector

S 401 TR 10:30-12 Richman
S 402 MWF 11-12 Prince
S 403 TR 1:30-3 Staff


Cross listed with COLL 221, FREN 221


Perspectives in French Literature

This course is designed to provide students with a knowledge of major aspects of the French literary tradition from the Middle Ages to the present and, at the same time, to unify a broad variety of works under the rubric of textual eroticism and romance. Texts will include prose narratives (Tristan et Iseut, Manon Lescaut, L’Amant), plays (Phèdre, On ne badine pas avec l’amour), and poetry (by Ronsard, Hugo, Baudelaire, Apollinaire). All readings and class discussion in French.

COML 228.401

TR 12-1:30 Staff

Cross listed with HEBR 250, JWST 256

Studies in Hebrew Bible -- CANCELLED

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the methods and resources used in the modern study of the Bible. To the extent possible, these methods will be illustrated as they apply to a single book of the Hebrew Bible that will serve as the main focus of the course. The course is designed for undergraduates who have previously studied the Bible in Hebrew either in high school or college. It presupposes a working knowledge of Biblical Hebrew grammar.

COML 235.401

Cross Cultural Analysis
All readings and lectures in English

TR 1:30-3 Verkholantsev


Cross listed with HIST 219, RUSS 234, SLAV 517

Medieval Russia: Origins of Russian Cultural Identity

This course offers an overview of the literary and cultural history of Medieval Rus' from its origins through the Late Middle Ages, a period which laid the foundation for the emergence of the Russian Empire. Three modern-day nation-states – Russia, Ukraine and Belarus – share and dispute the cultural heritage of Medieval Rus’, and their political relationships even today revolve around questions of national and cultural identity. The focus of the course will be on the Kievan and Muscovite traditions but we will also note the differences (and their causes) of the Ukrainian and Belarusian cultural histories. 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. Students will explore the worldview of medieval Orthodox Slavs by delving into such topics as religion, spirituality, art, literature, education, music, ritual and popular culture.

The legacy of the Rus’ Middle Ages has a continuing cultural influence in modern Russia. This legacy is still referenced, often allegorically, in contemporary social and cultural discourse as the society attempts to reconstruct and reinterpret its history. Similarly, the study of the medieval cultural history of Rus’ explains many aspects of modern Russian society, and, in particular, the roots of its Imperial political mentality. Those interested in the intellectual and cultural history of Russia, and Eastern Europe in general, will find that this course greatly enhances their understanding of the region and its people.

COML 239.401

TR 3-4:30 Yang

Cross listed with ENGL 241

China in the English Imagination

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. Assignments will include one class presentation and a choice of either three short essays (5 pages each) or one longer essay (15 pages).

COML 247.401

Humanities and Social Science Sector

TR 3-4:30 Jarosinski


Cross listed with GRMN 247

Marx

"A spectre is haunting Europe--the spectre of Communism": This, the famous opening line of The Communist Manifesto, will guide this course's exploration of the history, legacy, and potential future of Karl Marx's most important texts and ideas, even long after Communism has been pronounced dead. Contextualizing Marx within a tradition of radical thought regarding politics, religion, and sexuality, we will focus on the philosophical, political, and cultural origins and implications of his ideas. Our work will center on the question of how his writings seek to counter or exploit various tendencies of the time; how they align with the work of Nietzsche, Freud, and other radical thinkers to follow; and how they might continue to haunt us today. We will begin by discussing key works by Marx himself, examining ways in which he is both influenced by and appeals to many of the same fantasies, desires, and anxieties encoded in the literature, arts and intellectual currents of the time. In examining his legacy, we will focus on elaborations or challenges to his ideas, particularly within cultural criticism, postwar protest movements, and the cultural politics of the Cold War. In conclusion, we will turn to the question of Marxism or Post-Marxism today, asking what promise Marx's ideas might still hold in a world vastly different from his own. All readings and lectures in English.

COML 256.401

F 2-5 Kano

Cross listed with CINE 222, EALC 257, GSWS 257

Contemporary Fiction and Film in Japan

This course will explore fiction and film in contemporary Japan, from 1945 to the present. Topics will include literary and cinematic representation of Japan s war experience and post-war reconstruction, negotiation with Japanese classics, confrontation with the state, and changing ideas of gender and sexuality. We will explore these and other questions by analyzing texts of various genres, including film and film scripts, novels, short stories, manga, and academic essays. Class sessions will combine lectures, discussion, audio-visual materials, and creative as well as analytical writing exercises. The course is taught in English, although Japanese materials will be made available upon request. No prior coursework in Japanese literature, culture, or film is required or expected; additional secondary materials will be available for students taking the course at the 600 level. Writers and film directors examined may include: Kawabata Yasunari, Hayashi Fumiko, Abe Kobo, Mishima Yukio, Oe Kenzaburo, Yoshimoto Banana, Ozu Yasujiro, Naruse Mikio, Kurosawa Akira, Imamura Shohei, Koreeda Hirokazu, and Beat Takeshi.

COML 266.401

Literatures of the World
Arts and Letters World

TR 10:30-12 Gold


COLL 227, HEBR 259, HEBR 559, JWST 259

Post-Modernist Writers

This course concentrates on contemporary Israeli short stories and some poetry, post-modernist as well as traditional, written by male and female authors. The diction is simple, often colloquial, but the stories and poems reflect an exciting inner world and a stormy outer reality. For Hebrew writers, the short story has been a favorite genre since the Renaissance of Hebrew literature in the 19th century until now, when Hebrew literature is vibrant in a country where Hebrew is spoken. Poetry gradually lost its primary status in Hebrew Literature but contemporary poems still reflect modern Israel as do the short stories. Using canonical Israeli texts by Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and Dahlia Ravikovitch as backdrop, the lion share of the course focuses on writers who emerged in the last 25 years like Shimon Adaf, Leah Eini, Etgar Keret and Orly Kastel-Bloom. 3-4 short papers and final examination. All texts, discussions and papers are in Hebrew. Fulfills Cross Cultural Analysis; Arts & Letters Sector and Literatures of the World.

COML 282.401

Cross Cultural Analysis
Arts and Letters Sector

TR 1:30-3 Gold


Cross listed with JWST 102, NELC 159

Holocaust in Literature and Film

The quintessential Holocaust narrative The Diary of Anne Frank appeared in 1947, one year prior to the establishment of the Jewish State. Nevertheless, Israel and its art "waited" until the 1961 public indictment of a Nazi war-criminal to hesitantly begin to face the momentous catastrophe. The Zionist wish to forge a "New Jew" was in part responsible for this suppression. The understated short stories of Aharon Appelfeld (who will visit Penn in October) were the first to enter the modernist literary scene in the 1960s, followed in 1970 by the cryptic verse of Dan Pagis, a fellow child survivor. Only in 1988 did the Second Generation of survivors reveal themselves, when two Israeli-born pop singers broke the continuous practice of concealing the past and its emotional aftermath in the watershed documentary Because of That War. This course will follow and analyze the transformation of Israeli literature and cinema from instruments of suppression into means for processing this national trauma. While Israeli works constitute much of the course's material, European and American film and fiction play comparative roles. There will be six film screenings; the films will also be placed 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

Cross Cultural Analysis
Cultural Diversity in the U.S.

TR 10:30-12 Ben-Amos


Cross listed with FOLK 280, JWST 260, NELC 258

Jewish Folklore

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 migrations of Jews into different countries and the historical, social, and cultural changes that these countries underwent. The course attempts to capture the 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.

COML 292.402

TR 1:30-3 Mazaj

Cross listed with ARTH 292, CINE 202, ENGL 292

Masters of European Cinema

This course will be a study of key European filmmakers who made a distinct mark on the cinema of the twentieth century. The course will explore how in the face of massive commercial success of Hollywood cinema, directors such as Werner Herzog, Andrei Tarkovsky, Theo Angelopoulos, Miklos Jansco, Krzysztof Kieslowski, and Ildiko Enyedi created a new form of cinema that challenges our dominant conceptions and understanding of film styles, and opens up new frontiers of creativity and filmic expression. Together, these filmmakers were so influential that they not only shaped their specific national cinemas, but they had a profound influence on filmmakers around the world. They are unique in that their work fits neither the narrative mode nor the experimental or avant-garde one. They defy dominant theories of films and open up discussions of poetics and philosophy. Through their work, this course will also explore important connections between cinema, the study of language and narrative, visual arts, literature and philosophy.

COML 292.404

TR 3-4:30 Donovan

Cross listed with ARTH 292, CINE 202, ENGL 292

Modern Science Fiction

Science Fiction has been a cinematic genre for as long as there has been cinema—at least since Georges Melies’s visionary Trip to the Moon in 1902. However, though science fiction films have long been reliable box office earners and cult phenomena, critical acknowledgement and analysis was slow to develop. Still, few genres reflect the sensibility of their age so transparently—if often unconsciously—or provide so many opportunities for filmmakers to simultaneously address social issues and expand the lexicon with the new technologies. Given budgetary considerations and the appetite for franchises, science fiction auteurs face a difficult negotiation between artistic expression and lowest common denominator imperatives, the controversy over Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) being perhaps the most infamous example. Nevertheless, many notable filmmakers have done their most perceptive and influential work in the scifi realm, including Gilliam, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, David Cronenberg, James Cameron and Paul Verhoeven.

This course will survey the scope of modern science fiction cinema, beginning with two films that inspired a rare wave of academic discourse, Scott’s Alien (1979) and The Blade Runner (1982), which attracted postmodernists, feminists, and film historians interested in how the works both drew from earlier movements (German Expressionism, Noir), and inspired new ones (cyberpunk). We will look at smaller, more independent-minded projects, such as Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Duncan Jones’ Moon (2009) as well as risky, massively budgeted epics such as Spielberg’s AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001) and Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010). We will also acknowledge highly cinematic television series that influenced the scope of modern scifi, including The X-Files (1993-2002) and the rebooted Battlestar Galactica.

COML 300.401

T 1:30-4:30 Finotti

Cross listed with ITAL 300

Food and Culture in Italy

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.

COML309.403

TR 12-1:30 Charney

Cross listed with CINE 310, ENGL 292

Playing Games with Stories

This special Year of Games course examines how filmmakers and writers play games with narrative structure, twisting conventional patterns and expectations by infusing them with chance, randomness, surreality, meta-reality, false starts, restarts, puzzles, dreams, reverse orders, surprise endings, and what Jacques Derrida called “the joyous affirmation of the free play of the world.” We will examine a wide range of examples, including but not limited to: theorists (Barthes, Bakhtin, Huizinga, and Derrida; films (Memento, Inception, The Usual Suspects, Open Your Eyes, Slacker, After Hours, Last Year at Marienbad, The Phantom of Liberty, and Groundhog Day); writers (Borges, Cortázar, Calvino, Joyce, Nabokov, Ashbery, Perec, Lautréamont, and David Foster Wallace); Dada and Surrealist film, art, and writing; “Structural film” of the 1960s and 1970s, especially Frampton, Snow, and Warhol. Coursework will include experimental and creative projects, as well as analytical and critical essays.

COML 343.401

TR 10:30-12 Breckman

Cross listed with HIST 343

19th C. European Intellectual History

This course will examine major political, philosophical, and cultural issues during the period, beginning with the Enlightenment and its legacies and concluding with Nietzsche's dismissal of the entire Enlightenment project. Along the way we will consider the impact of the French Revolution, the birth of ideologies, Romanticism, the utopian tradition, philosophical idealism and its critics, Liberalism, Marx and socialist alternatives, and the challenge of Darwinism. The course is text-based, and readings are from primary ources only. Authors include Kant, Goethe, and Condorcet at the beginning of the course; Burke, Maistre, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Marx, and Mill; and end with Darwin, Spencer, and Nietzsche. Topics in art, music, and literature will also be considered.

COML 355.401

Benjamin Franklin Seminar

TR 12-1:30 Hall


Cross listed with ENGL 359

Culture Without the Cult

This course looks at the reflections of a writer of great intelligence and imagination on the tensions and contradictions of modern culture. According to Thomas Mann, the Enlightenment severed culture from the cult, that is, the Enlightenment created the cultivated man whose mark of cultivation is having overcome religion’s superstitions. With the demise of traditional religion and traditional morality, terms that were once shared by aesthetics and ethics—beauty, order, balance—are used by thinking people only with irony. Art becomes the merely chic; spiritual intensity becomes shrill; morality becomes the restraints of a well-upholstered home. In his two greatest books, The Magic Mountain and Doctor Faustus, Mann argues that modern cultivated man despises the cult and yet, being homesick for it, attempts to cure that homesickness in either futile or destructive ways. We will read several short works by Kant, The First and Second Discourses of Rousseau, and Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals. The course will culminate in Mann's Magic Mountain and Doctor Faustus. (Mann’s books being long, the student would be well advised to get started reading them over the summer, in the translation by John Woods. Besides, a book is better the second time through.)

COML 391.401

MW 3:30-5 Mask

Cross listed with AFRC 392, ARTH 489, CINE 392, ENGL 392

African-American Cinema

This course provides a survey of the history of African American representation in cinema. It begins with an examination of "race movies" of the 1930s including early Black cast westerns (Harlem Rides the Range, The Bronze Buckaroo, Harlem on the Prairie). The course covers Black-cast musicals of the 30s and 40s (St. Louis Blues, Black and Tan, Hi De Ho, Sweethearts of Rhythm). We will interrogate the changing configuration of race relations and how legislation, social protest and desegregation precipitated changes in American film. Political debate circulating around cross over stars (Paul Robeson, Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt, and Harry Belafonte) is central to the course. Special consideration is given to Blaxploitation cinema of the seventies (Shaft, Coffy, Foxy Brown, Cleopatra Jones) in an attempt to understand its impact on filmmakers and the historical contexts for contemporary filmmaking. The course covers "Los Angeles Rebellion" filmmakers such as Julie Dash, Charles Burnett and Haile Gerima. Realist cinema of the 80's and 90's (Do the Right Thing, Boyz N the Hood, Menace II Society and Set It Off) is examined before the transition to Black romantic comedies, family films, and genre pictures (Love and Basketball, Bamboozled, Akeelah and the Bee, The Great Debaters). The methodological approach to the material is interdisciplinary. The readings address film history, criticism and aesthetics. Course material is also taken from critical race theory, queer theory and cultural studies. Readings, screenings and papers are required.

COML 392.401

Benjamin Franklin Seminar

W 2-5 Kaul


Cross listed with ENGL 393, SAST 323

Literature and Historiography of National Trauma: Partition and South Asia

This course will examine the way in which imaginative literature and film have addressed the difficult socio-political issues leading up to, and following from, the independence and partition of British India. Pakistan and India came into being as nation-states in moments of great national trauma: historians have long argued over the process that led up to Partition, and we will study some of these debates, but for the most part we will examine novels, short stories, poetry, and some films to think about the impact of Partition and Independence on communities and individuals in South Asia. In doing so, we will recognize the continuing role played by these events and experiences in shaping the cultural, social, and political realities of contemporary South Asia. We will also learn about the crucial role played by literary and creative texts in making available to us the full dimensions of human tragedy, especially those precipitated when the imperatives of nation-formation redefine the lives of individuals or of sub-national communities.

Readings will include:
Urvashi Butalia, The Other Side of Silence, Paperback ISBN: 0822324946
Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, Paperback ISBN: 0915943565
Suvir Kaul, ed. The Partitions of Memory Paperback ISBN 0253215668
Amitav Ghosh, The Shadow Lines, Paperback ISBN: 061832996-x
Films will include Deepa Mehta's Earth and Sabiha Sumar's Khamosh Paani

COML 395.401

Benjamin Franklin Seminar

T 1:30-4:30 Loomba


Cross listed with ENGL 395

Theatre and the World

“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players” says a character in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. But how does the stage itself imagine the world and especially human freedom and the limits set upon that freedom. Are these limits set by God, fate, society, or our own inner selves? Are they sexual or racial in nature? How can they be transgressed? Is the result always tragic? Great drama has offered varied answers to these questions over the ages, and we will explore some of the most exiting and urgent of these. We will read a wide range of plays that span different ages, cultures and forms of writing. Texts will likely include Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex, Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ibsen’s Doll’s House, Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children, Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, David Hwang’s M Butterfly, Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman and Manjula Padmanabhan’s Harvest. Students will be graded on the basis of class participation, a mid-term and a final examination.

COML 419.401

TR 12-1:30 Kors

Cross listed with HIST 415

17th C. Intellectual History

This course is a survey of the profound changes in European thought during the seventeenth century, and it is based solely on primary sources. It focuses above all on the transition from "scholastic" to diverse "new" ways of thought: skepticism, rationalism, empiricism; and he rise of the new sciences. The course is concerned with deep conceptual change as a historical phenomenon.


Last modified September 18, 2011
Maintained by Cliff Mak
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania