Undergraduate Courses
Fall 2013

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

      094; 123; 126; 247; 391; 419

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

      065; 205; 215; 235; 266; 282; 283; 294; 364; 391; 392

Other courses may also be counted toward elective requirements, in consultation with the Undergraduate Chair.

COML 065.401

TR 1:30-3 Barnard
Cross listed with AFST 065, ENGL 065

Colonial and Postcolonial Fiction

In this lecture-discussion class we will study a series of thematically connected novels by some of the twentieth-century’s most important writers from Britain and its former colonies. We will also read one excellent novel from the former French colonies of Mali and Senegal. Class discussions will critically examine the following oppositions: “Englishness” (or Frenchness”) and otherness, civilization and barbarism, power and knowledge, the metropolis and the periphery, and writing and orality. The course will appeal to students with an interest in questions of race and gender and the relationship between literature and politics, as well as students who simply want to read interesting books and expand their literary horizons. The course will concentrate to some extent on Africa (since that is my area of specialization), but not exclusively. Writing requirements: a mid-term and final paper of around 8-10 pp. in length). Books are likely to include: Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Forster, Passage to India, Waugh, Black Mischief, Lessing, The Grass is Singing, Rhys, The Wide Sargasso Sea, Greene, The Quiet American, Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Ousmane, God’s Bits of Wood, Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians, Ishiguru, The Remains of the Day, and Rushdie, Shame or East/West. Films will include: The Battle of Algiers, Black and White in Color and perhaps The Constant Gardener.

COML 094.401

TR 12-1:30 Rabaté
Cross listed with ENGL 094

Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory

This course provides an exposure to the main discourses of Theory understood as literary and cultural theory. We will start with earlier 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. Finally we will discuss Post-colonial studies, Cultural Studies and Queer Theory. We will use the second edition of the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2010) and the Bloomsbury Anthology of Aesthetics (2012).

COML 100.401

TR 12-1:30 Platt
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with ENGL 100, RUSS 195


The object of the course is to investigate what happens when historical events and personages are represented in cultural life. We will study plays, novels, paintings, film and television—as well as a bit of history—taking us from Shakespeare to Downton Abbey. Auxillary readings in theory and method will allow us to grapple with the deeper questions of our readings: How and why do modern societies care about the past? What is the difference between a historical novel and a work of historiography? Do different kinds of writing offer different forms of truth about human events? As we will learn, the representation of history has a history of its own, which we can trace from the renaissance up to the present day. Readings will include works by: Shakespeare, Scott, Tolstoy, Hughes, Eisenstein, Márquez, Eco and others. In the course of the semester, students will gain competence in the interpretation of literary texts from a variety of cultures and periods, and also improve their analytical writing skills.

COML 101.401

Cross Cultural Analysis
Humanities & 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 & Letters Sector
MW 2-3:30 Park

Cross listed with ENGL 104

The Twentieth Century

This course examines the American myth of the outsider in the twentieth century. The outsider paradoxically occupies the center of the American novel, and we will explore this lonely—and emblematic—American figure. Starting with The Great Gatsby’s paradigmatic incarnation of the outsider set against a nativist American vision, our readings will trace this figure into changing historical and cultural circumstances. We will read novels by Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, James Weldon Johnson, and Nella Larsen, among others, and we will also screen two films: Rebel without a Cause and Taxi Driver.

COML 105.601

T 6-9:10 Finch
Cross listed with ENGL 286

Gold Fever: Money and the American Novel

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Dark Knight Rises, and David Cronenburg’s Cosmopolis: all Hollywood films made in the last three years, and all about money. America’s love affair with telling stories about money has a long and fascinating tradition. Looking at a number of novels, but also films, short stories, and economic theory, we will examine how the American tradition engages with economics and creates fictions about finance. We will cover historical topics such as the roaring 20s, the Great Depression, the bubble, and the recent financial crisis. Authors may include Don DeLillo, Theodore Dreiser, Bret Easton Ellis, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jonathan Franzen, James Weldon Johnson, and Nathanael West.

COML 118.401

Cross Cultural Analysis
MW 3:30-5 Todorov

Cross listed with CINE 111, RUSS 111

Poetics of Screenwriting

This course studies scriptwriting in a historical, theoretical and artistic perspective. We discuss the rules of drama and dialogue, character development, stage vs. screen-writing, adaptation of nondramatic works, remaking of plots, author vs. genre theory of cinema, storytelling in silent and sound films, the evolvement of a script in the production process, script doctoring, as well as screenwriting techniques and tools. Coursework involves both analytical and creative tasks.

COML 119.401

Arts & Letters Sector
TR 10:30-12 Bushnell

Cross listed with ENGL 103


What do we mean when we call an event “tragic”? When we do so, often without knowing it, we reach back to a form of theater that began over 2500 years ago, in 5th B.C.E Athens. This is perhaps the most powerful example of how a literary genre – tragedy – can shape our perception of our history and experience. This course will examine the beginnings and evolution of the tragedy’s formal qualities, asking how form interacted with social and political factors. We will review historical notions of the tragic hero, from Aristotle to the present: what has defined a tragic hero, and why and how do these heroes matter to people? The class will also think about the role of plot in shaping tragedy, and how a tragedy differs from a catastrophe or a merely unhappy event. Finally, we will speculate on the recent past and future of tragedy as a genre. This course will not pretend to cover all the manifestations of tragic drama from the Greeks to the present: texts will likely include plays by Sophocles, Euripides, Shakespeare, Racine, Ibsen, and Beckett, but also recent films and television as well as relevant criticism and philosophy.

COML 123.401

Arts & Letters Sector
TR 10:30-12 Mazaj

Cross listed with ARTH 108, CINE 101, ENGL 091

World Film History to 1945

This course surveys the history of world film from cinema’s precursors to 1945. We will develop methods for analyzing film while examining the growth of film as an art, an industry, a technology, and a political instrument. Topics include the emergence of film technology and early film audiences, the rise of narrative film and birth of Hollywood, national film industries and movements, African-American independent film, the emergence of the genre film (the western, film noir, and romantic comedies), ethnographic and documentary film, animated films, censorship, the MPPDA and Hays Code, and the introduction of sound. We will conclude with the transformation of several film industries into propaganda tools during World War II (including the Nazi, Soviet, and US film industries). In addition to contemporary theories that investigate the development of cinema and visual culture during the first half of the 20th century, we will read key texts that contributed to the emergence of film theory. There are no prerequisites. Students are required to attend screenings or watch films on their own.

COML 125.402

Arts & Letters Sector
Cross Cultural Analysis
TR 3-4:30 Loomba

Cross listed with ENGL 103, NELC 180

Narrative Across Cultures

In this course we will read several types of narratives—drama, frame tales, short stories and novels---written in different periods and in different parts of the world. We will trace how these narratives traveled from one part of the world to another, and changed as they did so. We will discuss the different techniques of story-telling as they evolved over these travels in time and space, and how attitudes to love and war, sexuality and power changed or were similar. In this way, we will consider how literature reveals historical connections and conversations, as well as asks large philosophical questions shared across cultures.

Readings will likely include the Sanskrit play, The Little Clay Cart, Sophocles’ masterpiece, Antigone, stories from the Buddhist Jataka Tales, the Panchantantra, Aesop’s Fables, A Thousand and One Nights, and from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales,

Shakespeare’s Othello, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Tayib Salih’s Season of Migration to the North, Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.

COML 126.401

Arts & Letters Sector
TR 10:30-12 Weissberg

Registration Required for LEC, REC
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with GRMN 242
REC sections:
402 F 11-12; 403 F 12-1

Ghosts, Spirits & Machines

Do we still believe in spirits and ghosts? Do they have any place in an age of science of technology? Can they perhaps help us to define what a human being is and what it can do? We will venture on a journey through literary texts from the late eighteenth century to the present to explore the uncanny and fantastic in literature and Our discussions will be based on a reading of Sigmund Freud's essay on the uncanny, and extraordinary Romantic narratives by Ludwig Tieck, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Prosper Merimee, Villiers de Isle-Adam, and others.

COML 150.601

Humanities & Social Science Sector
T 5:30-8:30 Staff

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 201.401

TR 10:30-12 Corrigan
Cross listed with CINE 201, ENGL 291

Documentary Film

This course will engage the multiple historical, technological, and economic changes that have made contemporary documentary cinema arguably the most vital and inventive film practice today. During the first part of the semester, we will examine the historical traditions that have defined documentary film through the twentieth century: from early “actualities” and the films of 1950s and 1960s. Alongside these practices, we will read various critical and theoretical positions, such as those found in the writings of Dziga Vertov, John Grierson, and Jean Rouch. The majority of the course, however, will tackle the dynamic variety of documentary work made since 1980. This will include films by Chris Marker, Errol Morris, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and others where the confluence of a digital revolution and new ideological subject positions have redefined what documentary cinema is and is capable of. Requirements will include a seminar presentation, a short analytical essay, and a research project.

COML 203.401

Literatures of the World
Arts & Letters Sector
TR 3-4:30 Staff

Cross listed with COLL 228, ITAL 203

Italian Literature

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 205.401

TR 10:30-12 Fishman
Cross listed with JWST 213, NELC 383, RELS 203

The Religious Other

This course explores attitudes toward monotheists of other faiths, and claims made about these "religious others" -- their bodies, habits and beliefs -- in real and imagined encounters between Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Middle Ages. Primary source readings from law, theology, literature, art and polemics. Attention will be paid to myths about the other, inter-group violence, converts, and cases of cross-cultural influence both conscious and unconscious.

COML 206.401

MW 2-3:30 Locatelli
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with ITAL 204, CINE 206

Italian History On Screen

How has our image of Italy arrived to us? Where does the story begin and who has recounted, rewritten, and rearranged it over the centuries? In this course, we will study Italy's rich and complex past and present. We will carefully read literary and historical texts and thoughtfully watch films in order to attain an understanding of Italy that is as varied and multifacted as the country itself. Group work, discussions and readings will allow us to examine the problems and trends in the political, cultural and social history from ancient Rome to today. We will focus on: the Roman Empire, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Unification, Turn of the Century, Fascist era, World War II, post-war and contemporary Italy.

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

Cross Cultural Analysis
Literatures of the World
Arts & Letters Sector
TR 10:30-12 Richman

Cross listed with COLL 221, FREN 221
Section 402: TR 12-1:30 Moudileno
Section 403: TR 9-10:30 Francis

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 235.401

MW 3:30-5 Verkholantzev
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 241.601

Arts & Letters Sector
TBA Staff

All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with CINE 352, GRMN 256

The Devil’s Pact in Literature

For centuries the pact with the devil has signified humankind's desire to surpass the limits of human knowledge and power. The legend of the devil’s pact has permeated literature, art, and cinema. In this course, students will focus on two masterpieces of world literature in which the Devil plays the most prominent role, Goethe’s Faust and Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita. Professors of German and Russian Literature will explore these works in “devilish” details.

COML 245.401

Arts & Letters Sector
MW 11-12 Yangi

Registration for recitation required (sections 402, 403, 404, 405)
Cross listed with ENGL 104, CINE 112

Monsters 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 on Sundays 7-9:00 pm in room 401 of Fisher-Bennett Hall. English 104.402 is cross listed with Cinema Studies and Comparative Literature. 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 247.401

Humanities & Social Science Sector
TR 3-4:30 Jarosinski

All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with GRMN 247


"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 266.401

Literatures of the World
Cross Cultural Analysis
Arts & Letters Sector
TR 3-4:30 Gold

Cross listed with COLL 227, HEBR 259, HEBR 559

Israeli Short Story

This course concentrates on contemporary Israeli short stories, post-modernist as well as traditional, written by male and female authors. The diction is simple, often colloquial, but the stories 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. The lion share of the course focuses on authors who emerged in the last 25 years like Orly Kastel-Bloom, Alex Epstein, Almog Bahar. Student level and literary tastewill influence the choice of works. The content of this course changes from year to year, so students may take it for credit more than once.

COML 272.401

Benjamin Franklin Seminar
Cross Cultural Analysis
W 2-5 DeJean

Cross listed with FREN 250

The Novel and Marriage

Historians have argued that early novels helped shape public opinion on many controversial issues. And no subject was more often featured in novels than marriage. In the course of the 18th and the 19th centuries, at a time when marriage as an institution was being radically redefined, almost all the best known novels explored happy as well as unhappy unions, individuals who decided not to marry as well as those whose lives were destroyed by the institution. They showcased marriage in other words in ways certain to provoke debate. We will both survey the development of the modern novel from the late 17th to the early 20th century and study the treatment of marriage in some of the greatest novels of all time.

We will begin with novels from the French and English traditions, the national literatures in which the genre first took shape, in particular Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons, Austen’s Persuasion, Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. We will then turn to works from other European traditions such as Goethe’s Elective Affinities and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

We will begin the course by discussing the novel often referred to as the first modern novel, The Princess de Clèves, an ideal beginning for this course, since The Princess de Clèves was also the first novel centered on an exploration of questions central to the debate about marriage for over two centuries – everything from the question of whether one should marry for love or for social position to the question of adultery

COML 274.401

MW 3:30-5 Bernstein
Cross listed with ENGL 262

The Expanded Field of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E: Contemporary Poetry After 1975

This seminar will focus on poetry after 1975, mostly from the U.S., but also including some poetry from Canada, the UK, and Europe. This will not be a period or survey course: seminar will focus on poetry that pushes the envelope on formal and conceptual invention. The syllabus should be available in early summer. Think: digital, (para- and post-) conceptual, site-specific, post-NY School, language,sprung lyric, flarf, eco-, and performance poetry as well as book art and possibly relayed work in film, theater, and visual arts. In addition, there will be a few poets visiting the class -- reading and discussing their work with the seminar.

COML 281.401

MW 2-3:30 Bernstein
Cross listed with ENGL 269

Revolution of the Word: Modernist American Poetry 1900-1945

This is a good course for those who know a lot about modern poetry but also for those who want a lively introduction. This "creative reading workshop" combines aspects of a literature class with some of the formats of an experimental creative writing class. The workshop is less concerned with analysis or explanation of individual poems than with finding ways to intensify the experience of poetry, of the poetic, through a consideration of how the different styles and structures and forms of contemporary poetry can affect the way we see and understand the world. No previous experience with poetry is necessary. More important is a willingness to consider the implausible, to try out alternative ways of thinking, to listen to the way language sounds before trying to figure out what it means, to lose yourself in a flurry of syllables and regain your bearings in dimensions otherwise imagined as out-of-reach.

COML 282.401

Cross Cultural Analysis
Arts & Letters Sector
TR 1:30-3 Gold

Cross listed with CINE 159, ENGL 079, JWST 102, NELC 159

Representation of the City

This course focuses on the artistic ways in which the city--be it Jerusalem, Haifa or Nazareth--is represented in Israeli literature and film. The emotional and physical connection between the writer or director and his/her place of dwelling is transformed in the artistic work. The depiction of the city in prose, poetry and film reflects the inner world as well as ideological and political conflicts. The "city" may become a locus for national expression, of gender identification, or even of pure aesthetic enchantment. We will analyze how, in a film split between Tel Aviv and Tiberias, Shlomo Zarhin pays homage to his hometown, how the Carmel Mountain and Haifa bay allow Yehudit Katzir to expresses the complex bond with her mother; how the city streets enable Dahlia Ravikovitch and Meir Wieseltier examine questions of national loyalty; and how the Jerusalems of Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and Yehuda Amichai reflect their creators. There will be 5-6 film screenings.

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 292.401

TR 1:30-3 Mazaj
Cross listed with ARTH 393, CINE 202, ENGL 292

American Independent Cinema

This course is a study of the independent sector of American cinema, which has produced many of the most distinctive films to have appeared in the US in recent decades, from the lowest-budget, most formally innovative or politically radical to the offbeat, the cultish and the more conventional. While the course will trace a long and broad history of the independent sector from the early history of cinema, our principal focus will be on particular versions of independent cinema that came to prominence since the mid 1980s, a period when an establishment of an industrial infrastructure (especially in distribution) was a key factor in the development of the indie scene. From milestone films such as Stranger Than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch) and Sex, Lies and Videotape (Steven Soderbergh) in the 1980s, to Clerks (Kevin Smith), The Blair Witch Project and New Queer Cinema in the 1990s, and the latest ultra-low budget digital video features of the 2000s, we will examine a significant body of work that both stands out from and presents a challenge to Hollywood, but also one that has been co-opted and embraced by the commercial mainstream. A study of important auteurs of independent cinema--John Sayles, Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley, Todd Haynes and Quentin Tarantino among others--the course is also an exploration of the various manifestations and dynamic meaning of the term “independent,” which will be examined not only in terms of industrial factors but also according to formal/aesthetic strategies and distinctive relationship to broader social and ideological landscape.

COML 294.401

Cultural Diversity in the U.S.
MW 2-3:30 Ellis

Cross listed with CINE 294, LALS, 296, ROML 296

Cry of Revolution, The Cry of the Migrant: Latin American and Caribbean Lit, Cinema and Music

Description TBA.

COML 294.402

MW 4:30-6 Ellis
Cross listed with CINE 294, LALS 296, ROML 296

Cuban Revolutionary Cinema

Just a few months after the Bay of Pigs Invasion – a fiasco for the US, but a triumph for the Cuban Revolution – Fidel Castro’s “Speech to Intellectuals on 30 June 1961” marked a crucible in the Revolution’s stance on the artistic obligation to the revolutionary state: “Within the Revolution, everything. Outside of the Revolution, nothing.” [“Con la Revolución, todo. Fuera de la Revolución, nada.”] This speech, however, also touches a deep and dangerous concern of the arts: the relation of representation to a polity. Indeed, within five years, the eminent Cuban director, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, would render a wild visual critique of “the tyranny of red tape,” in some moments hilarious and in others disturbing, including a critique of the state’s over-eager hand on the corpus of the arts. This course will move through major cinematic works of the Revolution, but mindful of several important themes: the historically precarious relation of the artist to the polity; exile’s specific meaning in Cuba’s context; the 1972 “Padilla Affair,” which landed various writers and artists in precarious situations, including incarceration, for being homosexual; the major migrations from the island; the idea of Cuba today as a diasporic nation; and, very importantly, the economic shifts ongoing now, which place Cuba into a radically different global position after the crises of the “Special Period” of the 90s and early 2000s. We will constantly question the relation of the intellectual and artist to the state, and their respective concerns about the image and linguistic representation. Towards the end of the course, we will also consider recent and distinct philosophical returns to a notion of “the commons” and communism emergent from within global capitalism today (Zizek, Negri, Badiou). The list of feature-length film may include: Soy Cuba (1964), La muerte de un burócrata/Death of a Bureaucrat (1966), Las Aventuras de Juan Quin Quin/The Adventures of Juan Quin Quin (1967), Memorias del subdesarrollo/Memories of Underdevelopment (1968), La última cena/The Last Supper (1976), Maluala (1979), El Súper (1979), Cecilia (1983), Fresa y chocolate/Strawberry and Chocolate (1994), Guantanamera (1995), La vida es silbar/Life is to whistle (1998), Before Night Falls (2000), Balseros (2002), Suite Habana (2003), East of Havana (2006), and Juan de los muertos/Juan of the Dead (2011).

COML 364.401

MW 4:30-6 Francis
Cross listed with AFRC 360, CINE 360

African American Cinema

Examines African American cinema, in its varied formations, from the 1960s to the present. Topics include the concept of a black aesthetic, the relationship between commercial and independent filmmaking practices, and the question of genre.

COML 391.401

Benjamin Franklin Seminar
TR 3-4:30 Barnard

Cross listed with CINE 392, ENGL 392

Cinema and Globalization

In this course, we will study a number of films (mainly feature films, but also a few documentaries) that deal with a complicated nexus of issues that have come to be discussed under the rubric of "globalization." Among these are the increasingly extensive networks of money and power, the transnational flow of commodities and cultural forms, and the accelerated global movement of people, whether as tourists or migrants. At stake, throughout, will be the ways in which our present geographical, economic, social, and political order can be understood and represented. What new narrative forms have arisen to make sense of contemporary conditions? Films will include: The Year of Living Dangerously, Perfumed Nightmare, Dirty Pretty Things, Monsoon Wedding, Babel, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Maria Full of Grace, In This Word, Darwin's Nightmare, Black Gold, Life and Debt, The Constant Gardener, Syriana, and Children of Men. In addition to studying the assigned films carefully, students will also be expected to read a selection of theoretical works on globalization (including Zygmunt Baumann's Globalization: The Human Consequences) and, where appropriate, the novels on which the assigned films are based. Advance viewing of the films is required. (I find it is best to place films on reserve for students' use, or to ask that students get their own DVDs from Amazon or Netflix, but screenings can certainly be arranged.) Writing requirements: either a mid-term and final paper, or an in-class power point presentation and final paper.

COML 391.402

Benjamin Franklin Seminar
TR 1:30-2 Corrigan

Cross listed with CINE 392, ENGL 392


The continual exchanges between literature and film throughout the twentieth century—from the Silent Shakespeares of the 1900s to the 2012 Anna Karenina--have made it virtually impossible to study one without the other. Since 1895 the relationship between the two practices has evolved and changed dramatically, always as a measure of larger cultural, industrial, and aesthetic concerns. Well beyond questions of textual fidelity, today the debates about the interactions of film and literature have opened and enriched specific textual case studies of adaptation but also pointed to larger concerns and debates which resonate more broadly across both literary studies and film studies: for instance about the cultural and textual terms of authorship, about the economic and political pressures permeating any adaptation, about the literature’s appropriation of cinematic and other media structures. Indeed, today adaptation studies now move well beyond just literature and film, involving video games, YouTube mash ups, and numerous other textual and cultural activities that invigorate and complicate the importance of theories, practices, and histories of adaptation into the 21st century.

COML 392.401

Benjamin Franklin Seminar
TR 12-1:30 Kaul

Cross listed with ENGL 393, SAST 323

The Literature and Historiography of National Trauma: Partition and South Asia

This course will examine the ways 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.

COML 419.401

TR 12-1:30 Kors
Cross listed with HIST 415

17th Century 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 4, 2013
Maintained by Cliff Mak
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania