Undergraduate Course Descriptions
Spring 2011

COML 093.401 Introduction to Post-Colonial Literature
TR 10:30-12 Loomba
Cross listed with ENGL 093

This course introduces students to the history, theory, and study of postcolonial literature.

We will read literary texts from the Caribbean, Ireland, Britain, Africa and India in order to see how postcolonial writers appropriate and retool the English language and its literary forms. We will examine how this writing expresses the dynamics of decolonization and the complexities of postcolonial societies, while also allowing us to consider whether the world we live today is truly postcolonial.

We will most likely read: include  Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness, Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners; Brian Friel, Translations; Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children; Ama Ata Aidoo, Our Sister Killjoy; Andrea Levy Small Island; Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things; Manjula Padmanabhan, Harvest.

Assignments will include two oral class presentations, one mid-term paper and one final paper.

COML 094.401 Introduction to Literary Theory: Global Theory, An Introduction
TR 1:30-3 Rabaté

This course will provide an exposure to the multiple discourses of contemporary theory in a global context.  Theory has exploded and expanded recently, and has been used both to understand and criticize our increasingly globalized world.  We will need to survey the main concepts developed in the twentieth century by the Formalist, Structuralist, Post-structuralist, Marxist and Feminist schools, before engaging more in depth with Post-colonial studies, Cultural Studies, Queer Theory, Translation Studies and new approaches to World Literature.  We will use the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2010) and a few hand-outs. 

COML 107.401 Medieval and Early Modern Reader
TR 12-1:30 Johnston
Freshman Seminar
Cross listed with ITAL 100

What was life like in the Italy of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period? What did people believe in and how did their beliefs shape individual lives, society, and culture at large? In order to find the answers to these questions, we will read and discuss a variety of literary and visual texts by the most significant late medieval and early modern Italian writers and artists, men and women, ranging from Saint Francis and Giotto to Leonardo da Vinci and Machiavelli, by way of the three Crowns of Florence – Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio – Catherine of Siena, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Lucrezia Tornabuoni, Lorenzo de’ Medici, Angelo Poliziano, Botticelli, and others. We will learn how to analyze a text so that it reveals much more than what immediately apparent at a first reading or at first sight and see how religion, science, literature and the arts were closely interrelated. Classes will be conducted in English and all written materials will be available in English translation. The course may be counted towards the Major or Minor in Italian Studies.

COML 108.401 Greek and Roman Myth
Registration required for LEC and REC
LEC MW 11-12 Struck
REC sections 402-409
Cross listed with CLST 100

Myths are traditional stories that have endured many years. Some of them have to do with events of great importance, such as the founding of a nation. Others tell the stories of great heroes and heroines and their exploits and courage in the face of adversity. Still others are simple tales about otherwise unremarkable people who get into trouble or do some great deed. What are we to make of all these tales, and why do people seem to like to hear them? This course will focus on the myths of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as a few contemporary American ones, as a way of exploring the nature of myth and the function it plays for individuals, societies, and nations. We will also pay some attention to the way the Greeks and Romans themselves understood their own myths. Are myths subtle codes that contain some universal truth? Are they a window on the deep recesses of a particular culture? Are they entertaining stories that people like to tell over and over? Are they a set of cultural blinders that all of us wear, though we do not realize it? We will investigate these questions through a variety of topics including: the creation of the universe and the structure of the cosmos, relations between gods and mortals, religion and divination, justice, society, family, sex, love, madness, and death.

COML 115.401 Experimental Writing Seminar
M 2-5 Bernstein
Permission Needed from Instructor
Writing Samples Required
Cross listed with ENGL 111

This is a nontraditional "poetry immersion" workshop. The workshop will be useful for those wanting to explore new possibilities for writing and art, whether or not they have a commitment to writing poetry. The workshop will be structured around a series of writing experiments, intensive readings, art gallery visits, and the production of individual chapbooks or web sites for each participant, and performance of participants' works. There will also be some visits from visiting poets. The emphasis in the workshop will be on new and innovative approaches to composition and form, including digital, sound, and performance, rather than on works emphasizing narrative or story telling. Each week, participants will discuss the writing they have done as well as the assigned reading. Permission of the instructor is required. Send a brief email stating why you wish to attend the workshop (writing samples not required) to charles.bernstein@english.upenn.edu More information here.

COML 125.401 Narrative Across Culture
Cross Cultural Analysis, Arts & Letters Sector
MWF 11-12 Prince
Cross listed with FOLK 125/NELC 180

The purpose of this course is to present a variety of narrative genres and to discuss and illustrate some of the ways they can be analyzed. We will be looking at many narratives including fables, short stories, novellas, and autobiographies. While some the works will be from the Anglo-American tradition, a large number will be from European and non-Western literatures. The course will thus offer ample opportunity for the exploration of different traditions in a comparative perspective. Among authors to be read: Aesop, Borges, Douglass, Joyce, Kafka, Maupassant, Munro, and Rhys as well such writers from non-Western cultures as Birago Diop, Taha Husayn, and Mori Ogai.

COML 127.601 The Adultery Novel
T 5:30-8:30 Kerman
Arts & Letters Sector—All Readings in English
Cross listed with RUSS 125.601/CINE 125.601/GSOC 125.601

The course examines a series of 19C and 20C novels (and a few short stories) about adultery, film adaptations of several of these novels, and several original adultery films in their own right. Our reading will teach us about novelistic traditions of the period in question, about the relationship of Russian literature to the European models to which it responded, as well as about adaptation and the implications of filmic vs. literary representation. Course readings may include: Laclos' Dangerous Liaisons, Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and other works. Films may include: Frears' Dangerous Liaisons, Vadim's Dangerous Liaisons, Nichols' The Graduate, Mikhalkov's Dark Eyes, and others. Students will apply various critical approaches in order to place adultery into its aesthetic, social and cultural context, including: sociological descriptions of modernity, Marxist examinations of family as a social and economic institution, Freudian/ Psychoanalytic interpretations of family life and transgressive sexuality, and Feminist work on the construction of gender.

COML 197.401 Madness and Madmen
TR 1:30-3 Walker
Humanities and Social Science Sector
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with RUSS 197

This course will explore the theme of madness in Russian literature and arts from the medieval period through the October Revolution of 1917. The discussion will include formative masterpieces by Russian writers (Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Bulgakov), painters (Repin, Vrubel, Filonov), composers (Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky), and film-directors (Protazanov, Eisenstein), as well as non-fictional documents such as Russian medical, judicial, political, and philosophical treatises and essays on madness.

COM 201.401 Early Cinema
MW 2-3:30 Gaycken
Cross listed with ARTH 290.401/CINE 201.401/ENGL 291.401

Early cinema, usually designated as the period from 1895 to 1916, has been the focus of innovative scholarship since the mid 1970s. Long considered a period beneath interest, a “primitive” era when cinema had not yet assumed its final form, early cinema has been revealed as a fascinating precursor and alternative to the more familiar narrative cinema that supplanted it. This course will provide an introduction to the insights that this “other” cinema provides, from the earliest beginnings to the beginnings of Hollywood as a filmmaking style and institution. The course will conclude with a consideration of early cinema’s afterlives in two principal areas: the reworking of early cinema by the avant-garde and the echoes of early cinema in the first decades of digital screen culture.

COML 201.402 Realism and Cinema
MW 3:30-5 Margulies
Cross listed with ARTH 290.402/CINE 201.402/ENGL 291.402

Realism is a central aesthetic and critical category in film studies. This course examines key films from the 1930s to the present rethinking what defines them as realist.  Taking into account relevant proposals and theories on cinema’s privileged relation to reality and truth (Andre Bazin, Kracauer, Doane, Morin, Rouch, etc), we will discuss: how cinema’s photographic basis inflects the illusion of reality; how conventions of verisimilitude (visual, aural and narrative) have historically shifted; the privileged relation of realism to particular themes such as the everyday, war or urban realities; the manner in which framing or duration enhance the film’s realist effects. Examined films include Italian Neorealist classics ; Jean Renoir’s work; Documentary (Spanish Earth, Chronicle of a Summer, The Act of Seeing with one’s own eyes, Goodbye CP); historical film The Rise to Power of Louis the XIV; Two or Three Things I Know about her and Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, Abbas Kiarostami’s Kolker trilogy and  Jia Zhangke’s Still Life.

COML 203.401 World Literature: Italian
TR 3-4:30 Benini
Literatures of the World--Arts & Letters Sector
Readings and Discussions in Italian
Cross lised with COLL 228/ITAL 203

ITAL 203/COML 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, the course explores a wide range of literary genres, themes and cultural debates by analyzing texts within their socio-political context.

The course will help students to expand their vocabulary, to improve their skills in critical interpretation and to reinforce their written and oral competences in Italian through a variety of activities such as class discussions, presentations, short papers and research projects.

All readings and class discussion will be in Italian. The prerequisite for this course is Italian 202 or an equivalent course taken abroad. This course is a requirement for all majors and minors in Italian Literature. It may be taken any time in the curriculum after 202, and by permission, concurrently with 202.

COML 205.401 The Religious Other
TR 10:30-12 Fishman
Cross listed with JWST 213/NELC 383/RELS 203

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 212.401 Modern Middle Eastern Literature
MW 5-6:30 Allen/Gold
Cross Cultural Analysis – Arts & Letters Sector
Cross listed with NELC 201

This course serves as an introduction to the modern literary traditions of the Middle East through the examination of texts translated from Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish. It is team-taught, involving four specialists in Middle Eastern literature. The genres to be studies are: the novel, the poem, and the short story. The sessions devoted to readings of the translated text will be preceded by four sessions in which the genres themselves and the four literary traditions will be surveyed. All readings, both literary texts and background materials, are in English.

COML 216.401 Introduction to German Literature
TR 10:30-12 Macleod
Cross Cultural Analysis — Literatures of the World
Arts & Letters Sector
Prior language experience required
Cross listed with COLL 225/GRMN 216

Develops students' basic skills of literary interpretation. Exposure to various reading techniques (e.g. close reading, reading for plot, etc.) and to literary terminology and its application. Readings will include selections from prose, drama and lyric poetry.

COML 229.401 The Novel in 19th Century Dutch and European Literature: Constructing National and Class Identities
TR 12-1:30 Bemong
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with DTCH 230/GRMN 230

This course explores how the novel as a genre functioned in 19th century Europe, in a period when newborn nations (e.g. Belgium and the Netherlands) and newborn classes (bourgeoisie, hired labour classes) had to find or construct new identities in the wake of recent developments on the political plane and other recent revolutions (in particular the French and the Industrial one), which had led to large upheavals in traditional society.

Within this context, literature, and especially the genre of the novel, proved to be of special interest to help people find, construct or reconstruct their identity in a changed world. The Low-Lands proved to be a very interesting laboratory in this respect, being situated in the centre of all these upheavals. Historical novels helped to create a new national identity and spread nationalistic feelings. Bourgeois novels of manners and Bildungsromane (novels of development) helped bourgeois citizens to carve out their role in society, as these novels functioned as a sort of vade-mecum of appropriate behaviour for an entire social class. Social-critical novels were used to voice criticism on the Industrial Revolution, the living conditions of the workmen, and on issues like child labour and exploitation of the working classes.

The central focus of this course will be on the multiple functions – and the corresponding forms – that the novel took as a genre in the 19th century. First, a literary-historical overview will be provided in a small number of introductory meetings. After these introductory meetings, we will read novels and excerpts from the various genres (by, among others, Hendrik Conscience, Jacob Van Lennep, Charles de Coster, Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, W.M. Thackeray, Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo and Eugène Sue), discuss their socio-historical, cultural and religious context, and focus on topics such as nationalism, norms and values, gender roles, ‘the other’, the city vs. the countryside.

COML 233.401 Censored
TR 1:30-3 Wiggin
Benjamin Franklin Scholars
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with GRMN 233

Although its pages may appear innocuous enough, bound innocently between non-descript covers, the book has frequently become the locus of intense suspicion, legal legislation, and various cultural struggles.

COML 235.401 Medieval Russia: Origins of Russian Cultural Identity
TR 4:30-6 Verkholantsev
Cross Cultural Analysis
Cross listed with HIST 219/RUSS 234/SLAV 517

This course offers an overview of the cultural history of Rus' from its origins to the eighteenth century, a period which laid the foundation for the Russian Empire. The course takes an interdisciplinary approach to the evolution of the main cultural paradigms of Russian Orthodoxy viewed in a broader European context. Although this course is historical in content, it is also about modern Russia. The legacy of Medieval Rus' is still referenced, often allegorically, in contemporary social and cultural discourse as the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian societies attempt to reconstruct and reinterpret their histories. In this course, students learn that the study of the medieval cultural and political history explains many aspects of modern Russian society, its culture and mentality. 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 241.401 The Devil’s Pact in Literature
Registration required for LEC and REC
LEC MW 12-1 Richter
REC sections 402 – 407
Cross listed with CINE 352/GRMN 256/RELS 236

For centuries the pact with the devil has signified humankind's desire to surpass the limits of human knowledge and power. From the reformation chap book to the rock lyrics of Randy Newman's Faust, from Marlowe and Goethe to key Hollywood films, the legend of the devil's pact continues to be useful for exploring our fascination with forbidden powers.

COML 244.401 In Other News: Gender, Minorities and Media in 20th C. Germany
TR 3-4:30 Wallach
Communication Within the Curriculum
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with GRMN 238/GSOC 238

Extra, extra / meine Damen und Herren! From the press to cabaret, film, and hip-hop, different media have provided women and minorities with means for self-expression in modern Germany. Women as well as ethnic, religious, and sexual minority groups have utilized literature and media to differentiate themselves from the "majority" population and generate responses to discrimination or persecution. This course will explore literature, music, film, and advertisements in 20th-century Germany, from Yiddish cabaret songs and dramatic performances by Jews under Nazi supervision, to Turkish-German film, Afro-German poetry, contemporary klezmer and hip-hop, and LGBT poster campaigns. This course will offer students the opportunity to improve their public speaking skills as they analyze storytelling, performance, and staging techniques in a variety of speaking assignments including multi-media presentations. Classroom discussions and debates about topics such as censorship, memorials, and women's and gay rights will provide additional speaking practice.

COML 248.401 Joyce and Kafka
TR 9-10:30 Rabaté
Cross listed with ENGL 259/GRMN 249

This class will be devoted to a parallel reading of Proust’s and Kafka’s major works. The authors never met but shared similar concerns and a common fascination for the literary model embodied by Gustave Flaubert. Both explored the ways in which language structures subjectivity while meditating on faith, domination and resistance to oppression. Before examining parallels between Ulysses and The Castle, Finnegans Wake (fragments) and The Trial, we will focus on the short stories. We will investigate Joyce’s and Kafka’s diverging aesthetic theories and also provide an account of the complex hermeneutics involved by their works.  Kakfa’s texts will be studied in translations.  If no previous acquaintance with the works is required, it is expected that the readings will be demanding.

Course Policies:

The following will determine your final grade:

1) Attendance, participation and oral presentation:  20%,

2) First paper (8 pages max.): 30% (in some cases, a rewrite will be allowed);

3) Final paper (15 pages max.): 50%. 

          Paper topics are eligible, to be discussed in class; an abstract will be handed in one week before due date. Oral presentations should not exceed 15 minutes and should be accompanied by a short handout. They should focus on the concepts discussed in the text and not give biographical or bibliographical information.

         No final exam.

N. B. You must attend class.  Habitual truants will fail the course; three absences without a medical reason constitute "habitual truancy."

COML 259.402 Jewish Humor
TR 3-4:30 Ben-Amos
Dist. Arts & Letters
Cross listed with NELC 254/FOLK 296/JWST 102

This course examines Jewish humor in the context of folklore research and the studies of ethnic humor. We will explore the particular circumstances surrounding the development of the concept of Jewish humor in scholarly literature and popular writings, and bring into the discussion general theories of humor as formulated in folklore, philosophy, psychology and anthropology. Course requirements: A field-based term paper and mid-term and final examinations.

COML 260.401 Translating Cultures: Literature In and On Translation
TR 10:30-12 Hellerstein
Benjamin Franklin Scholars
Cross listed with GRMN 264/JWST 264

"Languages are not strangers to one another," writes the great critic and translator Walter Benjamin. Yet two people who speak different languages have a difficult time talking to one another, unless they both know a third, common language or can find someone who knows both their languages to translate what they want to say. Without translation, most of us would not be able to read the Bible or Homer, the foundations of Western culture. Americans wouldn't know much about the cultures of Europe, China, Africa, South America, and the Middle East. And people who live in or come from these places would not know much about American culture. Without translation, Americans would not know much about the diversity of cultures within America. The very fabric of our world depend upon translation between people, between cultures, between texts. With a diverse group of readings--autobiography, fiction, poetry, anthrology, and literary theory--this course will address some fundamental questions about translating language and culture. What does it mean to translate? How do we read a text in translation? What does it mean to live between two languages? Who is a translator? What are different kinds of literary and cultural translation? what are their principles and theories? Their assumptions and practices? Their effects on and implications for the individual and the society?

COML 246.001 The Sophists
MW 12-1:30 Copeland
Cross listed with CLST 261

In this course we will study the Sophists in Antiquity and in their post-classical reception. The teachers, rhetoricians, and philosophers of 5th-century Athens known collectively as the Sophists were controversial in their own time, and they have occupied a controversial place in intellectual and culture ever since. Plato polemicized against them, Aristophanes satirized them mercilessly, Aristotle refuted them, and generations of rhetorical theorists in Greek and Latin attempted to differentiate their art from the supposedly debased model of sophistic rhetoric. Sophistic thought found its way indirectly but powerfully into the Middle Ages and later periods, where it represented both a despised falsification of philosophical argument and a dangerously attractive logic of paradox. Culturally the (spectral) figure of the Sophist served as image of both the familiar and the outsider. As in Antiquity, so in later periods the Sophist came to embody anxieties about persuasive discourse and negation. But in modern period, the Sophists were recovered and "rehabilitated" as a crucial moment in the history of philosophy,and among modern thinkers their contributions have been reevaluated.

In this course we will begin by getting as close as possible to the Sophists through the fragmentary records that remain of their own ideas and arguments, and then we will look at how they were represented philosophically by Plato and Aristotle as well as culturally by Aristophanes. Then we will study their afterlife in later periods, paying special attention to their reception in medieval literature and in modern thought. Course requirements: several short papers, one final research assignment, no final exam.

COML 275.401 The Graphic Novel
MW 2-3:30 Bemong
All readings and lectures in English
Cross listed with DTCH 275/GRMN 275

In this course, we will focus on the medium of the graphic novel. First, we will look at its literary history (medieval illuminated manuscripts, Hogarth, Goya, Töpfer, leading us into the 20th and 21st century). Next, we will investigate how graphic novels or comics work, studying them as hybrid word-and-image forms in which two narrative tracks – one verbal and one visual – create a ‘double vision’ genre. We will pay special attention to the material comics are made of (words, images, color, … as well as typical formats) but also to its grammar: the panels (frames), gutters (the empty spaces between the panels) and spatial construction of the page, and aspects such as pace. The differences between the European, American and Asian (especially Japanese) traditions will form a central focus throughout the entire course, with special attention being paid to one of the key countries in the European BD (bande dessinée) tradition, to wit Belgium, which even has a national museum and a biennial festival dedicated to this ‘9th Art’.

Next, we will start reading both fiction and nonfiction graphic novels to discover the range of ‘genres’ or modes one could discern within the medium: the autobiographical mode of personal expression; the superhero-comic; the mode of historical expression which aspires to ethical engagement; ‘comics journalism’; and even theorizations of comics in its own medium … Themes that we will look into are the relation between the superhero and the villain, gender issues, childhood, the body, the representation of history, war, trauma, loss, colonialism, religion, identity, ethics, … We will also pay special attention to aspects that are crucial to the medium, such as reader participation and the way in which the different cognitive processes of reading words and pictures relate to each other. We will be reading works and excerpts by, among others, Masereel, Hergé, Van Istendael, Swarte, Tardi, Moebius, Larcenet, David B, Sacco, Mignola, Spiegelman, Ware, Clowes, Smith, Burns and Tatsumi.

COML 282.401 Image of Childhood in Israeli Literature and Film
TR 1:30-3 Gold
Cross Cultural Analyses –Arts & Letters Sector
Cross listed with JWST 102/NELC 159

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

COML 284.401 Art, the State and the New Citizen in Contemporary Literature in Latin America
TR 1:30-3 Ellis
Cross listed with ENGL 270/LALS 202/ROML 290

The Cuban Revolution, the national, economic and architectural promise of Mexican modernity, and Allende’s election in Chile mark three distinct moments in Latin American history of tension and hope. But Pinochet’s coup that ended in Allende’s death, the massacre of Tlatelolco following the occupation of the UNAM by Mexico’s military, and the persecution of dissidents, queers, and artists in Cuba’s early days of revolutionary institutionalization mark swiftly composed counterpoints to the hopes and the tensions of the former “events.” This course will focus on a cluster of major texts within three national literary traditions: Chilean, Mexican and Cuban. The time frame is basically from 1950 into today. In each context this time frame will allow us to question the impossible knot between the artist and the state, given the state’s over- exertions of power and art’s, especially literature’s, imperative to imagine the possibilities of a new citizenship. Neruda’s Canto General, Eltit’s E. Luminata, Bolaño’s By Night in Chile and possibly Lemebel’s My Tender Matador will be the first cluster. Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo, Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude and Bolaño’s Amulet will form the cluster of Mexican texts. And the Cuban literary grouping will be Cabrera-Infante’s Three Trapped Tigers, Arenas’ The Color of Summer and Ena Lucía Portela’s One Hundred Bottles. Films will be viewed/read with each section, and may include: one work by Chilean director, Raul Ruíz; The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Rojo Amanecer, and Amores Perros; Soy Cuba and Suite Habana.

COML 292.401 Contemporary Transnational Cinema
TR 1:30-3 Mazaj
Cross listed with ARTH 292/CINE 202/ENGL 292

This is a course in contemporary transnational film cultures and world cinema. The course will examine the idea of world cinema and set up a model of how it can be explored by studying contemporary film in various countries. We will explore ways in which cinemas from around the globe have attempted to come to terms with Hollywood, and look at forces that lead many filmmakers to define themselves in opposition to Hollywood norms. But we will also look at the phenomenon of world cinema in independent terms, as “waves” that peak in different places and times, and coordinate various forces. Finally, through the close case study of significant films and cinemas that have dominated the international festival circuit (Chinese, Korean, Iranian, Indian, etc.) we will engage with the questions of which films/cinemas get labeled as “world cinema,” what determines entry into the sphere of world cinema, and examine the importance of film festivals in creating world cinema.

COML 292.402 Modern Science Cinema
TR 3-4:30 Donovan
Cross listed with ARTH 292.402/CINE 202.402/ENGL 292.402

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 (2003-2009).  Requirements for the course will include attendance at weekly screenings, two critical papers, active classroom participation and leading one film discussion.  The course will meet in Gregory College House. 

COML 295.401 War, Peace, and Culture
TR 3-4:30 Levy
Cross listed with CINE 295

In a world engulfed by violent conflict, what do writers, filmmakers, and other artists have to say about peace? This course surveys a wide variety of contemporary works, ranging from fictional and nonfictional writings (George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, and Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls), to films (Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour, Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory, Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line, Errol Morris's The Fog of War, and Claude Lanzmann's Shoah), to works by less familiar Western and non-Western artists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun, Leslie Marmon Silko's The Ceremony, and Granta 112: Pakistan). We will also explore historical and contemporary political and theoretical viewpoints, beginning with Immanuel Kant's seminal 1795 essay on Perpetual Peace and extending to such well-known 20th- and 21st-century theorists as Saskia Sassen, Achille Mbembe, and Kwame Anthony Appiah, as well as political speeches (President Obama's speech on Afghanistan, Dec. 1, 2009; Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," 1963 and Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, 1964; Ghandi's "Speech On The Eve of The Last Fast," 1948; and Nelson Mandela's "Speech on the 20th Anniversary of Steve Biko's Death," 1997). In this seminar, students will be asked to consider and develop their own perspectives, so that fresh understandings of peace and conflict are able to emerge. This course will be of interest to students in English, Comparative Literature, Art History, and Cinema Studies, as well as History, Law, and Political Science. In addition, a unique exhibition and series of conversations will take place on campus during the semester at Slought Foundation in close conjunction with this course offering.

COML 333.401 Dante’s Divine Comedy
TR 1:30-3 Johnston
Benjamin Franklin Seminars
Cross listed with ENGL 323/ITAL 333

In this course we will read the Inferno, the Purgatorio and the Paradiso, focusing on a series of interrelated problems raised by the poem: authority, fiction, history, politics and language. Particular attention will be given to how the Commedia presents itself as Dante's autobiography, and to how the autobiographical narrative serves as a unifying thread for this supremely rich literary text. Supplementary readings will include Virgil's Aeneid and selections from Ovid's Metamorphoses.

All readings and written work will be in English. Italian or Italian Studies credit will require reading Italian texts in their original language and doing the written assignments in Italian.

COML 344.401 20th Century Europrean Intellectual History
TR 10:30-12 Breckman
Cross listed with HIST 344

This course will explore the intellectual and cultural history of Europe between 1870 and 1962. We will take a socio-cultural approach to this history, using primary and secondary readings to examine how European intellectuals, artists, writers, and other cultural actors contributed and responded to major developments of the early 20th century. Among the historical themes for consideration are psychology and the self; feminism, gender and sexuality; the mass politics of socialism, fascism, and totalitarianism; race, empire and decolonization. Possible readings include Darwin, Freud, Woolf, Sartre, and Fanon.

COML 357.401 Myth in Society
TR 1:30-3 Ben-Amos
Cross listed with ANTH 226/FOLK 229

In this course we will explore the mythologies of selected peoples in the Ancient Near East, Africa, Asia, and Native North and South America and examine how the gods function in the life and belief of each society.  The study of mythological texts will be accompanied, as much as possible, by illustrative slides that will show the images of these deities in art and ritual.

COML 359.401 The Hebrew Short Story: Reflecting a Nation in Flux
TR 10:30-12 Gold
Literatures of the World – Cross Cultural Analyses
Arts & Letters Sector
Cross listed with COLL 227/HEBR 359/JWST 359

This course concentrates on Hebrew and Israeli short stories by both male and female authors, whose works range from traditional to post-modernist, varying in themes and artistic sensibilities. For Hebrew writers, the short story has been a favorite genre from the Renaissance of Hebrew literature in the late 19th century through the present day. The stories’ subjects and style went through transformations as did the writers and audiences. The most dramatic change, however, occurred within Hebrew itself as it became a spoken, vibrant language over the decades. Drawing from the ancient wells of the Bible, Talmud, and Midrash Hebrew authors forged a new diction for representing the inner world, psychological insight and political assertions. Using canonical texts by Brenner, Agnon, Applefeld and Oz as a backdrop, the lion’s share of the course focuses on contemporary authors like Almog, Keret, Castel-Bloom and Matalon, whose diction is often simpler, but whose stories reflect the complexity of modern Israeli life. NOTE: Class conducted in Hebrew. Texts read in the original language. Not all texts in the syllabus will be studied: students’ level and literary taste will influence the choice of texts. The content of this course changes from year to year;therefore students may take it for credit more than once.

COML 380.401 Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job
TR 4:30-6:30 Carasik
Cross Cultural Analyses
Cross listed with JWST 255/NELC 250/NELC 550/RELS 224

COML 383.401 History of Literary Criticism
T 1:30-4:30 Copeland
Benjamin Franklin Seminars
Cross listed with CLST 396/ENGL 394

This is a course on the history of literary criticism, a survey of major theories of literature, poetics, and ideas about what literary texts should do, from ancient Greece to examples of modern European and American thought. The course will give special attention to early periods: Greek and roman antiquity, especially Plato and Aristotle; the medieval period (including St. Augustine, Dante, and Boccaccio), and the early modern period (where we will concentrate on English writers such as Philip Sidney and Ben Johnson). We'll move into modern and 20th century by looking at the literary (or "art") theories of some major philosophers, artists, and poets: Kant, Wordsworth, Marx and Engels, Matthew Arnold, the painter William Morris, T. S. Eliot, and the critic Walter Benjamin. We'll end with a very few samples of current literary theory. The point of this course is to look closely at the Western European tradition which generated debates about problems that are still with us, such as: what is the "aesthetic"; what is "imitation" or mimesis; how are we to know an author's intention; and under what circumstances should literary texts ever be censored. We'll have a number of small writing assignments in the form of "response" or "position" papers (approx. 3 pages each), and students can use these small assignments to build into a long writing assignment on a single text or group of texts at the end of the term. Most of our readings will come from a published anthology of literary criticism and theory.

COML 411 History of the Book
M 2-5 Chartier/Stallybrass
Cross listed with ENGL 234/HIST 411

In this year’s version of the course, Roger Chartier and Peter Stallybrass will concentrate on drama in England, France, and Spain. All the reading will be available in English. The plays will include Marston’s The Malcontent, Shakespeare’s Pericles, Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle, Webster’s The White Devil, Molière’s The Misanthrope and Don Juan, and plays by Pedro Calderón de la Barca and Lope de Vega.

The topics that we will consider will include: the nature of theatrical authorship; the use of sources and commonplace books in the writing of plays; licensing and religious and political censorship; actors’ parts; the relations between text and performance; the conditions of production, including the function of costumes, theatrical space, and props; authorial and playhouse revisions; and the manuscript circulation and the printing and publishing of plays.

We will draw wherever possible on the exceptional collection of early modern drama in Penn’s Special Collections.

COML 415.401 Early Islamic Art and Architecture Until 1250
TR 12-1:30 Holod
Cross listed with ARTH 416

This course is a survey of material produced within the boundaries of the Islamic World from 650-1250. It will deal with public and private visual culture and the dynamics of its formation. Special attention will be paid to new sources, new archaeological discoveries and new interpretations.

COML 416.401 18th Century European Intellectual History
TR 12-1:30 Kors
Cross listed with HIST 416

A survey based solely on primary sources of the main currents of eighteenth-century European thought: the "Enlightenment;" deism; natural religion; skepticism; evangelical revival; political reform; utilitarianism; naturalism; and materialism. The course will focus on works widely-read in the eighteenth century and of enduring historical significance. There are no prerequisites, and one of the goals of the course is to make eighteenth-century thought accessible in its context to the twenty-first century.


Last modified October 29, 2010
Maintained by Daniel DeWispelare
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania