Undergraduate Courses
Spring 2017



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

      065; 282

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


                                       Communication Within the Curriculum

                                       TR 10:30-12     Resnikoff

                                       Cross listed with ENGL 001


what i would like to talk about        really        is a subject that probably doesn't have a name

                                      --David Antin, from "Talking at Pomona"


This course explores the rich, expansive dynamics of the modern/contemporary "talk poem," a hybrid literary form that draws from poetry, philosophy, comedy, criticism & storytelling (among others), & which, at the level of genre, interrogates the boundaries between poem, essay & speech. Students will be composing and performing their own talk poems over the course of the semester in response to the variety of sources we'll be reading/listening to/watching and discussing for & in class, & will participate at the close of the term in a final performance of their work (to which they are encouraged to invite friends & family) in front of a live audience. Students will also write one 8-10 page essay, with the option to experiment across various hybrid essay forms (ex. dialogue, interview, essay-film, radio-play, etc.) in consultation with the instructor. Some key writers/ thinkers/ performers we'll be engaging with include: Homer, Plato, The Hebrew Prophets, Lucretius, John Milton, Reb Nachman of Breslov, William Wordsworth, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Gertrude Stein, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Avoth Yeshurun, Lenny Bruce, Amiri Baraka, Hannah Weiner, David Antin, Charles Bernstein, Nathaniel Mackey, Jena Osman, Bob Perelman, Alexander Skidan, Juliana Spahr, & Kristen Gallagher, among others. Class sessions will be divided between communal discussion, student performance, student workshop, and paired text-study. No prior literary writing/talking experience required. 




                                      Communication Within the Curriculum

                                       TR 12-1:30                     Klimchynskaya

                                       Cross listed with ENGL 002


Have you asked Siri a question today? Used a touchscreen? Navigated via GPS? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then you arguably live in a science fiction world. As technology advances, the idea that our society is becoming more and more like something out of sci-fi is making headlines with increasing frequency; many, if not most, of today’s technologies and scientific discoveries were first theorized and articulated in works of science fiction. This course will address the ethical, philosophical, and practical questions raised by these new technologies through the lens of science fiction. For example, we’ll ask practical questions such as whether a sentient AI might be a danger to humanity; at the same time, we’ll deal with the more abstract problem of how to define sentience and the legal issues that may arise with the advent of a sentient, non-human being. The course will be divided into several units, including AI/robots, utopias/dystopias, space exploration and alien encounters, and transhumanism. In each case, we’ll look to science fiction to provide avenues of thought and potential answers to these increasingly relevant questions. We’ll address sentience and AI through Frankenstein and the Terminator franchise, explore utopian/dystopian narratives including Huxley, Orwell, Plato, and Francis Bacon, and theorize issues of space exploration and alien encounters via texts such as Star Trek and War of the Worlds. We’ll also pair these science fiction works with non-fiction articles about recent advancements in technology to see the symbiotic relationship between science fact and science fiction. This course is a CWiC critical speaking seminar. Assignments will include presentations of relevant ethical and practical issues, written comparisons of texts and their takes on science and technology, and debates on these issues.




                                      TR 3-4:30                       Bhattacharyya

                                      Cross listed with ENGL 009/HIST 009


The “Digital Humanities” are an emerging field in which computers are employed to help with the interpretive work that humanists do. This class will introduce humanities-oriented students to basic computer programming and to some of the interpretive research that this skill can enable. No previous experience is necessary.

Students in the class will develop practical skills so that they can see for themselves how computer programing might alter their way of approaching questions about literature, history, and culture. The humanities have sometimes been skeptical about computational methods, and we will also take that suspicion seriously, reflecting on the implications of the rise of computation within contexts of humanistic inquiry. Student work in the course will consist of programming and analysis exercises aimed at interpreting textual materials relevant to both literary studies and cultural history. The programming language of choice for the course will be Python, which enjoys wide currency within the Digital Humanities.



COML 010.401            CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: CULTURES, HISTORIES,        SOCIETIES                  W 2-5                  Steiner P.  

                                      All readings and lectures in English

                                      Cross listed with EEUR010/RUSS 009 



COML 062.401            20-TH CENTURY POETRY

                                       M 6-9                  Bernstein

                                       Cross listed with ENGL 062


This "reading workshop" is an introduction to the unprecedented range of language exploration in the poetry that emerged in the 20th century from Europe, Latin America, Africa, and China. The basic course text will be Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris. The anthology features poets such as Mallarmé, Rilke, Tzara, Mayakovsky,Vallejo, Artaud, and Césaire, along with a sampling of some of the most significant movements in poetry and the other arts: Futurism, Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism, "Objectivism," Negritude. We will also look at sound and visual poetry and also the new digital poetry that is emerging on the Intenet. In addition, there will be a poet visiting the class -- reading and discussing his work with the seminar.


The "reading 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.

The basic requirement for the class is a weekly response to the assigned readings - usually a notebook entry, imitation, or experiment. These responses are open-ended and can be in whatever form you choose - they are meant to encourage interaction with the poems and also serve as a record of your reading. The experiments are based on list of exercises (something like laboratory work!) aimed at getting inside the styles of the various poets studied. The responses and experiments will form the basis of workshop discussions.

More information and syllabus:




                                       MW 2-3:30      Barnard

                                       Cross listed with ENGL 065


n this lecture-discussion class we will study a series of thematically connected novels by some of the twentieth-century’s most important writers, both from Britain and the global south.  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 a set of compelling books and expand their literary horizons. Books are likely to include: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness; E.M. Forster, Passage to India; Evelyn Waugh, Black Mischief; Doris Lessing, The Grass is Singing; Jean Rhys, The Wide Sargasso Sea; Graham Greene, The Quiet American; Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart or Arrow of God; Sembene Ousmane, God’s Bits of Wood; J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians; Kazuo Ishiguru, The Remains of the Day; and Salman Rushdie, Shame or East/West. Films will include: The Battle of Algiers, Black and White in Color, and Sugar Cane Alley. Students will also be encouraged to see the film versions of the novels included in the course. Writing requirements: a mid-term and final paper of around 8-10 pages in length.




                                      AND CINEMA IN THE AMERICAS

                                      Cultural Diversity in US

                                      TR 12-1:30                     Ponce de Leon

                                      Cross listed with ARTH 299/CIMS 073/ENGL 073/THAR 073


This course examines intersections of artistic production and radical left politics in the 20th and 21st centuries. It addresses art from across a wide array of media: street art, film, theater, poetry, performance art, fiction, graphic arts, digital media, and urban interventions. We will examine artistic movements and artists from across the Americas, including revolutionary Latin American theater, film, and literature; the art of Black Liberation in the U.S.; the Chicano art movement and its queer dissidents; street performance and protest produced in the context of dictatorship; anticolonial performance art and alternative reality gaming; and activist art, political theater, and cinema from the 21st century. Through its focus on the relationship between art and politics, this course also introduces students to foundational concepts related to the relationship between culture and power more broadly. As part of the course assignments, students will produce their own artistic works in any medium they choose.




                                       TR 10:30-12                   Mukherjee

                                       Cross listed with ARTH 107/CIMS 103/ENGL 078


How and when do media become digital? What does digitization afford and what is lost as television and cinema become digitized? As lots of things around us turn digital, have we started telling stories, sharing experiences, and replaying memories differently? What has happened to television and life after “New Media”? How have television audiences been transformed by algorithmic cultures of Netflix and Hulu? How have (social) media transformed socialities as ephemeral snaps and swiped intimacies become part of the "new" digital/phone cultures? 

This is an introductory survey course and we discuss a wide variety of media technologies and phenomena that include: cloud computing, Internet of Things, trolls, distribution platforms, optical fiber cables, surveillance tactics, social media, and race in cyberspace. We also examine emerging mobile phone cultures in the Global South and the environmental impact of digitization. Course activities include Tumblr blog posts and Instagram curations. The final project could take the form of either a critical essay (of 2000 words) or a media project.




                                     Arts & Letters          

                                     MW 5-6:30                    Barnard          

                                     Cross listed with ENGL 100


This course has three broad aims: first, it will introduce students to a selection of compelling contemporary narratives; second, it will provide prospective students of literature and film, as well as interested students headed for other majors, with fundamental skills in literary, visual, and cultural analysis; and, third, it will encourage a collective meditation on the function of literature and culture in our world, where commodities, people, and ideas are constantly in motion.  Questions for discussion will therefore include: the meaning of terms like “globalization,” “translation,” and “world literature”; the transnational reach and circulation of texts; migration and engagement with “others”; violence, trauma, and memory; terrorism and the state; and the ethic of cosmopolitanism.  Our collective endeavor will be to think about narrative forms as modes of mediating and engaging with the vast and complex world we inhabit today.   

In the course of the semester we will study about eight works of fiction and three films, as well as a selection of pertinent critical essays that will provide the terminology and theoretical framework for our conversations.  The following works of fiction are likely to be included: Salman Rushdie, East, West; Ivan Vladislavic, selected stories and The Restless Supermarket; Dinaw Mengesthu, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, Michael Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost; Junot Diaz, The Short Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Juan Gabriel Vasquez, The Sound of Things Falling; Moshin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist; Aminatta Forna, The Hired Man, David Mitchell, Ghostwritten. Films: Babel, Even the Rain, and Syriana. Written requirements: a 7-9 page mid-term and an 8-10 page final paper (topics will be provided.  Note that this course will count as one of the core requirements for the Comparative Literature major.




                                       Cross Cultural Analysis; Humanities & Social Science

                                       TR 1:30-3                       Ben-Amos

                                       Cross listed with FOLK 101/NELC 181/RELS 108


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




                                      Freshman Seminar

                                      MWF 1-2                       Mirra

                                      Cross listed with CIMS 014/ITAL 100


Everybody loves Italian! Italian food plays a great part in Italian culture and perhaps even more so in the way Italians are perceived abroad. In this course we will analyze images of food in literary works, films, and the visual arts to understand how it became such an important defining element of Italianness and Italicity. Among other things, we will taste Dante’s poetic sweet bread of angels and his bitter bread of exile, sit at Botticelli’s masterfully painted banquet for Nastagio degli Onesti, and follow the camera into Primo and Secondo’s kitchen in Stanley Tucci’s Big Night.


This course will be taught in English. Materials and writing assignments may be provided in Italian for students interested in pursuing a Major or Minor in Italian Studies.




                                       Registration required for LEC and REC

                                       Cross Cultural Analysis; Arts & Letters

                                       LEC MW 11-12                         Struck

                                       REC sections 402 – 413


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 blinders that all of us wear, though we do not realize it? Investigate these questions through a variety of topics creation of the universe between gods and mortals, religion and family, sex, love, madness, and death.




                                       TR 3-4:30                       Entezari

                                       Cross listed with NELC 118


This seminar explores Iranian culture, society, history and politics through the medium of film. We will examine a variety of cinematic works that represent the social, political, economic and cultural circumstances of contemporary Iran, as well as the diaspora. Along the way, we will discuss issues pertaining to gender, religion, nationalism, ethnicity, and the role cinema in Iranian society and beyond. Discussions topics will also include the place of the Iranian diaspora in cinema, as well as the transnational production, distribution, and consumption of Iranian cinema. Films will include those by internationally acclaimed filmmakers, such as Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Asghar Farhadi, Bahman Ghobadi, Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Dariush Mehrjui, Tahmineh Milani, Jafar Panahi, Marjane Satrapi and others. All films will be subtitled in English. No prior knowledge is required.





                                       TR 3-4:30                       Silverman T.

                                       Cross listed with ENGL 120


“No problem is as consubstantial with literature and its modest mystery as the one posed by translation.”—Jorge Luis Borges

In this class we will study and translate some of the major figures in 20th century poetry, including Rainer Maria Rilke, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Gabriela Mistral, Arthur Rimbaud, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Anna Akhmatova, Shu Ting, and Amelia Prado. While the curriculum will be tailored to the interests and linguistic backgrounds of the students who enroll, all those curious about world poetry and the formidable, irresistible act of translation are welcome. Those wishing to take the translation course should have, at least, an intermediate knowledge of another language. We will study multiple translations of seminal poems and render our own versions in response. Students with knowledge of other languages will have the additional opportunity to work directly from the original; students may also work in pairs, or groups. A portion of the course will be set up as a creative writing workshop in which to examine the overall effect of each others' translations so that first drafts can become successful revisions. While class discussions will explore the contexts and particularity of (among others) Urdu, Italian, French, and Polish poetry, they might ultimately reveal how notions of national literature have radically shifted in recent years to more polyglottic and globally textured forms. Through guest speakers, essays on translation theory, and our own ongoing experiments, this course will celebrate the ways in which great poetry underscores the fact that language itself is a translation. In addition to the creative work, assignments will include an oral presentation, informal response papers, and a short final essay. 



COML 124.401            WORLD FILM HISTORY 1945 TO PRESENT

                                       Arts & Letters

                                       TR 12-1:30                     Mazaj

                                       Cross listed with ARTH 109/CIMS 102/ENGL 092


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.




                                      Arts & Letters 

                                       TR 3-4:30                       Loomba

                                       Cross listed with ENGL 103/FOLK 125/SAST 124     


In this course we will read several types of narratives written in different periods and in different parts of the world, ranging from ancient Greek and Sanskrit drama to modern African, Latin American and South Asian fiction. We will discuss the different techniques of storytelling, and what attitudes to love and war, sexuality and power, tradition and rebellion are inscribed in these stories. 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 Sophocles’ Antigone, Kalidasa’s Shakuntala, David Henry Hwang M Butterfly, Tayib Salih’s  Season of Migration to the North,  and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold. 

 Requirements include 5 short (1-2 pages) posts, two longer (3 page) papers, and a final exam.



COML 127.601            THE ADULTERY NOVEL  

                                       T 5:30-8:30    Sessions

                                       Arts & Letters

                                       Cross listed with CIMS 125, GSWS 125, RUSS 125


The object of this course is to analyze narratives of adultery from Shakespeare to the present and to develop a vocabulary for thinking critically about the literary conventions and social values that inform them. Many of the themes (of desire, transgression, suspicion, discovery) at the heart of these stories also lie at the core of many modern narratives. Is there anything special, we will ask, about the case of adultery--once called "a crime which contains within itself all others"? What might these stories teach us about the way we read in general? By supplementing classic literary accounts by Shakespeare, Pushkin, Flaubert, Chekhov, and Proust with films and with critical analyses, we will analyze the possibilities and limitations of the different genres and forms under discussion, including novels, films, short stories, and theatre. What can these forms show us (or not show us) about desire, gender, family and social obligation? Through supplementary readings and class discussions, we will apply a range of critical approaches to place these narratives of adultery in a social and literary context, including formal analyses of narrative and style, feminist criticism, Marxist and sociological analyses of the family, and psychoanalytic understandings of desire and family life.  



COML 128.601            THE DIARY

                                      W 5:30-8:30                   Ben-Amos B.

                                       Cross Cultural Analysis

                                       Cross listed with ENGL 076, GSWS 128


Diary writing is an intimate mode of expression in which the individual seeks to find meaning in their personal lives and relations, responding to the external realities in which they live. Their writing is subjected to their historical, educational and social contexts, to available technologies and to the generic conventions of diary writing.  We will study such relations in the course.  The course explores the diary's historical development and theories and selected individual diaries and corpuses.  It analyzes travel and personal diaries from around the world, diaries on line, diaries in historical research, in psychotherapy, and in global political conflicts.  Finally, the course examines the diary fiction, in critical (literary theory) and creative perspectives. To experience diary research firsthand, students will examine and analyze "from scratch" diary manuscripts in the Van Pelt (and affiliates) diary collection archives.  They will also write then compare and contrast paper diaries and online diaries and blogs.




                                       Cross Cultural Analysis

                                       MW 2-3:30                    Verkholantsev

                                       All readings and lectures in English

                                       Cross listed with RUSS 113


This course covers eight centuries of Russia's cultural, political, and social history, from its origins through the eighteenth century, a period which laid the foundation for the Russian Empire. Each week-long unit is organized around a set of texts (literary text, historical document, image, film) which examine prominent historical and legendary figures as they represent chapters in Russia's history. Historical figures under examination include, among others, the Baptizer of Rus, Prince Vladimir; the nation-builder, Prince Alexander Nevsky; the first Russian Tsar, Ivan the Terrible; the first Emperor and "Westernizer," Peter the Great; the renowned icon painter Andrei Rublev; the epic hero Ilya Muromets; and the founder of Muscovite monasticism, St. Sergius of Radonezh.
Three modern-day nation-states - Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus - share and dispute the cultural heritage of Old Rus, and their political relationships even today revolve around interpretations of the past. This constructed past has a continuing influence in modern Russia and is keenly referenced, sometimes manipulatively, in contemporary social and political discourse. (Recently, for example, President Putin has justified the annexation of Crimea to Russia by referring to it as the holy site of Prince Vladimir's baptism, from which Russian Christianity ostensibly originates.) The study of pre-modern cultural and political history explains many aspects of modern Russian society, as well as certain political aspirations of its leaders.



COML 140.401            BECKETT AND KAFKA

                                       TR 9-10:30                     Rabaté             

                                       Cross listed with ENGL 159/GRMN 249


This class will be devoted to parallel readings of Beckett’s and Kafka’s major works. Beckett and Kafka are often lumped together: they would share a pessimistic view of life, be concerned with the absurd, and propagate a modern nihilism, with a hint of a negative theology underpinning all this. T. W. Adorno, for one, insisted on their proximity in spite of Beckett’s own resistance. Beckett seems to have put Kafka at a safe distance and criticized him for not being experimental enough. We will have to make sense of Adorno’s interpretation by looking at the play Endgame read alongside Kafka’s stories like “Hunter Gracchus.” Then, by focusing on major novels like Watt and The Castle, and The Unnamable and The Trial, and by comparing the techniques of short story and fragmentary writing, we will investigate Beckett’s and Kafka’s aesthetics. In the end, we will pose the question of whether a single critical discourse can encompass their works or whether different hermeneutics are required.  Requirements: one oral presentation and two papers (10 and 15 pages).




                                       Cross Cultural Analysis; Humanities & Social Science

                                        MW 3:30-5                    Penney

                                        Cross listed with RUSS 197


Is “insanity” today the same thing as “madness” of old? Who gets to define what it means to be “sane,” and why? Are the causes of madness biological or social? In this course, we will grapple with these and similar questions while exploring Russia’s fascinating history of madness as a means to maintain, critique, or subvert the status quo. We will consider the concept of madness in Russian culture beginning with its earliest folkloric roots and trace its depiction and function in the figure of the Russian “holy fool,” in classical literature, and in contemporary film. Readings will include works by many Russian greats, such as Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Bulgakov and Nabokov.



COML 200.401            THE SHORT STORY

                                       Freshman Seminar

                                       MWF 11-12                   Prince

                                       Cross listed with FREN 200


An exploration of the form and functioning of the short story, using canonical texts from the eighteenth century to the present and drawing, in particular, on the French and Francophone tradition (Maupassant, Sartre, Camus, Sembène). (In English).




                                       TR 3-4:30                       Mazaj

                                       Cross listed with CIMS 210/ENGL 291


The question of  “what is real?” permeates audiovisual media on all levels, and realism is one of the most persistent as well as most contested concepts in the history of cinema. On the one hand, film has always boasted of intimate relationship with objective reality. On the other hand, this relationship has been critiqued as an artificially produced “reality effect,” represented most powerfully by Hollywood cinema. Much of world cinema has defined itself against Hollywood on the basis of greater realism, whether it is Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave, or contemporary movements such as the Danish Dogme, New Iranian Cinema, New Mexican Cinema, or New Taiwanese cinema. The emergence and rise of computer generated, digital images doesn’t diminish but actually gives a boost to realist-based audiovisual forms such as documentary film, reality TV, or virtual reality gaming, all of which try to address the perennial questions of realism: What is presence? What is evidence? What is authenticity? This course is a broad attempt to map the changing notion of realism by tracing several cinematic traditions and movements— the Danish Dogme, Iranian New Wave, American Mumblecore, among others—that all deploy realism but do so differently, with diverse aesthetic, social and political goals.




                                       Literatures of the World; Arts & Letters

                                       Prior language experience required

                                       TR 10:30-12                   De Soldato

                                       Cross listed with COLL 228/ITAL 203


This course surveys the history of Italian literature through its major masterpieces. Beginning with Dante's Divine Comedy, Petrarca's love poems, and Boccaccio's Decameron, we will follow the development of Italian literary tradition through the Renaissance (Machiavelli's political theory and Ariosto's epic poem), and then through Romanticism (Leopardi's lyric poetry and Manzoni's historical novel), up to the 20th century (from D'annunzio's sensual poetry to Calvino's post-modern short stories). The course will provide students with the tools needed for analyzing the texts in terms of both form and content, and for framing them in their historical, cultural, and socio-political context. Classes and readings will be in Italian.



COML 204.401            TOLSTOY

                                       Benjamin Franklin Seminar

                                       All readings and lectures in English

                                       MW 3:30-5                    Todorov

                                        Cross listed with RUSS 202


Few authors have ever been able to combine their moral and artistic visions as closely as Tolstoy. Over the course of the semester, we will plot how Tolstoy’s ethical concerns changed over the course of his life and how this was reflected in works, which include some of the greatest prose ever written. We will begin by surveying the majestic and far-reaching world of his novels and end with some of Tolstoy’s short later works that correspond with the ascent of “Tolstoyism” as virtually its own religion.




                                       Cross Cultural Analysis; Arts & Letters

                                       MW 5-6:30                    Gold

                                       Cross listed with NELC 201


The Middle East boasts a rich tapestry of cultures that have developed a vibrant body of modern literature that is often overlooked in media coverage of the region. While each of the modern literary traditions that will be surveyed in this introductory course--Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish--will be analyzed with an apprreciation of the cultural context unique to each body of literature, this course will also attempt to bridge these diverse traditions by analyzing common themes-such as modernity, social values, the individual and national identity-as reflected in the genres of postry, the novel and the short story. This course is in seminar format to encourage lively discussion and is team-taught by four professors whose expertise in modern Middle Eastern literature serves to create a deeper understanding and aesthetic appreciation of each literary trandition. In addition to honing students' literary analysis skills, the course will enable students to become more adept at discussing the social and political forces that are reflected in Middle Eastern literature, explore important themes and actively engage in reading new Middle Eastern works on their own in translation. All readings are in English




                                       TR 9-10:30                     Staff

                                       Arts & Letters; Cross Cultural Analysis

                                       Cross listed with FREN 232


This basic course in literature provides an overview of French literature and acquaints students with major literary trends through the study of representative works from each period. Special emphasis is placed on close reading of texts in order to familiarize students with major authors and their characteristics and with methods of interpretation. Students are expected to take an active part in class discussion in French.



COML 219.402            FRENCH LITERATURE

                                       TR 10:30-12                   Staff

                                       Arts & Letters; Cross Cultural Analysis    

                                       Cross listed with FREN 232                              


This basic course in literature provides an overview of French literature and acquaints students with major literary trends through the study of representative works from each period. Special emphasis is placed on close reading of texts in order to familiarize students with major authors and their characteristics and with methods of interpretation. Students are expected to take an active part in class discussion in French.



COML 219.403            FRENCH LITERATURE

                                       Arts & Letters; Cross Cultural Analysis

                                       MW 2-3:30                    Staff

                                       Cross listed with FREN 232


This basic course in literature provides an overview of French literature and acquaints students with major literary trends through the study of representative works from each period. Special emphasis is placed on close reading of texts in order to familiarize students with major authors and their characteristics and with methods of interpretation. Students are expected to take an active part in class discussion in French.



COML 219.404            FRENCH LITERATURE

                                       Arts & Letters; Cross Cultural Analysis                                                                        MWF 11-12                   Staff

                                       Cross listed with FREN 232


This basic course in literature provides an overview of French literature and acquaints students with major literary trends through the study of representative works from each period. Special emphasis is placed on close reading of texts in order to familiarize students with major authors and their characteristics and with methods of interpretation. Students are expected to take an active part in class discussion in French.



COML 246.401            ARAB WOMEN AND WAR 

                                       TR 12-1:30                     Fakhreddine

                                       Cross listed with NELC 231


This course is a study of modern Arabic poetry and prose with a focus on women's experiences of war. Works will be selected from writings by Arab women writers and works which are centered on representation of women and war. Selections will be made from the works of writers such as: Ḥanān al-Shaykh, Ghadah al-Sammān, Radhwā Ashūr, Samar Yazbek, Saḥar Khalīfah, Imān Mersāl and others.



COML 253.401            FREUD  

                                       Registration required for LEC & REC

                                       Humanities & Social Science; all readings and lectures in English

                                       LEC TR 10:30-12                      Weissberg

                                       REC sections 402, 403, 404 and 407

                                        Cross listed with GRMN 253/GSWS 252


No other person of the twentieth century has probably influenced scientific thought, humanistic scholarship, medical therapy, and popular culture as much as Sigmund Freud. This course will study his work, its cultural background, and its impact on us today. In the first part of the course, we will learn about Freud's life and the Viennese culture of his time. We will then move to a discussion of seminal texts, such as excerpts from his Interpretation of Dreams, case studies, as well as essays on psychoanalytic practice, human development, definitions of gender and sex, neuroses, and culture in general. In the final part of the course, we will discuss the impact of Freud's work. Guest lecturers from the medical field, history of science, psychology, and the humanities will offer insights into the reception of Freud's work, and its consequences for various fields of study and therapy.




                                       TR 10:30-12                   Kano    

                                       Arts & Letters

                                       Cross listed with CIMS 151/ EALC 151/ GSWS 257


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, Narusu Mikio, Kurosawa Akira, Imamura Shohei, Koreeda Hirokazu, and Beat Takeshi.



COML 259.401            JEWISH HUMOR

                                       TR  10:30-12                  Ben-Amos

                                       Arts & Letters

                                       Cross listed with NELC 254/JWST 102/FOLK 296


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.





                                       TR 3-4:30                       Hellerstein

                                       Benjamin Franklin Seminar; Cross Cultural Analysis, Arts & Letters

                                       All lectures and readings in English

                                        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?




                                       TR 10:30-12                   Levy

                                       Cross listed with ENGL 263



COML 269.401            FASCIST CINEMAS

                                       R 3-4                   MacLeod

                                       REC section 402

                                       All readings and lectures in English                          

                                       Cross listed with GRMN 257/CIMS 257/ITAL 257


Cinema played a crucial role in the cultural life of Nazi Germany and other fascist states. As cinema enthusiasts, Goebbels and Hitler were among the first to realize the important ideological potential of film as a mass medium and saw to it that Germany remained a cinema powerhouse producing more than 1000 films during the Nazi era. In Italy, Mussolini, too, declared cinema "the strongest weapon." This course explores the world of "fascist" cinemas ranging from infamous propaganda pieces such as The Triumph of the Will to popular entertainments such as musicals and melodramas. It examines the strange and mutually defining kinship between fascism more broadly and film. We will consider what elements mobilize and connect the film industries of the Axis Powers: style, genre, the aestheticization of politics, the creation of racialized others. More than seventy years later, fascist cinemas challenge us to grapple with issues of more subtle ideological insinuation than we might think. Weekly screenings with subtitles.




                                       TR 1:30-3                       Gold

                                       Arts & Letters

                                       Cross listed with NELC 159/CIMS 159/ENGL 079/JWST 154


This course analyzes Hebrew and/or Israeli fiction, poetry and film that feature dreams, fantasy and madness. The Zionist meta-narrative tells of an active, conscious and rational enterprise of Israeli nation-building. Yet its subversive shadow-side lurks in literary and cinematic nightmares, surrealist wanderings and stories packed with dreams. This tension exists in the Hebrew Literature of the twentieth century and persists in contemporary films and writings that question the sanity of the protagonist and artist alike. Although S.Y. Agnon, the uncontested master of Hebrew literature, denied ever reading Freud, his works are fraught with dreams and psychoanalytic insight. His literary heirs, Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, the pillars of the Israeli canon, often speak in the symbolic language of the subconscious. Older Israeli films like New Land, as well as newly-released works like Waltz with Bashir, also confront similar issues. Works by Freud, Kafka and Plath are included in the course. There will be 5-6 film screenings; the films are on reserve at Van Pelt for those unable to attend the screenings. The course content changes every year, therefore students may take it for credit more than once.




                                      R 1:30-4:30                    Ponce de Leon, J.

                                      Cross listed with ENGL 294/GSWS 296


This course examines theory and literature from and on the Global South that analyzes and challenges colonialism,  How does an understanding of colonialism and neocolonialism shed light on contemporary phenomena, including globalization, the explosive growth of slums, migration and border politics, gendered violence, and the so-called “War on Terror”? What is the Fourth World War? What is the role of culture and literature in colonial domination and anticolonial resistance? 

Taking an interdisciplinary approach, we will examine how people from across the Globalth and 21st centuries. This will include the study of anticolonial revolutionary thought written in the context of national liberation struggles; radical education and consciousness-raising; postcolonial and Third World feminisms; anticolonial literature and film, as well as analyses of the role of artists and intellectuals in anticolonial struggle; and the practices of grassroots social movements that have emerged in recent decades. 

Course material will include social and literary theory, literature, and film. No previous knowledge of this topic is required.




                                       MW 3:30-5                    Murnaghan

                                       Cross listed with CLST 302


As an epic account of wandering, survival, and homecoming, Homer's Odyssey has been a constant source of themes and images with which to define and redefine the nature of heroism, the sources of identity, and the challenge of finding a place in the world. This course will begin with a close reading of the Odyssey in translation, with particular attention to Odysseus as a post-Trojan War hero; to the roles of women, especially Odysseus' faithful and brilliant wife Penelope; and to the uses of poetry and story-telling in creating individual and cultural identities. We will then consider how later authors have drawn on these perspectives to construct their own visions, reading works, or parts of works, by such authors as Virgil, Dante, Tennyson, Joyce, Derek Walcott, and Margaret Atwood.  Each student will choose a work inspired by the Odyssey

(from possibilities spanning different periods, cultural traditions, and media) on which to give a presentation and write a paper. 



COML 303.401            QUEER NEGATIVITY

                                       MW 2-3:30                    Trentin

                                       Cross listed with CIMS 303/GSWS 302


Queerness has often been understood as a threat to society – whether social institutions like marriage or monogamy or familial practices like reproduction and child-rearing. While the last decades have been characterized by increasing acceptance of gays and lesbians into mainstream society, this process has no doubt reproduced new inequalities and asymmetries – in terms of race, class and access to institutional spaces.

Does "queer" still pose a threat to the mainstream or is it now part of the "normal"? Should one welcome the progressive acceptance or queer lives within the mainstream or should one reject it in the name of an indissoluble difference? In this course we will range across movies and theories that engage with these questions, particularly focusing on negative reactions to processes of assimilation. Topics will include sex and death, queerness and neoliberalism, intersections of race and sexuality. Some of the films we will watch and discuss are Pasolini’s Pigsty, Fassbinder’s In a Year of 13 Moons, Jennie Livingstone’s Paris is Burning, Cheryl Dunye’s Watermelon Woman, Kimberly Peirce’s Boys Don’t Cry.




                                       MW 2-3:30                    Kuskowski

                                       Cross Cultural Analysis

                                       Cross listed with HIST 307/GSWS 307       


Medieval Europe was undoubtedly gruff and violent but it also gave birth to courtly culture—raw warriors transformed into knights who performed heroic deeds, troubadours wrote epics in their honor and love songs about their ladies, women of the elite carved out a place in public discourse as patrons of the arts, and princely courts were increasingly defined by pageantry from jousting tournaments to royal coronations. This course will trace the development of this courtly culture from the eleventh to the sixteenth century, from its roots in Southern France to its spread to Northern France and then to various kingdoms in Europe. Central themes will include the transformation of the warrior into the knight, the relationship between violence and courtliness, courtly love, cultural production and the patronage of art, and the development of court pageantry and ceremonial. This is a class on cultural history and, as such, will rely on the interpretation of objects of art and material culture, literature as well as historical accounts.



COML 309.401            FRENCH THOUGHT AFTER 1968

                                       MW 2-3:30                    Zhuo

                                       Cross listed with FREN 311/ENGL 294


In American academia, French thought after May '68 is often referred to as "French Theory," a heterogeneous corpus of philosophical and critical texts compacted into a set of poststructuralist premises, first introduced by and grew within humanities departments, then identified as a luxury by-product of the "literary" people. This course proposes to unpack the notion of "French Theory" and re-anchor it into its original social/historical background. We will read some of the most influential texts of its key figures, study how a post May 68 revolutionary energy is transformed into various innovative but also destabilizing ways of rethinking power relations, gender, language and subjectivity, and finally, consider in what capacities and limits these diverse critical approaches go beyond the simple label of "post-structuralism" and relate to our own epoch and personal experiences. The readings and discussions will be divided into four axes: 1. Philosophy of Desire (Lacan, Deleuze/Guattari); 2. Sexual Revolt and Body Politics (Foucault, Hocquenghem, Barthes); 3. Deconstruction and Its Impact on Feminism (Derrida, Cixous, Irigaray); 4. Consumer Society and Society of the Spectacle (Lipovetsky, Baudrillard, Debord). Several documentaries and feature films will be shown outside class time. Taught in English. Reading knowledge of French is welcome but not required.




                                       W 2-5                  Rajan

                                       Cross Cultural Analysis

                                       Cross listed with GSWS 322/SOCI 322


How do sex and gender become sites of cultural production, identity-formation, and contentious politics? This seminar engages these questions in the context of the "Middle East" as a constructed geopolitical space for imperial politics and political intervention. The class is divided into three units. In the first unit, we engage feminist and queer theories to discuss the shifting meanings of "sex" and "gender" in transnational and postcolonial contexts. In the second unit we explore the contextual and shifting notions of "private" and "public" as they have been elaborated in political theory, feminist theory, and media studies. We also consider how different media technologies enable and constrain the performance and expression of gender and sexual identities. In the last unit, we examine the material and symbolic construction of sex and gender in the shadow of Orientalism, the War on Terror, Multiculturalism, and the recent Arab uprisings. In this unit, we consider how geopolitics are refracted in public controversies around issues like gay rights, female genital mutilation, the veil, and honor killing.



COML 333.401            DANTE’S DIVINE COMEDY

                                       TR 1:30-3                       Brownlee

                                       Benjamin Franklin Seminar

                                       Cross listed with ITAL 333/ENGL 323


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 Comedia 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.   




                                       TR 10:30-12                   Breckman

                                       Cross listed with HIST 343


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.



                                        TR 10:30-12                   Gold

                                        Arts & Letters; Prior language experience required

                                        Cross listed with HEBR 359/COLL 227/JWST 359/HEBR 659


This course focuses on the central pillars of the Modern Hebrew literary canon and their impact on Israeli literature. Drawing from the ancient wells of Bible, Talmud, and Midrash, the poets H. N. Bialik (1873-1934), Saul Tchernichovsky (1875-1943), and the author S. Y. Agnon (1887-1970) provided future writers with the tools to express modern and post-modern sensibilities. They forged a new diction for passion and love and for representing the inner world, psychological insight and political assertions. Bialik’s personal/political poems echo in Dahlia Ravikovitch’s verse, and Tchernichovsky’s haunting lines resurface in the recent poems of Natan Zach. Agnon's short stories inspired Amos Oz and Yehuda Amichai. We will compare the classic to the contemporary, and discuss the lasting power of these giants in the context of modern Israel. The class is conducted in Hebrew and the texts are read in the original. The content of this course changes from year to year; therefore students may take it for credit more than once.  




                                       MW 3:30-5                    Copeland

                                       Benjamin Franklin Seminar

                                       Cross listed with CLST 396/ENGL 394


This is a course on the history of literary theory, a survey of major debates about literature, poetics, and ideas about what literary texts should do, from ancient Greece to examples of modern European thought. The first half of the course will focus on early periods: Greek and Roman antiquity, especially Plato and Aristotle; the medieval period (including St. Augustine, Dante, and Boccaccio), and the early modern period ( such as Philip Sidney and Giambattista Vico). We'll move into modern and 20th century by looking at the literary (or "art") theories of some major philosophers, artists, and poets: Kant, Hegel, Shelley, Marx, the painter William Morris, Freud, and the critic Walter Benjamin. We'll end with a look at Foucault's work. The point of this course is to consider closely the Western European tradition which generated questions 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. During the semester there will be four short writing assignments in the form of analytical essays (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; a few readings will be on Canvas.




                                       M 2-5                  Chartier/Stallybrass

                                       Cross listed with HIST 411/ENGL 234


We will focus on the printing, reprinting, and reception of selected canonical Early Modern texts, including books by Shakespeare, Richardson, Montaigne, Cervantes, and Castiglione (the latter three available in early English translations). The topics that we will consider will include: the nature of authorship; the uses of sources and commonplace books; licensing and censorship; and the remaking of texts in the reprinting of them. We will draw wherever possible on the exceptional collections in Penn’s Special Collections and in other Philadelphia Libraries.





Last modified October 27, 2016
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania