2015-2016 COURSE DESCRIPTIONS
Most Comparative Literature courses are taught at the Centre for Comparative Literature, Isabel Bader Theatre, 3rd floor, Linda Hutcheon Seminar Room (BT319) unless indicated otherwise below. Please click on courses’ codes to see their descriptions.
COL 1000H FACULTY SEMINAR: THE BASIS FOR COMPARISON
Coordinator: A. Komaromi
Time: Fall term, Fridays, 2-4:30
Syllabus: please click here
This course is a general introduction to the field of comparative literature, to contemporary theory, and to modern approaches to literary texts. It involves the participation of Comparative Literature faculty discussing issues that arise in the comparison of different literatures or research across disciplines or across media. It is taken by all MA and all first-year PhD students and is intended to provide guidance for more advanced work in specific critical domains.
Class Participation…..15% (includes attendance)
Weekly response paper…35% (one double-spaced page every week; submitted every week but then 10 of them resubmitted as a file at the end)
Essay……………….50% (3000 words, due January 3)
The paper should address either an issue involving comparison that came up during the course or the comparative implications of the student’s own research project. Each class will involve the participation of Comparative Literature faculty.
Bertolt Brecht played a specific role in the paradigm shift of the art which began at the end of the 19th century. He advanced this change by trying to connect art to its social and political functions and structure with the positive acceptance of the industrial revolution and by trying to transform it with the help of the new technological media.
The goals of this course are:
1. to introduce students to Brecht’s theory and demonstrate how he connected art and politics.
2. to study productions directed byBertolt Brecht, Robert Wilson and Robert Lepage and to see if they follow in Brecht’s footsteps or if they deviate from his concepts.
3. The following productions will be analyzed:
Mother Courage, written and directed by Bertolt Brecht
The Good Person of Szechwan, by Bertolt Brecht, directed by Benno Besson
The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht, directed by Robert Wilson
The Busker’s Opera by John Gay and Robert Lepage, directed by Robert Lepage
Every student has to give at least one class presentation.
Those introducing a seminar should prepare a brief outline (no more than a page or two) and provide copies to all the students at the outset.
Each student has to send me a one page evaluation about the videos we are going to study.
The subject of the research essay should be discussed and approved by the instructor.
Class seminars 30%
Evaluation of Videos 10%
Research Essay 45%
Class participation 15%
Bertolt The Threepenny Opera
Mother Courage and Her Children
The Good Person of Szechwan
The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Drums in the Night
Gay, John The Beggar’s Opera
COL5032H FEMINIST APPROACHES TO MEDIEVAL LITERATURE
Instructor: J. Ross
Time: Fall term, Thursdays, 2-4
This course will explore how feminist theory has influenced the way medieval literature is read. The pluralistic and shifting nature of a feminist theoretical orientation which struggles with the politics of subject and gender identity, race, class, sexuality and the body is particularly apt for the exploration of the medieval literary text whose instability and variability render it resistant to critical authority and open to multiple readings. We will attempt to understand how gender structures medieval thought and its literary expression through selective readings from a variety of feminist theoretical perspectives such as psychoanalytic theory, French feminism, and postmodern theory of the body. The main focus of the course, however, will be on opening up medieval literary texts to new meanings. Texts to be studied will be drawn from a wide crosssection of medieval literary discourses such as epic, romance, courtly lyric, fabliaux, Marian literature, hagiography and drama and will include examples from writings by medieval women such as The Book of Margery Kempe, and Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies.
Seminar Presentation: 20%
Two response papers 92-3 pp. 15%
Final paper: 40%
COL 5033H VISUAL PORTRAITURES IN CONTEMPORARY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NARRATIVES
Instructor: J. LeBlanc
Time: Fall term, Mondays, 1-3
“In my view, text and image complement, rather than supplement, each other; since reference is not secure in either, neither can compensate for lack of stability in the other. Because both media are located on the border between fact and fiction, they often undercut just as easily as they reinforce each other.”(T. Adams).
In the “fictional” and “non-fictional” autobiographical narratives chosen to explore the various ways in which text and image can interact with and reflect on each other, the writers use a highly metalinguistic discourse to discuss the problems of self-referentiality in language and in images and to reflect on the use of paintings and photographs in their visualizations and articulations of selfhood. Marie-Claire Blais, Sophie Calle, Jacques Poulin, Michael Ondaatje and Carol Shields all express an awareness of the autobiographical self as decentered, multiple, fragmented and divided against itself in the act of observing and being. The use of paintings and photographic images (portraits and self-portraits), operate as visual supplements (illustrations) and corroboration (verification) of the autobiographical subjects and their narratives. The introduction of images (paintings, photographs, drawings) in autobiographical and fictional autobiographical texts problematizes the status of the autobiographical genre, referentiality, representation, the relationship between self-images and life-writings, etc. The study of theoretical texts pertaining to autobiography, painting, photography and the relationship between words and images will serve as a basis for our analysis of Blais, Calle, Ondaatje, Poulin and Shields autobiographical and fictional narratives.
Blais, Marie-Claire. A Season in the Life of Emmanuel. The illustrated edition.
—. Personal Notebooks. Fragments of these Notebooks will be distributed in class.
Calle, Sophie. Double Game.
Poulin, Jacques. Volkswagen Blues.
Ondaatje, Michael. Running in the Family.
Shields, Carol. The Stone Diaries.
* A more detailed theoretical bibliography will be provided.
Adams, Timothy D. Light Writing and Life Writing. Photography in Autobiography. University of North Carolina Press, 1992.
Doy, Gen. Picturing the Self: changing views of the subject in visual culture. London: I.B.Tauris, 2005.
Gombrich, E. H. Art and Illusion: A Study of the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989.
Hughs, Alex and Andrea Noble. Phototextualities: Intersections of Photography and Narrative. Albuquerque : University of New Mexico, 2003.
Kim, Yeon-Soo. The Family Album. Bucknell University Press, 2005.
Lejeune, Philippe. Je est un autre. Paris: Seuil, 1980.
Louvel, L. (Jean-Pierre Montier, et.al.) Littérature et photographie. Rennes, PUR, 2008.
Mitchell, W.J.T. The Languages of Images. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.
Olney, James. Studies in Autobiography. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Sontag, S. On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1977.
One essay: 65%
One presentation: 20%
* Please note that students are invited to work on a corpus of their choice for their final essay and presentation. Students are not limited to the primary texts which are listed.
COL5114H DESTRUCTION OF IMAGES
Instructor: R. Comay
Time: Fall term, Tuesdays, 1-3
Location: Old Vic (91 Charles St. West), Room 304
From the demolition of monasteries during the Reformation or the vandalism of royal statues during the French Revolution to the dismantling of communist monuments after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the destruction of images can be a way of marking time and signaling cultural and political transition. It can be a religious gesture directed against the authority of idols or an anti-religious gesture directed against sacral authority. It can be an assertion of state authority or a protest against existing modes of sovereignty. And it can function as a constructive principle: it can draw attention to the claims of the unbeautiful, the broken, the incomplete, the ephemeral, the entropic, the anachronistic, the imperfect, the overlooked, the abandoned, the disappeared. The American artist Gordon Matta-Clark centered his artistic practice on “unbuilding”: he transformed the urban landscape by methodically slicing into abandoned buildings; more recently the Colombian artist Doris Salcedo introduced an indelible 500-meter crack into the floor of the Tate Modern. In his “Erased De Kooning Drawing,” Robert Rauschenberg produced a work that consisted of the effacement of his mentor’s artwork. In “Disintegration Loops,” a work accidentally created in 2001 while he was transferring his own previous reel-to-reel taped compositions into digital format, William Basinski captured the sound of music’s decay. And William Kentridge uses erasure as a technique for producing his animated projections bearing directly on transitional issues in post-apartheid South Africa.
This course will explore how ideas and practices of destruction force us to think not only about the status of images and objects but about broader questions of space and time, memory and history, and about the social and political issues pertaining to property, labour, territory, and sovereign power.
In addition to considering a variety of artistic works in different media (including music and architecture) we will be reading a range of religious, philosophical and political writings, including the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, Tertullian, Calvin, Kant, Hegel, Freud, Benjamin, Adorno, Derrida, Blanchot, and Bataille.
Course requirements: seminar presentation and write-up (30%); final essay (60%); participation (10%).
COL5117H FREUD AND PSYCHOANALYSIS
Instructor: J. Zilcosky
Time: Fall term, Mondays, 3-5
In this seminar, we will examine the writings of Sigmund Freud in their historical context, starting with the intellectual and political milieu of fin de siècle Vienna that set the stage for the invention of psychoanalysis. We will investigate Freud’s entire career, grouped roughly in four stages: his early 1890s writings on hysteria and his experiments with hypnosis, which led to his discovery through trial and error of the “talking cure”; his 1900s creation of the major concepts of sexuality theory (in his early case studies as well as his “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality”); his central writings before, during and after the First World War, from Totem and Taboo, “Mourning and Melancholia,” and “The Uncanny” through to his seminal work on shell shock, repetition compulsion and the death drive (Beyond the Pleasure Principle); and his attempts to diagnose wide-ranging pathologies of society and culture in late 1920s and 1930s (e.g., The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and Its Discontents, and Moses and Monotheism). The goal of the course is to present a broad critical introduction to Freud’s work and to the key concepts of psychoanalytic theory.
COL5118H SOVEREIGNTY: HOBBES AND HIS 20th AND 21st CENTURY SUCCESSORS
Instructor: M. Nyquist
Time: Fall term, Thursdays, 10am-1pm
In discussing sovereignty, contemporary political theorists inevitably refer to Hobbes, reference to whom often legitimates or critiques contemporary conceptions of governmentality or power. Known as an apologist for royal absolutism in his own time, Hobbes is now usually regarded as the first theorist of the modern state and of liberalism. What is the significance of this often tacit re-evaluation? Further questions to be explored include, what understanding of “liberty” and the “political” do various 20th and 21st century theorists bring to their readings of Hobbes’s texts? What specific textual interpretations, if any, do they provide for their readings? What do later philosophers make of Hobbes’s view that sovereignty originates within the household, where it is held by the father, and/or slave-master? Is recent interest in “sovereignty” in any way connected with 9/11?
In this course, we will read Hobbes’s major political treatises alongside the major 20th and 21st theorists who have drawn on him. Efforts will be made to situate Hobbes’s treatises historically with reference to seventeenth century debates on sovereignty and selected contemporaneous political theorists. Throughout the course, we will explore tensions between the readings produced by historical contextualization and those presupposed or developed by modern theorists.
17th-Century texts to include Thomas Hobbes’s Elements of Law, De Cive, Leviathan; Hugo Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace; John Milton, Political Writings. Contemporary theorists to include (alphabetically) Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer, Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, Walter Benjamin, “Critique of Violence”; Jacques Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign; Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended, Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political and Political Theology, and Leo Strauss, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes. Recommended: Mary Nyquist, Arbitrary Rule: Slavery, Tyranny, and the Power of Life and Death
JFC5025H FEMINISM AND POSTMODERNISM: THEORY AND PRACTICE
Instructor: B. Havercroft
Time: Fall term, Tuesdays, 3-5
This course will examine the complex and controversial relationship between feminism and postmodernism, as this encounter is staged in both theoretical and fictional writings. While many of the «canonical» theoretical texts on postmodernism were penned by male scholars (Lyotard, Baudrillard, Vattimo, Hassan, Scarpetta, etc.), who largely ignored questions of feminism, gender, and women’s artistic practices, feminist critics (Jardine, Butler, Suleiman, Nicholson, Yeatman, and others) soon intervened in the debate. As these latter theoreticians demonstrated, many of the notions characterizing postmodern theories and literary texts were in fact concerns common to feminist thought : the crisis of patriarchal master narratives and the ensuing emphasis on localized, small narratives; the criticism of binary, hierarchical oppositions (center/margin, life /art, culture /nature, mind/body, masculine/feminine); the endeavour to privilege the heterogeneous, the plural, and the hybrid; and the problematization of the subject, of representation, and of language. Doubtful as to whether disseminated subjects are capable of agency and effective political action, other feminist scholars (di Stefano, Hartsock) still question the possibilities of constructive intersections between feminism and postmodernism. Drawing on the principal feminist theories in the postmodern debate, we will study the contentious theoretical issues outlined above, before turning to an analysis of an international corpus of postmodern literary narratives written by women, which construct « strategic subjectivities » (Kaplan) and « forms of common action » (Mouffe), combining ethical perspectives and aesthetic experimentation. Our close readings of these texts will pay careful attention to textual devices typical of postmodern texts (see Hutcheon), such as the extensive use of intertextuality, the recycling and rewriting of mythological, religious, and historical figures and events, the questioning of major binary oppositions underpinning Western thought, genre hybridity, the representation of the author in the text, and so on.
Since this course will deal with feminist theories of postmodernism, as well as with feminist supplements to and criticisms of postmodern thought, it would be most helpful for students to have some prior knowledge of « male » theories of postmodernism (see certain references listed below) before beginning the course, although this is not a prerequisite.
Blais, Marie-Claire. Soifs. Montréal : Boréal, 1995. (English translation if required : These Festive Nights, Concord, Ont. : House of Anansi Press, 1997).
Brossard, Nicole. Baroque d’aube. Montréal : l’Hexagone, 1995. (English translation if required : Baroque at Dawn, Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, 1997).
Carter, Angela. The Passion of New Eve. London : Gollanczy, 1977. Cixous, Hélène. Le livre de Promethea. Paris : Gallimard, 1983. (English translation if required : The Book of Promethea, Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 1991).
Wolf, Christa. « Selbstversuch : Traktat zu einem Protokoll », in C. Wolf, Drei unwahrscheinliche Geschichten. Berlin : Aufbau Verlag, 1974. (The English translation, « Self-Experiment : Appendix to a Report », will be provided .)
The complete list of theoretical texts, as well as extensive bibliographies on feminism and postmodernism, will be distributed at the first meeting of the seminar. Students are advised to prepare for the course by doing some preliminary readings :
Bertens, Hans. The Idea of Postmodernism : A History. London/New York : Routledge, 1995.
Boisvert, Yves. Le Postmodernisme. Montréal : Boréal, 1995.
Butler, Judith. « Contingent Foundations : Feminism and the Question of ‘Postmodernism’ », in J. Butler and Joan Scott (eds.), Feminists Theorize the Political. New York : Routledge, 1992, pp. 3-21.
Jardine, Alice A. Gynesis : Configurations of Woman and Modernity. Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 1985.
Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism : History, Theory, Fiction. New York : Routledge, 1988.
Lyotard, Jean-François. La condition postmoderne. Paris : Minuit, 1979.
Lyotard, Jean-François. Le postmoderne expliqué aux enfants. Paris : Galilée, 1988.
Michael, Magali Cormier. Feminism and the Postmodern Impulse : Post-World War II Fiction. Albany : SUNY Press, 1996.
Nicholson, Linda (ed.). Feminism/Postmodernism. New York : Routledge, 1990.
Paterson, Janet. Moments postmodernes dans le roman québécois. Ottawa : Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa, 2e édition, 1993.
Waugh, Patricia. Feminine Fictions : Revisiting the Postmodern. London/New York : Routledge, 1989.
Oral presentation : 30%
Research paper : 60%
Participation : 10%
JLA5082H THE RHETORIC OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Instructor: A. Sakaki
Time: Fall term, Tuesdays,10-12
This course concerns the way that photography, as the product and the process, and as the practice and concept, has inspired the narrative of formative questions regarding agency, temporality, and space, and has challenged—or yielded to—the narrative’s power/desire to make sense. Particular attention will be paid to rhetorical complicity and coercion of the two modes of representation which both emerged in the modern and nationalist age, and persist, in the wake of the newer media, as dominant registers of the everyday and departures from there. Participants read and discuss seminal theoretical literatures (e.g., Bal, Barthes, Bazin, Burgin, Hirsch, Metz, Mitchell, Sontag), photo roman (e.g., Abe, Breton, Cendrars, Miller, Nakagami), and narratives about photography (e.g., Calvino, Duras, Horie, Kanai, Proust, Tanizaki), along the theme for each session. Primarily a seminar, short lectures and students’ presentations will complement discussion sessions with materials that may not be accessible to all the members.
Evaluation: class participation 10%; oral presentation 20%; response papers (2-3 pgs) 20% (10% x2); term paper (20-30pgs) 50%
Most Comparative Literature courses are taught at the Centre for Comparative Literature, Isabel Bader Theatre, 3rd floor, Linda Hutcheon Seminar Room (BT319) unless indicated otherwise below. Please click on courses’ codes to see their descriptions.
COL5027H MEMORY, TRAUMA, AND HISTORY
Instructor: T. Lahusen
Time: Spring term, Tuesdays, 1-3 – Syllabus
This research seminar will explore methods of analyzing narratives of survival which emerged out of experiences of repression in different historical contexts, such as the Holocaust, the Soviet Gulag, and the Chinese system of “reeducation through labor.” During the course various theoretical and methodological approaches will be engaged to examine how diaries, memoirs, literary works, and documentaries confront past and present.
Readings include Jacques Le Goff, History and Memory (1992), Shoshana Feldman and Dori Laub, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History (1992), Trauma: Explorations in Memory, ed. Cathy Caruth (1995), Dominick LaCapra, Representing the Holocaust: History, Theory, Trauma (1996), Bernhard Schlink, The Reader (1995), Evgeniia Ginzburg, Journey Into the Whirlwind (1967), Zhang Xianliang, Grass Soup (1995), and Sidney Ritttenberg and Amanda Bennett, The Man Who Stayed Behind (1993). During the course, students will also prepare and discuss their own topic of research, leading toward a final paper.
One oral presentation 30%
One review article 30%
One final paper (20pages) 40%
COL5052H MARXISM AND FORM
Instructor: E. Cazdyn
Time: Thursdays, 1-3
This course will depart from Fredric Jameson’s 1971 work Marxism and Form, in which Jameson develops a dialectical analysis of culture (focusing on how the aesthetic itself figures the deadlocks of–and the impossible escapes from–its concrete political-economic situation). We will follow the larger structure of Jameson’s book by working through some of the key figures of Western Marxism, such as Adorno, Benjamin, Marcuse, Bloch, Lukacs, and Sartre (with equal care granted to the study of Marx and Hegel).
The second half of the course will be dedicated to pushing this cultural theory into the present (and throughout the world). Just as Jameson returns to the thinkers of the 1930s to analyze the emerging situation of Late Capitalism in the 1970s, we will push ahead to the current moment by putting the aesthetic in relation to our own emerging situation. But what is this emerging situation (another stage of Capitalism, another try at Communism, the first stage of the Unimaginable, Nothing)?
To get at this question we will not only examine such thinkers as Karatani Kojin, Slavoj Zizek, Rebecca Comay, Gilles Deleuze, Gayatri Spivak, Wang Hui, Roberto Schwarz, Alain Badiou, and Jameson’s most recent work, but we will also speculate on how the aesthetic itself engages this question about historical limitation and possibility (here we might consider works by Min Tanaka, Miguel Gomes, Chris Marker, Margaret Atwood, Fujimoto Sou, Tsai Ming-liang, Anne Carson and Derek Bailey).
Evaluation: Seminar presentation and write-up (30%); final essay (50%); one-page responses and participation (20%).
COL5062H PRAGUE SCHOOL SEMIOTICS OF DRAMA,THEATRE & CINEMA IN CONTEMPORARY CONTEXT
Instructor: V. Ambros
Time: Spring term, Wednesdays, 9-12
Current semiotic theories of drama, theatre, and cinema have been informed by the theoretical concepts developed since the 1920s first by Russian Formalists and later by the Prague Structuralists of the so-called Prague school who often conceptualized concurrent artistic experiments and developed a language used by both practitioners and theorists (Keir Elam, 2002). This context will serve as a point of departure for a comparison of Prague School semiotics with the modes in which contemporary theorists like Keir Elam, Patrice Pavis, and David Bordwell analyze, and theorize modern artistic trends in drama, theatre, and cinema. Apart from the theoretical texts we will analyze selected dramatic and cinematic works (Paul Wegener Golem; Sergei Eisenstein October; Charlie Chaplin Modern Times; G.B. Shaw Pygmalion; Walter Hasenclever The Son; Vaclav Havel The Beggars Opera.)
Class participation: 10%
Book Review: 20%
COL5090H GLOBAL VISUAL CULTURE
Instructor: R. Bai
Time: Spring term, Thursdays, 11-1
The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed the global circulation of visual images through satellite television, cinema and digital communication networks with unprecedented intensity and velocity. With the primacy of the visual in global capitalism, imagination and identity formation have become increasingly image-based. This course focuses on globalizing media such as television, film and the Internet and extends traditional concerns of cultural studies by interrogating how the visual deals with issues such as violence, war, immigration, globalization, sovereignty, subject formation, etc. It introduces students to a diversity of works sampled from the emerging literature on visual culture in the global context such as those by Arjun Appadurai, W.J.T. Mitchell, Nicholas Mirzoeff, Marita Sturken, Lisa Nakamura, and Shu-Mei Shih.
COL5096H THE PROBLEM OF TRANSLATION: HISTORICAL, THEORETICAL AND PRAGMATIC PERSPECTIVES
Instructor: M. Revermann
Time: Spring term, Fridays, 12-3
Translation Studies is a young field that has gained considerable momentum over the past 20 or so years (especially with the emergence of Postcolonial Studies). Comparatist by nature, translation is a good a gateway as any into the discipline of Comparative Literature and some of its principal concerns.
This course will combine the historical, theoretical and pragmatic dimension of translation (all of which overlap to a certain extent). On the historical side, there will be detailed and historically contextualized study of some main reflections on the problem of translation (including texts by Schleiermacher, Benjamin, Venuti and Apter) as well as specific broader case studies of the translation history of certain works (including the Bible, Virgil and Sophocles). For the theoretical dimension Munday (2008) will serve as a guide to a critical discussion of particular approaches and models developed by current Translation Studies. The litmus test will be the pragmatic dimension: hands-on, detailed and theoretically informed analyses of specific translations (usually short passages), mostly to be chosen and presented by the seminar participants themselves.
50% Research paper
30% In-class presentations (including the “journal”, i.e. written statements on the set weekly ‘lead questions’ and written engagement with one or two own lead questions).
COL5119H GIRLS AND SEX IN THE 21st CENTURY
Instructor: E. Jagoe
Time: Mondays, 11-1
This course explores representations of young Euro-North American women’s sexuality in media, memoir, film, and theory, so as to better understand the contemporary formation of subjectivity and gendered violence. Despite the socially prevalent belief that teenage girls and women have come to assume new spaces of power and that the struggle over gender equality has succeeded, girls’ sexuality remains a site of contestation, violence, and (mis-)representation. The new forms of communication and representation that occupy an important place in the lives of girls have complicated gender relations even more, adding fantasies of empowerment and mass democratization to representational schema that were always already multivalenced and contradictory: girls are seen, simultaneously, as innocent and sexualized, powerful and weak, complicit and victimized. We will aim to map this new social landscape through critical assessments of points of tension around gender and sexuality in the 21st c, as well as through examination of cultural texts that depict girls and sex. The class will engage contemporary debates in gender studies and feminism, affect theory, cultural studies, and philosophy.
Authors include but are not limited to: Sara Ahmed, Sherry Turkle, Wendy Chun, Rosi Braidotti, Judith Butler, Lena Dunham, Sheila Heti, Laurie Penny, Nina Power, Roxanne Gay, Astra Taylor, Chantal Akerman.
Evaluation will be based on individual contracts with each student. Some students may choose, for example, to write a final research essay whereas others may find multiple shorter form assignments to be more useful. Participation in class discussion is essential for all students.
JCO5121H CLASSICS AND THEORY
Instructor: V. Wohl
Time: Spring term, Tuesdays, 10 am-1 pm
Location: Centre for Comparative Literature, Seminar Room
Scholars have long looked to classical antiquity for antecedents, analogues, or alternatives to the modern subject. One influential narrative tracks the gradual emergence of the subject from its prehistory in Homer – where the hero, addressing his body parts as separate entities and blaming the gods for his actions, was barely a self at all – to Socrates, whose equation of virtue and knowledge marks the genesis of a unified, self-knowing subject. More recently, scholars have returned to the supposedly pre-modern subject of archaic and classical Greece and found in it surprising similarities to the post-Freudian psychoanalytic subject, a self riven by unconscious desires, never fully self-knowing or self-mastering. Premodern or postmodern, the ancient subject has offered a way of thinking about the nature of subjectivity in general.
This seminar examines the question of the subject in ancient Greece. What did a Greek mean when he or she said “I”? How did that meaning manifest itself in language and how did it change over time? We will investigate, among other topics, the fantasy of the body and Homer’s infamous “fragmented” self, the “invention” of the subject in the archaic period, the classical Greek subject’s relation to desire, language, and law. Following Lacan’s famous dictum that the unconscious is structured like a language, we will pursue these historical inquiries through close reading of the Greek texts, which will include selections from Homer, lyric poetry, Athenian drama, historiography, and philosophy. We will read these ancient texts alongside modern theories of the subject, in particular those of Lacan (but also Althusser, Butler, and Foucault). Our aim will be to see how each can enrich our understanding of the other – if indeed they can at all: we will not take it for granted that the subject is a transhistorical phenomenon and the discontinuities (as well as the continuities) between ancient and modern conceptions of the self will be an explicit focus throughout. The course’s methodology and guiding questions will thus be simultaneously historical, literary, and theoretical. Students without Greek are warmly welcome. For more information please contact email@example.com.
Evaluation: participation; class presentation(s); final research paper.
JFC5120H THE GIFT: STORIES OF A PARADIGM
Instructor: A. Motsch
Time: Spring term, Tuesdays, 4-6
Marcel Mauss’s classical essay on gift exchange inspired many debates in literature, philosophy, sociology, anthropology and beyond. Theorizing the gift as a social and symbolic practice and as a fundamental way of establishing social relationships, Mauss’s essay allows us to rethink what constitutes an object, what is implied in the exchange of objects (and words), what the role is of such exchanges, and what kind of exchange speaks to what kind of social relationship and which type of society. What is a gift, a commodity, a work of art, a fetish, a money transaction? How does the gift move from “primitive” to “modern” societies? Which socioeconomic models privilege gift exchange? What is the role of the gift in oral societies? Can speech be theorized as a gift and what does it mean “to give one’s word” to someone? What does it mean “to give life”?
Gift exchange is fundamental to all societies and these social transactions are consequently ubiquitous in all discourse relating to human beings. Some authors, cultural critics and philosophers have expended considerable effort in thinking about such questions in a variety of media and in many different artistic forms. Gide’s novel The Counterfeiters and Batailles’s essay on excess, along with all the literature on emerging capitalism by such writers as Balzac and Dickens, all the “rags to riches” stories and the literature on sacrifice in literature and anthropology, engage these questions from different perspectives. This course will work through some theoretical readings and contrast them with primary examples mostly from literature, film and cultural studies, but also from anthropological and socio-political literature.
JGC1855H CRITICAL THEORY – THE FRENCH-GERMAN CONNECTION
Instructor: W. Goetschel
Time: Spring term, Wednesdays 1-3
This course examines central theoretical issues in contemporary thought with particular attention to the role that the “Frankfurt School” and its affiliates such as Benjamin, Kracauer, Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, Habermas and others play in the context of modern German social and cultural thought. In France, thinkers like Levinas, Foucault, and Derrida respond to this tradition and enrich it. The course explores in which way the continuing dialogue between these thinkers informs current critical approaches to rethinking issues and concerns such as theorizing modernity, culture, secularization, multiculturalism, and the vital role of cultural difference.
When they first encountered novelistic realism, writers all over the world felt it constituted an invitation to include in their writing distinctly non-literary elements of their own world in the form of descriptions and names of things and places. Realism encouraged a new kind of vision: writing about things that had never been written about in order to make people see those things for the first time. We will examine the meaning realism acquired as it made its way around the world by looking at three Western texts to suggest the history of realism—a novel by Balzac, another by Zola, and a third by Updike—and then at six more realist novels from other traditions, that is, from Africa, India, China, and Latin America. We will also look at representative theory of realism by Auerbach, Lukacs, Barthes, Ermarth, Jameson, etc.
New Course Reading List:
Among the novelists we may consider: From India: Mulk Raj Anand, Anita Desai, and Amit Chaudhuri From Africa: Bernardo Honwana, Nadine Gordimer, Sembène Ousmane, Alex LaGuma From China: Shen Congwen From Latin America: Roberto Bolano We will also look at representative theory of realism by Auerbach, Lukacs, Barthes, Ermarth, Jameson, etc.
Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements:
Class Participation: 20% (including weekly preparation); Seminar: 10%; Essays: 70%
First Essay (3000 words: due Mar): 35%
Second Essay on different topic (3000 words: due April): 35%
First Essay (3000 words: due Mar): 20%
Second Essay building on first (6000 words: due April): 50%
Essay (6000 words: due April): 70%