FALL 2017

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.  


Coordinator: U. Esonwanne
Time: Fall term, Fridays, 1-3
Syllabus: please click here

COL1000 is a general introduction to Comparative Literature, to contemporary theory, and to criticism. Its purpose is to offer all incoming MA and PhD students with some exposure to key issues in the discipline. Organized around the broad theme of “Bases for Comparison,” each weekly seminar will explore a subtheme over two sessions. In the first session, we will examine issues raised in an essay selected for that week. In the second session, participating faculty will join us in the exploration of issues pertaining to comparison across different media, disciplines, and literary genres and traditions.

Participation: 20% (includes attendance and contribution to discussions)
Position papers: 40% (2 papers, 4–5 pages each; the first is due Friday, October 14, the second Friday, November 18; please submit by email as MS Word document).
Research essay: 40% (due Friday, January 17, 2017; in 5000–7000 words, critically explore an issue that arose from the themes covered in the course; please use MLA Documentation and submit by email as MSWord document).



Instructor: E. Gunderson
Time: Fall term, Thurdays 1-3

This is a class about the relationship between politics and literature.

A Roman citizen who was twenty in 68 CE and lived to 98 CE would have witnessed three jagged transitions between the Julio-Claudian, Flavian, and Antonine dynasties. These were eventful decades. And the “events” were by no means merely the insertion of new persons into various political functions. New authors, texts, and projects arise in this period. And these same new arrivals themselves will fall out of favor and yield to others amid still further waves of political and cultural change.

We will explore aesthetics, culture, and power in Flavian and early Antonine authors. We will make a survey of the various major prose and verse projects on offer from this period with an emphasis upon the complex constellation of questions that circulate around the subject and power. In so doing we will also employ a species of methodological survey. Which theoretical works might help us to overcome some of the facile answers or trackless impasses that would otherwise confront us?

For example, a sentimental, romantic reading of poetry will almost inevitably churn up the idea of “resistance” as folded into any valorized verse project: power represses; the poet-as-critic resists. This paradigm probably says more about the modern reader than it does about the ancient object of criticism, since, one will note, the center of the discussion for the ancient authors of the period tends to be located around a question like “fawning”. The term adulatio spikes in this era. Betrayal, cynicism, despair, self-interest and stupidity are similarly “hot” motifs within these authors.

The facile oscillation between inculpation and exculpation, between complicity and resistance, needs to be set to one side precisely because of the self-interested insistence in so many ancient sources that politics and aesthetics must converge. It is all too easy to praise or blame the past because the ancients themselves insist that we play the praise-and-blame game and they set the very rules by which it will be played. Instead of following that lead, we will look at how and why politics and literature become entwined and who stands to gain from their their convergence, even if the profits seem to be nothing more than an ostentatious shudder of loathing. What is the politics of hermeneutics itself?

As this is a survey of a vast terrain, students will have a significant say in what we most need to cover in order to serve their own long-term interests. At the moment I expect to read selections from biography, epic, epigram, epistles, history, and lyric. On the theoretical side some subset of the following will be entertained: Adorno, Benjamin, Bourdieu, Deleuze, Foucault, Gramsci, Marx, Žižek. Additions to this list are also possible. The majority of concrete commitments to the shape of the syllabus will only take place after the introductory class session.

15% presentations
15% literature reviews
10% outline of final paper
15% draft of final paper
45% final paper



Instructor: V. Ambros
Time: Fall term, Tuesdays, 2-4

Contemporary literary science owes much to the ideas of Russian formalists and Prague Linguistic Circle. To trace the imprint of Russian Formalism and Czech Structuralism on current scholarship this course will examine general aesthetic concepts of both schools such as aesthetic communication, functions of language, poetic devices, application of Saussure’s linguistic theory to literature, questions of literary history as well as selected topics of semiotics of drama and theater. We will discuss the theoretical treatment of poetry, prose, drama and cinema as presented by the most important scholars such as Mikhail Bakhtin, Roman Jakobson, Yuri Tynianov, Boris Eikhenbaum, Osip Brik, Vladimir Propp, Viktor Shklovsky, Petr Bogatyrev, and Jan Mukarovský.

When appropriate, text analysis of primary texts will assist in the investigation of theoretical writings. The scope of the primary texts ranges from avant-garde poetry (Xlebnikov, Mayakovsky) to fairy-tales, plays (Karel Capek, Ostrovski), novels (Sterne, Dostoevsky), films (Eisenstein, Kuleshov, Chaplin) and short stories (Doyle, Gogol, Hardy).

Required texts:
Important articles and some of the primary texts will be made available to
the students as a course reader.
Doležel, Lubomír. Occidental Poetics. Tradition and Progress. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.
Erlich, Victor. Russian Formalism. History – Doctrine.‘s-Gravenhage: Mouton & Co, 1955.
Galan, František. Historic Structures: The Prague School Project, 1928-1946. Austin: U of Texas, 1984.
Holquist, Michael. Dialogism. Bakhtin and his World. London:Routledge, 1990.
Quinn, M. The Semiotic Stage. New York: Peter Lang, 1995
Steiner, Peter. Russian Formalism: A Metapoetics. Ithaca: NY, 1984.
Striedter, Jurij. Literary Structure, Evolution and Value. Russian Formalism and Czech Structuralism Reconsidered. Cambridge MA.: Harvard UniversityPress, 1989

Class participation (10%), each term an oral class presentation (20%) and one essay (3000 words), on a topic consulted with the instructor (please double sided; 50%), reading responses and glossary (20 %). The style of the written assignments has to follow the general rules set out by the MLA  Style guide. Readings will be both in English and in the original for the specialists.

Instructor: Pl Kleber
Time: Wednesdays, 10-12
Office Hours: By appointment. Tel: 416 978 7483

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 Mother
The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Drums in the Night

Gay, John The Beggar’s Opera

Instructor: J. Ross
Time: Fall term, Tuesdays, 10-12

This course will examine the dynamics of cultural exchange between Muslims, Jews and Christians in medieval Iberia as manifested in the literatures produced by each group. Beginning with an introduction to theories of alterity and postcolonialism and their relevance to the medieval past, the course, through readings of Hebrew (in translation), Arabic (in translation) and Castilian literary sources will consider the way ‘others’ are represented, as well as the ways in which cultures come into contact in these texts through adaptation or hybrid literary forms. The course will move from Islamic Spain where cultural cross-fertilization produced such innovative, hybrid forms of poetry as themuwashshahat in Arabic with their accompanying Romance jarchas, and Jewish poets like Todros Abulafia who struggled to define himself and his writing within the dominant Arabic literary culture, to Christian Spain where the complex models of literary translation and transmission placed Arabic models at the centre of European intellectual culture. The course will follow the trajectory of Spanish history as Muslims and Jews were assimilated, converted or expelled by exploring the dynamics of conversion in poetry written by converted Jews in the 15th century and the domestication of the ‘other’ in such 16th-century Castilian texts as the Abencerraje. In addition to texts already mentioned, other readings may include Shem Tov’s Moral Proverbs, selections from the romances, and Juan Manuel’s El conde Lucanor. A reading knowledge of Spanish is required.

This course explores the cross-fertilization of cultures and literatures in medieval Iberia, a focus that is central to the mandate of Comparative Literature. The study of Hebrew, Arabic, Castilian and Latin literatures in the Spanish Middle Ages is more usually carried out in separate departments of Spanish, Near and Middle Eastern Studies or Medieval Studies. The offering of this course through Comparative Literature enables a much fuller and richer exploration of medieval Iberian literary culture.

Seminar participation: 20%
Response Notes: 30%
Presentation: 15%
Final Essay: 35%




Instructor: A. Sakaki
Time: Fall term, Thursdays, 10-12

This course will look at six metropoles (Berlin, London, Paris, New York, St. Petersburg, Shanghai) from the perspectives of Japanese visitors such as Mori, Natsume, Nagai, Yokomitsu, Tanizaki, Gotô, Tawada, and Horie, and from those of natives and immigrants (e.g., Benjamin, Döblin, Nabokov, Woolf, Conrad, Rilke, Pushkin, Gogol, Shi). Those writers’ accounts of cities in the span of time between the late nineteenth century and late twentieth century are inflected by the itineraries of their movement before and after their experience of the cities and by their peripatetic as well as optical experience of urban spaces of varied historical, social, material and geopolitical conditions. They reveal cities not as cartographical spots but as sites in the traffic of bodies and sensations. The readings (all assigned are available in English, with additional materials to be introduced by the instructor) shall be arranged in such a way that participants can compare each city’s literary mediations by variably invested observers. Accompanying theoretical, critical and photographic texts (e.g., Apter, Atget, Benjamin, Brandt, Brassaï, Burgin, de Certeau, Doisneau, Gleber, Maeda, Ronis, Walker) shall define a conceptual framework for each session.

Class Participation 10% (each week’s performance shall be assessed accumulatively)
Response Papers 20%
Oral Presentation 10% (once during the semester)
Term Paper 60%

Instructor: J. Ricco
Time: Fall term, Thursdays, 3-5

Jean-Luc Nancy’s work on art, aesthetics, and sense has achieved widespread significance in contemporary philosophical, art historical, and theoretical discussions and debates on the relations between art, politics, and ethics. This course provides students with an opportunity to engage with close readings of his work, in order to develop an understanding of the specific priority granted to the praxis of art and aisthesis in his thinking on sense, existence, and being-with. Books by Nancy such as The Muses, The Ground of the Image, Being Singular Plural, Corpus, The Pleasure of Drawing, and Noli Me Tangere, will be read along with the work of other philosophers who have informed Nancy’s own thinking (e.g. Hegel, Kant, Freud, Heidegger, Bataille, Blanchot and Derrida).

Preparation and Participation: 25%
Mid-Term Paper: 25%
Final Paper: 50%



Instructor: Eric Cazdyn
Time: Fall term, Wednesdays 1-3

  1. Every now and then we sense a world beyond the capitalist one in which we live. Maybe it is a society without punishing inequality. Or a self without anxiety. Or an ecosystem without human rapaciousness. This sense (feeling, impulse, drive) can be as banal as a quiet moment alone, or as go-for-broke as a revolutionary act together. Like death, it is something we already know and something beyond our wildest dreams. Like love, it is in us more than us. Sometimes we attempt to shake open this otherness by the sheer force of our imagination or collective will; other times we meet it without any intention, without any focused desire or recognition that we are actually engaged in such a radical act.  Regardless of whether such post-capitalist worlds are possible or whether such desires are naïve or hysterical, our encounter with them—with these speculative futures—is promising.  But promising of what?
  1. Triggered by the 2008 Global financial meltdown, there has emerged a reinvigorated engagement with the question “what comes after capitalism?”  This question—this desire—calls all parties to the table: activists, artists, intellectuals, academics, psychoanalysts and the rest of us, who—whether we know it or not—stake a claim on this question in the most direct and indirect ways. This seminar will depart from two problems: first, the concept and practice of fantasy (in a psychoanalytic mode) and, second, the historiographical/literary problem of narrative on which any expression of post-capitalism must turn. We will then pursue these problems as they intersect culture and politics, with special attention granted to utopian and dystopian fiction and film, radical architecture, design, and urban planning, new political radicalisms, and the non-human turn in the project of transforming the human subject.
  1. Materials will include work by Sigmund Freud, Lisa Lowe, Donna Haraway, Elizabeth Povinelli, Glen Sean Coulthard, Isozaki Arata, Jacques Lacan, Chris Marker, Felix Guattari, Karl Marx, Fredric Jameson, Lauren Berlant, Jose Munoz, Slavoj Zizek, Rem Koolhaus, Karen Barad, Karatani Kojin, Kim Stanley Robinson, Atelier Bow-Wow, Kelly Reichardt, Franco Bifo Berardi, Tsai Ming-Liang, Jean-Luc Godard, Michael Hardt, Lee Edelman, Sara Ahmed, China Mieville, Antonio Negri, Wang Hui, Alain Badiou, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Jacques Ranciere, Marge Piercy, Bernard Stiegler, et al.


  1. Evaluation: one Research Paper, 40%; one Class Presentation and Write-up, 40%;

Class Participation and Weekly Responses, 20% (every week a one-page, single spaced response is due…these should include impressions and questions regarding readings, class discussion, inspirations and repulsions).


Instructor: J. Zilcosky
Time: Fall term, Mondays 3-5

In this course, we will examine literary representations of trauma from the early nineteenth century (the Industrial Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars) to the aftermath of World War One, when “shell shock” brought trauma irrevocably into the public eye. We will begin by examining the discourse of unrepresentability and doubt in nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century medical literature: if we can find no somatic source for trauma, how do we know that it exists? We will then investigate how the literature of this period—“modernism”—reacted to this discourse. Rarely focussing explicitly on traumatic events, this literature only hints at traumatic occurrences—foregrounding instead the problem of representability at the heart of the modern age. Just as the traumatized body no longer points back to a physical pathology, so too does language itself seem to be severed from the object it aims to describe, as evidenced by characters unable to give voice to the suffering at the core of their industrialized, belligerent era.

Authors to be studied could include E. T. A. Hoffmann, Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, W. G. Sebald, among others.

Critical Commentary: 15%
Final Paper: 45%
In-Class Presentation: 25%
Overall Class Participation: 15%



Instructor: B. Havercroft
Time: Fall term, Mondays 1-3

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%




Instructor: Elizabeth A. Povinelli
Time: Spring term, see below

It’s hot and it’s getting hotter. As the machinery of
capital extraction, industrialism, and consumption refuses to relinquish
its grip, meteorological temperatures continue to rise and chemical hot
zones spread. Tipping points threaten regime shifts in which the
qualitative nature of the earth’s biosphere will alter. But until then,
and even after then, hot zones occur in the aggregate only in abstraction. In
reality they form like weather clouds over specific places—toxic smog over
Beijing, lead poisoning in drinking water in Flint, Michigan, uranium
exposure in Navajo and Hopi lands. Marx thought the social dialectic was
leading to the purification of the fundamental opposition of human
classes. No little evidence can be mustered to support the claim that we are
nearing this moment—the world seems to be splitting into ever more extreme
halves—the one percent and the ever-increasing precariate. But what many
believe we are witnessing a new form of antagonism and which demands new
modes of solidarity. The new swelter seems to them less fundamentally a
war of class—although also a class war, although definitely not a clash of
civilization—and more a clash of existents. And in this new war of the
world everyone must decide with whom (or what) we are making ties of
solidarity. With whom or what will we stake our claim? This course
examines the How are critical political concepts holding up in the midst of this

*Primary Authors Include*: Barad, Berardi, Butler, Césaire, Deleuze, De
Silva, Foucault, Glissant, Haraway, Mbembe, Ranciere, Serres, Spivak

Participation: 20% (includes attendance and contribution to discussions)
Critical Position papers: 40% (2 papers, 4–5 pages each)

Research essay: 40% (critically explore an issue that arose from the themes
covered in the course).

Schedule: Spring 2018
Week 1
Monday, January 29, 3-6
Thursday, February 1, 3-6
Week 2
Monday, February 5, 3-6
Thursday, February 7, 3-6

 Week 3
Monday, February 12, 3-6
Thursday, February 14, 3-6

Reading Week

Week 4
Monday, February 26, 3-6
Thursday, March 1, 3-6


Instructor: J. LeBlanc
Time: Spring term, Thursdays, 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%
Participation: 15%

* 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.


Instructor: E. Jagoe
Time: Spring term, Mondays, 1-3

This course will examine theories and representations of affinity in order to ask questions about community, collectivity, love, family, friendship, intimacy, belonging, responsibility, and social change. Forms of mediation always shape how we relate to one another, imagine ourselves as parts of groups, and constitute communities, and thus the course will investigate the different ways in which we experience the proximity of bodies, sentiments, and ideas, so as to ask questions about what it means to live politically with others. How does the community that we create in the classroom function as a template for investigating the processes and outcomes of relationality and affective associations? In the first half of the course, different forms of collectivity, whether practiced or imagined or theorized, will be investigated. The second half will analyze contemporary problematics that force us to reconsider traditional forms of affinity. What is a “normal” relationship or range of affective connections? To what extent are our intimacies segmented, remote-controlled, and apportioned, and can we redefine these distributions without lapsing into a nostalgic primitivism? What are the politics of shaping oneself in relation to others, and what does this imply for social change? Possible authors that we will read include Ursula LeGuin, Amitav Ghosh, Lauren Berlant, Mary Gaitskill, Nick Flynn, and Jodi Dean. Possible topics/treatments include Joan of Arc and Jim Jones.


Collaborative Essay: 20%
Pecha Kucha: 20%
Class Participation: 20%
Essay: 40%


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
20% Participation
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).


Instructor: M. Nyquist
Time: Spring term, Tuesdays, 10-1 | Syllabus

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

 Course Work and Evaluation
Seminar facilitations: 20%
Oral Report on article or chapter: 10%
Essay on one seminar facilitation: 10%
Essay on article or chapter report: 10%
Participation: 20%
Final Essay: 30%

Participation and Facilitation
A facilitation schedule will be drawn up during the first meeting and finalized by the second. For each class, there will be two groups of one or two facilitators each. Each facilitator (or team) will lead discussion of one-half of the class (roughly one hour): the first hour on Hobbes, the second hour on a contemporary theorist who draws or comments on Hobbes. Facilitators are responsible for selecting for discussion specific sections from the Hobbes text or contemporary theorist assigned for that particular session. In the latter case, you will have to reproduce the selected materials for the class at least a week in advance of the facilitation date; it will be best if the materials are made available in a pdf. For the class itself, you will be responsible for facilitating discussion of the selected passages or materials

Facilitators are to prepare questions and to isolate interesting or problematic passages for intensive discussion. The facilitation is to aim at focussing, encouraging, and directing intellectually productive class discussion.  The following materials can be concisely presented in photocopied hand-outs to be distributed to your colleagues: relevant historical or political contexts; pertinent editorial issues; interesting critical discussions or debates; important bibliographical information.  Be sure that all sources are properly documented.

In addition to the facilitation itself, students who will be (co-)facilitating are responsible for (1) meeting with one another beforehand to organize and coordinate tasks and objectives (2) announcing any additional, suggested readings to classmates at least a class in advance (3) informing me at least one day before the scheduled facilitation what you have decided to do.  I am available for consultation by e-mail or by appointment in my office.

A tentative schedule for oral reports will be drawn up on the basis of the facilitation schedule, so no one will end up doing both a facilitation and a report on the same day. For your report, you are to choose an article or a chapter from a book which focuses on a political, philosophical, terminological, or literary issue of significance to our course. Ideally, you will read extensively on the topic the article or chapter engages so as to be able to situate its contribution in critical or historical context. The piece you choose should be sufficiently challenging and interesting. It should also be made available to your colleagues in a PDF on the day of or immediately following your report. (Email it to me and I’ll upload it on Blackboard if you have trouble doing so). For this, you will also want to do your own sleuthing.

As for participation, it includes, but is not limited to, contributing one’s own insights or ideas to class discussion. Ideally, participation also entails respectful listening and a commitment to involving others in the learning process. Your participation mark also includes any discernible improvement in the skills you employ for this course.

Please check Blackboard periodically for new postings and announcements, and use for exchanging information among yourselves


The week following one of your two (co-) facilitations, you are to submit a written essay that summarizes and in places extends your facilitation (which includes reflection on any issues or questions raised in discussion). If you wish, you could reflect on how the discussion affected your own views. In any case, your essay is to hang together, whether by means of an argument or an exploration of a central concern. Formal end- or foot-noting is required as is a list of works consulted, if relevant.  Length is to be approximately 1500 words.

These are also needed for the essay you write after reporting orally on an article or a chapter in a book. This, too, should be handed in the week following the class in which you give your report.  Since your colleagues will be interested in the content of the text you choose, you will need to employ your expository skills in your oral presentation. But a critical or analytical perspective may also be called for. If you think of your essay as a review, it’s worth recalling that a good review includes both expository and evaluative components.  Length is to be approximately 1500 words

Your final essay is to be on issues or of your own choosing, with the stipulation that it be directly related to work we have done in class, which means that it engage in some way with sovereignty as it is conceptualized by Hobbes and his successors. You may want to develop ideas that arise from one of your co-facilitations or your report. Before beginning your essay, you should arrange to discuss your topic with me to make sure it is manageable or that I have sufficient knowledge of the author(s) in question. Ideally, especially for those of you doing or hoping to do a Ph.D., this essays could be the basis of an article for publication.

Length of final essay: 3000 – 3500 words    (Late essays will not be accepted.)


Instructor: R. Bai
Time: Spring term, Wednesdays, 11-1

This course examines new forms of textualities and textual practices that are emerging in the digital era. It highlights an understudied dimension of the text, i.e. the medium that forms its material and technological infrastructure such as scroll, codex, book, CD, e-book, the Internet, and smartphone. The course starts with a historical investigation into the printed text and print culture. Then it moves on to the question of how digital technologies shape reading and writing as well as other text-based cultural practices. While the course revolves around the mediality of the text, it distances itself from technological determinism by stressing the facts that digital technologies are always embedded in and shaped by historically specific political, social, and cultural conditions. This course is designed for students who are interested in questions and issues related to literary production in the digital era and more generally the materiality of the text. Theoretical and scholarly works we will engage with in this course include, but not limited to, Understanding Media: Extensions of Man (McLuhan, 1964), The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Adrian Johns, 2000), Writing Machines (N. Katherine Hayles, 2002), Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print (Jay David Bolter, 2001), Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media (Mark Hansen, 2006), The Interface Effect (Alexander R. Galloway), The Language of New Media (Lev Manovich, 2002), Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies (Noah Wardrip-Fruin, 2009).

Class participation (15%)
Discussion leader (15%)
Response Essay 1 (35%)
Response Essay 2 (35%)

Instructor: R. Comay
Time: Spring term, Tuesdays 1-3

This course will be devoted to reading Freud’s case histories. We’ll be paying close attention to the unstable relationship between the theoretical and the clinical registers in Freud’s text, with particular emphasis on the psychoanalytic concepts of transference, resistance, repetition, working-through, “construction in analysis,” and the end-of-analysis. In addition to the major case studies — Dora, Anna O, Little Hans, Schreber, Wolfman, Ratman –we will also consider the snippets of Freud’s own auto-analysis (e.g. the “specimen dream” in the Interpretation of Dreams, the Autobiographical Fragment, and other first-person texts, including Freud’s early correspondence with Fliess). Our reading of the primary texts will be accompanied by recent theoretical and critical engagements with the case histories, including Jacques Lacan, Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, Jacques Derrida, Jacqueline Rose, and Eric Santner.

Evaluation: Class presentation with write-up 30%, participation 10%, final paper 60%


Instructor: N.ten Kortenaar
Time: Spring term, Wednesdays, 9-11

When they first encountered novelistic realism, writers all over the world felt it constituted an invitation to include in their writing distinctly nonliterary 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 two Western texts to suggest the history of realism—a novel by Balzac, another by Updike—and then at seven more realist novels from other traditions, that is, from Africa, India, and China. 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, Rohinton Mistry, and Amit Chaudhuri; From Africa: Nadine Gordimer, Njabulo Ndebele, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Igoni Barrett; From China: Lu Xun, Eileen Chang, Ha Jin. 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%

Option 1:
First Essay (3000 words: due Mar): 35%
Second Essay on different topic (3000 words: due April): 35%

Option 2:
First Essay (3000 words: due Mar): 20%
Second Essay building on first (6000 words: due April): 50%

Option 3:
Essay (6000 words: due April): 70%

Updated: June 20, 2017