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 the course code to see its description.


InstructorS. Dowling
Time: Fall term, Friday, 2-4

Description: COL1000H is a general introduction to comparative literature, and to contemporary theory and criticism. Its purpose is to offer all incoming M.A. and Ph.D. students exposure to key issues in the discipline. Organized around the broad theme of “Bases for Comparison,” each of our meetings will explore a particular issue or problem addressed in contemporary scholarship. After briefly reviewing the history of the discipline, we will interrogate a number of the categories foundational to it: language, literature, aesthetics, theory, humanity/humanities, relation, and comparison. We will conclude by reading some exemplary new work in comparative literature, through which we will chart possible directions for our own scholarship, and new challenges for the field.


  1. Participation: For every meeting of our course, please prepare the following: briefly outline and respond to the biggest question the author is asking in each of our texts, as well as one or two of the smaller/more local/resultant questions that the author asks. Comment on how and when these questions are posed; how/whether/to what extent they are answered; how these questions are positioned in relation to the works of other thinkers; and how the author demonstrates their relevance or importance. Because the theme of our course is “Bases for Comparison,” I recommend that you make a note of anything the text says about comparison, as well as about the kinds of comparisons it makes, and/or anything it says about comparative literature. Include any significant quotations in your document (with page numbers). Prepare this outline in writing and bring it to class every week. You will use this document for your own reference during class discussions—I will evaluate participation based on quality, not quantity. While I understand that life is complicated, please be aware of the general expectation that graduate students attend all meetings of all their courses. If you find it challenging to contribute orally or if extraordinary circumstances prevent you from attending class, you can email your document to me immediately afterwards.
  • Outline for class contributions: ~1-2 pages, point-form.
  • 20% of total grade.
  1. Keyword Essay: Choose one important critical term from our readings (e.g., freedom, human, queer, form), or a significant/interesting term from a language that you are hoping to work with during your graduate studies (e.g., genreâcimowinrelación). Write a short essay that synthesizes about three different uses/meanings of this term in order ask a question relevant for literary scholarship. What debates, problems, or important ideas cluster around this term? What do the different meanings of this term help us to see that we otherwise might not? How has the meaning of this term shifted over time, and what might these changes tell us? Are there any issues/problems in translating this term? If so, what do these difficulties indicate? How does this term help you to understand a theoretical issue in a new way? I will offer you an array of keyword essays to consult as you are writing this paper, and you will each meet with me (at least) once during the writing process.
  • 6-7 pages double-spaced, in Times New Roman, MLA citation style.
  • 30% of total grade.
  1. Seminar Paper: Your seminar paper will analyze a text of your choosing (poem, story, novel, film, artwork, etc.). The goal of your seminar paper will be to show how this text addresses or exposes a particular problem or idea discussed in critical theory. Your paper should show how the text asks its readers/viewers to consider this theoretical problem in a new or interesting way. This is a research paper: survey the existing scholarship on the text you have chosen and contextualize your analysis within this ongoing conversation. Your analysis of the text should demonstrate that the existing conversation about the text is, in some significant way, incomplete. Your paper should show how our understanding of the text is improved through your approach. In addition, please also try to show how the existing theoretical conversation could be improved by attending to texts such as the one you are analyzing. In what ways does a text like yours offer its readers/viewers a new way to think about a significant issue? You are invited to use your keyword essay as work toward your seminar paper. Each of you will meet with me (at least) once during the writing process.
  • 20 pages double-spaced, in Times New Roman, MLA citation style.
  • 50% of total grade.

InstructorB. Havercroft
Time: Fall term, Tuesday, 3-5 pm

In this course, we will focus on issues that are situated at the intersection of four major trends in contemporary feminist literary studies : 1) the unprecedented interest in autobiographical writings, sparked by a profusion of the actual publication of such texts and by the development of a large body of criticism dealing with the numerous forms of life writing; 2) the rapid evolution of specifically feminist theories of autobiography (Gilmore, Smith, Watson) over the past twenty years; 3) current feminist theories of agency and subjectivity (Butler, Druxes, Mann); 4) the recent theoretical inquiry into the category of gender (Butler, Robinson, Scott), especially as it is represented in the literary text.

The seminar will begin with a critical study and problematization of the principal concepts outlined in these four theoretical groupings. We will then proceed with close readings of several works of contemporary life writing, drawn from the French, Québécois and German literary contexts, emphasizing the diverse textual strategies by which female autobiographical subjects are constructed and, in turn, make a claim to agency. In many instances, textual subjects merge both fact and fiction in an effort to become subjects-in-process, subjects with multiple facets that challenge androcentric theories of the supposedly unified, sovereign autobiographical subject ( Gusdorf ), while juxtaposing the personal, the political and the social in their texts. Notions such as the relational self, the writing of trauma and illness, performativity in autobiographical writing, the « death » of the subject and the author, and the problematics of memory (personal, historical, cultural, etc.) will be examined. While the focus will be on various forms of women’s life writing, we will also analyze one male author’s AIDS diary, not simply to further investigate the gendered basis of all writing, but also to examine the particular forms of agency mobilized in autobiographical accounts of illness.


Brossard, Nicole.  Journal intime ou voilà donc un manuscrit (Montréal : Les Herbes Rouges, 1998 [1984]).  English translation : Intimate Journal, or, Here’s a Manuscript; followed by Works of Flesh and Metonymies (Toronto : Mercury Press, 2004).

Ernaux, Annie.  La Honte (Paris : Gallimard, 1997).  English translation : Shame, trans. Tanya Leslie (New York : Seven Stories Press, 1998).

Guibert, Hervé.  À l’ami qui ne m’a pas sauvé la vie (Paris : Gallimard, 1990).  English translation : To The Friend Who Did Not Save My Life, trans. Linda Coverdale (London : Quartet Books, 1991).

Wolf, Christa.  Kindheitsmuster (Berlin/Weimar : Aufbau Verlag, 1976).  Two English translations exist : 1) Patterns of Childhood, trans. Ursule Molinaro and Hedwig Rappolt (New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984; and 2) A Model Childhood, trans. U. Molinaro and H. Rappolt (New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980).

N.B. The original German edition and English translations of Kindheitsmuster are available in the University of Toronto libraries, or you may order your own copy.  English translations of Ernaux’s, Brossard’s and Guibert’s texts are available in the U. of Toronto libraries, or you may order your own copies.  See the course schedule document (to be distributed at the first meeting of the class) for further details.

A series of complete bibliographies dealing with the various different theories to be analyzed in this course will be distributed at the first
meeting of the seminar. Students are advised to prepare for the course by doing some preliminary readings :
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble : Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York : Routledge, 1990).
———. Bodies That Matter : On the Discursive Limits of « Sex » (New York : Routledge, 1993).
———. Excitable Speech : A Politics of the Performative (New York : Routledge, 1997).
Druxes, Helga. Resisting Bodies : The Negociation of Female Agency in Twentieth-Century Women’s Fiction (Detroit : Wayne State University Press, 1996).
Eakin, Paul John. How Our Lives Become Stories : Making Selves (Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 1999).
Felski, Rita. Beyond Feminist Aesthetics : Feminist Literature and Social Change(Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1989).
Gilmore, Leigh. Autobiographics : A Feminist Theory of Women’s Self-Representation(Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 1994).
Gusdorf, Georges. « Conditions et limites de l’autobiographie », in Günter Reichenkron and Erich Haase (eds.), Formen der Selbstdarstellung : Analekten zu einer Geschichte des literarischen Selbstporträts (Berlin : Duncker and Humblot, 1956) : 105-123. (English translation in James Olney, 1980).
Lejeune, Philippe. Le pacte autobiographique (nouvelle edition augmentée) (Paris : Seuil, 1996 [1975]).
Mann, Patricia. Micro-Politics : Agency in a Postfeminist Era (Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 1994).
Olney, James (ed.). Autobiography : Essays Theoretical and Critical (Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1980).
Smith, Sidonie. A Poetics of Women’s Autobiography : Marginality and the Fictions of Self-Representation (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1987).
——. « Performativity, Autobiographical Practice, Resistance », a/b : Auto/Biography Studies, Vol. 10, no. 1 (spring 1995) : 17-33.
Smith, Sidonie and Julia Watson (eds.). Women, Autobiography, Theory : A Reader(Madison : The University of Wisconsin Press, 1998).
Watson, Julia. « Toward An Anti-Metaphysics of Autobiography », in Robert Folkenflik (ed.), The Culture of Autobiography : Constructions of Self-Representation (Stanford : Stanford University Press, 1993) : 57-79.

Written Response to a Theoretical Article: 15%
Oral presentation  (30 minutes) :  25%
Research paper (20 pages max.) : 50% :
Participation in class :                   10%

N.B. The participation mark will be based not only on regular attendance at the seminar, but also on ACTIVE participation in class discussions.

Instructor: A. Sakaki
Time: Fall term, Thursday, 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% …

InstructorJ. Zilcosky
Time: Fall term,Tuesday, 11-1

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, especially in Freudian psychoanalysis: 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”—both reacted to and helped to shape 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.

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

InstructorM. Revermann
Time: Fall term, Friday 11-1

Ever since its creation in classical Athens, tragedy has been more than ‘just’ theatre: it has been a template that proved to be extraordinarily ‘good to think with’, from Plato and Aristotle through, for instance, German Classicism and Romanticism (Schiller, Nietzsche, Wagner) and 19th-century Naturalism (Strindberg, Ibsen) to 20th-century artists working in high-brow culture (Brecht, Beckett, Miller, Sarah Kane) and in the Hollywood machine (Francis Coppola, George Lucas and the collectives creating shows like ‘24’ or ‘Breaking Bad’). What exactly has constituted this persistent allure of tragedy to artists working in disparate media across cultures and centuries? What is there to learn about them (and for us) from their modes of engagement with tragedy?  And what does the comparatist method contribute to our understanding of these dynamics which other, more isolated approaches would not be able to deliver?

For the pursuit of these questions this course will follow a tripartite structure. ‘Foundations’ will centre on a close reading of the foundational text for thinking about tragedy, Aristotle’s Poetics (including critical responses to it such as Brecht’s Small Organon for the Theatre or Arthur Miller’s Tragedy and the Common Man). The module ‘Instantiations’ will scrutinize select works of art/theoretical writings from theatre, philosophy and opera, including Strindberg Miss Julie, Nietzsche Birth of Tragedy, selections from Schiller’s theoretical writings as well as Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung, Bizet’s Carmen, Enescu’s Oedipe and Weill/Brecht Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The final module ‘Challenges and survivals’ looks at modes of resistance to tragedy (e.g. Brecht The Good Person of Sezuan, Glass/Wilson Einstein on the Beach) or other noteworthy 20th/21st-century appropriations in cinematic popular culture (e.g. GodfatherStar Wars24) and in theatrical high culture (e.g. Beckett Krapp’s Last Tape and Endgame, Sarah Kane 4.48 Psychosis and Phaedra’s Love, and performance art responses to the 9/11 terror attacks).

This course should be of interest not just to comparatists but to participants from a wide range of philologies, theatre studies, cinema studies, philosophy and music. Ample opportunity will be given to course participants to integrate own interests both into the course work and the mandatory research paper.

40% research paper
30% participation
30% in-class presentations and written responses to weekly lead questions

Instructor: S. Drouin
Time: Fall term, Wednesday, 10-12

Allegory, one read in Rhetoric treatise of Antiquity, is a ‘prolonged’ metaphor. However, allegory does not consist solely in a ‘figure of thought’. Under this expression lies a hermeneutical process called ‘allegorism’. Allegorism studies myths, but also Christian exegesis. Allegory and Allegorism are key concepts for understanding fine arts, religion and literature in Western culture from Quintillien to Walter Benjamin, Northrop Frye, Paul de Man, Craig Owen and Umberto Eco. These authors are at the heart of theoretical debates on the status of allegory and allegorism since the Antiquity. A figure constantly criticized for its coldness, and at the same time a venerable interpretative process whose detractors often mock its arbitrariness, allegory allows us to study hermeneutics with regard to notions of literal and figurative meaning.
In this course, we will also pay attention to important treaties that are at the junction of literature and fine arts: texts from Cesare Ripa (16th century), Blaise Vigenère (16th century), Balthasar Gracián (17th century), Denis Diderot (18th century), Johann Joachim Winkelman (18th century), Charles Baudelaire (19th century).

At the end of this course, students will be able to discuss major Western texts on allegory and to understand their role in the history of literary theory. Students will be able to recognize and to analyze allegorical representations in literature and in fine arts.

Analytical Bibliography (15 entries): 25%
Oral Presentation: 25%
Research Essay: 40%
Participation: 10%

AUERBACH, Figura, ‘Figura’, in Scenes from the Drama of European Literature, New York, Meridian Book, 1959, p. 11-41.
BENJAMIN, Walter, The Origins of German Tragic Drama, John Osborne (transl.), NLB, 1977. (1 chapter).
DE LUBACH, Henri, Medieval Exegesis : The Four Senses of Scripture, Mark Seban (transl.) Grand Rapids, W.B Eerdmans, 1998, vol. 1. (1 chapter).
DE MAN, Paul, Allegories of reading : Figural language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1979. (1 chapter).
ECO, Umberto, Interpretation and Overinterpretation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992. (1 chapter).
FRYE, Northrop, The Great Code : the Bible and literature, Toronto, Penguin Canada, with an introduction by Alvin A. Lee, 2007. (1 chapter).
PANOFSKY, Erwin, Studies in Iconology : Humanistic themes in the art of Renaissance, New York/Oxford Univesity Press, 1939. (1 chapter).
OWENS, Craig, ‘The allegorical Impulse : Toward a Theory of Posmodernism’, October, vol. 12, Spring 1980, p. 67-86.
SEZNEC, Jean, The survival of the pagan gods : the mythological tradition and its place in Renaissance humanism and art, New York, Pantheon Books, Barbara F. Sessions (transl.), 1953. (1 chapter).

BAUDELAIRE, Charles, Salon de 1859, Paris, Honoré Champion, Wolfgang Drost and Ulrike Riechers (eds), 2006. (Excerpts).
DIDEROT, Denis, Salons, Oxford, Clarendon Press, Jean Seznec and Jean Adhémar (eds), 1947-1967.
GRACIÁN, Baltasar, Arte de ingenio, tradado de la agudeza, Madrid, Cátedra, Emilio Blanco (ed.), 1998. (Excerpts)
RIPA, Cesare, Iconologia o Descrizione di diverse imagii cavate dall’antichità e di propria invenzione, Roma, G. Gilioti, 1593. (Excerpts)
VIGENÈRE, Blaise de, Les images, ou Tableaux de platte peinture de Philostrate Lemnien, Paris, Abel Langelier, 1597. (Excerpts).
WINCKELMANN, Johann Joachim, Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums. Walther, Dresden, 1764. (Excerpts)

Cahiers de l’Association internationale des études françaises, L’allégorie, n°28, 1975.
-Romantisme. Revue du dix-neuvième siècle. L’allégorie, n°152, 2011/2.
-Revue d’histoire littéraire de France. L’allégorie de la Renaissance au Symbolisme, vol. 112, 2012/2.
CARMAN, Garner, B., « Natalis Comes and the mythological tradition », Journal of Warburg and Courtaud Institute, n° 33, 1970, p. 264-290.
COHEN, Josh, Spectacular allegories : postmodern American writing and the politics of seing, London, Pluto Press, 1998.
DILTHEY, Wilhelm , « Origines et développement de l’herméneutique », Le monde de l’esprit, Paris, Aubier, 1947, t. I.
FLETCHER Angus, Allegory. The theory of a symbolic mode, Cornell University Press, 1964.
KELLEY, Theresa, Reinventing allegory, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997.
LABARTHE, Patrick, Baudelaire et la tradition de l’allégorie, Genève, Droz, 1999.
MADSEN, Deborah, Rereading allegory : a narrative approach to genre, Houndmills, Macmillan, 1995.
MASSON André, L’Allégorie, PUF, coll. « Que sais-je ? », 1974.
PÉPIN, Jean, Mythe et allégorie. Les origines grecques et les contestations judéo-chrétiennes, Paris, Aubier-Montaigne, [1958] 1976.
RICOEUR, Paul, La métaphore vive, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. « Points », [1975], 1997.
TODOROV, Tzvetan, « On linguistic symbolism », New literary history, 1974, vol. VI, p. 111-134.
WITMAN, Jon, Allegory : The dynamics of an ancient and medieval technique, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1987.

Instructor: N. ten Kortenaar
Time: Fall term, Monday, 12-2

In this course we will examine trickster tales across cultures. Societies the world over have known tricksters (Coyote, Hare, Brer Rabbit, Monkey, Tortoise, Fox, the snake, Ananse, Kagga, Hermes, Odysseus, young Jacob), but we cannot assume that all tricksters are alike or carry the same meaning. Trickster tales are particularly associated with nomadic or village societies, but also with colonial frontiers beyond the reach of the law. Monotheisms, empires, and post- Homeric epics have a great suspicion of tricksters, a mistrust often carried over into the realist novel. The defeat of the trickster is prominent in detective fiction and comic books. For the same reason, however, the trickster can also appear as a subversive postcolonial rebel. Yet capitalism itself always retains a special place for the trickster and his exploitation of the empathetic imagination. In short, the trickster has always been a focal point for questions about the function of trust in human relations.

Course Reading List:
Trickster tales from Africa, Turtle Island, Genesis 3 and 26-7, plus novels that might include Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Wizard of the Crow, Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm, Wole Soyinka, The Trials of Brother Jero, Herman Melville, The Confidence Man, Thomas Mann, The Confessions of Felix Krull, William Faulkner, stories, Ahmadou Hampaté Bâ, The Fortunes of Wangrin, Thomas King, Green Grass, Running Water, Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr Ripley, Mordecai Richler Solomon Gursky Was Here, Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man.

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements
Class Participation 20% (Including weekly preparations for class discussion and turns leading discussion)
Essays 80%
Option 1:First Essay (3000 words: due Feb 12) 40%; Second Essay on different topic (3000 words: due April 15) 40%.
Option 2:First Essay (3000 words: due Feb 12) 20%; Second Essay building on first (6000 words: due April 15) 60%.



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 the course code to see its description.

Instructor: J. Ross
Time: Spring term, Wednesday, 10-12

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%
Paper: 50%
Participation: 30%

Instructor: Komaromi
Time: Spring term, Thursday, 3-5

This course will look at the theory of Mikhail Bakhtin in its reception over time and across cultures, with an emphasis on its relationship to poststructuralism. We will survey major concepts including “carnival” and “dialogue” in Bakhtin’s works recovered in the 1960s in the USSR. We will consider Julia Kristeva’s translation of Bakhtin’s works for a Western audience as an interesting case of strong misreading. We will find convergence, divergence and polemics between Kristeva’s, Roland Barthes’ and Paul de Man’s poststructural concepts and Bakhtin’s ideas regarding subjectivity and the text.  The juxtaposition of Bakhtinian and postructural theory will highlight distinctive features of each. It will also provide an opportunity to consider linear vs. non-linear narratives of filiation in the history of theory’s development in the twentieth century. Readings will include selections from literary works about which these theorists wrote, including works by Balzac, Dostoevsky, Rabelais and Rousseau.

Participation 15%
Presentations 15%
First Paper  30%
Final Paper  40%

InstructorH. Bahoora
Time: Spring term, Wednesday, 1-3

This course critically examines the spatial, temporal, and aesthetic parameters of global literary modernism. The “global” turn in modernist studies has expanded the spatial terrain of the field and the time of modernism itself. In this course, we will read a range of modernist fictions that break our geographical and temporal expectations of what qualifies as a modernist text. Our focus will be on how interpreting modernism as a movement of multidirectional flows and exchanges has fundamentally reconstituted the traditional canon and has redrawn notions of modernist style, genre and periodization. The course’s transnational approach considers how the contact zones of the colonized “periphery” were instrumental to the making of European modernism. In our examination of global modernisms, we will focus on the relationship between anti-colonialism and modernism and the ways that colonial intellectuals repurposed modernist notions of aesthetic autonomy to agitate against colonial domination. By reading modernist texts from a range of colonial literary traditions (African, Arabic, Caribbean), we will excavate how the aesthetic qualities of modernism have been redefined to accommodate anti-colonial and post-colonial literary modernisms. Colonial writers and artists appropriated indigenous cultural forms to stylistically dissociate their aesthetic production from European art and literature. Therefore, a significant component of the course addresses how stylistic qualities traditionally associated with modernist aesthetics—self-consciousness and interiority, formal adventurousness and textual obscurity, fragmentation and ambiguity—are reconstituted and often abandoned in modernist fictions of the colony and postcolony.

Authors include: Georg Lukács, Bertolt Brecht, Raymond Williams, Fredric Jameson, Jed Esty, Susan Stanford-Friedman, Simon Gikandi, Partha Mitter, Jean Rhys, Mulk Raj Anand, Jean Toomer, Nella Larsen, Chinua Achebe, Ferdinand Oyono, Tayeb Salih, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Ghassan Kanafani.

Evaluation: Participation 20%
Presentations: 20%
Bi-Weekly Response Papers: 20%
Final Paper: 40%

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

Beckett was notoriously skittish about philosophical approaches to his work, and this reticence has, naturally, made him all the more adorable to philosophers of all stripes. This course will be exploring the complex and often fraught relationship between Beckett and philosophy, trying to think about might be at stake in this reticence.

We will be attending to a variety of Beckett’s works, from his early fiction to his late experimental texts –  the stories; the novels; the plays for stage, radio, and television; and the unclassifiable remainder –paying particular attention to the ways in which his work puts pressure on ideas about genre, medium, language, desire, and power.

We will be reading Beckett alongside a range of philosophical interlocutors including Bataille, Blanchot, Lukacs, Adorno, Kristeva, Badiou, Cixous, and Deleuze.

Evaluation: seminar presentation and write-up (30%), final paper (70%).

Reading list will be posted in closer to the start of course.

Instructor: E. Jagoe
Time: Spring term, Monday 2-4

The humanities have been instrumental in critiquing the idea of the Anthropocene and in interrogating questions of responsibility and human-nonhuman relations. It seems, however, that these examinations do not afford us tools that can respond to the scale and urgency of climate change. Youth mobilizations, worldwide protests, and the Extinction Rebellion enact different forms of response. What then, is the role of Environmental Humanities today?  What will be next in the examinations and advances that emerge from scholars in the field? Is cultural and literary criticism effective in awakening activism and shifting societal norms? How is the scholarly field shifting in order to  respond in a more timely fashion to climate change and loss of biodiversity? In this course, we will examine the work of scholars, critics, artists, and writers in order to navigate this shifting field. Focus will be given to the energy humanities, new materialisms, and climate fiction studies.

Participation: 25%
Group Project: 25%
Presentation: 25%
Reflections/Responses: 25%

Instructor: J. Ricco
Time: Spring term, Tuesday, 10-12

This seminar reads a series of contemporary novels and short stories by women authors in the context of current discussions and debates on intimacy and violence; misogyny; desire, fantasy, and the pornographic. The course will consider the ambiguity of desire and pleasure’s contradictions; transgression and consent; rape; female friendship; sex talk; the stories of young women; and readership and audience. African-American, Indigenous, Canadian, Irish, Moroccan, and American authors will be read: Roxanne Gay, Kathleen Collins, Katherena Vermette, Miriam Toews, Eimear McBride, Leila Slimani, Diane Williams, Jamie Quatro, and Mary Gaitskill, amongst others. The focus will be on stories that are intentionally unsettling and operate without clear moral lessons. What is it that fiction can do, that non-fiction cannot, precisely when absent of general accusation, but instead is filled with detailed observations of the “inconsistencies and incoherence” of sex?

Weekly Preparation and Participation: 25%
First Paper: 25%
Final Paper: 50%

InstructorJ. LeBlanc
Time: Spring term, Thursday,12-2

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 autobiographical and historiographic 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. Edward Ardizzone, Roland Barthes, Marie-Claire Blais and Jacques Poulin, all express an awareness of the auto-bio-graphical 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 Ardizzone, Barthes, Blais and Poulin autobiographical and historiographic narratives.

Ardizzone, Ed. Diary of a War Artist. Fragments of this illustrated diary will be distributed in class. It will be studied in conjunction with the artistic production of E. Ardizzone conserved at the IWM in London. Copies of images will be distributed.
Barthes, R. Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes. This photographic auto-bio-graphic narrative will also be studied using Barthe’s own theoretical texts on photography, images and autobiography.

Blais, Marie-Claire. American Passages. One essay from this book will be studied: it will be distributed in class. It will be read in conjunction with numerous photographic images taken by award winning photographers which are the subject of ekphrasis in Blais’s literary production.

-Several short stories related to American Passages will be distributed.

– Fragments of her unpublished illustrated diaries (National Library of Canada) will be studied as they relate to American Passages and her short-stories.
Poulin, Jacques. Volkswagen Blues. This illustrated text will be studied through historical documents pertaining to indigenous cultures referenced by Poulin.

* 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, 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.

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 the course code to see its description.

Updated: Feb 26, 2020.