FALL 2019

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.  …

Instructor: S. Dowling
Location: Seminar Room
Time: 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.



Instructor: E. Cazdyn
Time: Fall term, Thursday, 11-1

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?

We will engage theories of utopia, temporality, fantasy, political-economy, historiography, subjectivity, aesthetics, and representation.

– One Research Paper (approximately fifteen double-spaced pages) or a production of a “Post Capitalist Fantasy” with write-up: 40%;
– Class Participation and Weekly Responses: 20%.
– One Class Presentation and Write-up (write-up due the week after presentation) : 40%.

Instructor: S. Rupp
Time: Fall term, Thursday, 1-3

A critical reading of Don Quixote, with particular attention to the text’s engagement with the thought and institutions of Renaissance humanism. Class discussion will focus first on Cervantes’s response to the ethical critique of imaginative literature, and proceed to his treatment of such topics as the theory of war and peace, the education of princes, and the duties of the good governor. Selected episodes from Don Quixote, will be studied in conjunction with readings from influential Renaissance authors (Castiglione, Erasmus, Vitoria, Machiavelli).

Class participation: 15%
Research proposal and bibliography (3- 4 pp.): 15%
Final essay (10-12pp.): 70%

Instructor: U. Esonwanne
Time: Tuesday, 11-1  Download Syllabus 

To compare” is to think relationally (Felski and Friedman 2). But who thinks thus, and from what epistemological vantage point does she do so? Is she indifferent to or implicated in her relational thinking? If the latter, how might she think “the human,” understood as a universal category rather than as a being defined by sets of distinguishing particularities? How might a comparative analysis of works of art that is based on relational thinking address scepticism about the universality of the human that is now endemic in discourses of difference (“the English working class,” etc.)? Would it enhance or impair the efforts of scholars and artists who, three centuries after the French and Haitian revolutions, still conspire for a universal “‘human race’” (Buck–Morss 107)? To answer these questions, we will engage the instability of comparison they convey as the very condition of possibility of comparative literary scholarship today. Readings will include the volumes referenced above and selected writings by Glissant, Melville, Lloyd, Morton, Camus, Ishiguro, Menchu, Allende, Alloula, Said, Forster, and Rushdie. Classes will consist of weekly two-hour seminars, and evaluation will be based on presentations and a research essay.

Readings (depending on availability and other unforeseen considerations)

Battle of Algiers
Malek Alloula, The Colonial Harem
Isabella Allende, Island Beneath the Sea
Kazuo Ishiguro, Remains of the Day
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Rigoberta Menchu, I, Rigoberta
Edward W. Said, After the Last Sky
E.M. Forster, A Passage to India
Salman Rushdie, The Golden House

Benedict Anderson, Specters of Comparison. Verso 1988
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition. Chicago 1958.
Susan Buck–Morss, Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History. Pittsburgh 2009
Pheng Cheah and Jonathan Culler, Grounds of Comparison. Routledge 2003
Pheng Cheah, Inhuman Conditions. Harvard 2006
Marcel Detienne, Comparing the Incomparable. Stanford 2008
Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks. Grove Press, 1967
Rita Felski and Susan Stanford Friedman, Comparison. Johns Hopkins 2013
Michel Foucault, “Society Must Be Defended.” Picador 2003
Nicola Onyett, Comparing Texts. Routledge 2005
George Steiner, What is Comparative Literature? Oxford 1995
Ming Xie, Conditions of Comparison. Continuum 2011
Aram A. Yengoyan, Modes of Comparison. Michigan 2006

Evaluation: Method of Evaluation: Participation (20%), Oral Presentation (30%), Research Essay (50%)

Instructor: E. Jagoe
Time: Monday, 1-3

In the era of the Anthropocene, we find ourselves increasingly seeking new forms through which to understand the effects of climate change. The climate nowadays not only indexes the atmosphere, but in fact all of human history. Because of this, the question of how to represent the climate has become more urgent. Many cultural producers across the globe are seeking new forms and genres to portray the scope and scale of anthropogenic climate change. In this course, we will examine various genres from different geographic locations in order to discuss the limits and possibilities of communication, knowledge dissemination, affective response, prescription, or witnessing that each one affords. Genres such as climate fiction, solar punk, indigenous literature, documentary, IPCC reports, papal encylicals, scientific popular prose, policy documents, memoir, lyric essay, environmental reportage, critical and cultural theory, and visual art will be included.

Participation: 20%
Group Project: 20%
Critical Responses: 20%
Final Project: 40%

Instructor: H. Bahoora
Time: Wednesday, 1-3

This seminar provides an overview of scholarship in the spatial humanities, with a focus on the ways that theorizations of space and place have informed aesthetics, culture, and politics. The “spatial turn” in critical theory designates an increased focus on space, place and spatiality across various disciplines to emphasize a geographic dimension as an essential aspect of the production of culture and experience. In the first half of the course, we will read seminal theorists of space whose work reinserted spatiality as essential to the discursive constructions of the categories of modernity and postmodernity. We will then examine how their challenges to historicism transformed understandings of the space-time experience of global capitalism and provided frameworks for expanded and revised theorizations of colonialism and imperialism, gender and sexuality, urbanization and architectural history, geocriticism and ecocriticism, and literary studies. We will investigate how the spatial turn has in recent decades resulted in attempts to map new historical geographies of literary production, and we will consider the methodological implications the spatial turn has had on the transformation of theoretical interventions in literary studies, particularly in postcolonial theory. Authors will include Gaston Bachelard, Michel Foucault, Henri Lefebvre, Frantz Fanon, David Harvey, Fredric Jameson, Edward Said, Jean Rhys, Tayeb Salih, Nuruddin Farah, Amitav Ghosh, Assia Djebar, and Mahasweta Devi.

Attendance/Participation: 20%
Three Response Papers: 30%
Final paper proposal: 10%
Final Paper: 40%

Instructor: B. Havercroft
Time: Fall term, Tuesday, 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%

Instructor: W. Goetschel
Time: Fall term, Wednesday, 3-5

This course examines central theoretical issues in Critical Theory with particular attention to the role that the “Frankfurt School” and its affiliates such as Benjamin, Kracauer, Horkheimer, Adorno, and others play in the context of modern German social and cultural thought. In France, thinkers like 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, difference, and alterity.

Evaluation: term paper (90%) and class participation/presentation in class (10%).

Instructor: A. Grewal
Time: Fall term,  Tuesday 1-3

This course examines the interrelationship of concepts and practices of what we may term “revolutionary womanhood” and “revolutionary culture” (in the spheres of literature, cinema, arts, mass print media, and cultural associations and institutions) in different modern national, anti-imperialist, and socialist movements of the early to mid 20th c across East Asia. “Revolution” and “woman” were key terms, representing “new” subjectivities, collectivities, and arenas for imagining/enacting the transformation of the political, social and cultural realms in China, Japan and Korea.  When brought together under different frameworks of “revolutionary womanhood” what new possibilities emerged for these imagined and real transformations? We will explore the expressions and meanings of “revolutionary womanhood” in different cultural genres and media, examine the historical contexts of each revolutionary moment/movement, and engage with scholarship on the intersections between ideas and practices of revolution, culture, and gender. While attentive to particular local contexts, we will also explore the intra-regional circulation of concepts of “revolution”, “culture” and “woman” and their changing meanings across the period in East Asia. We will also engage in further comparative analysis with other revolutionary cultures transnationally, including but not limited to pre and post 1917 Russia, Europe and the U.S., with which ideas and practices of “revolution” and “new womanhood” in East Asia had deep practical and imagined connections. In this sense, we will explore the transnational (or internationalist) dimensions and visions of revolutionary women’s cultures in East Asia.

All primary works will be in English translation, but students with knowledge of Chinese, Japanese and Korean are encouraged to read works in the original languages. Students whose research interests include histories of 19th and 20th c revolutionary movements and cultures and questions of gender outside of East Asia are very welcome to join the course.

Evaluation criteria:  Participation in discussions (15%); Two short analysis papers in first half of course (20%); In-class leading of a discussion (10%); Final research project, including proposal and annotated bibliography, first draft, oral presentation and final paper (55%)

JLE5225H PASSAGE FROM HISTORY TO FICTION (primarily postcolonial)
Instructor: N. Kortenaar
Time: Fall term, Thursday 3-5

This course will examine the intertextual movement of people from non-fiction (primarily history books and the news) to fiction. When do people who become characters in fiction keep their names? Migrants from history to fiction acquire interiorities and the characteristics that mark verisimilitude. When is such fictionalization permissible? Are there ethical constraints? When is the reader aware of the changes? How have the ethical and aesthetic rules changed in the last two decades? What difference does it make if the history and the fiction that people move between are postcolonial and not Western canonical?

To understand the movement from history to fiction, we will compare it to a similar but not identical migration: of people from history books and the news to cinema, specifically to the biopic. In this migration names are more likely to remain the same but narrative events and their sequence are more likely to be changed. Film, it seems, has its own constraints, different from prose fiction’s, that it must accommodate history to.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course students will

  1. Have an increased understanding of the narrative nature of written history
  2. Have an increased understanding of the historical constraints on the literary imagination and the historical claims made by fiction and cinema
  3. Better understand the nature of historical memory and cultural literacy that both history-writing and fiction contribute to and rely upon
  4. Know more about the past than they did but also have doubts about the nature of that knowledge. Those doubts are also valuable knowledge.

Potential Texts:
Marlon James             A Brief History of Seven Killings (about Bob Marley)
Narcos (TV miniseries about Pablo Escobar)
Laurie Gunst              Born Fi Dead (James’s non-fictional source)
Mario Vargas Llosa   Feast of the Goat (about Rafael Trujillo)
Bernard Diederich    Trujillo: The Death of the Goat (Vargas Llosa’s source)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez        The General in his Labyrinth (about Bolivar)
Salman Rushdie         Midnight’s Children (where Indira Gandhi appears as a character)
Gandhi (film dir. David Lean))
Laurent Binet             HHhH (about Reinhard Heydrich)
Hilary Mantel             A Place of Greater Safety (about Robespierre, Danton, Desmoulins)
Mantel                        “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher”
Dave Eggers               What is the What (the autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng)
Giles Foden                The Last King of Scotland (about Idi Amin)
Ryszard Kapuscinski The Emperor (about Haile Selassie)
Anchee Min                Madame Mao
Hanif Kureishi           The Last Word (about V.S. Naipaul)


Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements:
Class Participation: 20% (including weekly preparation)
Presentation: 10%
Essays: 70%

Option 1:
First Essay (3000 words: due Mar 14): 35%
Second Essay on different topic (3000 words: due April 20): 35%

Option 2:
First Essay (3000 words: due Mar 14): 20%
Second Essay building on first (6000 words: due April 20): 50%

Instructor: K. Holland
Time: Fall term, Friday 11-1

This course examines the development of theories of the novel in Europe and North America throughout the twentieth century. Why has the novel been such a central object of study for so many different theoretical traditions? What is at stake in these theoretical traditions that centre on the novel? Just as novel theorists historicize the novelistic form, we will historicize those theories, interrogating and deconstructing their conflicting assumptions. Organized chronologically and thematically, covering theorists from Russia, France, Central Europe and North America, the course will include topics such as: the historicization of form; novelistic narrative; the search for masterplots and master narratives; time and space; the novel and the self; the place of the novel in theories of world literature; close reading and distant reading. Readings include Shklovsky, Tynianov, Bakhtin, Lukacs, Frye, Barthes, Robert, Girard, Genette, Booth, Brooks, Jameson, Miller, Moretti, Cohn, as well as Balzac, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Flaubert and others.

Class participation: 15%
Response papers: 30%
Presentation: 10%
Final paper: 45%



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.

Instructor: A. Komaromi
Time: Spring term, Thursday, 11-1

The concept of two avant-gardes refers to the “historical avant-garde” (Burger) and the neo-avant-garde (Buchloh, Foster). However, this course will also compare two broad contexts for the return of the avant-garde after WWII: the context of late capitalism – in the U.S. and Western Europe – and that of late socialism, in the USSR and Eastern Europe. Historical movements such as Dada and Surrealism, Futurism, Suprematism and Constructivism did not simply exhaust the avant-garde project: neo-avant-garde art arguably comprehended that project for the first time (Foster). However, if we must read avant-garde gestures in their historical moment(s) we must also read them in their socio-political contexts. We will discuss how the avant-garde challenge to bourgeois principles of the autonomous work and the expressive author/artist took on new significance in the post-war late capitalist west. We will compare that western return to the return in late socialism, in which the civic and spiritual energy derived from the lost avant-garde legacy was channeled toward non-conformism and anti-utopian critique (Groys). We will consider what this highly mobile international legacy of avant-garde experimentation might reveal vis-à-vis critique, solidarity and social transformation in the contemporary moment.

Readings from: John Bowlt, Benjamin Buchloh, Peter Burger, Hal Foster, Clement Greenberg, Boris Groys, Rosalind Krauss, Lev Rubinstein, Leo Steinberg and others.

Class participation 15%
Assigned presentations 20%
First paper 25%
Final paper 40%

Instructor: M. Revermann
Time:  Spring term, Friday, 12-2

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).

InstructorA. Sakaki
Time: Spring term, Tuesday, 10-12

This course explores theoretical and literary texts on and of sports as participatory and spectatorial events in terms of translation between physical and textual practices, the temporality, spatiality and agency in playing and watching of sports, the body, tools and environment in sport activities, the instrumentality of sports to the promotion of ideologies, the engagement of sports in bildungsroman, the media and fan culture, and the relationship between narrative modes and the rules of the game in various sports. Both theoretical (e.g., Adorno, Barthes, Bourdieu, Derrida, Eco) and literary (e.g., Hornby, Murakami, Ogawa) readings will be available in English.

Participation: 20%
Presentation: 20%
Session Reviews: 20%
Term Paper: 40%

Instructor: R. Comay
Time: Spring term, Wednesday, 4-6
Location: Room 319, 93 Charles Street West, 3rd floor

This seminar will explore the constellation of dialectics, theatre, and politics in (and in the wake of) Hegel.  We’ll be thinking about some repercussions of Hegel’s infamous pronouncement of the “end of art.”   Why does Hegel say that art “no longer counts” as the expression of truth, and what does this imply for the practice of philosophy and for political practice?  We’ll look at the ways in which art stages (literally) its own undoing in theatre and the peculiar afterlife of theatre in philosophy as a scene of pedagogy, a performance, and a political spectacle. The first part of the course will focus on selected portions of Hegel’s Aesthetics and the Phenomenology of Spirit.  We’ll then consider Marx’s deployment of the Hegelian dialectic in the Eighteenth Brumaire as he searches (in vain?) for a new revolutionary subject amidst the “farce” of the post-1848 counterrevolution.  Finally, we’ll consider some surprising reverberations in Beckett’s Endgame.  While the main authors will be Hegel, Marx, and Beckett, we’ll also have occasion to think about other writers (including C.L.R. James, Adorno, Benjamin, Badiou, Karatani,).

Evaluation: Seminar presentation with follow-up written reflection  (30%); final paper (70%)

Instructor: M. Nyquist
Time: Spring term, Monday, 10-1

Until pseudo-scientific discourses began to emerge in the late eighteenth century, “race” generally signified some form of inheritance, whether lineal or geopolitical. It could be used of non-human animals, economic-cultural status, or ethnic and (proto-) national groups. With European colonialism, racialized practices are integrated into systems of domination and oppression in ways that continue to operate and to be contested. We will begin by examining classical Greek conceptions of “barbarism,” one of the precursors to early modern and later racialist discourses and practices, and will then look at the category of “savagery” as it is deployed in connection with New World Amerindigenes. One of the questions to be asked in this course is what these earlier constructions of “race” have in common with the biologically based discourses that emerge later in Euro-American imperialism. Another question involves how “intersectionality” affects the study of race and racism or, more generally, the “critical race theory” that arose in the last decades of the twentieth century. We will also enter current debates concerning the language of racialized degradation such as “dehumanization” or “animalization,” and will explore possible interconnections among anti-racism, decolonization, and environmental justice. Because “critical race theory” is historically associated with the social sciences, we will want to explore the possibilities it does or does not open up for the study of literature, philosophy, and the arts. Primary texts may include Euripides’ Medea; Shakespeare’s Othello; von Kleist’s “Die Verlobung in St. Domingo”; Fanon’s Peau Noire, Masques Blancs; and Césaire’s Discours sur le colonialisme, Secondary readings will include numerous articles on the historical vicissitudes of racism as it is interconnected with the rise of capitalism, Atlantic slavery, settler colonialism, and other aspects of Euro-American imperialism. Participants will be asked to select some of the literary texts and films to complement assigned readings.

Course Work:
Seminar facilitations (20%); Participation (20%); Reports (20%) Final Essay (40%)

Secondary Materials:
Readings from a number of different monographs and collections, including Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, eds. Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic; Goldberg, Racist Culture: Philosophy and the Politics of Meaning; Hall, The Invention of Barbarism; Race in Early Modern England, eds. Ania Loomba and Jonathan Burton; Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism.

Instructor: A. Mostch
Time: Spring term, Wednesday, 10-12

1500-1800 is the first period of modern globalization by the West, of the foundation of colonial empires and of the economic but also scientific exploration of foreign lands.  This seminar deals with the intersection of the “encyclopedic movement” and geographical expansions, more particularly the knowledge produced and disseminated about other cultures and “ethnography” in particular. The course seeks to show how the new anthropological knowledge becomes a point of public interest and political disputes and how this development is supported and accompanied by a dynamic book market.

The new ideas and ideals emerging between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment period and their reception are closely linked to the invention of the printing press, the progress in literacy within society, the emergence of a public sphere, and thus the development of an ever increasing market for printed materials and books. Due to political and religious censorship, but also economic considerations, the publishing history and the book trade of the time constitute a quite complex field of inquiry. Books were written  in one country, often enough printed in another, only to reappear clandestinely in legitimate or pirated copies on the marketplace for which they were intended, while their authors, editors and printers were censored, went  into exile or even to prison. Many works found their readers far away, across political, geographical and ideological divides in copied, translated or abstracted form. The changing worldview of this period is the result of new epistemological forces which seek to establish new paradigms and increasingly attempt to portray the world in encyclopedias, histories, dictionaries as well as other collections of knowledge (curio cabinets and museums). It is this worldview and its epistemological foundation which gives rise to philosophical and political modernity.

Oral presentation/Literature review:  20%
Final Essay (3500-5000 words): 70%
Overall evaluation:  10%



— This list is for information purposes only. A final selection will be made at the beginning of the seminar in accordance with the interest and the linguistic competence of the participants.

— The primary and secondary literature is in various languages from the start as travel literature is written in many languages (Latin, Spanish, English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, etc.) We will work as much as possible with original sources and where necessary with translations. It is possible to work in English only, but competence in other languages is an asset and at times crucial in light of some secondary literature in this field of research and we will take advantage of students’ competences in other languages as much as possible. All texts will be available in the original version and in translation. Written assignments can be in English, French, Spanish or German according to the rules of the home departments.

José de Acosta, Historia natural y moral des las Indias, 1590
Robert Beverley, The History and Present State of Virginia, 1705.
Johannes Boemus, Omnium gentium mores, Leges et Ritus …. (published in Latin, German, French, English, Italian and Spanish), 1520-)
Théodore de Bry, Les Grands Voyages, (published in Latin, French, English and German), Francfort 1569-1640).
Théodore de Bry, Les Petits Voyages, Théodore de Bry (published in German and Latin), Frankfurt, 1597-1633
Charlevoix, Histoire et description générale de la Nouvelle-France, Paris, 1744
Charlevoix, Histoire et description générale du Japon, 1736
[Collective], Les lettres édifiantes (translated into French, published in French and subsequently translated in many other languages), Paris, 1702-1776.
[Collective], Les relations jésuites (translated into French, published in French and subsequently translated in many other languages)
Diderot et d’Alembert L’Encyclopédie
Earl of Oxford, A Collection  of Voyages and Travels …, London 1745
Richard Hakluyt, The Principal Navigations, Voyages, and Discoveries of the English Nation London, 1589-.
Joseph-François Lafitau, Mœurs des sauvages amériquains comparées aux mœurs des premiers temps, Lafitau, Paris, 1724 (translated into Dutch and German)
Bruzen de La Martinière, Introduction à l’histoire de l’Asie, de l’Afrique et de l’Amérique. Amsterdam : Z. Chatelain, 1735.
Giovanni Ramusio, Navigationi et viaggi…, 1563-.
Bernard Picart, Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde, Amsterdam, Jean-Frederic Bernard, 7 vol 1723-1736 (translated into and published in French, then translated into German, Dutch and English)
Abbé Prévost, Histoire générale des voyages…, Paris, 1746-1747.
Johann Friedrich Schröter, Allgemeine Geschichte der Länder und Völker von Amerika Halle, 1752-53.

InstructorJ. LeBlanc
Time: Spring term, Thursday, 3-5

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, 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: T. Lahusen
Time: Spring term, Tuesday, 1-3

The purpose of the course is to historicize and theorize the concept of totalitarian culture by discussing traditional approaches of “totalitarianism” and more recent theories and histories in the context of various cultural manifestations of National-Socialist Germany and Stalinist Russia.

A key theme of the course is the relation between propaganda, entertainment, and mass culture, in the context of how both Germany and Soviet Russia related to the Hollywood type of entertainment.

The primary materials to be considered are American, German, and Soviet films of the 1930s and 1940s.

Additional material includes diaries, memoirs, illustrative material on art and architecture, and scholarly works.

The viewing and discussion of these films are integral parts of course requirements. Some of the films are available online; others will have to be watched at Media Commons.

Course requirements:
Depending on the number of participants, 1 to 2 students will be responsible for moderating each session’s discussion. They will have to introduce the reading, summarize their main arguments, offer questions for discussion and direct the discussion. A standard presentation per student is 10 to 15 minutes.
The films, to be viewed by all students, including the presenters, will serve as a common topic for discussion.

The grade will be calculated as follows:
1. Regular attendance and active participation in discussions: 20% of grade.
2. One presentation & discussion moderation: 30% of grade
3. A final 20-page research paper (40% of grade). The topic for the final paper is to be chosen in consultation with the instructor. It should relate to the topic of the course and to its main theoretical readings.



COL2100HS Corpus Infinitum: Exploration on Subjectivity, the Body, Art, and the Possibility of Justice
Instructor: Da Silva
Location: 93 Charles Street West, 3rd floor, Seminar Room,
Timecondensed course from April 13 to May 10, 2020, from 1-4 pm:April: Monday 13; Wednesday 15; Monday 20; Wednesday 22; Monday 27; Wednesday 29; May: Monday 4 ; Wednesday 6.

This course revisits the trajectory of the notion of subjectivity and the related notion of representation as the distinguishing human capacity, from the former early articulations in the 19th century through further developments in 20th century phenomenology, structuralism, and poststructuralism. A crucial characteristic of these concepts is the presupposition that interiority and temporality render the human unique among other existent things. Nevertheless, because this figuring of the human has beeb, as Sylvia Wynter and others have argued, identified with post-Enlightenment white/European  (in particular the cis-heterosexual male) and the social (juridic, economic, and symbolic) architectures they have devised and rule, it raises the question of what happens when such formulation of subjectivity informs representations of and by his racial (black, indigenous, and other people of color) and gender-sexual (LGBTQ* and women) ‘others.’ Our readings of classic texts on subjectivity will be guided by black feminist interventions such as Hortense Spillers’, Sylvia Winter’s, Saidiya Hartman’s as well as those of Octavia E. Butler’s novel Mind of My Mind and the works of  black, feminist, trans and queer performance artists who deploy the body in radical engagements with historical and current operations of the social categories (race, gender, sexuality, ableness) both at the level of representation and as mechanisms of social subjugation; operations which seem sustained precisely by how the body’s ‘qualities’ (solidity and extension, in particular) operate at the level of representation. Through reflections on their strategies of engagement, we will explore whether and how a refiguring of the body suggested by experimental and theoretical developments in quantum physics (quantum field theory and particle physics) might help in the assembling of an image of the world that inspires an alternative to the version of the post-Enlightenment human which does not predicate a fundamental separability from everything and everyone else in the world. Further, we will reflect on how such an image might also facilitate the emergence of the kind of sensibility that would not remain indifferent to the destructive effects of juridical, economic, and symbolic architectures, mechanisms, practices, and discourses informed by a view of the human as an interior/temporal thing, in particular the indifference to the deleterious consequences of extraction and expropriation upon the planet and its subaltern populations.

That is, the guiding question in the course is whether a reframing of subjectivity that takes into account the cosmic and the quantic level, where separability does not hold, might aid in the formulation of a transformative theory of justice.

Participation                                      20%
Reading Responses                         40%
Class Presentations                         40%

1. Introduction
2. Flesh and the unraveling the racial grammar: Wynter’s, Spillers’, and Hartman’s critique of the human as subject
3. On Subjectivity I: Husserl & Heidegger
4. On Subjectivity II: Sartre & Foucault
5. The Path of the Impossible: Performing Against the Grain of Representation
6. The Elementary factuality of the Existing Thing:  indeterminacy, entanglement, infinity
7. Transubstantiality: Octavia Butler’s Body
8. Conclusion

Updated: July 29, 2019