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

Office Hours:(September – December 7, 2020)

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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,Monday, 2-4

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 I, 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 focusing 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.

We will read literary and theoretical texts by writers such as Freud, Kafka, T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, W. G. Sebald, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Jean Laplanche, Catherine Malabou, Shoshana Felman, and Cathy Caruth.

Critical Commentary: 15%
Final Paper: 50%
In-Class Presentation: 20%
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

According to many rhetoric theoreticians of the Antiquity, allegory is an « extended metaphor ». However, allegory does not consist solely in a ‘figure of thought’. It also refers to a hermeneutical process called ‘allegorism’. Allegorism studies myths, but also, for instance, biblical exegesis. Allegory and allegorism are key concepts for understanding fine
arts, religion and literature in Western culture from Quintilian to Walter Benjamin, Northrop Frye, Paul de Man, Craig Owen and Umberto Eco. A figure constantly criticized for its coldness, and at the same time a venerable interpretive process often mocked for its arbitrariness, allegory allows us to study hermeneutics with regard to notions of literal and figurative meaning.

At the end of the 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: J. Ricco
Time: Fall 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%


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: R. Bai
Time: Spring term, Friday, 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%)

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, and how interrogations of discourses of primitivism have been central to the project of “globalizing” modernist studies. In our examination of non-European 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: Raymond Williams, Fredric Jameson, James Clifford, Jed Esty, Susan Stanford-Friedman, Simon Gikandi, Partha Mitter, Olive Schreiner, Karel Čapek, Mulk Raj Anand, Chinua Achebe, Tayeb Salih, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra.

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 even more adorable to philosophers of all stripes. This course will be exploring the fraught relationship between Beckett and philosophy, trying to think about what might be at stake in his recalcitrance. We’ll be reading a variety of Beckett’s works, from his early poetry and fiction to his late experimental texts –  the stories; the poetry; the novels; the stage plays and “dramaticules”; the work in radio, film, and television; and the unclassifiable remainder — paying particular attention to the ways in which his writing puts pressure on the concepts of genre, medium, language, translation, history, and politics.  We’ll also be considering some of Beckett’s philosophical interlocutors, including Bataille, Blanchot, Lukacs, Adorno, Kristeva, Badiou, Cixous, and Deleuze.

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

Detailed reading list will be posted closer to the start of the course. Students who want to get ahead with the reading might want to read the “Trilogy”  (Molloy,Malone Dies, The Unnamable).

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: W. Goetschel
Time: Spring 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%).

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, Annie Ernaux, Frida Kahlo 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, Ernaux, Kahlo 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.

Ernaux, Annie. The years. Translation of Les années. Fragments of her photographic diary published in Écrire la vie will enhance our study of Ernaux’s expansive use of photographic ekphrasis within her memoire.

Kahlo, Frida. Intimate Diary. English translation of her personal diary initially published in Spanish. This illustrated life-narrative will be studied in conjunction with Kahlo’s numerous painted self-portraits.

Poulin, Jacques. Volkswagen Blues. This illustrated text will be studied through historical documents pertaining to indigenous cultures referenced by Poulin

*As a precautionary measure I have also ordered R. Barthe’s illustrated autobiographical narrative: Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes, should one of the four other texts not be available. Please do not purchase this text.


* 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.  However, a comparative study including one of the primary texts listed (Ardizzone, Ernaux, Kahlo, Poulin and Barthes) should be used if one choses to use another text which is not featured in our list of primary texts.

Instructor: A. Komaromi
Time: Spring term, Thursday, 2-4

This course looks at how and why states seek to control culture and how creative projects may disrupt the action of political and commercial forces. The course begins by considering totalitarian regimes and cultural policy, along with examples of art labeled “healthy” or “degenerate” in Nazi Germany and the USSR. Case studies from the Soviet Union, the Eastern bloc and post-Communist successor states illustrate how censorship, education and technology may be used to control cultural production and knowledge of the past. Seminar participants will look at the policy of Socialist Realism and consider official and unofficial art and literature to explore the potential for transforming culture into a site of resistance. Readings in theory of the archive will be used to support analysis of how nonconformist works complicate or subvert established views of the past and open new potentials for the future. The course will facilitate in-depth research of major examples of nonconformist poetry, art, fiction and archival projects from these countries and provide a basis for analysis of cultural resistance in other repressive contexts.

Readings include selections from Arendt and Lefort on totalitarian states, as well as analysis by Andrei Siniavskii, Katerina Clark, Igor Golomshtok, Boris Groys and Alexei Yurchak of official and unofficial literature and art. The course will engage theory of the archive with texts from Freud, Buchloh, Spieker and others.

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

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: April 7, 2020.