Updated: August 30, 2022



InstructorS. Dowling
Time: Fall term

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.

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.

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., genre, âcimowin, relación). 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.

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.

InstructorPia Kleber
Time: Fall term, Wednesdayv10-12

Bertolt Brecht played a specific role in the paradigm shift of the art which began at the end of the 19th century. He advanced this change by trying to connect art to its social and political functions and structure with the positive acceptance of the industrial revolution and by trying to transform it with the help of the new technological media.

The goals of this course are:

1. to introduce students to Brecht’s theory and demonstrate how he connected art and politics.

2. to study productions directed byBertolt Brecht, Robert Wilson and Robert Lepage and to see if they follow in Brecht’s footsteps or if they deviate from his concepts.

3. The following productions will be analyzed:

Mother Courage, written and directed by Bertolt Brecht
The Good Person of Szechwan, by Bertolt Brecht, directed by Benno Besson
The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht, directed by Robert Wilson
The Busker’s Opera by John Gay and Robert Lepage, directed by Robert Lepage

Every student has to give at least one class presentation.
Those introducing a seminar should prepare a brief outline (no more than a page or two) and provide copies to all the students at the outset.
Each student has to send me a one page evaluation about the videos we are going to study.
The subject of the research essay should be discussed and approved by the instructor.



Bertolt The Threepenny Opera
Mother Courage and Her Children
The Good Person of Szechwan
The Mother
The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Drums in the Night

Gay, John The Beggar’s Opera

Class seminars 30%
Evaluation of Videos 10%
Research Essay 45%
Class participation 15%

Instructor: E. Jagoe
Time: Fall term, Wednesdays, 3-5

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 encyclicals, 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: Fall term, Tuesdays, 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: C. James
Time: Fall term, Thursdays, 11-1

Over the last four decades, a growing body of literary works which specifically engage the aftermath of political conflict has been produced by writers from different societies across the globe. Emerging from the space of horror left by ethnic, religious, intra-state and /or border conflicts, these works highlight the significant role that literature can play in the negotiating of peace and resolution of conflict. In addition to participating in the process of attenuating conflict and building peace, post-conflict literatures of the late 20th and early 21st centuries become crucial in rebuilding filial, social and communal relations. Significantly, post-conflict literatures also serve as conduits through which diasporic communities negotiate politics of identity and belonging with ‘home’ territories.

In this course we will study post-conflict narratives from Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Darfur, Nigeria, the Dominican Republic and Colombia. Drawing on recent theoretical conceptions of conflict geography, biopolitics and necropolitics, we will examine issues such as religious and state violence, violations of human rights, trauma, genocide and post-traumatic memory. But we will also be examining the therapeutic potential of imaginative literature as well as its role in facilitating processes of truth and reconciliation. Additionally, the course analyzes the variety of creative strategies employed by the different genres within post-conflict literatures (memoir, autobiography, autofiction, science fiction, crime drama) to make sense of the past and map a new future.

In exploring post-conflict literatures, we will draw on ideas from a wide range of thinkers such as Giorgio Agamben, Hannah Arendt, Achille Mbembe, Antonio Negri and Sylvia Wynter, among others. The main texts for study will include Wendy Erskine Sweet Home (2019) [Ireland], Steven Galloway The Cellist of Sarajevo (2009) [Bosnia and Herzegovina – Canadian Author], Scholastique Mukasonga Our Lady of the Nile (2014) [Rwanda], Chinua Achebe There Was A Country (2013) [Nigeria], Evelio Roserio The Armies (2009) [Colombia] and René Philoctète Massacre River (2008) [Dominican Republic].


Attendance and Participation: 10%
Class Presentation [plus written version]: 30%
Final paper: 60%

Instructor: J. LeBlanc
Time: Mondays, 10-12

“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 in order to reflect on the use of images, paintings and sketches  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, drawings,
figures of ekphrasis and photos (portraits and self-portraits), operate as
visual supplements (illustrations) and corroboration (verification) of the
autobiographical subjects and their narratives. The introduction or the
description of images in autobiographical and fictional autobiographical texts problematizes the status of the autobiographical genre, the complexities underlining the referential, representational, mimetic relationships between self-images and life-writings, etc. The study of theoretical texts pertaining to autobiography and self portraiture (paintings, drawings and photographs) and the relationship between words and images will serve as a basis for our analysis of Ardizzone, Ernaux, Kahlo and Poulin’s 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. Fragments of her illustrated 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


* A more detailed theoretical bibliography will be provided.

– Adams, Timothy D.
Light Writing and Life Writing.
Photography in Autobiography
. University of North Carolina Press,
– 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
. 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 chooses to use another text
which is not featured in our list of primary texts.

Instructor: A. Grewal
Time: Fall term, Mondays, 10-12

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%)

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

This course concerns the way that photography, as the product and the process, and as the practice and concept, has inspired the narrative of formative questions regarding agency, temporality, and space, and has challenged—or yielded to—the narrative’s power/desire to make sense. Particular attention will be paid to rhetorical complicity and coercion of the two modes of representation which both emerged in the modern and nationalist age, and persist, in the wake of the newer media, as dominant registers of the everyday and departures from there. Participants read and discuss seminal theoretical literatures (e.g., Bal, Barthes, Batchen, Bazin, Burgin, Flusser, Hirsch, Metz, Mitchell, Sontag), photo roman (e.g., Abe, Berger, Calle, Cole, Pamuk), and narratives about photography (e.g., Calvino, Cortázar, Guibert, Horie, Kanai, Proust, Tanizaki, Vladislavic), along the theme for each session. Primarily a seminar, short lectures and students’ presentations will complement discussion sessions with materials that may not be accessible to all the members.

Class participation 10%; oral presentation 20%; response papers (2-3 pgs) 20% (10% x2); term paper (20–30pgs) 50%


Most Comparative Literature courses are taught at the Centre for Comparative Literature, Isabel Bader Theatre, 3rd floor, Linda Hutcheon Seminar Room (BT319) unless indicated otherwise below. Please click on the course code to see its description.

Instructor: B. Havercroft
Time: Spring term, Tuesdays, 3-5

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
 (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,

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: J. Ross
Time: Spring term, Mondays, 3-5

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

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

Seminar participation: 20%
Response Notes: 30%
Presentation: 15%

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

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

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

Instructor: E. Cazdyn
Time: Spring term, Wednesdays, 1-3

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: M. Nyquist
Time: Spring term, Tuesday, 12-3

This course will reflect on representations of acts of revenge and resistance that are produced in historical contexts that privilege law’s rule. How is revenge — or its more civil counterpart, “retribution” — related to or differentiated from resistance, whether personal or political, individual or collective? If revenge is disparaged, how is its objectionable character established? In what contexts and by what means is resistance represented as legitimate or even positive? We will explore questions such as these by discussing relations among revenge, resistance, and “race”(in the earlier sense of “inheritance” or “nation” as well as in racialized regimes of oppression) as they appear in avariety of literary texts from three eras: ancient Athens and Rome; earlymodern England, France and Spain; and the age of Revolutions. Of interest will be the rezeptionsgeschichte of texts —or, in the case of the Haitian Revolution, events —in which relations among revenge, resistance and “race” are unstable, have frequently been revisioned, or have been interpreted in radically different terms.

Texts will include: Aeschylus’s Oresteia, Euripides’ Medea and Hecuba, and Livy’s narrative of Rome’s founding in History of Rome; variants of the tale of Rodrigo and La Cava, related to Islam’s conquest of Spain, selected essays by Montaigne, Shakespeare’s Lucrece, Othello, and Hamlet, and Milton’s Paradise Lost (selected books); Victor Hugo, Bug-Jargal; von Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaas and Die Verlobung in St. Domingo; M. Shelley’s Frankenstein; P. Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, and both poetry and prose written in response to the Haitian revolution.

Evaluation: We won’t be using all three hours but have them scheduled in case class discussion requires a bit more time. Course evaluation rests on Facilitations or Co-facilitations of seminar discussions of readings (20%);  Research-review essay (30%);  Participation (20%); Final essay (30%). 

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

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

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

COL5147H BOOKS AT RISK/ BKS 2000H Advanced Seminar in Book History and Print Culture
Instructor: A. Komaromi
Time: Spring term, Thursdays, 2-4
Location: Round Room, Massey College

This course combines questions and methods from book history and comparative literature to examine what happens to textual objects when they travel (or fail to travel) across geographical and temporal borders. Seizure and prohibition, fire, theft, bombing and physical decay are among the factors that may threaten the life of books. How do publishing and self-publishing, distribution, collection and restoration in institutional, private or clandestine libraries reflect interests in cultural production, preservation and transmission? What have people considered to be the books and texts worth saving and why?  

We will take up B. Venkat Mani’s challenge to abstract and cloistered concepts of world literature and examine as he does the life and death of the material text in concrete locations. This means critically interrogating what David Damrosch described as the “detached engagement” with world literature. It also entails nuancing broad claims by critics including Emily Apter and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak about power imbalances. We will look at the range of values and circumstances that influence the life of books in locations where war, disaster, authoritarian governments and regime change may impact what and how people read. We will develop our analytic toolkit by moving from Darnton’s communication circuit toward a socialized and material understanding of the text’s lives and afterlives as outlined by scholars including Peter McDonald, Jerome McGann and D. F. McKenzie. We will consider examples such as the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, the clandestine book trade in pre-revolutionary France, attempts to save books and manuscripts during WWII, literary censorship in South Africa, literature smuggled across Soviet borders and the restoration of damaged medieval manuscripts. Students will be encouraged to hone their analysis of material and social aspects of texts that interest them in light of questions about cultural production, transmission and preservation. 


Instructor: E. Gunderson 
Time: Spring term, Thursdays, 1-4
Location: Call Hall CR404 

Apuleius of Madauros: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apuleius

Apuleius (/ˌæpjʊˈliːəs/; also called Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis; c. 124 – c. 170[1]) was a Numidian Latin-language prose writer, Platonist philosopher and rhetorician. He lived in the Roman province of Numidia, in the Berber city of Madauros, modern-day M’Daourouch, Algeria. He studied Platonism in Athens, travelled to Italy, Asia Minor, and Egypt, and was an initiate in several cults or mysteries. The most famous incident in his life was when he was accused of using magic to gain the attentions (and fortune) of a wealthy widow. He declaimed and then distributed a witty tour de force in his own defense before the proconsul and a court of magistrates convened in Sabratha, near ancient Tripoli, Libya. This is known as the Apologia.

His most famous work is his bawdy picaresque novel, the Metamorphoses, otherwise known as The Golden Ass. It is the only Latin novel that has survived in its entirety.

As is clear from the above, both Apuleius and his works embodied a complex collocation of features: questions place, power, genre, gender, ethnicity, erudition, cosmopolitanism, colonialism, philosophy, and mysticism saturate his heterogenous body of work at every turn.

We will explore the diverse body of texts transmitted under his hame and attempt to come to terms with the challenges that they pose for a reader. The include philosophical works, rhetorical pieces, and a novel. They are normative as well as revolutionary, ectopic as well as centripetal, contemporary as well as backward-looking.

In addition to attempting to parse this collection of themes in terms of its original hybrid cultural context we will also explore the ways in which these works speak to our own interests in cultural productions within a post-colonial situation.

Introductions 10%
Bibliographies 10%
Backgrounders 10%
Presentations 20%
Draft of paper 10%
Comments on drafts 10%
Final paper 30%

InstructorA. Motsch
Time: Spring term, Tuesdays from 10-12

This course analyzes the link between contact literature (travel literature, discovery literature, colonial literature) and the establishment of modernity and its discourses of knowledge. Taking into account the philosophical and political debates between the 16th and 18th century, the course seeks to account for the European expansion, in particular the colonization of the Americas, and the emergence of discourses of knowledge about other cultures.

Two aspects ought to be singled out here: the knowledge produced about «others» and the new consciousness of Europe’s own identity which was profoundly transformed in this very contact. The course follows the hypothesis that the philosophical and modern definition of modern Man is itself a result of the contact between Europe and its others. The discussions of the texts privilege epistemological aspects and anthropological and political thought. More precisely, the goal is to trace the various ways the emergence of the modern subject is tied to its construction of alterity. Literary texts for example will therefore be questioned about their social and political dimensions within the episteme of the time.

A prominent issue will be the intercultural dynamic between the 16th and 18th centuries between Europe and the rest of the globe, but also within Europe itself. The development of new discourses of knowledge will involve texts of very different nature : literary, ethnographic, political, philosophical, historical, etc. Other aspects to be discussed are the issue of literary genres and canon formation, the conditions which make anthropological writing possible and the conceptualization of the «other» (ethnicity, race, religion, gender, etc.)

These texts to be studied could include the following ones. A final selection will be announced at the beginning of class and take into consideration particular interests of the students. This being said, suggestions are welcome and changes will happen, especially in the secondary literature which will reflect the latest scholarship. Texts discussed in class will be available in English translations.

Primary texts:
— Montaigne, Essais (Des cannibales, Des coches)
— José de Acosta, Historia natural y moral des las Indias
—  Bernardino de Sahagun, Historia general de las cosas de Nueva Espana
— Robert Beverley, The History and Present State of Virginia
— Walter Raleigh, The Discovery of Guiana
— Jean de Léry, Histoire d’un voyage faict en la terre du Brésil
— André Thévet, Singularitez de la France antarctique
— Johanes Boemus, Omnium gentium mores leges et ritus…
— Jesuit Relations (Lejeune, Brébeuf)
— Lafitau, Mœurs des sauvages amériquains comparées aux mœurs des premiers temps
— Lahontan, Dialogues du baron de Lahontan…
— Rousseau, Discours sur l’origine de l’inégalité entre les hommes
— Fontenelle, Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes
— Montesquieu, De l’esprit (extraits)
— Immanuel Kant, Anthropolgie in pragmatischer Hinsicht

Secondary texts:
— Joan-Pau Rubiés & J. Elsner,  Voyages and Visions
— James Axtell, After Columbus, Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America
— Marie Louise Pratt “Arts of the contact zone”
— Klaus Vogel, “Cultural variety in a Renaissance Perspective: Johannes Boemus on “The manners, laws an cusoms of all people”
— Michel de Certeau, The writing of History (L’écriture de l’histoire (extraits)
— Joan-Pau Rubiés, “The concept of cultural dialogue…”
— Stephen Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions
— Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other
— Peter Hulme, Colonial Encounters
— Anthony Pagden, The Fall of Nartural Man
— José Rabasa, Inventing America: Spanish Historiography and the Formation of Eurocentrism

Required work:
—  one course presentation  10%
—  a literature review (3-5 pages):  20%
—  Written assignment (ca. 25 pages)   60%
—  Overall assessment   10%

JGC1855H S Critical Theory – The French-German Connection
Time:  Spring term, Wednesdays, 3-5
Instructor: Willi Goetschel
This course examines central theoretical issues in contemporary thought with particular attention to the role that the “Frankfurt School” and its affiliates such as Benjamin, Kracauer, Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, Habermas and others play in the context of modern German social and cultural thought. In France, thinkers like Foucault, and Derrida respond to this tradition and enrich it. The course explores in which way the continuing dialogue between these thinkers informs current critical approaches to rethinking issues and concerns such as theorizing modernity, culture, secularization, multiculturalism, and the vital role of cultural difference.

Updated: August 30, 2022