Coordinator: V. Li
Time:   Mondays, 10-12:30
Syllabus: Please click here to view

This course is a general introduction to the field of comparative literature, to contemporary theory, and to modern approaches to literary texts. It involves the participation of Comparative Literature faculty, discussing their experience comparing different literatures or researching across disciplines or across media. It is taken by all MA and all first-year PhD students and is meant to provide guidance for more advanced work in specific critical domains.

Class Participation: 15% (includes attendance)
Weekly response papers:  35% (one double-spaced page every week; submitted every week but then 10 of them resubmitted as a file at the end)
Essay:  50% (3000 words, due date to be announced).

The paper should address either an issue involving comparison that came up during the course or the comparative implications of the student’s own research project. The second half of each class will involve the participation of Comparative Literature faculty.

Instructor: B. Bosteels
Time: Fall term 2013. The classes will run four hours, from 10-12 and 1-3 on every second Friday on Sep 20; October 4; October 18 ; November 1; November 15 and November 29.
Location: Emmanuel College, Room 205

This course is reserved, in the first instance, for students in Comparative Literature and English. Students from other departments who are interested in the course should submit their names to the Centre for Comparative Literature for placement on a waiting list if spots in the course become available. Please send an email to complit.coordinator@utoronto.ca and to banguyen@chass.utoronto.ca.

Course Description
This seminar will revisit some major texts and concerns in the theoretical humanities that develop genealogical, psychoanalytical or political theories of the subject, roughly from Nietzsche until today. The goal is to come to a critical understanding of the centrality of this notion of the subject as one of the founding concepts of modernity, as well as to draw out all the consequences of its crisis in radical humanistic (or even posthumanist) thought today. Thinkers to be discussed further include Freud, Foucault, Badiou, Butler, Rozitchner, and Zizek.

For many interpreters, the modern era is quintessentially the era of the subject—whether as theoretical consciousness, as moral conscience and intentionality, or as artistic and creative genius. Cogito, will, or labor are just a few of the attributes usually associated with this notion of the modern subject. And yet, should we not question the self-evidence of this notion and its ties to Western modernity in its dominant imperialist expansion over the past five centuries?

There exists, of course, a book of (almost) the same title as our seminar: the French philosopher Alain Badiou’s Theory of the Subject, which I translated for Continuum. This book offers a political, and more specifically dialectical-materialist theory of the subject, in close connection to the tradition of psychoanalysis through the writings of Jacques Lacan. However, by putting the title for the seminar in the plural, I want to draw attention to parallel and competing theories that may or may not fit the portrait of Badiou’s work. Thus, I would include Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo but also Freud’s Mass Psychology and Analysis of the Ego and Moses and Monotheism, Foucault’s Hermeneutics of the Subject, Slavoj Zizek’s The Ticklish Subject, and Judith Butler’s The Psychic Life of Power. Finally, I would like to open up the canon beyond Western Europe so as to include texts from Latin America: above all the work of León Rozitchner, as in Terror and Grace and the older Freud and the Limits of Bourgeois Individualism; and, as a possible end term, the notion of the “non-subject” proposed by the Spanish thinker Alberto Moreiras in close dialogue with thinkers such as the Italian Roberto Esposito.

The idea is to familiarize the students with some of the strongest voices in the debate regarding the role of human subjectivity in politics, aesthetics and the humanities in general. Advanced undergraduate and graduate students at one point or another will have been confronted with the presupposition of what Foucault called the “anthropological slumber” of the modern age, for which he proposed an as yet unthinkable alternative. Today, the chances for such an alternative have never been nearer from the point of view of technology, and yet in the humanities the hopes for an “awakening” from modernity’s inherent anthropologism seem less likely than at the time of Foucault’s writing.

How does this new configuration affect our understanding of political subjectivity, of the subjective side of art and aesthetics, of the psychological and psychoanalytical inquiries into the “other” of conscious reason? These are some of the questions that we will tackle in this seminar. They can be organized along four fundamental axes:

1. Subject and history: Does the subject present a homogeneous image from ancient times until today? Or have there been significant breaks, for example, with the beginning of Christianity, the dawn of the Middle Ages, the beginning of capitalism in the Italian city-states, the discovery of the New World, or the so-called “end of modernity” in the Holocaust? How can we articulate a theory of the subject that would at the same time take into account this convoluted history?

2. Subject and structure: Is the subject defined by free will and the power to make history? Or are there social, political, institutional and symbolical structures that overdetermine its emergence and/or disappearance? How can we think together the autonomy of the subject and its overdetermination by such structures?

3. Subjectivity and truth: Is the subject itself a stable structure, a sort of a priori given of human individuality? Or are subjects rare and unique occurrences, marked by contingent events yet capable of transhistorical truth? What are we to make today of categories such as authenticity, commitment, originality, or genius, with which our modern era has tended to imagine the link between subject and truth?

4. Subjectivity and its others: With the crisis of modern and modernist ideals, the notion of the subject also increasingly comes head to head with its inherent others: the unconscious as the other side of the modern cogito; the death drive as the disavowed companion of moral conscience and good will; or destruction as a twin impulse in artistic and entrepreneurial creativity. How do disciplines such as psychoanalysis help us come to grips with these “others” of modern subjectivity? To what extent, finally, is the subject a Eurocentric notion, one which blinded even the founding father of psychoanalysis in the face of the non-European, peripheral, or Third World other?

Students will be expected to write six one-page response papers on the assigned readings. The final research paper, on a topic to be consulted with the instructor, should be between 15 and 20 pages, including bibliography.

Book Order

  • Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals
  • Nietzsche, Ecce Homo
  • Freud, Moses and Monotheism
  • Freud, Group Psychology and Analysis of the Ego
  • Badiou, Theory of the Subject
  • Butler, The Psychic Life of Power
  • Zizek, The Ticklish Subject
  • Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject
  • Bosteels, Badiou and Politics
  • Bosteels, The Actuality of Communism

Instructor: T. Lahusen
Time: Fall term, Tuesdays, 1-3 – Syllabus

This research seminar will explore methods of analyzing narratives of survival which emerged out of experiences of repression in different historical contexts, such as the Holocaust, the Soviet Gulag, and the Chinese system of “reeducation through labor.” During the course various theoretical and methodological approaches will be engaged to examine how diaries, memoirs, literary works, and documentaries confront past and present.

Readings include Jacques Le Goff, History and Memory (1992), Shoshana Feldman and Dori Laub, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History (1992), Trauma: Explorations in Memory, ed. Cathy Caruth (1995), Dominick LaCapra, Representing the Holocaust: History, Theory, Trauma (1996), Bernhard Schlink, The Reader (1995), Evgeniia Ginzburg, Journey Into the Whirlwind (1967), Zhang Xianliang, Grass Soup (1995), and Sidney Ritttenberg and Amanda Bennett, The Man Who Stayed Behind (1993). During the course, students will also prepare and discuss their own topic of research, leading toward a final paper.

One oral presentation 30%
One review article 30%
One final paper (20pages) 40%

Instructor: R. Bai
Time: Fall term, Thursdays, 10-12

The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed the global circulation of visual images through satellite television, cinema and digital communication networks with unprecedented intensity and velocity. With the primacy of the visual in global capitalism, imagination and identity formation have become increasingly image-based. This course focuses on globalizing media such as television, film and the Internet and extends traditional concerns of cultural studies by interrogating how the visual deals with issues such as violence, war, immigration, globalization, sovereignty, subject formation, etc. It introduces students to a diversity of works sampled from the emerging literature on visual culture in the global context such as those by Arjun Appadurai, W.J.T. Mitchell, Nicholas Mirzoeff, Marita Sturken, Lisa Nakamura, and Shu-Mei Shih.

The course reflects an emerging interest in interdisciplinary engagement with the visual (film, television, and digital culture) in the field of comparative literature. It is designed as an elective course that should be open to students of other departments as well such as art and cinema studies.

Three response Essays: 30%
Research paper: 50%
Class participation: 20%

Instructor: J. Ricco
Time: Fall term, Thursdays, 12-2

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, Noli Me Tangere, will be read along with the work of other philosophers who serve as major points of reference (Hegel, Kant, Freud, Heidegger, Bataille, Blanchot and Derrida).

For the fall 2013 term, the course will be divided into three parts: The Birth of Art; The Empty Tomb; and Sovereign Women, structured around three principal and inter-related issues addressed by Nancy: 1) origin/birth of art and the theory of the image; 2) the theological/a-theological dimension of art; 3) bodies, gender/sexuality, women. The seminar will also take advantage of the opportunity afforded by Jacques Rancière’s visit to the Centre for Comparative Literature in late-September, to read some his influential work on aesthetics and politics along that of Nancy’s.

Participation: 20%
Response Papers (3): 30%
Final Paper: 50%

Instructor: E. Cazdyn
Time: Fall term, Thursdays, 3-5

Triggered by the 2008 Global financial meltdown, there has emerged a reinvigorated engagement with the question “what comes after capitalism?”  This question—this desire—calls all parties to the table: artists, activists, intellectuals, psychoanalysts and the rest of us, who—whether we know it or not—stake a claim on this question in the most direct and indirect ways. This seminar will depart from two problems: first, the concept and practice of fantasy (in a psychoanalytic mode) and, second, the historiographical/literary problem of emplotment on which any expression of a post-capitalist future must turn. We will then pursue these problems as they intersect culture, politics and subjectivity, with special attention granted to utopian and dystopian fiction and film, radical architecture and urban planning, new theoretical and political radicalisms, and the affective turn in the project of transforming the human subject.

Materials will include work by Sigmund Freud, Isozaki Arata, Jacques Lacan, Felix Guattari, Karl Marx, Fredric Jameson, Lauren Berlant, Slavoj Zizek, Rem Koolhaus, Jodi Dean, Karatani Kojin, Kim Stanley Robinson, Shigeru Ban, Kathleen Stewart, Franco Bifo Berardi, Alexander Kluge, Christian Marazzi, Jean-Luc Godard, Michael Hardt, China Miéville, Antonio Negri, Wang Hui, Alain Badiou, Hayden White, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Jacques Ranciere, Marge Piercy, and Bruno Bosteels.

One Research Paper: 40%;
One Class Presentation and Write-up: 40%;
Class Participation and Weekly Responses*: 20%.
*Every Thursday a one-page (single spaced) response is due (these should include impressions and questions regarding readings and class discussion).

Instructor: B. Havercroft
Time: Fall term, Tuesdays, 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: P. Kleber
Time: Fall term, Wednesdays, 1-3

The goal of this course is to articulate a cultural approach to achieving Human Security. We will examine human security issues in which there is a significant cultural dimension to a security threat, and in which culture occupies an essential place in any realistic and effective solution.

“Culture” will be used both in the anthropological sense of a broader system of meaning that encompasses people’s shared identity, values, norms, beliefs, and memories; and in the narrower sense of creative agency – songs, poems, books, plays, pictures, films, videos produced by those who reinforce or challenge their own community’s identity through the arts. In both senses, culture must be understood as a process that is constantly changing in response to the experiences and actions of those who live within it and those who try to shape it.

The purpose of this course is to launch an inquiry into the question of how different cultural aspects can be integrated into the theoretical basis of the existing notion of Human Security. The work of the follow artists will be examined:

Ariane Mnouchkine (Au soleil même la nuit; Le dernier Caravanserail) ; Robert Lepage (Trilogy of Dragons ; Needles and Opium ; Th e Andersen Project) ; Atom Egoyan (Ararat), John Greyson and South African Aids activist , Zackie Achmat (Fig Trees); Iranian film maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Kandahar); and Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda.

In the last week we will present our work together with students from the political science department, at a conference with faculty and other graduate students. Your work will hopefully involve connecting with researchers and artists working in Canada, the United States and Europe.

Responsive work: 20 %
Brief report on the work of the artist you have chosen to analyze: 10%
Proposal of how to integrate the artistic work into the notion of Human Security: 10%
Creative work: 40 %
One major research essay to be prepared for presentation at the conference.
Class and workshop participation: 20 %

Instructor: A. Sakaki
Time: Fall term, Mondays, 2-4

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, Bazin, Burgin, Hirsch, Metz, Mitchell, Sontag), photo roman (e.g., Abe, Breton, Cendrars, Miller, Nakagami), and narratives about photography (e.g., Calvino, Duras, Horie, Kanai, Proust, Tanizaki), 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.

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


Instructor: Helen Solterer
Time: Fridays and Mondays, 11-1.
Location: on Mondays: Northrop Frye Hall, 008 . On Fridays: Emmanuel College 205

How has thinking with the Middle Ages shaped criticism? This seminar will explore various forms and aspects of medieval European culture as perennial objects of thought, investigating the chief ways that the surviving writing and images and imagined oral creations have marked key theoretical models. Our inquiry will proceed by pairs of texts. Every fortnight we’ll debate a mode of thinking by examining critical essays together with premodern works. This way of proceeding will also help us to take stock of current research underway. We’ll benefit as well from the range of interests and research directions of all the seminar members who, I trust, are also working on cultures in the Americas, Africa, Asia.

Participation in Seminar Blog, designed and reserved for seminar members & guests 15%
Weekly Responses to Readings posted on the eve of each seminar
In-Class Participation 15%
Oral Presentation Based on 1 Critical Question + 1 major premoderntext 30%
Research Bibliography &.Essay at end of seminar [15-20 p.] 50%

A Sample of Principal Critical Questions & Works Up for Debate

Digital Philology
Philology has long been considered the necessary condition of working with medieval texts. Whether it’s Vico, Nietzsche, or Italian semioticians of several generations ago, ‘the amorous science of the word,’ has been tested as the way to begin thinking.

What has digitization brought to this starting point? Does it change the manner of conceiving language inscribed on animal skin or paper? How does it modify methods of working these inscriptions?

Digital Philology: online review
Bernard Cerquiglini, In Praise of the Variant [French original, 1989]

?Anonymous?, multilingual charters (Serments de Strasbourg/ Oaths of Strasbourg)
poetry (La Chanson de Sainte Eulalie / St. Eulalia’s Song
Stockholm, Royal Library of Sweden
, Vu. 22
Fifteenth-century manuscript including major works and poets considered leading authors in a Francophone repertory [Machaut, Christine de Pizan, Chartier, Villon]; excerpts of texts in translation

A selection of other on-line manuscripts from a variety of collections

Literary History
Chronological accounts explaining the emergence of literature proliferate still. Their organizing principles vary a great deal, from the formal ones of genre, to political ones espousing national traditions and/or universal values. If we continue to resort to such histories, does the beginning have to be medieval? What of its European matrix and conditions? In an age of world literature, does the history of Timbuktu, brought to our attention again recently, contribute another model? Or that of cultures in the Americas that did not commit to writing?

Erich Auerbach, “Philologie der Weltliteratur,” (1952) in translation.
David Wallace, ed. European Literary History 1348-1418
ÉdouardGlissant, La Poésie de Tout-Monde, 2010. Excerpts trans.
Walter Mignolo, Writing without Words: Alternative Literacies in Mesoamerica and the
, 1994.
“Tombouktu, A World Patrimony Site,” Presentation Dossier, UNESCO archives, Paris
Aucassinet Nicolette, trans. Andrew Lang
Crusader songs and narrative tales:
Seven Troubadours, trans. Jame J. Wilhelm
Medieval Muslims, Christians and Jews in Dialogue: The ApparicionMaistreJehan de
Meun of Honorat Bovet
, trans. Michael Hanly
The Catalan Atlas, BnF
Christine de Pizan, Christine’s Vision, trans. Glenda McLeod

Cultural History
The last generation has embarked on a large-scale investigation of such history, that is often linked – in misleading ways – to the notion of medievalism. It has sparked vigorous debate over the question of anachronism, in the visual arts as in the verbal. What is the place of medieval culture in modernity? In postmodern times as today? How to reckon with its ideological functions? Its aesthetic effects? Thinking medieval culture historically has gained richly from the meditations of art critics, and those who conceptualize visually. What do the debates over ‘the after-lives,” and the multiple temporalities of medieval objects lend to the discussion of culture?

Aby Warburg, Mnemonsyne
Jacques Rancière, “Le concept d’anachronisme et la vérité de l’historien,” L’Inactuel (1996)
Alexander Nagel, Christopher S. Wood, Anachronistic Renaissance 2010, excerpts
François Villon, Collected Poems, trans. Galway Kinnell
Alain Chartier, The Quadrilogue Invective, The Treatise of Hope

Instructor: J. LeBlanc
Time: Spring term, Wednesdays, 1-3

“In my view, text and image complement, rather than supplement, each other; since reference is not secure in either, neither can compensate for lack of stability in the other. Because both media are located on the border between fact and fiction, they often undercut just as easily as they reinforce each other.”(T. Adams).

In the “fictional” and “non-fictional” autobiographical narratives chosen to explore the various ways in which text and image can interact with and reflect on each other, the writers use a highly metalinguistic discourse to discuss the problems of self-referentiality in  anguage and in images and to reflect on the use of paintings and photographs in their visualizations and articulations of selfhood. Roland Barthes, Frida Kahlo, Carol Shields and Anne Hébert all express an awareness of the autobiographical self as decentered, multiple, fragmented and divided against itself in the act of observing and being. The use of paintings (self-portraitures and portraitures) and photographic images, which operate as visual supplements (illustrations) and corroboration (verification) of the autobiographical subject
and his narrative, serve to intensify rather than reduce the referential complexity and ambiguity of each medium. The introduction of images (paintings and photographs) in autobiographical narratives complicates the representation of the subject from a referential and anthropomorphic perspective. Each text problematizes the question of autobiographical genre, referentiality, representation, fact and fiction, the interrelations between self-images and life-writings, etc. Th e 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 Barthes, Kahlo, Shields and Hébert’s autobiographical narratives.

Barthes, Roland. Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes. Paris: Seuil, 1995.
Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes. Translated by Richard Howard, New York: Hill and Wang, 1977.
Hébert, Anne. Les Fous de Bassan. Paris: Seuil, 1980.
—. In the Shadow of the Wind. Translated by Sheila Fischman. Toronto: Stoddart, 1983.
Frida Kahlo, Th e Diary of Frida Kahlo. An intimate self portrait. New York: Abradale Press, 2001.
Shields, Carol. Th e Stone Diaries. Toronto: Random House of Canada, 1993.

* A more detailed theoretical bibliography will be provided.
Adams, Timothy D. Light Writing and Life Writing. Photography in Autobiography. The University of North Carolina Press, 1992.
Barthes, Roland. La Chambre claire. Note sur la photographie. Paris: Gallimard, 1980.
—. Camera Lucida: Refl ections on Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1981.
Dubois, Philippe. L’Acte photographique. Paris: Nathan, 1990.
Gombrich, E. H. Art and Illusion: A Study of the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989.
Lejeune, Philippe. Je est un autre. Paris: Seuil, 1980.
Mitchell, W.J.T. Th e 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: 80%
One presentation: 20%

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

Peter Burger described the avant-garde in terms of the destruction of bourgeois aestheticism and the attempt to bring art into life for a radical transformation of society. What do Burger and other theoreticians have to say about the survival of the avant-garde impulse after its heroic historical moment in the early 20th century? How did artists and writers then and later pioneer radically new ways of representing the world and engaging the audience? We will consider the historical positions and sustaining contradictions of work dubbed “avant-garde” through landmark developments including Abstraction, Conceptualism, Constructivism and Surrealism. Seminar discussions will engage the work of major figures in the history of the avant-garde, such as Malevich and Maiakovskii, Picasso and Duchamp, Breton, Cage, Pollack and Prigov.

Participants will be encouraged to consider the usefulness of translating analysis associated with the avant-garde to contexts beyond the one defined by Burger.

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

Instructor: V. Ambros
Time: Spring, Wednesdays, 10-1

Current semiotic theories of drama, theatre, and cinema have been informed by the theoretical concepts developed since the 1920s first by Russian Formalists and later by the Prague Structuralists of the so-called Prague school who often conceptualized concurrent artistic experiments and developed a language used by both practitioners and theorists (Keir Elam, 2002). This context will serve as a point of departure for a comparison of Prague School semiotics with the modes in which contemporary theorists like Keir Elam, Patrice Pavis, and David Bordwell analyze, and theorize modern artistic trends in drama, theatre, and cinema. Apart from the theoretical texts we will analyze selected dramatic and cinematic works (Paul Wegener Golem; Sergei Eisenstein, October; Charlie Chaplin Modern Times; G.B. Shaw Pygmalion; Walter Hasenclever The Son; Vaclav Havel The Beggars Opera.)

Class participation  10%
Paper 40%
Book Review  20%
Presentation   30%

Instructor: A. Motsch
Time: Spring term, Tuesdays, 11-1

Course Description:
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.)

Oral presentation 10%
A literature review 10%
Written assignment 70%
Overall assessment 10%

Instructor: E. Jagoe
Time:Spring term, Thursdays, 11-1

This course will examine theories and literatures of affinity in order to ask questions about community, love, family, friendship, intimacy, belonging, responsibility, and social change from the nineteenth century to the present. What are the politics of shaping oneself in relation to others, and how do affinities—to people, places, ideas, and things—lend a legal, biological, affective, and moral imperative to community and association? How do we experience the proximity of bodies, sentiments, and ideas, and what does it mean to live politically with others? In reading novels, essays, manifestos and treatises, as well as examining cultural production, we will look at the forms of affinity that get constructed between the different texts themselves and between their readers and consumers. The course will be constructed by investigation around the vectors of two periods, fin-de-siècle European radicalism (Fabian socialism, William Morris, Bloomsbury, Oscar Wilde, J.M. Barrie, Emma Goldman, etc),  and the present era (activist movements, theorists of hospitality, community, cosmopolitanism, stranger intimacy, affect, insurrection, commonality—e.g. Hardt, Zizek, Agamben, Berlant, Tiqqun, Berardi).

2 Class presentations: 30%
Class participation: 20%
Writing: 50%

Instructor: M. Nyquist
Time:Spring term, Mondays, 2-4

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 either revenge or resistance 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 “people” or “nation” as well as in more current senses) as they appear in a variety of literary texts from three distinct pre-modern eras: ancient Athens and Rome; early modern England, France and Spain (the latter in connection with the Ottoman empire); 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 Eumenides, 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 Rape of Lucrece, Richard III, and Hamlet, and Milton’s Paradise Lost (selected books); von Kleist’s Amphitryon, The Earthquake in Chile, Betrothal in Santo Domingo, P. Shelley’s Defense of Poetry and M. Shelley’s Frankenstein, and both poetry and prose written in response to the Haitian revolution. Throughout, we will also discuss relevant cinematic representations of both revenge and resistance.

Texts will be ordered by the Bob Miller Bookroom, 180 Bloor St. West, Lower Concourse. Some will be made available on Blackboard.

Evaluation: Evaluation will be based on seminar facilitations (20%) and participation (20%), two shorter (10%) each and one longer (40%) essay….

Instructor: Rebecca Comay and Andy Payne
Time:Spring term, Tuesdays, 1-3

Since the first exhibition held in London in 1851, world fairs and expositions have been an important locus for the intersection of architectural invention, technological innovation, and the flows of transnational capital. Notable architectural examples include Joseph Paxton’s “Crystal Palace,” at the London exhibition, and the Eiffel Tower, constructed for the exposition celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution. Mies van derRohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, constructed as the German Electrical Industries Pavilion for the world Expo held in Barcelona in 1929, and IannisXenakis/Le Corbusier’s Philips Pavilion, constructed for the world Expo held in Brussels in 1958, speak to the persistence of this phenomenon in the century that followed. Most recently, the spectacular bio-mimetic forms that dominate the landscape of the Shanghai exposition (2010) suggest a transformed global context in which new technologies and materials are recalibrating the ecological relations between built form and natural systems

In demonstrating the convergence of industrial capitalism and visual spectacle on a planetary scale, the great exhibitions of the nineteenth century brought into focus political and aesthetic issues that continue to resonate in today’s globalized world.  In an influential essay of 1938Heidegger describes the post-Cartesian conversion of the “world” into a “picture” — a mise-en-scène or theatrical arrangement – a description which has startling affinities with Benjamin’s contemporaneous reflections on the predominance of exhibition-value (Ausstellungswert) in the modern (secular, disenchanted) age.  One of the questions driving this course is whether the transformations brought about by advanced capitalism have transformed the concepts of both “world” and “picture.” What does it mean to “expose” a “world” in the context of global capitalism?  Architecture, poised at the most tangible intersection of aesthetics and politics, provides a concrete figure and focus for this question.

Focusing on key exhibitions from London (1851) to Shanghai (2010), this course will explore a series of related issues.  First, we will be considering the logic of “exhibition” as such.   How did the introduction of new building materials(glass, iron) at the end of the nineteenth centuryaffect the organization of urban space and transform the relationships between privacy and publicity, inside and outside, nature and culture?  How does the exhibition connect to other institutions (museum, department store, zoo, railway), spatial arrangements (arcade, panorama, diorama) and performances (the trionfi, the military parade and other forms of state pageantry)?  How do the formal techniques of exhibition relate to tropes, genres or styles in literature (ekphrasis, synecdoche, list, encyclopedia, inventory, catalogue, travelogue), visual art (collage, montage, collection, diagram, miniature), or music?  Certain art forms – cinema, for example (with its special motility and panoptic temptations), or opera (with its synaesthetic effects) – seem to have a specific affinity with the exhibition.  As a spectacle unprecedented in scope and scale — the 1900 Exposition UniverselleInternationale attracted some 50 million visitors, more than the entire population of France at the time — the exhibitions also anticipated later inventions such as television and internet.  It typically managed to stage a mise-en-abymeor reflexive miniaturization of its own mass cultural effect: the Exposition Universelle of 1900 put on display new mass communication devices such radio and “théâtrophone,” and featured a dazzling Palace of Electricity, highlighting one of the key innovations that dramatically prolonged the viewing hours of the exposition and supplied its energy. Some observers commented that the key theme of the exhibitions was exhibition itself. Is the exhibition one more medium, even a meta-medium, for the “distribution of the sensible” (to use Rancière’s expression)?

Second: we need to think about the way the “world” space constructed in the exhibition relates to the nation-state and to the local cityscape that wastemporarilytransformed. From its beginnings the world exposition was linked to the emergence of industrial capitalism and the transformation of the historical city into a “world” metropolis or Weltstadt.  Georg Simmel described the exhibition, with its visual assemblage of heterogeneous national products and styles within a single, confined space, as a “momentary center of world civilization” – a demonstration of modernity’s own claim to condense, abbreviate, and organize the universal within a localized and instantaneous frame of reference, like a Leibnizian monad. The imperial issues were from the outset paramount.  There was frequently an ethnographic component (the golden age of the exhibitions coincides, more or less,with the birth of anthropology as a scientific discipline): “native villages” were constructed and colonial subjects were imported – from Senegal, from Dahomey, from Burma — and put on display as living specimens in “human zoos.” Imperialism was to become the explicit focus of several key expositions, most spectacularly in the “Exposition colonialeuniverselle” held in Paris in 1931, whose design sought to demonstrate the solidarity of the European imperial powers.  (The exposition was boycotted and a counter-exposition was mounted by the communists and surrealists that same year — housed, curiously, in a former exhibition palace from a previous event – entitled La véritésur les colonies.)

Third: the growth of mass tourism, in the late nineteenth century, transformed the earlier logic of the Grand Tour, and introduced new visual regimes corresponding to altered modes of consumption and commerce.  The world exhibition occasioned a special kind of tourism: like a spectator at the movies, the visitor could range the globe while staying in one place. New transportation devices, like the trottoirmouvant, both sped the flow of visitors and quickly became one of the exhibition’s most fascinating spectacles in its own right.  There was a time-travel dimension as well: the ethnographic construction of the primitive allowed the viewer to safely contemplate the defining limits of modernity at both its edges: the primitive represented simultaneously the trophy of a past successfully overcome and the sign of a degenerative future averted.  On the domestic front, the reconstruction of archaic or traditional streets or even temporary cities-within-cities – the medieval vistas of AltBerlin, Vieux Paris, Old London—presented to the modern viewer the nostalgic spectacle of an imaginary ancestral past. What does this kind of vicarious travel – virtual, accelerated, omnidirectional–tell us about the modern experience of space and time?  Another key issue, for the exhibition, was the tension between the permanence of its mission, as a “poem of Empire,” and its own peculiar transience: structures were built to be torn down, ephemera were mass produced, postcards were disseminated by the millions; how is this temporal ambiguity between monumentality and evanescence negotiated and represented?

Finally, we need to ask about the contemporary significance of the world exposition.  Do the contemporary forces of globalization – decentered flows of capital, trans-national forms of governance, new telecommunication technologies– impose a new logic of world picturing? We will also want to ask whether the modern theory of the metropolis, as developed by early twentieth thinkers like Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin, is an adequate optic for viewing our contemporary post-metropolitan–conurbanist, megalopolitan–condition.  It is noteworthy that the complaint of “exhibition fatigue” was already in circulation by the 1880s, suggesting a certain unease about the repetitive, hyperbolic, and even anachronistic tendencies of the exhibition from its earliest days.  If the exhibition is a privileged cipher of imperial modernity, its most spectacular attempt at self-representation, do its vicissitudes also reveal something about empire’s endgame?

In addition to specific historical material, the readings will include: Adorno,“Museum Valéry Proust”; Agamben, Stanzas; Marc Augé, Non-places: introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity;  PierAureli, The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture;  Benjamin,Arcades Project; Gaston Bachelard,  The Poetics Of Space; Hubert Damisch:  Skyline: The Narcissistic City;GuyDebord, Society of the Spectacle; Foucault, “Heterotopias” ; Siegfried Giedion, Building in Iron; Heidegger,“The Age of the World Picture”; Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism; Louis Utopics; Marx,Capital; Nancy, The Creation of the World, Or, Globalization, Ranciere, “The Distribution of the Sensible; SaskiaSassen, Globalization and its Discontents; Simmel, The Metropolis and Modern Life; Sloterdijk, “Spheres Theory.”

Seminar presentation (and write-up): 1/3
Final essay:    2/3

Instructor: Willi Goetschel
Wednesdays: Spring term 1-3 Location: Odette Hall, Room OH 323

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 Levinas, 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: June 10, 2013