Comparative Literature Graduate Course Offerings

Fall 2010

CPLT 750 000 Literary Theories

W 1-4
Max 10
[Cross-listed with FREN 780]

Content: An introduction to literary theoretical thinking, focusing on hermeneutic modes and their relationship to linguistic structures.

Texts: Readings include texts by Augustine, Spinoza, Gadamer, Auerbach, Benjamin, de Man, Derrida.

CPLT 751R 000 Special Topics in Literature: Semiotics and Poetics

T 4-7
Max 6
[Cross-listed with ILA 790]

Content: This course is an introduction to the general science of signs which revolutionized many scholarly disciplines of the 20th century, not only poetics and literary theory, but also philosophy, history, cultural studies, and theories of mythology and ideology.  The categories of semiotic analysis, such as "sign" or "structure,"   are indispensable for any contemporary research in the humanities. The course will explore principal problems of semiotics and the broad interdisciplinary range of its applications from the foundational conceptions of Charles Peirce and F. de Saussure to the most provocative of structuralist and poststructuralist writings, by such authors as Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida. Special attention will be given to semiotic methods emerging from different cultural traditions, including  important contributions by Mikhail Bakhtin,  Roman Jakobson, and Yury Lotman. Students are encouraged  to suggest their own topics for discussion and are expected to apply semiotic methods to their respective fields of  concentration

Texts: R. Innis (ed.) Semiotics. An Introductory Anthology,  Bloomington, Indiana UP, 1985ISBN 0-253-20344-9

Roland Barthes.  Elements of Semiology, New York: Hill and Wang (division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994, ISBN 0-374-52146-8

Roland Barthes. Mythologies. New York. The Noonday Press, Farrar, Straus &Giroux,1972, ISBN 0-374-52150-6

Roman Jakobson. Language in Literature. The Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1987, ISBN 0-674-51028-3

Vladimir Propp.  Morphology of the folktale. University of Texas Press, 1968. ISBN 0-292-78376-0

Mikhail Epstein. After the Future: The Paradoxes of Postmodernism and Contemporary Russian Culture. Amherst,  Massachusetts UP, 1995, ISBN 0-87023-974-0

Yuri Lotman. Universe of the Mind. A Semiotic Theory of Culture. Bloomington:Indiana UP,1990  ISBN 0-253-33608-2

Susan Blackmore. The Meme Machine.  Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (May 1, 2000).  ISBN: 019286212X

Michael Riffaterre. Semiotics of Poetry, Bloomington, Indiana UP, 1984. ISBN 0-253-35165-0

Winfried Noth. Handbook of Semiotics, Bloomington, Indiana UP, 1990, ISBN 0-253-34120-5  

Mikhail Bakhtin. Speech Genres... University of Texas Press, 1986. ISBN 0-292-77560-1

Particulars: Assignments will include substantial class presentations  and a 15-20 pp. term paper.

CPLT 751R 001 Special Topics in Literature: Mind, Brains, and Intelligent Machines

Th 1-4
Max 8
[Cross-listed with PHIL 789 and PSYC 770]

Content: This seminar will introduce and explore a range of approaches to the understanding and production (or simulation) of intelligent behavior.  Our approach will be primarily historical and conceptual, rather than technical, in an effort to develop multi-disciplinary discussion of primary ideas, guiding assumptions, and significant shifts in the relevant research.  Beginning with an overview of cybernetics and the computational approach to intelligence developed in the early foundational work of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science, we will then consider neural network theory and Connectionism, followed by the dynamical systems approach in robotics and "situated cognition."  From there we will look at the development of evolutionary robotics and highly distributed information processing systems (bottom-up emergent systems in contrast to top-down systems).  Finally, we turn to recent perspectives on the brain and consciousness.  Along our itinerary we shall consider many examples of intelligent machines (or software) and AI, with an eye toward assessing their specific achievements and limitations.  Although often deemed successful, they all share one limitation: they can only operate in very restricted domains.  Since human intelligence, in contrast, operates in multiple domains or across domains, we must  wrestle with some difficult questions:  What is the key to human intelligence? What is the role of technology?  And what aspects of human thinking, perception, language, consciousness, memory, and evolutionary adaptability might hold clues for the development of more intelligent machines?
It should also be noted that the Center for Mind, Brain, Culture (which will sponsor the course) has generously provided funds for several guest speakers. This will enable us to hear presentations from several researchers actively engaged with questions central to the course and from whose work we shall read samples in advance.

Texts: Minds, Brains, and Computers, ed. Robert and Denise Cummins (selections)
Matter and Consciousness, Paul Churchland (selections)
Artificial intelligence: A Philosophical Approach, Jack Copeland (selections)
Connectionism and the Mind: Parallel Processing, Dynamics, and Evolution in Networks, Bechtel and Abrahamsen (selections)
Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again, Andy Clark
Kinds of Minds, Daniel Dennett (selections)
Bio-Inspired Artificial Intelligence: Theories, Methods, and Technologies, Floreano and Mattiussi (selections)
A Universe of Consciousness, Gerald M. Edelman and Giulio Tononi
On Intelligence, Jeff Hawkins

Particulars: A seminar essay due at the end of the semester; every student will also be expected to lead the group discussion of two short readings. 

CPLT 751R 002 Special Topics in Literature: Theories of Subjectivity

T 1-4
Max 6
[Cross-listed with FREN 770, PHIL 789 and ILA 790]

Content: This course will examine two seminal moments in the invention and consolidation of modern notions of subjectivity. At issue will be the radical shift from notions of self to subject, that will inaugurate not just a new understanding of truth but a new way of being in the world. Combining philosophical and literary approaches, the first part of the course will examine the elaboration of notions of self in Montaigne and d¿Urfé in order to argue for dissemination and multiplicity. The second part of the course will focus on Descartes¿s elaboration of rational consciousness as a foundational moment for the development of modern metaphysics. The relation of subjectivity to representation, the question of language, the mind-body dualism, and the analogy of the body to a machine will be considered along with attendant philosophical critiques by Heidegger, Merleau¿Ponty, Foucault, and Benveniste. The literary implications of this new subjective position and representational paradigm will be elaborated in Mme de Lafayette¿s La Princesse de Clèves.

Texts: Primary texts: Montaigne, ¿Of Experience,¿ and ¿On Some Verses of Virgil¿ from the Essays; d¿Urfé, L¿Astrée (selections); Descartes, The Discourse on the Method and Mme de Lafayette, La Princesse de Clèves.

Theoretical texts: Heidegger, ¿The Age of the World Picture;¿ Merleau-Ponty, ¿The Cogito,¿ from The Phenomenology of Perception; Benveniste, ¿Of Subjectivity in Language;¿ Georges Canguilhem, ¿Machine and Organism;¿ Foucault, ¿The Prose of the World¿ and ¿Representation¿ from The Order of Things (selections) and ¿Technologies of the Self,¿ Judovitz, ¿Hyeroglyphs of Desire,¿ Lyons, ¿La Princesse de Clèves.¿  

CPLT 751R 003 Special Topics in Literature: Explorations in Inter-Disciplinary Scholarship

M 1-4
Max 6
[Cross-listed with ILA 790 and ENG 789]

Content: This course is based on the premise that in a complex world, problems must be approached from many different angles. The current focus on interdisciplinarity reflects this premise. Yet all too often, interdisciplinarity is treated more as a rhetoric than an actual practice. Its transformative challenge is reduced to an additive list without clear motivation: philosophy plus literature, anthropology plus history, x plus y. We take the challenge of interdisciplinarity seriously to ask how it changes the way we do things: the questions we ask, the materials we work with and what we do with those materials, the forms in which we present our findings. This course is aimed at students interested in scholarly practices that cut across established fields of inquiry.

Texts: A selection of critical materials on the question of interdiscipinarity, the structures of scholarship and intellectual life will provide a starting point; other materials will be generated by our work together. Points of departure for our inquiry will be:

  • Edward Said, Representations of the Intellectual
  • Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch, Chronicle of a Summer            
  • John Cage, ¿I have nothing planned ¿¿


  • Class presentation
  • Journal/Worklog
  • Contribution to collaborative event

(Written Permission of DGS required prior to Enrollment)

CPLT 751R 00P Special Topics in Literature: Psychoanalytic Approaches to Literature

Th 9-12
Max 5
[Cross-listed with PSP 789 and ILA 790]

Content: This course has three principal aims: (1) to present an overview of the history of psychoanalysis and its main theoretical currents; (2) to foster an appreciation of how different psychoanalytic perspectives can illuminate literary texts; and (3) to examine how literature in turn anticipates and deepens our understanding of psychoanalysis.

Texts: The authors and texts to be read will include Freud, Sophocles, Klein, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Winnicott, Lacan, Poe, Shakespeare, Bowlby, Wilde, Kohut, Nin, and Fanon.

Particulars: Active participation in class discussions is encouraged, and students will be asked to write a substantial seminar paper.

CPLT 751R 004 Special Topics in Literature: Introduction to Late Heidegger

T 2-5
Max 6
[Cross-listed with PHIL 789]

Content: Heidegger¿s later thought attempts to think a world of relationality. In this course we will take up five of its most prominent and interrelated themes in order to provide a general orientation to Heidegger¿s postwar concerns. We will examine Heidegger¿s understanding of the thing as a ¿gathering¿ of the ¿fourfold,¿ his conception of technology as a challenging of nature that drives towards replaceability, the relation of language to the Greek conception of logos, the role of thinking as a leap into the abyss, and the notion of releasement as a way of letting things be. In short, the course will focus on the Heideggerian conception of presence as singular and relational, addressing the ineradicable ¿danger¿ of the technological world, along with the human¿s role in this as a speaking and thinking being.


Heidegger, Insight Into That Which Is: Bremen Lectures. (1949) (Provided in class)
Heidegger, The Basic Principles of Thinking: Freiburg Lectures. (1957) (Provided in class)
Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking. (1959)
Heidegger, Basic Writings

Particulars: Participation and attendance (10%), in class presentation by participants (25%), response to presentation (15%), final term paper, 20-25 pages (50%).

CPLT 752R 000 After the End: Literature in the Ashes of History

T 1-4
Max 10
[Cross-listed with ENG 789 and ILA 790]

Content: At the heart of the psychoanalytic, literary and (political) theoretical texts in this course are scenes or conceptualizations of a world beyond the end--not only the end of specific eras or experiences but also the end of thought, or of history, as such.  Beginning with the ashes of Pompeii at the center of Freud¿s reading of Wilhelm Jensen¿s Gradiva, this course will trace the delineation, in each writer, of a language that appears to anticipate, and paradoxically to survive, its absolute destruction.  In Derrida¿s rereading of Freud¿s ¿Gradiva¿ in Archive Fever, in José Saramago¿s rewriting of Camus¿s The Plague in Blindness, in Hannah Arendt¿s rethinking of her own earlier work in ¿Truth in Politics¿ and ¿Lying in Politics,¿ in Stanley Kubrik¿s refashioning of film narrative in Dr. Strangelove, and in Cormac McCarthy¿s rethinking of theology in The Road, the writers produce a language that both participates in, and attempts to serve as impossible witness to, a world of ashes in which thought itself has disappeared.  In addition to the above texts, the course may include additional material by Shelly Rambo, Paul Virilio, Maurice Blanchot, Shoshana Felman and Jean Baudrillard.

Texts: McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. Vintage. ISBN 978-0307476302

Saramago, José. Blindness. Harvest. ISBN 0156035588

Camus, Albert. The Plague. Vintage. ISBN 978-0679720218

Jensen, Wilhelm. Gradiva: A Pompeiian Fantasy. Kessler. ISBN 978-1436890922

Freud, Sigmund. Writings on Art and Literature. Stanford UP. Ed. Hertz. ISBN 978-0804729734.

Derrida, Jacques. Archive Fever. Chicago UP. ISBN 978-0226143675

Arendt, Hannah. Between Past and Future. Penguin. ISBN 978-0143104810

Derrida, Jacques. Mal d'Archive. Galilee. French Ed. 2-7186-0454-9

Freud, Sigmund. Der Wahn und die Träume in W. Jensens Gradiva. Fisher Verlag. German Ed. ISBN 978-3596104550

Camus, Albert. La Peste. Gallimard Education. French Ed. ISBN 978-0828836685

Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Norton. ISBN 978-0393007695

Freud, Sigmund. Moses and Monotheism. Vintage. K. Jones Translation. ISBN 978-978-0394700144

Yerushalmi, Josef Hayim. Freud's Moses: Judaism Terminable and Interminable. Yale UP. ISBN 978-0300057560

CPLT 752R 001 Eating the Antilles

Th 1-4
Max 6
[Cross-listed with FREN 785]

Content: In Martinican Creole, Mwen ké mangéw, ¿I¿m going to eat you,¿ refers both to the action of ingesting food, and to the sexual act. The seminar will examine the intersection between the primal act of eating and sexuality in a series of texts from or about the Caribbean. The following will be addressed: repercussions of slavery and colonialism on eating and sexuality; representations of black subjects as edible products (e.g. banania) or as deviant eaters (e.g. cannibals); culinary and erotic responses to colonial or racialist violence; food metaphors and nationalism; exoticism and sexual tourism; closeted and reclaimed sexualities; literary cannibalism and textual authority.
The course will focus mostly on Guadeloupe, Haiti, and Martinique in a Black Atlantic context.

Texts: Primary Texts (to be purchased):

  • Mayotte Capécia. I am a Martinican Woman. Passeggiata Press (February 1998) ISBN-10: 1578890012
  • Aimé Césaire. Notebook of a Return to the Native Land. Wesleyan, 2001. ISBN-10: 0819564524
  • Frantz Fanon. Black Skin, White Masks. Grove Press; Revised edition (September 10, 2008) ISBN-10: 0802143008
  • Dany Laferrière. How to Make Love to a Negro. Coach House Press, 1987. ISBN-10: 0889103054
  • Gisèle Pineau. Devil¿s Dance. Bison Books, 2006. # ISBN-10: 0803287844
  • Marie Vieux-Chauvet. Love, Anger, Madness. Modern Library, 2009. ISBN-10: 0679643516

Additional texts by Buffon, Suzanne Césaire, Myriam Chancy, Patrick Chamoiseau, Maryse Condé, Edwidge Danticat, René Depestre, Gobineau, Lafcadio Hearn, Édouard Glissant, Jean-Baptiste Labat, Audrey Lorde, Montaigne, Saint-Méry, among others, will be available on electronic reserve.
Film: Vers le Sud / Heading South (Cantet/Laferrière, 2007) will be on reserve in the Woodruff Multimedia Library

Particulars: The seminar will be taught in English. All texts will be available in English. Students reading French will be encouraged to do the readings and to write their papers in French. Students working on different linguistic zones of the Caribbean and the African Diaspora will have the opportunity to write their final paper on their respective linguistic area of studies in English or French.

Sustained participation, bi-monthly short response papers, a presentation, a 12-page research paper with annotated bibliography. 

CPLT 752R 00P Studies in History: Sacrifice

W 1-4
Max 3
[Cross-listed with ENG 710]

Content: A seminar on seventeenth-century English devotional poetry, principally the work of John Donne, Aemilia Lanyer, George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, and John Milton.  Our way into this body of work will be through the question of sacrifice and some ¿sacrifice theory¿ (e.g., Bataille, Girard, Agamben).  Why the sacrificial imperative in the Judeo-Christian tradition?  To what extent does Christianity remain a blood cult?  What are relations between medieval and Renaissance, English and Continental forms of crucifixion piety?  The seminar will move, in conclusion, from the English baroque of Milton and Crashaw to the Hollywood baroque of Mel Gibson¿s The Passion of the Christ.  We may also briefly consider some poetry by T.S. Eliot (¿The Love Song of St. Sebastian¿; The Four Quartets), who also wrote influentially about the religious verse of Donne, Herbert, and Crashaw. 

Particulars: Attendance at all seminar meetings; seminar presentation; critical bibliography; final seminar paper.

(Written Permission of DGS required prior to Enrollment)

CPLT 797R 00P  Directed Readings

By permission of the Director.  Please contact the Program Office (N101 Callaway) for more information.

CPLT 798R 000  Supervised Research

For independent research aimed primarily at preparation for graduate exams and dissertation prospectus. Please contact the Program Office (N101 Callaway for more information).

*Must be taken S/U

Content: Variable Credit 1-12

CPLT 799R 000   Dissertation Research


*Must be taken S/U

Content: Variable Credit 1-12