Comparative Literature Graduate Course Offerings

Fall 2013

CPLT 750R 000 "Literary Theories"
Geoffrey Bennington

Max 10
Th 1-4PM
[Crosslisted with FREN 780]

Content: The course explores some of the ways in which an influential way of thinking about language has affected ways of thinking about literature.  After investigating the main tenets of structuralist theory, as derived from Saussure¿s Cours de linguistique générale, we shall go on to see how the internal logic of structuralism led to the rather different positions often referred to as `post-structuralism¿ and/or `post-modernism¿, and to a questioning of the position of theory itself.

Texts: TBA

Particulars: TBA


CPLT 751 000 "Heidegger's Being and Time"
Andrew Mitchell
Th 6:30-9:30PM
Max 5
[Cross-listed with PHIL 541R]

Content: This course is a close reading of Heidegger¿s Being and Time. We will read the entirety of the text over the course of the semester. Being and Time is Heidegger¿s first magnum opus and a landmark text in phenomenology, hermeneutics, and existentialism, as well as in the history of philosophy as a whole. Heidegger¿s avowed goal in this work is to reawaken the question of the meaning of being. In so doing, however, he provides an overarching account of human existence (or rather ¿Dasein¿), one that breaks with subjectivisms of all stripes (Cartesian, Husserlian) and advocates instead for an understanding of existence as a matter of ¿being-in-the-world.¿ Being and Time is largely an account of what it means to exist in this way (propadeutic for asking the question of the meaning of being). Topics to be addressed thus include: the ecstatic nature of existence, the hermeneutical constitution of meaning, the centrality of mood, the practical foundation of theoretical observation, spatiality, the care of the self, death and human finitude, the call of conscience, history and tradition, as well as the temporal horizon of ontology, among others. Student presentations will take up contemporary scholarship on the week¿s reading or contextualize Being and Time within Heidegger¿s lecture courses of the period. Across all of this, the focus will remain resolutely on Being and Time as the culmination of Heidegger¿s investigations into fundamental ontology.

Texts: Either translation is acceptable, slight preference will be given to Stambaugh:

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Trans. Joan Stambaugh. Rev. Dennis Schmidt. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010. ISBN: 1438432763

Recommended: Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper, 2008. 0061575593

Selected commentaries will be ordered with the bookstore as recommended reading.

Particulars: Student presentation, term paper (20 pages), attendance, participation.


CPLT 751 001 "Baudelaire & Benjamin: Poetry of Modern Life"
Elissa Marder

W 1:00-4:00PM
Max 6
[Cross-listed with FREN 775]

Content: Baudelaire¿s poetry continues to address contemporary readers and contemporary concerns.   From the first publication of Les Fleurs du Mal in 1857 up to the present day, Baudelaire¿s poetry has fascinated many, if not most, of the major philosophers and thinkers of the 20th century (including: Valéry, Sartre, Bataille, Blanchot, Proust, de Man, Derrida, etc).  Before his untimely suicide in 1940, Walter Benjamin spent much of the last decade of his life in Paris working on his great unfinished book on the Paris Arcades known now as the Passagen-Werk..   Benjamin¿s writings on Baudelaire provide critical access to his conceptions of materialist historiography, translation, experience, the body, and allegory in his late works. By reading Baudelaire through Benjamin (and other readers) we will attempt to understand why Baudelaire remains the poet of modern life.

Texts: Baudelaire: Les Fleurs du Mal, Le Spleen de Paris, Le Peintre de la vie moderne, Les Paradis artificiels.  Benjamin, Charles BaudelaireThe Arcades Project (Das Passagen-Werk) and selected essays.

Particulars: TBA


CPLT 751 002 "Biopolitics"
John Johnston

W 4-7PM
Max 11
[Cross-listed with ILA 790 & ENG 789]

Content: The course will examine the emergence and development of biopolitics as an idea or concept and explore its relations to biopower, immunity, biotechnology, neoliberalism, biocapital, and eco-politics. We would read a selection of authors that will include Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Roberto Esposito, Paolo Virno, Hardt and Negri, Nikolas Rose, Kaushik Sunder Rajan, Jacques Derrida, Paul Rabinow, Melinder Cooper and others.

Texts: TBA

Particulars: TBA


CPLT 751 003 "Experiments in Scholarly Form"
Angelika Bammer & Anna Grimshaw
M 1-4PM
Max TBA
[Cross-listed with ILA 790, ENG 789, & WGS 588R]

Content: Recent developments in American higher education¿the increasing emphasis on inter-disciplinarity, the so-called ¿crisis¿ of academic publishing, the call for more attention to public scholarship, and the emergence of new fields of scholarly inquiry¿have put pressure on the forms in which scholarship is presented. While such pressure is sometimes experienced negatively, as a problem, it also presents a productive occasion for innovation and creativity. New forms emerge from within given fields themselves as well as from encounters across fields. In this spirit of discovery and experimentation, we will explore challenges to established forms of academic representation. Drawing on a series of case studies, we will examine ways of pursuing intellectual inquiry that extend beyond the conventional academic text.

The goal of this course is twofold: (1) Students will learn to critically assess the possibilities and limitations of conventional forms of scholarly presentation in their own fields; (2) They will learn to explore new forms of scholarly presentation relevant to their work.

Texts: TBA

Particulars: Assessment will be based on class presentations, critical writing and an assignment that demonstrates the student¿s own experimentation with a non-conventional academic form.


CPLT 751 004 "French Feminism"
Sean Meighoo

T 1-4PM
Max 3
[Cross-listed with ILA 790, PHIL 789, & WGS 585]

Content: ¿French feminism¿ is a term that is used within English-language scholarship to refer to a remarkably diverse body of theoretical and creative work associated with the emergence of second-wave feminism in the latter part of the twentieth century, as well as contemporary trends in continental philosophy including existentialism, psychoanalysis, and poststructuralism.

In this graduate seminar, we will read selected texts by some of the most prominent thinkers and writers who have been identified with French feminism, even as we will continue to call into question the value of the term ¿French feminism¿ itself.  French language skills are not required for this seminar since we will be reading these texts in their available English translations.

Texts: Our assigned readings will be taken from the following texts:

  • Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex;
  • Jacques Lacan, Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the école freudienne (ed. Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose);
  • Julia Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language;
  • Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman;
  • Hélène Cixous and Catherine Clément, The Newly Born Woman;
  • Sarah Kofman, The Enigma of Woman: Woman in Freud¿s Writings;
  • Monique Wittig, The Straight Mind and Other Essays.

Particulars: Final course grades will be based on the following:

  • Five (5) response papers (3-4 pp. each, 40% total);
  • Long essay (15-20 pp., 40%);
  • Attendance and participation (20%).

CPLT 751 005 "From Simmel to Adorno"
Elizabeth Goodstein

Th 9-12PM
Max 4
[Cross-listed with ILA 790, HIST 585, & PHIL 789]

Content: In recent years, the sociologist and philosopher of culture Georg Simmel (1858-1918) has been discovered and rediscovered by scholars in a wide range of fields. He has been lauded as a theorist of modernity¿and as post-modernist avant la lettre. His writings provide a seemingly inexhaustible source of brilliant aperçus for literary scholars, philosophers, and social scientists in search of insightful observations from the previous fin-de-siècle, and his remarks on fashion, on femininity, on the intricacies of social life, on the metropolis, are ubiquitous. However, the oft-touted Simmel renaissance has not necessarily resulted in sustained engagement with his work. His magnum opus, the Philosophy of Money, remains high on the list of famous yet unread books, and his considerable influence on twentieth-century thought remains largely invisible. Simmel¿s own prediction that his legacy would be ¿like one in cold cash,¿ invested ¿according to the nature of the heirs¿ in diverse undertakings that rendered its origin unrecognizable, proved all too accurate. In this seminar, we will, therefore, read Simmel and his more famous students and interlocutors¿Lukács, Kracauer, Benjamin, Adorno¿in an attempt to discern Simmel¿s influence and to understand the reasons he has remained on the margins of intellectual history.

As a writer, Simmel was a modernist in the broadest sense, an elegant stylist with intellectual interests that spanned the full range of high and low modern culture. His highly aesthetic mode of theorizing in essayistic tours de force that leap dizzyingly from idea to idea embodies a modernist commitment to self-reflection upon the significance of form. Simmel conceived of modern ¿forms of life¿ as both empirical objects and manifestations of more profound realities. Through theoretical syntheses centered on topoi such as sociability, travel, and urban life, he developed a modernist philosophical perspective that links the historical process of objectification to the modes of experience it produces. His approach¿as much style of thought as hermeneutic method¿brought the concerns of the German philosophical tradition into conversation with modern cultural realities. It is an approach that resonates in the writings of the better-known philosophers and cultural critics who were his students and readers. The goal of this seminar is both to give Simmel his rightful place in the intellectual history of modern thought and to explore the potential of his interdisciplinary method for integrating symbolic and empirical dimensions in the analysis of cultural phenomena in our own time.

Texts: TBA

Particulars: TBA


CPLT 751 007 "Foucault"
Lynne Huffer

Th 10AM-1PM
Max 3
[Cross-listed with WGS 589 & PHIL 789]

Content: For some decades now, it has been much easier to have a passionate opinion about Michel Foucault than an intelligent reading of him. He is a saint or a demon, a liberator or a desecrator, the heroic promoter of an agenda or the debauched prophet of despair.  This seminar will be less concerned to foster impassioned uses of Foucault, or even to analyze his remarkable susceptibility to abuse, than it will be to think with and about some texts that bear his name. We will be particularly concerned with his `ethical¿ and `political¿ texts¿texts about the consequences of medicalizing madness or normalcy, about the powers coded into the category `sexuality,¿ about ancient or contemporary alternatives to contemporary management of human life. Members of the seminar will be encouraged to connect their readings in Foucault with their own intellectual projects.

Texts: The seminar will concentrate on texts by Foucault rather than by his interpreters. Common readings will include:

Foucault, History of Madness [1961], tr. Murphy and Khalfa (Routledge 2006)

Foucault, Speech Begins after Death [1968], tr. Bononno (Minnesota 2013)

Foucault, Abnormal [1974-1975], tr. Burchell (Picador 2004)

Foucault, Discipline and Punish [1975], tr. Sheridan (Vintage 1995)

Foucault, History of Sexuality, vol. 1: An Introduction [1976], tr. Hurley (Vintage 1990)

Foucault, Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, tr. Hurley and others (New Press 1997)

Particulars: Beyond thoughtful reading and participation, seminar members will be asked to write two medium-length exercises over the course of the semester.


CPLT 751 008 "Religion and Language: Biblical Alterity"
Jill Robbins

W 1-4PM
Max 6
[Cross-listed with RLTS 750]

Content: Throughout his ethical philosophy, Emmanuel Levinas suggests, at first discreetly and later with growing explicitness, that his thinking of the otherness of the other person and the radicality of its demand with regard to selfhood may be derived from biblical and talmudic sources. In this seminar we will ask about the relation between "biblical alterity" and the otherness of text interpretation, an otherness arising, Hans-Georg Gadamer asserts, from the historical distance operative in the interpretation of a text from the past.  We will have frequent recourse to the work of Paul Ricoeur, which provides a decisive mediation between phenomenology, philosophical hermeneutics and the biblical tradition. Ricoeur not only offers readings of Levinas and Gadamer, but proposes reading itself as a constitutive structure of existence. Topics to be considered include: the hermeneutic of revelation, the names of God, understanding and self-understanding, understanding, hearing and receptivity.

Texts: Levinas, Otherwise than Being (Duquesne), Levinas, Collected Philosophical Papers (Duquesne), Levinas, Beyond the Verse (Duquesne); Gadamer, Truth and Method (2nd revised edition, revised translation by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall) (Continuum); Ricoeur, From Text to Action (Northwestern); Ricoeur, Oneself as Another (Chicago), Ricoeur and  LaCocque, Thinking Biblically (Chicago).

Recommended: Levinas, Entre Nous (Columbia), Levinas, Nine Talmudic Readings (Indiana); Ricoeur, Figuring the Sacred, Ricoeur, The Conflict of Interpetations (Northwestern).

Particulars: One in-class presentation and one 15-20 page paper due at end of term.


CPLT 751 00P "The Art of Scholarly Writing"
Angelika Bammer

W 9AM-12PM
Max 3
[Cross-listed with ILA 790, WGS 585, & ENG 789]

Content: This course asks basic questions about academic and scholarly writing: What do we write about and why, and how do we go about writing it? By foregrounding the form, rather than the content, of our writing, we lay bare assumptions and expectations, costs and rewards that often go unspoken and remain unexamined. In the process, questions of form (clear and accessible vs. ¿difficult¿ writing, analytical detachment vs. passionate engagement), structure (am I making an argument, telling a story, exploring a question, all of the above, or something else entirely?) and meaning (are what I care about and what I write about connected; if so, how, and if not, does it matter?), will be up for discussion. The goal of the course is to support writing that both meets the criteria of our profession for good academic writing and satisfies our desire to say what we want to say in the way that we want to say it. It envisions writing that is effective, meaningful and satisfying.

Texts: We will read a number of works on writing and a few works that model successful solutions to the challenges that good scholarly writing presents. The former (works on writing) include University of Chicago Press classics like The Craft of Research and Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace and the perennial favorite, Anne Lamott¿s Bird by Bird. Articles and essays by Judith Butler, Primo Levi, George Orwell, T.W. Adorno, C. Wright Mills, Geoff Dyer, Jeanette Winterson, among others, will be available on reserve. The latter (exemplary instances of scholarly writing) include The Question of Hu (Jonathan Spence), Reading National Geographic (Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins), Infinite City (Rebecca Solnit), and The Hysterical Alphabet (Terry Kapsalis and Gina Litherland). These texts will be supplemented by works proposed and presented by seminar participants.

* [recommended, but not required] Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. (1995). Anchor Books
ISBN-10: 0385480016
ISBN-13: 978-0385480017

* [required] Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research, 3rd ed. (2008). University of Chicago Press.
ISBN-10: 0226065669  
ISBN-13: 978-0226065663
[Note: another edition is acceptable]

* [required] Joseph M. Williams and Gregory G. Colomb, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, 10th ed. (2010). University of Chicago Press.
ISBN-10: 0205747469
ISBN-13: 978-0205747467
[Note: another edition is acceptable]

* [required] Jonathan D. Spence. The Question of Hu (1989). Vintage Books.
ISBN-10: 0679725806
ISBN-13: 978-0679725800

* [required] Catherine A. Lutz and Jane L. Collins. Reading National Geographic (1993). University of Chicago Press.
ISBN-10: 0226497240
ISBN-13: 978-0226497242

* [required] Rebecca Solnit. Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas (2010). University of California Press.
ISBN-10: 0520262506
ISBN-13: 978-0520262508

* [required] Terry Kapsalis and Gina Litherland. The Hysterical Alphabet (2008). Whitewalls.
ISBN-10: 0945323166
ISBN-13: 978-0945323167

Particulars: The focus of this course is on the practice, not the theory, of scholarly writing. Students will progress through a series of practical exercises. Class readings will provide context and a framework. Many of these weekly exercises will entail either imitation (write x in the style of y) or translation (translate a piece by as if z had written it). Our critiques will be based on our practical experience with different forms. Over the course of the semester, each student will produce one piece of original writing suitable for publication (an article, essay, conference paper, or dissertation chapter) in which the question of form has been given primary attention and the formal challenges this particular work presents have been resolved.

*NOTE: Permission of instructor required.


CPLT 752R 000 "The Cultivation of the Self"
Dalia Judovitz

T 1-4PM
Max 4
[Cross-listed with FREN 540, RLTS 750, PHIL 789, & ENG]

Content: Based on Pierre Hadot¿s "spiritual exercises" and Michel Foucault¿s theoretical writings on the techniques entailed in the cultivation of the self, this course examines its elaboration in the early modern period in Montaigne¿s Essays. At issue will be the relation of self-knowledge to the care of the self, insofar as its modification and transformations rely on spiritual and corporeal practices and disciplines. We begin by analyzing the philosophical traditions that informed the pagan construction of the self in Marcus Aurelius¿s Meditations and its spiritual, Christian elaborations in St. Augustine¿s Confessions, in order to elucidate Montaigne¿s appropriation of such subjects of meditation, as the contemplation of death, illness, misfortune, friendship, sexuality, and the passions. How do strategies of stoic inspection and control of representations or later Christian models of asceticism, based on self-control and renunciation, give way to a model of self-cultivation that will seek the enjoyment rather than the reform of being?  We will consider the seminal role of reading and writing in composing the self and fashioning its ¿style,¿ which is not restricted to writing, but which as ethos of self-formation and practice of embodiment emerges as a ¿style of life.¿ In conclusion, we analyze how this meditative tradition of self-examination and cultivation is brought to an end by the Cartesian redefinition of knowledge as certitude that will radically objectify both the subject¿s relations to itself and the world, thereby precluding access to its modes of conduct and being.

Texts: Marcus Aurelius, Meditations; Hadot, ¿Spiritual Exercises,¿ Philosophy as a Way of Life; Hadot, ¿Marcus Aurelius,¿ Philosophy as a Way of Life; Foucault,¿ Foucault, ¿The Cultivation of the Self,¿ Care of the Self;  Foucault, ¿Technologies of the Self,¿ Ethics; Foucault, The Use of Pleasure (selections); Foucault, The Care of the Self (selections); Foucault, ¿Self-Writing¿ Ethics; Foucault, ¿The Prose of the World,¿ The Order of Things¿; St. Augustine, Confessions; Marin, ¿Echographies,¿ Crossreadings; Butler, ¿Introduction,¿ Bodies that Matter; Descartes, Discourse on the Method; Michel de Montaigne¿s Essays (selections).

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations ISBN: 0143036270

St. Augustine, Confessions ISBN-10: 014044114X

Michel de Montaigne¿s Essays ISBN-10: 0804704864

Descartes, Discourse on the Method ISBN-10: 0486432521

Foucault, The Uses of Pleasure ISBN-10: 0394751221

Foucault, The Care of the Self ISBN-10: 0394741552

All other selected readings are available on Woodruff Library Direct Reserves.

Particulars: TBA


CPLT 752R 00P "Kafka and Modernism"
Sander Gilman

Th 1-4PM
Max 5
[Cross-listed with ILA 790 & PSP 789]

Content: The seminar will read selected works by the Prague German Jewish writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) in the light of their critical (e.g., Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Zadie Smith) and literary / filmic reception (e.g. Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Borges, Orson Welles, Anne Sexton).  Students are expected to have a good working command of a language in addition to English.

Texts: Kafka, Collected Stories, Schocken Books Inc

Kafka, The Missing Person, Schocken Books Inc.

Kafka, Castle, Schocken Books, Inc.

Kafka, Trial, Schocken Books, Inc.

Gilman, Sander, Kafka, University of Chicago Press

Particulars: TBA

*NOTE: Permission of instructor required.


CPLT 752R 01P "The Russian Avant-Garde, 1917-1928"
Todd Cronan &
Karla Oeler
M 1-4PM
Max 5
[Cross-listed with ARTHIST 769R & ILA 790]

Content: Co-taught by Todd Cronan and Karla Oeler, this course seeks to re-examine the basic claims and problems of Russian art in period between the October Revolution and the beginning of the five-year plan (1928). Divided into four sections, we will consider: 1) the key writings of the Russian Formalists including Viktor Shklovsky, Vladimir Propp, Boris Eichenbaum, and Roman Jakobson; 2) Kasimir Malevich and El Lisstizky¿s Suprematism; 3) The Russian Constructivists including the painting, sculpture, photography of Alexander Rodchenko, Varvara Stepanova, and Vladimir Tatlin as well as contemporary interpretations of their practices; 4) Russian film and film theory including key works by Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov. The aim of the course is to both serve as an introduction to post-Revolutionary Russian art and to consider the arguments, debates and problems that helped generate its formal character.

Texts: TBA

Particulars: TBA

*NOTE: Permission of instructor required.


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

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