Comparative Literature Graduate Course Offerings

Spring 2019

CPLT 751 1 "Literature and Justice: Writers on Trial"
Shoshana Felman
M 4-7PM
Max 2
[Cross-listed with FREN 780, ENG 789, PSP 789, & LAW ?]
Content: History has put on trial a series of creative thinkers. At the dawn of philosophy, Socrates drinks the cup of poison to which he is condemned by the Athenians for his influential teaching, charged with atheism, and corruption of the youth. Centuries later, in modernity, similarly influential (similarly charismatic and ironically subversive) Oscar Wilde is condemned by the English for his homosexuality, as well as for his provocative artistic style. In France, the most outstanding writers-- Flaubert and Baudelaire-- are both indicted as criminals for their first (shockingly innovative) literary works; Emile Zola is condemned for defending a Jew against the state which has convicted him, flees from France to England to escape imprisonment.

However different, all these accused have come to stand for something greater than themselves: something that was symbolized -- and challenged – by their trials. Through the examination of a series of historical and literary legal dramas, this course will ask: Why are literary writers, artists and philosophers, repetitively put on trial, and how in turn do they challenge culture and society? What is the role of art and literature as political actors in the struggles over ethics, and the struggles over meaning?

Texts: Texts selected among: Plato’s Dialogues; Molière’s plays; Shakespeare’s plays; Oscar Wilde (Plays, Autobiography, Critical writings); Gustave Flaubert (novels, letters); Charles Baudelaire (poems, criticism, theory of art); Emile Zola (political writings); Herman Melville (novellas); Bertolt Brecht (plays)); Hannah Arendt (Essays, Interviews); Spinoza (Ethics); Sigmund Freud (Psychoanalytic Writings); Jacques Lacan (psychoanalytic seminar); E. M. Forster (novel); Virginia Woolf (novel); Franz Kafka (short stories, parables).
Particulars: Regular attendance; Two short papers distributed throughout the course of the semester; Brief oral presentations; Intensive weekly reading assignment (weekly one-page reading reports) and active preparation of texts for class discussion; ongoing participation.

***NOTE: Recommended for advanced undergraduates can take the class (by permission).


CPLT 751 2 "Theories of the Social"
Jill Robbins
W 1-4PM
Max 5
[Cross-listed with RLR 700]
Content: In the tradition of the French sociology of religion of Durkheim, Mauss, and Hertz, the conceptual figures of sacrifice and gift have received remarkable immanent readings as “total social facts”. This course explores the pre-war sociological texts on sacrifice and gift with attention to their postwar French philosophical resonances in Bataille, Levinas, Derrida and Nancy.
Texts: Readings may include Durkheim, Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Mauss The Gift, Merleau-Ponty, Signs, Weber, Sociology of Religion, Bourdieu, "Structure and Genesis of the Religious Field," Nancy, "The Unsacrificeable," and selections from Bataille, Derrida, Levinas.
Particulars: One class presentation and one 15-20 page paper due at end of term.

CPLT 751 3 "TBA"
Munia Bhaumik
TBA
Max ?
[Cross-listed with ?]
Content: TBA
Texts: TBA
Particulars: TBA

CPLT 751 4 "TBA"
John Johnston

TBA
Max ?
[Cross-listed with ?]
Content: TBA
Texts: TBA
Particulars: TBA

CPLT 751 5 "Tragedy"
Elizabeth Goodstein & Cynthia Willett

Th 1-4PM
Max 3
[Cross-listed with PHIL 789 & ENG 789]
Content: We briefly examine traditional judgment or decision-oriented approaches to tragedy, and then turn to the tragic emotions and their contemporary relevance in an age that has declared classic tragedy dead.  Turning from Sophocles to Euripides sets the stage for bringing forth unheard voices from tragedy’s origins in the choir.  With this turn, we look at alternative non-Western conceptions of tragedy in the birth of music and Dionysius.  Among topics: grieving and compassion, hubris as a relational crime rather than an individual flaw, haunted landscapes and epigenetics, and communal catharsis and psychological venting. Contemporary contexts include Afro-pessimism, the Anthropocene, neo-Stoicism, and Disaster ethics.
Texts: TBA
Particulars: TBA

CPLT 751 6 "Revolutionary Perversions: Literature, Sexuality, Anachrony"
Elissa Marder

T 1-4PM
Max 3
[Cross-listed with FREN 775 & PSP 789]
Content: In this course, we shall examine how representations of “non-normative” sexuality in several major nineteenth-century works relate to the problem of representing history in the aftermath of the French revolution.  Many of the most famous canonical literary texts written in French prior to 1871 include references to impotence, lesbianism, hysteria, cross dressing, bestiality, masturbation and prostitution in the context of narratives that re-write or un-write the legacy of the French revolution. By focusing on the literary treatment of these ‘perverse’ forms of sexuality, we shall attempt to see how they encourage us to think differently about questions of historical transmission, language, gender, and sovereignty.
Texts: Possible texts include: La Philosophie dans le boudoir (Sade), René (Chateaubriand), Ourika, Mme de Duras, Armance (Stendhal), Le Père Goriot and La Fille aux yeux d’or (Balzac), L’Education sentimentale (Flaubert), “Le Secret de l’Echafaud” (Villiers de L’Isle-Adam), and selections from Baudelaire’s prose poems. Critical readings may include works by Freud, Marx, Benjamin, Blanchot, Daniel Arasse, Derrida, and others. 
Particulars: TBA

CPLT 752 1 "Transnational Surrealism, Psychoanalysis, and the Occult"
Walter Kalaidjian

W 1-4PM
Max 3
[Cross-listed with ENG 752 & PSP 789]
Content: 

This interdisciplinary seminar will explore the literary, pictorial, and psychoanalytic registers of transnational surrealist aesthetics.  Readings and discussions will begin with surrealist manifestoes of the modern interwar period, Salvador Dalí’s early dialogue with Jacques Lacan, Georges Bataille’s writings for the journal and secret society Acéphale, and particular attention will be devoted to the gender and sexual politics of women’s place within and beyond surrealism by examining the feminist writing, visual art, and occult practices of Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, and Ithell Colquhoun.  In addition, the seminar will study postcolonial surrealist aesthetics in figures such as Frida Kahlo, Suzanne Cesaire and Wifredo Lam.

The seminar will employ the archival resources of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library and investigate surrealism’s migration at mid-century from Europe to London and finally New York City in little magazines such as MinotaureLondon Bulletin, VVV , and focusing, in particular, on the New York circle represented by the Julien Levy Gallery and in View:  Charles Henri Ford’s avant-garde journal of the 1940s.  In the public sphere, the seminar will consider surrealism’s intervention in Dalí’s Dream of Venus pavilion for the 1939 New York World’s fair and his later Hollywood collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock in Spellbound (1945).
Texts: TBA
Particulars: TBA


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.