Comparative Literature Graduate Course Offerings

Spring 2013

CPLT 551 000 "The Early Modern Black Atlantic & Its Strange Fruit: Blackness and the (Dis)contents of a Transatlantic Early Modernity"

Nicholas Jones

T 1-4PM
Max 5
[Cross-listed with SPAN 530 & ENG 789R]

Content: What makes Africa, after all, so ¿strange¿ and ¿fruitful¿ to early modern European senses and sensibilities? How do black Africans and their descendants view themselves vis-à-vis the early modern world in which they inhabit? Designed for comparatists and students of varied fields with interdisciplinary and historical knowledge of texts, this course will take a hemispheric approach to the early modern Atlantic world by examining fictional and non-fictional works that will help us reach a better sense of how Anglophone, Hispanophone, and Lusophone chroniclers and writers constituted their black subjects¿ Blackness through, for example, constructions of the body, language, religion, and (anti)slavery. Additional topics that will guide our readings and class discussions will include: critical race theory and racial difference; animals and animal imageries; geography and maps; gender and sexuality; material culture (i.e., clothing; cosmetics; food and monetary/economic currencies); African-derived religions and the Inquisition; and, visual culture (i.e., blackface; royal portraiture and paintings; jewelry and other luxurious objects). Although this seminar will focus on written documents dating from the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, we will also frame our critical approaches to a so-called ¿early modern¿ Blackness and Black experience through closely interrogating literary and historical works from the Enlightenment period as well as the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Accordingly, we shall see how Blackness conceptually and experientially is subversively fluid and performative, yet deceptive and paradoxical.

Texts: TBA.

Particulars: TBA.

CPLT 751 000 "The Discourse of Passions in Literature and Art"

Dalia Judovitz

T 1-4PM
Max 3
[Cross-listed with FREN 540, ILA 790, & ENG 789R]

Content: Michel Merleau-Ponty commented that ¿Feelings and passionate conduct are invented like words.¿ This is to suggest that the signs associated with emotion and its expression through behavior will vary both historically and culturally. In this course, we will examine the discourse of the passions in 17-th Century French literature and art in order analyze the specific patterning of the body and world in emotion. The body¿s capacity to gesture by producing material effects in excess of the order of representation will be at issue. Based on Pascal¿s observation that ¿The heart has reasons, that reason does not know,¿ we will inquire into the paradoxes that subtend the representation of passions in a culture that privileges the mastery of reason and the regulatory force of social norms. We will consider how passions manifest themselves at the juncture of signs and body testing the distinctions between the semiotic and somatic, meaning and materiality. Do passions be they erotic or spiritual entail gestures whose resonances, echoes and inarticulate nuances escape the formalizing grasp of semiology? Can the expression of passions be simulated or even counterfeit? The guiding question is how the representation of the passions challenges the limits of not just classical discourse but discursivity in general.

Texts: d¿Urfe, L¿Astree; Guilleragues, Lettres portugaises; Racine, Phedre; Mme de Lafayette, ¿La Princesse de Montpensier¿; Moliere, Tartuffe and theoretical texts by Sartre, Foucault, Merleau-Ponty, Barthes, Bryson, Lyotard, Kamuf, Jean-Jacques Courtine etc., available on on-line reserves.

Particulars: TBA.

CPLT 751 001 "Derrida and Deconstruction"

Geoffrey Bennington

M 1-4PM¿
Max 6
[Cross-listed with FREN 780 & PHIL 789]

Content: The class aims to come to a general understanding of some basic Derridean ¿concepts,¿ and an appreciation of what we might call some of the manners of deconstruction.  Some emphasis will be placed on Derrida¿s earlier writing, on his thinking about literature, and on his polemical exchanges with his contemporaries, but we will also discuss some salient texts from the more explicitly ethical and political writings of the 1990s and 2000s.  We will attempt to understand Derrida¿s writing as far as possible on its own terms, and no prior knowledge of Derrida (or of any other philosopher) is assumed.

Texts: TBA.

Particulars: TBA.

CPLT 751 002 "(Re)Defining Mimesis"

Bracht Branham & John Johnston

F 12-3PM
Max 6
[Cross-listed with ENG 789R, PHIL 789, & ILA 790]

Content: This course will investigate the many shifts in meaning and function comprehended by the term mimesis from the ancient to the contemporary world. As formulated by Aristotle in opposition to Plato, mimesis functioned as a way of defining the relationship of art to the world (e.g., representation, expression, simulation) that is at the same time a way of defining the human, as when Aristotle calls ¿man¿ the ¿most mimetic animal.¿ In the 20th century, with the advent of such technical media as film, gramophone, and typewriter and new ways of modeling the mind, mimesis can only assume a partial function within a larger assemblage, network, or psychic system of words, images and part-objects, as for example in Joyce¿s Ulysses and other modernist experiments. In the course of the century mimesis is repeatedly re-conceived as ¿the mimetic faculty¿ (Benjamin), ¿mimetic desire¿ and the violence of the sacred (Girard), forms of ¿economimesis¿ (Derrida), ¿memetics¿ (Dawkins) and the effect of ¿mirror neurons¿ (cognitive science), but in each manifestation assumes a different form of transmission and dynamic mode.  More recently, in the large media assemblages that characterize the late 20th century, mimesis functions or is understood to operate in imaging, modeling, mimicry and certainly developmental learning, but always and alongside viral replications and strange becomings particularly evident in modern and contemporary art as well as in explosive political events.

In this seminar we will attempt to map or chart these and other shifts across a range of literary, philosophical and scientific discourses, ancient and modern, oral and written. The central question we will explore is how ¿the mimetic function¿ operates in significantly different terms, not only in modern and contemporary literature, but also in current models of the aesthetic, in anthropology, evolutionary theory, and cognitive science, and thus remains an inevitably fundamental concept.

Texts: Selected readings by authors that will include:  Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Petronius, Nietzsche, Bakhtin, W. J. Ong, S. Weil, E. Auerbach, James Joyce, F. Kittler, Freud, Lacan, W. Benjamin, Adorno, Girard, Derrida, Dawkins, Taussig, Deleuze, Baudrillard, Bolter and Grusin, and M.Arbib.

Particulars: two class presentations, and two short papers

CPLT 751 003 "Intersections: Democracy, Literature, Critique"

Munia Bhaumik

Th 4-7PM
Max 20
[Cross-listed with ENG 789R]

Content: This graduate seminar undertakes the dual task of interpreting at the crossroads of literary and political theory. By tracing various reflections on democracy across genres (often understood as either literary, philosophical, or political), we will situate texts beyond historical periods, forms, disciplines, or area studies. Instead, the challenge of the class will be to inquire into how disparate references to democracy relate to the enduring practice of "critique." Does the notion of critique from Immanuel Kant, Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin to contemporary theory invigorate a democratic ethos, thinking, and exegesis? How does "critique" animate and unravel normative, colonial, and even totalitarian definitions of democracy? What is the place of the literary in theories of democracy?

The readings in the seminar will begin with writings on democracy marked by the Enlightenment (including the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions) as a set of foundational fictions. However, additional readings hope to consider the limits of Enlightenment notions of democracy as well as its influence on post-colonial thought and literature. Key examples will include debates on republicanism and democracy in the nineteenth-century Americas (including Latin American and U.S. texts) as well as critiques of violence in treatises of national "independence" and "liberation" after 1947.

Discussions will seek to uncouple the rhetoric of sovereignty and legalism from democracy. Moreover, the course will conclude by considering the relevance of critique to literary studies as well as philosophies of anarchism, civil disobedience, feminism, queer theory, and decolonization.

Readings on Critique:
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Judgment
Walter Benjamin, "Critique of Violence"
Hannah Arendt, "The Social Question" and Origins of Totalitarianism
Michel Foucault, "What is Enlightenment?"
Selections from Gayatri Spivak's Critique of Postcolonial Reason
Selections from Is Critique Secular?

Democracy and the Long Nineteenth Century:
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
Herman Melville, Billy Budd and Benito Cereno
Ralph Waldo Emerson. "The American Scholar" and selected essays on anarchy
Percy Shelley, The Mask of Anarchy W.E.B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folks and Black Reconstruction

Democracy and the Post-Colony:
Gilberto Freyre, on racial democracy in Casa Grande y Senalaza
C.L.R James, The Black Jacobins
Mahatma Gandhi, Satyagraha

Selections from:
Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony
Donna Jones, Racial Discourses of Life Philosophy
Aamir Mufti, The Enlightenment in the Colony
David Scott, Tragedy and the Colonial Enlightenment

Particulars: TBA.

CPLT 751 004 "Sacrifice and Gift"

Jill Robbins

W 1-4PM
Max 9
[Cross-listed with RLTS 750J]

Content: In the tradition of the sociology of religion of Durkheim, Mauss, and Hertz, the conceptual figures of sacrifice and gift received remarkable immanent readings as ¿total social facts¿. This course explores the relation between the pre-war French sociological and the post-war French philosophical approaches to sacrifice and gift on the part of Levinas, Derrida, and Nancy. Through intensive close readings of texts, we will consider the specifically ethical significance of generosity and sacrifice, the tension between their economic and aneconomic interpretations, and the ¿sacrifice¿ of sacrifice in the philosophical tradition in the West.

Texts: Mauss and Hubert, Sacrifice; Mauss, The Gift; Derrida, Given Time; Derrida, The Gift of Death; Levinas, Collected Philosophical Papers; Schrift, ed. The Logic of the Gift;  Derrida, ¿At This Very Moment in this Work Here I am¿ (in Bernasconi and Critchley, ed. Re-reading Levinas); Nancy, ¿The Unsacrificeable¿ (in A Finite Thinking); Levinas, ¿The Trace of the Other¿ (in Taylor, ed. Deconstruction in Context); Levinas, ¿Dying-for¿ (in Entre Nous).

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

CPLT 751 005 "Contemporary Film Theory"

Karla Oeler

Max 3
MWF 9:35-10:25AM (Lectures); Tu 8-10PM (Screenings)
[Crosslisted with FILM 582]

Content: This course considers key methodological approaches that have shaped contemporary thinking about film and media. These include semiotics, narratology, psychoanalysis, feminist and critical theory.

Objectives: By the end of this class you will be able to:

  • Identify and describe key trends of Western film theory and criticism written after 1960.
  • Use, and critique, the methods of semiology, narratology, psychoanalysis, critical and cultural theory as ways of understanding contemporary film and media.

Texts: Roland Barthes, Image/Music/Text (Noonday Press, 1978); Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1980); Christian Metz, Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1991); ---. The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema (Bloomington: Indian UP, 1977); Robert Stam et al. New Vocabularies in Film Semiotics: Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, and Beyond (London: Routledge, 1992). All other texts will be on electronic reserve or on book reserve.

Particulars: Mandatory film screenings, short paper (5-7-page), final exam.

CPLT 751 006 "Research Design"

Kevin Corrigan

Th 10AM-1PM
Max 4
[Cross-listed with ILA 782 & ANT 585]

Content: Are you planning or hoping to write an interdisciplinary dissertation? This course is designed to help you think creatively, concretely, and systematically about the theoretical and practical aspects of turning your ideas into a manageable, focused project.

Rather than asking what interdisciplinarity ¿is¿ or should be, we will take up particular cases of pathbreaking interdisciplinarity scholarship. Students will develop their own projects in dialogue with these exempla and with one another, learning to reflect on how the assumptions and expectations they bring to the table both limit and enable their work. By fostering conversation across disciplinary boundaries, this course will help you refine your ideas, incorporate new perspectives, and think more flexibly about the ends of scholarship.

By the end of the semester, you will have 1) become acquainted with a variety of innovative approaches to interdisciplinary scholarship; 2) clarified your own research goals and explored possible research strategies; and 3) developed and presented a draft project proposal and research plan. You will also gain experience as an editor and critic by responding to the work of your fellow students.

Both seminar and workshop, this course is required for all ILA graduate students and is open to graduate students in the humanities and social sciences or elsewhere whose orientation is primarily analytic, critical, or interpretive.

Texts: TBA.

Particulars: TBA.

CPLT 751 007 "Postcolonial Theory"

Sean Meighoo

Th 1-4PM
Max 3
[Cross-listed with ILA 790 & PHIL 789]

Content: Postcolonial theory is a recently established interdisciplinary field of study that addresses the relations between race, ethnicity, culture, and power after the global decline of European colonialism over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As its name suggests, postcolonial theory is indebted both to anticolonial thought and to poststructuralist theory. Although some knowledge of either anticolonial thought or poststructuralist theory is recommended, it is not required for this course.

We will read selected texts by some of the most prominent scholars associated with postcolonial theory in this course. Although our class discussions will be focused on the assigned readings, we may also draw from literature, art, music, and film in critically assessing such theoretical concepts as identity, difference, representation, subalternity, essentialism, and hybridity.

Texts: The assigned readings for this course will be provided by the following texts:

  • Edward W. Said, Orientalism;
  • Said, Culture and Imperialism;
  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics;
  • Spivak, ¿Can the Subaltern Speak?¿ in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg);
  • Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture;
  • Stuart Hall, selections from Black British Cultural Studies: A Reader (ed. Houston A. Baker, Jr. et al);
  • Trinh T. Minh-ha, Woman, Native, Other;
  • V.Y. Mudimbe, The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge.

Particulars: Student evaluations 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 00P "Globalization, Empire, Theory"

Deepika Bahri

T 1-4PM
Max 3
[Cross-listed with ENG 789R]


Empire: (OED,

  • [n] a group of diverse companies run as a single organization
  • [n] a monarchy with an emperor as head of state
  • [n] the domain ruled by an emperor or empress

Postcolonial. Empire. Globalization. Quodlibet [Whatever]. These are theoretical attempts to capture and name elusive historical forces. Hardt and Negri's Empire and subsequent discussions furnish the occasion to examine the grand narratives of modernity: empire, nation, progress, capitalism, democracy, narratives that unspool like so many plots once they have become the chosen stories of the time. And then there is that other narrative, Literature, which is the world of fiction, of small things and small worlds caught in the throes of historical plots: the woman, the untouchable, the hero, the loser, the villain, the winner, the survivor.

To study the two plots together is the objective of "Empire.Globalization: Fiction and Theory"

This course considers the following questions: How does the work of empire begin? What are its tools, its theories, its fictions, its nervous conditions? When the empire writes back, what are its major concerns, its favored genres, its aesthetic forms, its evasions, and its con-texts?

Texts: Marx, Adorno, Benjamin, Fanon, Hardt/Negri, Fukuyama, Spivak, Bhabha, Z. Smith, Anyango, Naipaul, Roy.

Particulars: TBA.

*NOTE: Permission of instructor only.

CPLT 751 01P "Judith Butler: From Performativity to Ethics"

Lynne Huffer

Th 1-4PM
Max 3
[Cross-listed with WGS 585 & PHIL 789]

Content: TBA.

Texts: TBA.

Particulars: TBA.

*NOTE: Permission of instructor only.

CPLT 751 02P "Drama, Justice and Theatrical Performance: Between Theater and Trials"

Shoshana Felman

M 4-7PM
Max 5
[Cross-listed with ENG 789R, FREN 780, PSP 789, ILA 790, LAW 634]

Content: This course will study literary (and sometimes historical, and cinematic) courtroom dramas, in reflecting on the relationship between the legal stage, the theatrical stage, the political (historical) stage, and the stage of the unconscious (the ¿other scene¿, in Freud¿s term).

Legal trials share with theatrical plays (whether historical, political, or fictional, literary) the fact that they are social spectacles of living confrontations, embodying conflicts and disputes that are enacted on a stage, address an audience, follow ceremonial practices and rituals, and use dialogue and actors (or performers) who play designated roles. This course will ask: What is the reason for modern theater¿s increasing emphasis on trials? What can trials teach us about theater?  And conversely, what can the theater teach us about trials?  What is the role of trials ¿ as spectacular crises of truth ¿ in the theater of history and of cultural memory?

Observing how courtroom dramas (in culture, and in literature) take place as exchanges between events, acts, bodies, words, ritual, ceremony, and testimony, we will ask: What does it mean to be a player (in life, and in the world)? We will view the stage as a space of intersection between the private and the public, between the individual and the collective, between the sacred and the secular, as well as a space of exchange between illusion and reality, reason and madness, consciousness and the unconscious.

Literary courtroom dramas
(plays, scenes from novels, evoking at times historical trials) selected among: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Molière, Bertolt Brecht, Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Moises Kaufman, Peter Weiss, Emile Zola, Herman Melville, E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf 

Critical and theoretical texts selected among:  Aristotle, Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Jean-Paul Sartre, Antonin Artaud, Bertolt Brecht, Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, Barbara Johnson.

Particulars:  Emphasis on close reading.

Required: Regular attendance and ongoing participation; two short papers; brief oral presentations.

*NOTE: Permission of instructor only.

CPLT 751 03P "Caribbean Southern"

Valérie Loichot

W 1-4PM
Max 5
[Cross-listed with ENG 789R, FREN 785]

Content: This course will read texts from the U.S. South through the lens of Caribbean theoretical, poetic, and fictional productions. Conversely, U.S. writing will illuminate Caribbean literature. The course will also highlight terms that resist translation and do not travel well between the two regions (e.g. ¿métissage¿ and ¿miscegenation¿). Lectures and discussions will be organized around the following keywords: plantation and marooning; water and ecologies; genealogies and sexualities; the discourse of disaster; creolization and neo-creolization.

Texts: In addition to the list of books to be purchased, readings will include texts by Kamau Brathwaite, Wilson Harris, Sylvia Wynter, George Washington Cable, Lafcadio Hearn, Junot Díaz and Edwidge Danticat. We will also discuss Benh Zeitlin¿s film Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Required Books:

  • Maryse Condé. Windward Heights. Soho Press, 2003
  • William Faulkner. Absalom, Absalom! The Corrected Text, Vintage, 1990
  • Edouard Glissant. Faulkner, Mississippi. U of Chicago P, 2000
  • Edouard Glissant. Poetics of Relation. U of Michigan Press, 1997
  • Pauline Melville. The Ventriloquist¿s Tale. Bloomsbury, 1997
  • Toni Morrison. A Mercy. Vintage 2009
  • Derek Walcott. Collected Poems (1948-1984). Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1987
Optional Books (French originals):
  • Edouard Glissant. Faulkner, Mississippi. Folio, Gallimard, 1998
  • Edouard Glissant. Poétique de la Relation. Gallimard, 1990
  • Maryse Condé. La Migration des cœurs. Pocket, 1998.

Particulars: Sustained participation, short response papers, presentation, research paper with annotated bibliography.

*NOTE: Permission of instructor only.

CPLT 753 00P "Teaching of Literature"

Deborah Elise White

T 9:30AM-12:30PM
Max 7

Content: A seminar in pedagogy that meets the requirement of the graduate School's TATTO program for graduate students in Comparative Literature, this course prepares graduate students to teach comparative literature to undergraduates, particularly in Emory's Literature 110, Literature 201 and Literature 202. This seminar will focus on practical aspects of teaching as well as offering some consideration of theoretical questions surrounding pedagogy and controversies that have influenced the academy in recent years. Our aim will be to achieve a balance between a pragmatic, `workshop¿ approach and more philosophical reflection on what it means to teach. Topics covered may include: constructing a syllabus, technology in the classroom and the specific dynamics of teaching writing, poetry, literature in translation, novels, and literary theory.

Texts: Readings to be made available through electronic reserve and the Comparative Literature Department. They will be drawn from works by (among others) Aronowitz, Barthes, De Man, and Readings.

Particulars: Students will have several writing assignments geared to specific demands of teaching: practice syllabi, paper topics, exam questions etc. Each student will also offer a short ¿class¿ to the rest of the seminar.

*NOTE: Permission of instructor only.

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.