Comparative Literature Graduate Course Offerings

Spring 2017

CPLT 550 000 "Western and Russian Postmodernism"

Mikhail Epstein
T 4-7PM
Max 3
[Cross-listed with RUSS 700, ILA 790, ENG 789]

Content: This course offers a comparative perspective on postmodernism in Western and Russian cultures  (literature, visual art, religion, and cultural theory). The course will discuss the  general concept of postmodernism asshaped by American, French and Russian theorists and will bring together  various disciplinary perspectives on the questions of  contemporary cultural self-definition:  How to characterize our  relation  to  the legacy  of Modernity and Modernism?  How  the traditional views on individuality, authorship, text,  reference, truth, and reality are reshaped in  postmodernist theories and practicies? And finally: what comes after this "post-"? The Russian version of postmodernism will contribute to our systematic exploration of this global and multicultural phenomenon. The course will be taught in ENGLISH; knowledge of Russian is not required.  Undergraduate students will need permission of the instructor.
From Modernism to Postmodernism. An Anthology, ed. by Lawrence Cahoone. Blackwell Publishers, 2003.

The Cambridge Introduction to Postmodernism, by Brian McHale, 2015

Russian Postmodernism: New Perspectives on Post-Soviet Culture, by Mikhail Epstein, Alexander Genis and Slobodanka Vladiv-Glover. New Revised edition. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2015.

Readings from J.–F. Lyotard,  J. Baudrillard, F. Jameson, M. Bakhtin,  I. Kabakov, D. Prigov et al.
Particulars: Active participation, oral presentation, and research paper (15–20 pp.)

CPLT 751 000 "Literature and Justice: Writers and Artists on Trial"
Shoshana Felman
M 4-7PM
Max 2
[Cross-listed with ENG 789, FREN 780, WGS 730R, ARTHIST 775R, PHIL 789, LAW 621, (Undergrad Permission Only - Please contact]
Content: History has put on trial a series of outstanding 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 Oscar Wilde is condemned by the English for his homosexuality, as well as for his provocative artistic style. In France, Flaubert and Baudelaire are both indicted as criminals for their first, innovative literary works; Emile Zola is condemned for defending a Jew against the state, which has convicted him. E. M. Forster writes about a rape trial / race trial of an Indian by the colonizing British Empire. Different forms of trial are instigated by religious institutions, as well as by psychoanalytic ones. Jacques Lacan, the French psychoanalyst, compares his expulsion from the International Psychoanalytic Association, with a religious “excommunication”-- for charges of nonorthodoxy and heresy (compare Luther, Spinoza). 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 trials, this course will ask: Why are literary writers, philosophers and creative thinkers, repetitively put on trial, and how in turn do they challenge culture and society and reflect their crises? What is the role of literature as a political actor in the struggles over ethics, and the struggles over meaning? How does literature become the writing of a destiny, what can be called a life testimony or Life-Writing?
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 (Eichmann in Jerusalem, 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 (weekly one-page reading reports) and active preparation of texts for class discussion; ongoing participation.

CPLT 751 001 "Theories of Democracy"

Munia Bhaumik

M 1-4PM
Max 7
[Cross-listed with ENG 789]
This graduate seminar undertakes the dual task of interpreting at the crossroads of literary and political theory to consider various concepts of democracy. We will consider various genres (often understood as either literary, philosophical, poetic, or political) to situate our readings between historical periods, forms, disciplines, or area studies. The first few weeks will be an introduction to readings in political philosophy, including Plato, Aristotle, Alexis de Tocqueville, and John Locke. As these writings were influential beyond their historical period, we will consider echoes and critiques in the writings of Thomas Jefferson and Hannah Arendt. The challenge of the class will be to inquire into how disparate references to democracy relate to practices of reading and critique in literary studies. For example, discussions will seek to uncouple the rhetoric of sovereignty and legalism from democracy.
The second half of the course readings will be guided by graduate student interests: some example may include focus on the American experiment in democracy (Emerson, Thoreau, Walker, Melville); post- or de-colonial theories (Du Bois, Dussel, Gandhi, scholarship generated by the Bandung Conference or Tahrir Square); and/or the question of democracy in critical theory. What political writings invigorate a democratic ethos, thinking, and exegesis? What are some paradoxes and contradictions? How do narratives of democracy move from the Enlightenment to the post-colony? What iterations of democracy remain within a normative, limiting frame? Moreover, the course will conclude by considering the relevance of critique to literary studies as well as philosophies of anarchism, civil disobedience, non-violence, pragmatism, idealism, materiality, and decolonization.
In addition, the course will also integrate instruction on how to develop your ideas from a graduate seminar into a publishable essay over twelve weeks.

Plato, selected short excerpts from Laws and The Republic
Aristotle, selected short excerpts
John Locke, Two Treatises of Government
Hannah Arendt, Promise of Politics
Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
David Walker, Appeal
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (selected chapters)
Herman Melville, Billy Budd and Benito Cereno
W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction
Mahatma Gandhi, Satyagraha
Recommended: Wendy Belcher, Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks

Particulars: Students will collectively elect readings from critical and literary theory to add to discussion. Some examples may include Jennifer Greiman’s Democracy’s Spectacle, Aamir Mufti’s The Enlightenment in the Colony, Jacques Derrida’s Rogues, Enrique Dussel’s Twenty Theses on Politics, Nancy Ruttenberg’s Democratic Personality: Popular Voice and the Trial of American Authorship, Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos or collected volumes such as Democracy in What State? or We, The People?.

CPLT 751 002 "Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit"

Bracht Branham & Donald Verene

T 2-5PM
[Cross-listed with PHIL 531R]

Content: A section-by-section reading of the complete text of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Attention to parts of other works correlated with parts of the Phenomenology: the early fragments, esp. concerning the “mythology of reason,” the Jena system, the “true infinity” and mathematical infinite in the Science of Logic, criticism of deontological ethics in the Philosophy of Right, and the origin of the Absolute in the Cusanian conception of maximum absolutum.
G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller. Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-824597-1
D. P. Verene, Hegel’s Absolute: An Introduction to Reading the Phenomenology of Spirit. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-79146964-4
D. P. Verene, Hegel’s Recollection: A Study of Images in the Phenomenology of Spirit. SUNY Press. ISBN 0-88706-012-9 
Particulars: Final seminar paper (15 pp.)

CPLT 751 003 "Hermeneutics: Between Structure and Event"

Jill Robbins
W 1-4PM
[Cross-listed with RLR 700]
Content: "It is only in the conflict of rival hermeneutics that we perceive something of the being to be interpreted."  If for Paul Ricoeur the conflict of interpretations gives a glimpse of the ontological and hermeneutic dimensions of text interpretation, it also necessitates his "long detour" through structural anthropology and the linguistic model when he makes the case for the semantics of the symbol.

In this seminar we will track Ricoeur 's "long detour" in The Conflict of Interpretations and ask about its implications. We will attend in particular to his reading of Claude Levi-Strauss, Ferdinand de Saussure, Roman Jakobson and Emile Benveniste.  Topics to be considered include: the relation between structure and historicity, the reinscription of diachrony in Ricoeur and in Emmanuel Levinas, the encounter with cultural alterity. Supplementary texts by Levinas, Bernhard Waldenfels and Alfred Schutz.
Texts: Paul Ricoeur, The Conflict of Interpretations (Northwestern); Robert E. Innis, ed. Semiotics: An Introductory Anthology; Emmanuel Levinas, Time and the Other (Duquesne); Bernhard Waldenfels, Phenomenology of the Alien (Northwestern).
Particulars: TBA

CPLT 751 004 "The Work of Memory"
Angelika Bammer
T 1-4PM
Max 8
[Cross-listed with HIST 585]
Content: This course will review some of the key texts and concepts in the emerging field of Memory Studies, with particular emphasis on the connections (and tensions) between history (what happened) and memory (what has been remembered and/or forgotten). In this context, we will explore some of the terms in which memory is talked about, including the distinctions between public, collective, social or cultural, memory, on the one hand, and private, personal, or autobiographical, memory, on the other hand. We will consider the political, ethical, social, aesthetic, and psychological dimensions of remembering – and its counterpart, forgetting – and consider some of the ways in which perspectives and approaches from the field of Memory Studies might offer useful analytical and interpretive tools for our work. Along the way, we will attend to some of the ways that the humanities and the natural sciences approach the study of memory differently to ask if and how dialogue across these fields can be generative.
Texts: Selections from Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Maurice Halbwachs, Paul Connerton, Richard Terdiman, Nicole Loraux, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, Daniel Schacter, Walter Benjamin, Nadine Fresco, Marianne Hirsch, Eelco Runia, Frances Yates, David Rieff. Supplementary materials include films (by Kore-eda Hirokazu, Ari Folman, Alain Resnais, Joshua Oppenheimer, Patricio Guzman, Claude Lanzmann) and selected poetry.
Particulars: Weekly responses to readings (either in narrative, analytical, or poetic form) will provide the basis for each week’s discussion. A semester project will identify a problem in the field of Memory Studies of particular relevance to your research interests, select materials and methods conducive to an exploration of this problem, and choose a meaningful form in which to present your findings.

CPLT 751 005 "The Sublime"

Deborah Elise White

W 4-7PM
Max 6
[Cross-listed with ENG 789]
Content: This course will explore the idea of the sublime especially as it informs eighteenth-century- and early-nineteenth-century British writing (poetry and prose) with an emphasis on Romanticism as well as considerable attention to philosophical writing on art and aesthetics from Germany. What is the sublime? The ecstatic, the extreme, the difficult—any mode or figure that involves the intertwining of pain and pleasure—all these make up the traditional notion of the sublime along with imagery of ruins, darkness and natural disaster.  Our readings and discussions will consider how the notion of the sublime involves a power that exceeds the power of representation to contain it and thus marks the limits of aesthetics within the language of aesthetics itself.  With these issues in mind, we will conclude with some consideration of how recent theoretical and critical writing addresses the sublime and its place in discourses concerning contemporary scenarios of disaster (air war, terrorism, climate change). While the seminar has a strong theoretical component it will cover a number of canonical 18th-19th-century British writers.
Texts: Texts to be drawn from writings of Longinus, Addison, Burke, Collins, Grey, Kant, Wordsworth, Shelley, Derrida, De Man, Karatani, Spivak, Weiskel, and Žižek with particularly intensive focus on Burke, Wordsworth and Kant.
Particulars: TBA

CPLT 751 006 "Against Culture/For Education"

Elizabeth Goodstein & Sander Gilman

T 1-4PM
Max 5
[Cross-listed with HIST 585, ENG 789R, & PHIL 789R]

Content: Inspired by the contemporary “crisis of the humanities,” this course will explore the trajectories of educational visions and cultural ideals in western modernity after the Enlightenment. Tracing a genealogy from Humboldt to the present and paying special attention to critics at the previous fin de siècle who questioned the institutionalization and professionalization of education in the modern research university, we will address the cases for and against education as an instrument of democratization and cultural progress. We will also examine efforts to overcome or resolve the conflicts between individual and collective in modernity through alternative visions of education as a pursuit of worldly knowledge in literary Bildungsromane. This course is open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates.
Texts: Readings may include:
Hannah Arendt, “Crisis in Education” (1954)
Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (1869)
John Dewey, School and Society (1899)
W.E.B. DuBois, Souls of Black Folks (1903)
Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (1929)
Wilhelm von Humboldt, On Public State Education (1792)
Maria Montessori, Pedagogical Anthropology (1913)
John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University Defined and Illustrated  (1852)
Friedrich Nietzsche, Anti-Education (1869)
Georg Simmel “The Concept and Tragedy of Culture” (1911)
Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity (1972)
Max Weber, “Science as a Vocation” (1922)
Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying" and "The Truth of Masks" (1891)
Particulars: Evaluation will be based on weekly short response papers circulated to the group for discussion and a substantial final essay based on original research.

CPLT 751 007 "Water Graves"

Valerie Loichot

W 1-4PM
Max 4
[Cross-listed with ENG 789 & FREN 770]
Content: Martinican philosopher and poet Edouard Glissant writes: “The cemeteries of countries and cities of creolization, and, generally, of powerful hurricanes --Guadeloupe, Martinique, Haiti, New Orleans, Cartagena-- grow into glittering small towns like white beaches, whose avenues open onto fleeting illuminations rather than onto the mute space of a dull hereafter.”

The seminar focuses on the shared vulnerability -ecological, societal, cultural- of sites of creolization in the Caribbean and in the US South. Particularly, it explores how poets, fiction writers, performer and mixed-media artists represent the vulnerability of land and people in response to the lack of official rituals granted to the drowned. In addition to figuring death by drowning in the aftermath of slavery and “natural” and human-made catastrophes, their aesthetic creations serve as memorials, dirges, tombstones, and even literal supports for the regrowth of life underwater. Water, as we will see, is both a place of disconnection (island) and relation (archipelago), as well as an abyss and conduit between the dead and the living.

Hurricane Katrina, which revealed to the world the coincidence of natural and technological vulnerability, poverty, and racial inequality, will serve as a privileged platform to discuss the historically related event of the Middle Passage and the states of ecological and social frailty of our 21st century.

Course Material: In addition to the books to be purchased, readings will include selections from texts by Derek Walcott (The star Apple Kingdom), Édouard Glissant (Poetics of Relation and Overseer’s Cabin), C.L.R. James (The Black Jacobins), George Washington Cable (“Belles Demoiselles Plantation”), William Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom!), Longfellow (“The Slave in the Dismal Swamp”), Natasha Trethewey (Native Guard) for poetry, fiction, and essays; Judith Butler (Frames of War), Colin Dayan (The Law Is a White Dog), Joseph Roach (Cities of the Dead), Ian Baucom (Specters of the Atlantic), Tanya Shield’s (Bodies and Bones), Alexander Weheliye (Habeas Viscus), Vincent Brown (The Reaper’s Garden) for theory. We will also discuss creations by artists Radcliffe Bailey, EPaul Julien, Eric Waters, Kara Walker, and Beyoncé (US); Fabienne Kanor, Patricia Donatien-Yssa, and Laurent Valère (Martinique); Édouard Duval-Carrié and Gabrielle Civil (Haiti); and Jason deCaires Taylor (Guyana).

Required Books (to be Purchased with indicated ISBN only)

  1. Aimé Césaire. Notebook of a Return to the Native Land. 978-0819564528 or Cahier d’un retour au pays natal for students reading in French. 978-2708704206
  2. Edwidge Danticat. Farming of Bones. 978-1616953492
  3. NourbeSe Philip. Zong! 978-0819571694
  4. Jesmyn Ward. Salvage the Bones. 978-1608196265

Particulars: Sustained participation, 3 short response papers, oral presentation, and research paper with annotated bibliography.

CPLT 751 008 "Anger in Postcolonial Theory & Literature"

Deepika Bahri

T 10AM-1PM
Max 3
[Cross-listed with ENG 789R]

Content: This course explores what writer Jamaica Kincaid calls “the angry thing,” Roy “political anger,” Césaire “creative anger,” Armah “victim anger,” Devi “luminous and burning . . . source of my inspiration,” and Bhabha “the basic political instinct of anger,” in postcolonial theory and literature.  The violence of colonialism and the legacies of capitalist modernity and its destruction of habitats and entire peoples are documented in a tradition of protest writing that endures well into the present. In selections from writing by critics Memmi, Fanon, Mbembe, Ngugi, Parry, Harvey, Appadurai, Shiva, Bhabha and writers Kincaid, Césaire, Dangarembga, Devi, NoViolet Bulawayo, Ayi Kwei Armah and poets as well as mixed media and spoken word artists Raman Mundair, Rupi Kaur, Tabish Khair, Hollie McNish and Stephen Morrison-Burke, this course examines the thematics of anger in the emotional public sphere, the saying of “something that people generally do not want to hear” (Kincaid), and the disclosure of “the secret of things” in the “sublimated rage” of art (Adorno).
Texts: TBA
Particulars: TBA

CPLT 751 009 "Body History"

Vincent Bruyere

M 1-4PM
Max 3
[Cross-listed with FREN 770S]

Content: This seminar proposes an introduction to the history of the body with a particular focus on clinical medicine, palliative care, and biography. The objective is to equip students with a frame of reference and a critical vocabulary that will allow them to develop research projects situated at the intersection of health sciences and literary studies. Taught in English.
Texts: Mauss, “Technics of the Body”; De Certeau, “The Unnamable”; Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic; Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Montaigne, “De l’exercitation”; Waldby, The Visible Human Project; Mol, The Body Multiple; Duden, The Woman Beneath the Skin; Walker-Bynum, Christian Materiality; Carlino, Books of the Body; King, Dying at Grace; Montross, Body of Work. Fournier and Minot, Les Mots des derniers soins; Armstrong, “The Temporal Body.”
Particulars: This course will be taught in English.

CPLT 752R 000 "Jean-Jacques Rousseau"

Geoffrey Bennington

Th 1-4PM
Max 5
[Cross-listed FREN 550]
Content: Plus qu’un autre, peut-être, c’est Jean-Jacques Rousseau qui aura signé le dix-huitième siècle français.  Que ce soit en matière de philosophie politique, de théorie pédagogique, d’écriture littéraire ou autobiographique, tout change là où Rousseau écrit et signe de son nom.  Nous essayerons, à travers la lecture de grands textes en tous genres, de mieux cerner la place et les enjeux de cette signature qui se veut unique, garant présumé d’une vérité qui se révélera de plus en plus fabuleuse.
Texts: Les Confessions ; Emile, ou de l’éducation ; Discours sur l’origine de l‘inégalité ; Du Contrat social ; Les rêveries du promeneur solitaire ; Rousseau juge de Jean-Jacques.
Particulars: The course will be taught in French.

CPLT 752R 001 "Theories of Subjectivity"

Dalia Judovitz

T 1-4PM
Max 4
[Cross-listed FREN 770 & ARTHIST 769R]
Content: This course examines the emergence and consolidation of modern notions of subjectivity. It traces the radical shift from notions of self to subject, that inaugurates a new understanding of truth which also implies a new way of being in the world. Combining philosophical and literary approaches, we consider Montaigne’s and d’Urfée’s elaborations of selfhood in terms of multiplicity, embodiment and embeddedness in the world. We follow with an analysis Descartes’s elaboration of rational consciousness as a foundational moment for the development of modern metaphysics. At issue will be the relation of subjectivity to representation, the mind-body dualism, and the analogy of the body to a machine along with attendant philosophical critiques by Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Foucault, and Benveniste. We conclude with an examination of the literary implications of the Cartesian rationalist worldview as outlined through the crisis of signification and the problem of securing and mastering of representation in Mme de Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves.
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.