Spring 2016

Comparative Literature 133: Contemporary Imagination in Literature & the Arts 3 cr (U; HU)

Class Number 47802 Lec001 TR 11:00 am-12:15 pm (Drago Momcilovic)
Class Number 48801 Lec202 ONLINE (Drago Momcilovic)

From Gothic terror to modern alienation, the artistic impulse and the human imagination have been prominent themes in literature and the visual and performing arts for the last 200 years. This course, which is taught in online and face-to-face sections, is an introductory survey of some of the most gripping, imaginative narratives, images, and performances from around the world. Our survey will include bewildering short stories by Franz Kafka; popular detective fictions from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; decadent poetry by Charles Baudelaire; various folk tales and oral epic songs from around the world; Mozart’s enchanting opera The Magic Flute; Tchaikovsky’s timeless ballet Swan Lake; Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso’s revolutionary art; Madonna’s controversial concert performances; Marjane Satrapi’s contemplative graphic novel Chicken with Plums; and so much more. Satisfies GER (HU) and L&S International req.  Counts toward Cultures & Communities and Digital Arts & Culture.

CompLit 135: Experiencing Literature in the 21st Century (3cr; U; HU)

Topic: Youth Literature in the Middle East

Class Number 48800 Lec001 TR 9:30 am-10:45am (Dalia Gomaa)

We will read texts from Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco that are translated in English. Some of the topics we will discuss are the Arab Spring, political unrest, stereotypical representation of the Middle East. We will start with a geographical and a historical background about the countries that are referred to as “Middle East” in order to question and, perhaps, critique the term, or attempt a newer way of understanding and thinking of it. Satisfies GER (HU) and L&S International req.  Counts toward Cultures & Communities, Digital Arts & Culture and Middle Eastern and North African Studies.

Comparative Literature 208: World Literature in Translation: The 17th to the 21st Century 3 cr (U; HU)

Class Number 47803 Lec001 TR 11am- 12:15pm (Daniel Haumschild)

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Imperial powers within Europe were really hitting their stride in the game of exploitation, plunder, destruction, and racial oppression that is commonly called colonialism. By the time the industrial revolution happened, all of the technologies were available to make life a party for aristocrats and a living hell for everyone else—especially if they were not European. The conquest of the world was well documented by the literary community. Authors regaled the victorious expansion of empire, the ‘civilization’ of the globe by the ‘benevolent’ hand of Britain, and the lavish luxuries that come with economic and political domination. Others criticized the racist policies, the heinous crimes, and the general hypocrisy of the supposed ‘moral high ground’ amidst wholesale slaughter of native peoples. For years, the literature of colonialism attempted to wrestle with the spoils and the unsavory aspects of the imperial drive. Then came the phase of decolonization and authors again took to their craft to explain the tumult of the times. From Haiti in 1791 to South Africa in 1994, people took up arms against their oppressors. Most of these struggles remain unfinished.

In this course we will examine the role that imperialism has played in world history for the past four centuries through an examination of literature that takes colonialism or decolonization as its subject. The course will deal with issues such as race and racism, capital exploitation, slavery, rape, and genocide; it will also present literature that documents subversion, revolution, sacrifice, martyrdom, and hope. Ultimately we will trace world history as we work through the literature that documents one it’s most vitriolic and influential eras.

Within the course we may read the following texts:

Frantz Fanon (Martinique), Wretched of the Earth
Joseph Conrad (Poland/England), Heart of Darkness
Emeric Bergeaud (Haiti), Stellar
Nadine Gordimer (South Africa), July’s People
Tayeb Salih (Sudan), Season of Migration to the North
Mia Cuoto (Mozambique), Sleepwalking Land

This course may also use a reader rather than multiple texts.
Satisfies GER (HU) and L&S International req. Counts toward Cultures & Communities.

Comparative Literature 230: Literature and Society 3 cr (U; HU)

Topic: Genocide

Class Number 51045 Lec001 MW 2pm-3:15pm (Daniel Haumschild)

Within everyone there is a génocidaire. This is far from a novel idea. Perhaps the most well-known rendering of an argument that supports this idea is Hannah Arendt’s famous ‘Report on the Banality of Evil’, the subtitle to Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963). Other notable studies from Milgram (1963) to Zombardo (1972) support the conclusion that so-called “normal” and “sane” individuals are capable of participating in acts that are destructive, abusive, violent, or genocidal. The so-called common sense that the génocidaire is ‘abnormal’ or aberrant is troublingly misguided.

In fact, what is malignant within the phenomenon of genocide is not the individual, but the community in which they participate. A person is generally guided by parameters of ‘normalcy’ that are collectively determined. A single individual who decides to attack an ethnically or racially determined group could be identified as a serial killer. In the case of genocide, however, the same individual actions might be perceived as normal or even exemplary and the individual could go unidentified or simply denoted as a good citizen. In such situations, in fact, not committing heinous acts of violence is more noticeable and questionable than committing them. In short, the study of genocide is not a study of the aberrant behaviors of a collection of individuals; it is a study of community.

To that end, this course will study communities dealing with the legacy of genocide through the artistic productions of its surviving members. Through these works we can further our understanding and compassion for the kinds of ‘normalcy’ that can be generated within the world. In so doing, we will come to recognize the ways that we are also inscribed or coerced by the normative structures of our own society. We will simultaneously broaden and deepen our understanding of genocide by examining a diverse range of selected works of literature and film from Rwanda, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, the United States, Bosnia and elsewhere.

Readings may include:
Roberto Esposito, Communitas
Edwidge Danticat, The Farming of Bones
Loung Ung, First They Killed My Father
Ward Churchill, Kill the Indian, Save the Man
Sela Leydesdorff, Surviving the Bosnian Genocide
Jean Hatzfeld, Machete Season.

Satisfies GER (HU) and L&S International req.

Comparative Literature 233: Literature and Film 3cr (U; HU)

Topic: Africa, Inside and Out

Class Number 49225 Lec001 MW 11am-12:15pm (Daniel Haumschild)

Of all inhabited spaces on the earth, perhaps none is more misunderstood by Westerners than Africa. The fact that American students continue to make the mistake of starting papers with the phrase “Africa is a country…” is indicative of the way we are generally ignorant of the continent. Many individuals have learned what they know about Africa from misguided stereotypes or sensationalized news stories that are provided by non-Africans. The lack of information does not halt our fascination with the continent. As a result, we heartily consume the reductionist or sensational representations that span from 19th century narratives about the ‘dark continent’ to modern Hollywood depictions of mutant silverback gorillas with automatic weapons. In this course we will examine such representations with a critical eye.

Aiding our analysis of these depictions from ‘outside’ will be works that come from ‘inside’. We will juxtapose each non-African work with one that has been created by an African author, poet, or and filmmaker. By examining these representations, we will gain a better understanding of the historical, social, political and cultural realities of various places within Africa. Furthermore, when we place these works in contrast to those from the ‘outside’ we will witness just how shameful some interpretations of the continent can be.

Ultimately, the course aims to generate a better sense of specific places within the continent and to challenge each student to reconsider the source of their information. In this course we will pay closer attention to the bias, ideology, intention, and commercial components of production. We will therefore be able to discern that not every ‘outside’ depiction is wrong and not every ‘inside’ representation is positive or even accurate. Along the way, however, we will begin to identify reliable sources of information as our critique of each work becomes more contextualized and nuanced through our heightened awareness of the realities facing Africa and Africans. Satisfies GER (HU) and L&S International req. Counts toward Digital Arts & Culture and Film Studies.

Comparative Literature 350: Topics in Comparative Literature 3 cr (U/G)

Topic: Tales of Terror: European Gothic Fiction

Class Number 54224 Lec201 ONLINE (Matthew Russell)

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” (H.P. Lovecraft)

This course will explore how texts exploit this oldest and strongest emotion through well-known tropes of terror; haunted houses, monsters, ghosts, ghouls, madmen, madwomen, specters, vampires, werewolves, and a wide variety of other creepy, mysterious, and dark things will fill our semester’s texts. This course will consider works that fall under the very broad genre known as “The Gothic.” As this genre is one of highly contested boundaries, we will consider how to define the Gothic, and what exactly constitutes this form. While many identify the origins of Gothic fiction in late 18th century fiction from Germany and England, the major works from this course will focus on later explorations of the Gothic and span the 19th to the 21st century. Beginning with the work of Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker (author of Dracula), we will explore the ways in which the genre of the Gothic has been interpreted to accommodate the many and diverse forms of modern anxieties and fear.  Our texts will include a wide range of examples (novels, poetry, short stories, and essays) and authors (from H.P. Lovecraft to Thomas Ligotti and Stephen King) as well as critical essays that help map out the modern terrain. Satisfies L&S International req.

Comparative Literature 365: Literatures and Cultures of the Americas 3cr (U/G)

Topic: Gender, Race, and Epidemic Violence

Class Number 51538 Lec001 MW 2:00pm-3:15pm (Kristin Pitt)

This course examines literary representations of contemporary epidemics of gendered and racialized violence against women in the Americas, including the ongoing deaths of women and girls in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women of Canada. Throughout the semester, we will ask what social and cultural narratives contribute to such waves of violence, and what role literature plays in their potential disruption. As even this brief description suggests, many of the course materials will include difficult and potentially disturbing depictions of violence, although our readings and discussions will also examine literary and cultural strategies for drawing awareness to, understanding, and disrupting violence against marginalized women as well. Satisfies L&S International req. Counts toward Global Studies (Communication and Security tracks); Latin American and Caribbean Studies; Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. Latin@ Studies; and Women’s Studies.

Comparative Literature 461: Film and Fiction Interaction 3cr (U/G)

Topic: Armageddon

Class Number 49429 Lec001 TR 2pm-3:15pm (Daniel Haumschild)

The end of the world is a problem that we expect to face and for thousands of years we have been imagining what that might look like. In this course we will have the joy of looking at depictions of Armageddon that have been generated through both literature and film. Particularly, we will be looking at films that attempt to recreate the end of the world as it is portrayed in writing. By looking at both media, the course will provide an opportunity to address the capacities and limitations of each form. As we will see, in certain films, the concept of total annihilation comes off as campy or even comical compared to their literary counterparts. On the other hand, the realistic capacities of the moving picture can generate a morbid horror or fascination that may be difficult to replicate in print.

Each work underscores a different mode of destruction—from the return of God, to a zombie apocalypse, to the atom bomb. Along the way, we will thus be treated to depictions of the human that reveal some redeeming and some terrifying qualities. Different genres will give us alternate understandings of how we perceive both the spirit and the stupidity of people. In turn, we will be glancing at both the most sympathetic and the most cynical representations of humanity.

Disclaimer: fans of Ben Affleck will be heartbroken to note that the movie Armageddon is not listed below. However, the following books and films may be selected: The Bible/The Final Judgment, Noah, Deluge, The Body Snatchers/Invasion of the Body Snatchers, On The Beach, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Andromeda Strain, Children of Men, The Road, World War Z. Satisfies  L&S International req. Counts toward Film Studies.

Comparative Literature 464: Seminar in Contemporary Literary Criticism 3cr (U/G)

Topic: Posthumanism in the Humanities

Class Number 51670 Sem001 MW 12:30 pm-1:45 pm (Drago Momcilovic)

The turn to humanistic thinking in early modern Europe manifested a series of narratives in literature, philosophy and criticism highlighting the dignity of human experience.  These narratives, however, locate the figure of the human at the center of the universe and orbited by humanity’s various “others”—including creaturely life forms, mythic monsters, natural landscapes, and technological machinery.  This course re-frames the centuries-old question—what does it mean to be human?—within new and timely contexts emerging in animal studies, monster culture, environmentalism and the digital humanities.  Drawing from the theoretical work of Gilles Deleuze, Judith Butler, Donna Haraway, Cary Wolfe, Jean-François Lyotard, Giorgio Agamben, Walter Benjamin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Martin Heidegger, we will trace the different and ever-changing borders of the human as it encounters a wide range of archetypal “others”—including the mythic superhero, the menacing zombie, the humble pet, the torrential storm, the gleaming machine, and the Internet.  Our primary texts will tentatively include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, short stories by Jorge Luis Borges and Franz Kafka, poetry by Petrarch and Charles Baudelaire, Aesop’s fables and other selected fairy tales, Japanese manga by Osamu Tezuka, paintings by Francisco Goya and Frida Kahlo, and a wide range of popular media texts—including the films Metropolis and Night of the Living Dead and selected TV episodes of Project Runway. Satisfies L&S International req.