Courses

FALL 2017

CompLit 133: Contemporary Imagination in Literature & the Arts [U]

Lec 001 / GER [HU] / 3 cr. / MW 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm
Lec 202 / GER [HU] / 3 cr. / Online Web
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; musical masterpieces from Beethoven to the Beatles; Fritz Lang’s sci-fi classic film Metropolis; 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. Two sections of the class are available, including an online section and a traditional lecture.  All texts will be taught in English translation and subtitles.  Satisfies GER (HU) and L&S International Req. Affiliated with Cultures & Communities and Digital Arts & Culture.

CompLit 135: Experiencing Literature in the 21st Century: Magical Realism and the Fantastic in Literature and the Arts [U]

LEC 002 / GER [HU] / 3 cr. / Online Web
Kristin Pitt

Through this course, we will examine notions of reality and its artistic representation, asking what the role of the apparently magical is within our apprehensions of literary and cinematic reality. Is it possible that creative fiction must rely upon the magical in order to present “the real” or “the truth”? What are the possible artistic advantages of magical or fantastical representation, and what are the possible sociopolitical implications of these literary modes? Many of our readings will be examples of what has come to be termed “magical realism,” literature that does not quite fit traditional definitions of either realism or fantasy. Although many of the texts we read will come from the Spanish American tradition with which magical realism is perhaps most often associated, we will also explore other examples of magical realism and fantastical fiction, allowing us to develop a broader sense of the philosophical, political, ideological, and literary implications of the texts. Satisfies GER(HU) and L&S International Req. Affiliated with Cultures & Communities; Digital Arts & Culture; Latin American and Caribbean Studies; and Latin American, Caribbean, & U.S. Latin@ Studies.

CompLit 192: First Year Seminar: Bible, Blues, and Black Religion [U]

SEM 001 / GER [HU] / 3 cr. / TR 9:30 am – 10:45 am
Demetrius Williams

While this course recognizes the Bible as a culturally specific text, the Bible has been significantly appropriated and used as an important tool of liberation in the experience of people of African descent in North America. Although the Bible was used as a tool of oppression during the slave and Jim Crow eras, African Americans found the Bible to be a source of comfort and inspiration, with its themes of love and liberation from slavery, triumph in the face of daunting challenge, “wandering in the wilderness,” freedom, family, and foundational faith. This course will explore the Bible from the African American perspective and will include a range of topics from spirituals and the Blues, to autobiographies, literature, and Gospel music. It will also explore the potential and actual limitations of the Bible’s influence in African American culture and how some later political/religious movements sought to abandon it (and Christianity) altogether.  In addition, this course will: 1) introduce students to the art of reading and analyzing religious and non-religious texts; 2) college level analytical reading and writing skills; 3) oral presentation skills; and 4) library and appropriate internet research skills. No prior knowledge of the Bible or African-American literature and culture are required.

CompLit 207: Global Literature from Antiquity to the 1600’s: Monsters and Marvels in the Pre-Modern World [U]

Lec 201 / GER [HU] / 3 cr. / MW 12:30 – 1:45 pm
Drago Momcilovic

Supernatural monsters and enchanting marvels are certainly as old as literature itself.  Our understandings of humanity, community, power, heroism, death and the afterlife have been shaped since ancient antiquity by stories and myth cycles that dramatize the awe-inspiring and sometimes terrifying clash between the human and the divine, the marvelous and the monstrous.  This course offers students of literature a survey of some of the most canonical monster tales and supernatural narratives of the ancient and medieval worlds, including selections from the Egyptian Book of the Dead and Ovid’s MetamorphosesThe Epic of GilgameshOedipus the King by Sophocles, selected stories from the Tales of the Thousand and One Nights, Joan of Arc’s dictated letters, Sufi poetry by Rumi, and William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Satisfies GER (HU) and L&S International req. Affiliated with Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Cultures & Communities.

CompLit 233: Literature and Film: Body and Desire from Hollywood to Bollywood [U]

LEC 001 / GER [HU] / 3 cr. / TR 3:30pm – 4:45pm
Jian Xu

The human body, by dint of its placement in culture and history, is laden with meaning. Its movement in space, posture, stylization, affect and sensation, cannot but signify. But besides this semiotic inevitability, the body also lives a life in materiality. This material body, though unsymbolizable, is intensely explored in cinema, by way of crises that endanger its being, producing narrative tension and visual fascination. This being body in crisis reveals a complex of desire, desire both as a sociohistorical imprint that structures the body’s meaning and as a material transgression against that meaning. Through a group of films produced in different parts of the world, this class will study how the human body in cinema is often straddled between meaning and being, performing the paradoxical function of creating an otherness within the symbolic. We’ll examine how films from different cultures stage unusual situations to call forth the material body, and what critical agency such a body often brings forth. We’ll observe how such psychosomatic practices as religion (eastern), martial arts, music and dance, occult rituals, dragging, psychiatric therapy, scientific experiments, etc., mold, affect, or produce the body’s meaning and desire, and how film diegesis mediates that meaning and desire through its own cultural codes. We are to discover how this unique cinematic body opens up dimensions of truth that undermines the entrenched norms of society by overstepping many boundaries, from those of race, class, gender, sex, to what it means to be human. The course satisfies GER (HU) and L&S International requirements. Affiliated with Digital Arts & Culture; Film Studies; and Women’s & Gender Studies.

CompLit 309: Great Works of Modern Literature: Existentialism & the Absurd [U/G]

Lec 201 / GER [HU] / 3 cr. / Online Web
Drago Momcilovic

This course explores the rise of existentialist philosophy and the philosophies of the absurd in some of the most provocative novels, plays, short stories and mass media from around the world. Our global survey of existentialism and the absurd will interrogate the nature of existence and the responsibilities we bear in shaping our lives into something meaningful—particularly in relation to free will, action, faith, technology, politics, love, and finally, death.  Our readings and viewings will tentatively include Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni; the novellas The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, and Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky; Albert Camus’ classic novel The Stranger; the plays Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, A Tempest by Aimé Césaire, and No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre; the films The Exterminating Angel by Luis Buñuel, Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese, and Cléo from 5 to 7 by Agnès Varda; a selection of European paintings and sculptures; and selected episodes of the AMC original series Mad Men.  We will also draw from philosophical works by Friedrich Nietzsche, Soren Kierkegaard, Miguel de Unamuno, Martin Heidegger, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Frantz Fanon. Satisfies GER(HU) and L&S International reqs.

CompLit 360 Literature and Cultural Experience: Possible Worlds in Literature and Film [U/G]

SEM 001 / 3 cr. / TR 2:00pm – 3:15pm
Jian Xu

The class studies a range of literary works and films that depart from representational realism by extending the virtual tendencies of our actual world to create possible worlds that are grounded on nothing but their own becoming. We start from the belief that if otherness is central to literary and filmic experience it is because the Other opens up a possible world different from our own by exposing us to affects and sensations beyond everyday perceptions and opinions. By sampling a selected group of literary and filmic types or genres from various parts of the world (e.g. mystery, sci-fi, philosophical fiction, American western, European art film, Chinese martial arts film, Japanese anime, etc.), we will investigate how in each example the verbal or visual production of meaning depends on a thought from the outside of the actual and how the thought from the outside is capable of sinking its teeth into matters that a mimetic realism glosses over or relegates to a safe historical past, thus enabling us to access an infinity of experience beyond totality. What we are after, therefore, is not just a chance to face up to those discomfiting matters but a special literary and cinematic experience of creativity and revelation that can decompose our finite positions of moralism and ideology, preparing us for an ever-changing world open to all possibilities of life. Satisfies the L&S International requirement.