Courses

SUMMER 2020

Comp Lit 135: Experiencing Literature in the 21st Century
Topic: Monsters & Monstrosity
Drago Momcilovic, momcilov@uwm.edu /
Lec 201 / GER [HU] / 3 cr / ONLINE
8-Week Summer Session: June 22-August 15, 2020
Supernatural beasts, mythical giants, Blobs and Things, human-animal hybrids, blood-sucking devils, flesh-eating cannibals, serial killers with no moral compass – these monstrous figures have been at the center of literary and cinematic explorations of the abject “other”: that horrific antithesis of the rational, beautiful, cultured, civilized human being we long to be. What makes monster tales so appealing and timeless? Why are we so entertained by so many variations on this theme? This special-session online course examines the history and cultural specificity of monster tales from the classical, medieval and modern worlds. We will explore the philosophical, theological, cultural, social and political roles monsters and monster tales play in our own lives – how they allow us to cope with fears of death and chaos, how they shape our narratives of the past and present, and how they influence the way we see ourselves and our relationship to the natural world. Our survey will tentatively include zombie and vampire film classics Night of the Living Dead and Nosferatu; Hitchcock’s modern horror classic The Birds; selections from Homer’s Odyssey and The Epic of Gilgamesh; a selection of folktales from around the world; and Mary Shelley’s iconic horror classic Frankenstein. Satisfies GER (HU) and L&S International req. Affiliated with Digital Arts & Culture and Cultures & Communities.

FALL 2020

Comp Lit 133: Contemporary Imagination in Literature & the Arts
Drago Momcilovic, momcilov@uwm.edu /
Lec 001 / GER [HU] / 3 cr / MW 2:00-3:15 pm
How have artists, writers and musicians taken inspiration from the traumas of colonialism, authoritarianism and the Holocaust to reshape the moral and creative landscapes of our contemporary world and its demands? How do creative figures situate themselves and adapt their work in relation to existentialism, magical realism, post-modernism, post-socialism, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, and post-humanism? What sense of the contemporary world—and of the subjects, stories and material objects inhabiting it—emerge when we compare and contextualize the most canonical works of modern and contemporary literature, media, material culture and performance? This hybrid course, which consists of two weekly traditional class meetings and occasional online sessions, is an introductory survey of some of the most gripping, imaginative narratives, images, and performances from the late-18th century to the present day. Our survey will include  Mozart’s enchanting final opera The Magic Flute and Tchaikovsky’s iconic ballet Swan Lake; the bewildering short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Naguib Mahfouz, Clarice Lispector, and Franz Kafka; an eye-opening selection of human rights poetry; iconic paintings from the French Impressionists, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and British graffiti artist Banksy; Madonna’s controversial concert The Girlie Show Tour; Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir Chicken with Plums; and so much more. All texts will be taught in English translation, and all media texts will be subtitled or close-captioned. Satisfies GER (HU) and L&S International req. Affiliated with Digital Arts & Culture and Cultures & Communities.

COMPLIT 135: Experiencing Literature in the 21st Century
Topic: Youth Culture in the Middle East
Caroline Seymour-Jorn, csjorn@uwm.edu /
Lec 001 / GER [HU] / 3 cr / MW 3:30-4:45pm
This course will explore the many facets of emerging youth culture in the Arab world. We will learn about the rapidly growing “youth bulge” in the Middle East and its impact on family, society, and government through our analysis of new novels, short stories, and film emerging from the region. Through our analyses of these art forms we will examine how young people from Palestine to Saudi Arabia are re-imagining their worlds and how they are responding to trends including Islamic fundamentalism, consumer capitalism, feminism and globalization.
Required Texts:
Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea (Saudi)
Being Abbas el Abd by Ahmed Alaidy (Egypt)
Always Coca Cola by Alexandra Chreiteh (Lebanon)
The Honey by Zeina B. Ghandour (Israel/Palestine)
I Want to Get Married! By Ghada Abdel Aal (Egypt)
Satisfies GER(HU) and L&S International req. Affiliated with Cultures & Communities; Digital Arts & Culture; Film Studies; and Middle Eastern & North African Studies.

Comp Lit 207: Global Literature from Antiquity to the 1600s
Topic: Monsters and Marvels in the Pre-Modern World
Drago Momcilovic, momcilov@uwm.edu /
Lec 201 / GER [HU]  / 3 cr / ONLINE
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 The Epic of GilgameshOedipus the King by Sophocles; selections from Plato’s Symposium, The Bible, Ovid’s MetamorphosesTales of the Thousand and One Nights and The Decameron; Dante’s Inferno; poetry by Rumi and Sappho; and William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Satisfies GER (HU) and L&S International req. Affiliated with Cultures & Communities.

COMPLIT 233: Literature and Film
Topic: Globalization and Cultural Identity
Jian Xu, jianxu@uwm.edu /
Lec 001 / GER [HU] / 3 cr / TR 4:00-5:15pm
If social sciences have discussed the many risk factors of our increasingly globalized world, it is in the humanities, in the critical studies of literature, art and film that the impact of those risks on the acquisition and maintenance of cultural identity is more urgently explored. As globalization increased the interconnectedness of the humanity around the world, it also tended to uproot, disjoin, scatter or mix large populations of people, creating dislocation, fragmentation and the loss of certainty in our sense of cultural belonging. This course studies literary and filmic works that respond to this problematic, covering a broad range of epochs and geographies (from Western colonial expansion to our neoliberal present and from the colonies or ”developing economies” to the metropoles or the centers of global capital). Most of these works address the aftermath of some fundamental changes on a global scale that have permanently altered the lives of a whole society. By meticulously examining both the advantages (in the name of “progress”) and disadvantages (setbacks or risks) of such changes in people’s daily lives, the works’ narratives and dramatic situations offer a type of embodied, affective knowledge unable to be replaced by statistics, diagrams and charts. As a result, we’ll gain a deeper understanding about the nature of what we call globalization and develop ethical responses to it. Satisfies GER(HU) and L&S International req. Affiliated with Digital Arts & Culture and Film Studies.

COMPLIT 350: Topics in Comparative Literature
Topic: Early Christianity’s Heretical Secret Teachings
Demetrius Williams, williamd@uwm.edu /
Lec 001 / 3 cr / TR 11:00am-12:15pm
This course will explore the history and literary productions of various “Gnostic” schools. It will trace the contested origins of “Gnosticism” from its possible roots in Egyptian hermetic literature, in Iranian (Zoroastrian) religion, in Jewish wisdom and apocalyptic traditions, and in Hellenistic philosophy. It will also examine the literary productions of various Gnostic schools (i.e., the Sethian [classic], Valentinian [Christian], and Thomasine [Encratite]) and their theological/ideological developments. The emergence of the Coptic Gnostic writings (i.e. The Nag Hammadi Library) will also receive attention with respect to their literary genre, theological tendencies and ideological intent. These diverse “Gnostic” groups were challenged and considered “heretical” by the emerging “proto-orthodox” Church Fathers and posed one of the greatest challenges to the early proto-orthodox Christian tradition. Satisfies L&S International req. Affiliated with Religious Studies.

COMPLIT 350: Topics in Comparative Literature
Topic: European Comics and Graphic Novels
Drago Momcilovic, momcilovic@uwm.edu /
Lec 201 / 3 cr / ONLINE
8-Week Fall Session: October 19-December 12, 2020
From the comic strip to the comic book and graphic novel, the cartoon arts have quickly become one of the most important types of storytelling in the modern world, particularly in Europe. European comics have exploded and diversified into different genres and forms—including the bandes dessinées in France and Belgium, the superhero genre and the graphic memoir, and postmodern reinventions of the “comix” medium. Clearly, European comics and graphic novels have quickly evolved from their 19th-century roots in caricature to become innovative and gripping meditations on European identity, community, history, and artistry. In this special-session 8-week online course, we will trace the intellectual, cultural, social and historical dimensions of modern European life, as reflected in comics.  We will also look at the development of European comics as a literary culture of its own and study key texts from philosophical, literary, visual and historical perspectives. Our texts will tentatively include Hergé’s Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, Rene Goscinny’s Asterix the Gaul, Igort’s Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks, and Marjane Satrapi’s Iranian coming-of-age story Persepolis. Students will also have the opportunity to take inspiration from these modern European artists in developing their own creative graphic novel project, due at the end of the term. Satisfies L&S International req.

COMPLIT 365: Literatures and Cultures of the Americas
Topic: Families in the Borderlands
Kristin Pitt, kepitt@uwm.edu /
Lec 201 / 3 cr / ONLINE
This course examines narratives, theories, and practices of borders and migration within the Americas and how those intersect or conflict with narratives, theories, and practices of family. How are national and political borders defined, conceptualized, and experienced? How do narrative constructions of borders shape border experience? What does it mean to cross the border and live as an immigrant or as a family of immigrantsHow are family units shaped by the processes and policies of migration, including separation and reunification? And finally, how are these questions explored in literature and film? Our investigation of borders, migration, and family will also deepen our understanding of a wide range of contemporary discourses, including gender, sexuality, nationalism, exile, diaspora, security, human rights, hybridity, and race. While the U.S./Mexico border will serve as a starting point for many of our theoretical and literary engagements with the concepts and representations of borders, our collective readings will take into account other border experiences as well. Satisfies L&S Int’l req. Affiliated with Latin American & Caribbean Studies; Latin American, Caribbean, & U.S. Latin@ Studies; and Women’s & Gender Studies.

SPRING 2020

SPRING 2020
COMPLIT 133: Contemporary Imagination in Literature & the Arts
Drago Momcilovic [momcilov@uwm.edu]

Lec 001 / GER [HU] / 3 cr / MW 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm
How have artists, writers and musicians taken inspiration from the traumas of colonialism, authoritarianism and the Holocaust to reshape the moral and creative landscapes of our contemporary world and its demands? How do creative figures situate themselves and adapt their work in relation to existentialism, magical realism, post-modernism, post-socialism, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, and post-humanism? What sense of the contemporary world—and of the subjects, stories and material objects inhabiting it—emerge when we compare and contextualize the most canonical works of modern and contemporary literature, media, material culture and performance? This hybrid course, which consists of two weekly traditional class meetings and occasional online sessions, is an introductory survey of some of the most gripping, imaginative narratives, images, and performances from the late-19th century to the present day. Our survey will include the bewildering short stories of Naguib Mahfouz, Clarice Lispector, and Franz Kafka; an eye-opening selection of human rights poetry; iconic paintings from Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and British graffiti artist Banksy; the famous 1963 performance of Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake, performed by real-life couple Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev; Madonna’s controversial concert The Girlie Show Tour; Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir Chicken with Plums; and so much more. All texts will be taught in English translation, and all media texts will be subtitled or close-captioned. Satisfies GER (HU) and L&S International req. Affiliated with Cultures & Communities and Digital Arts & Culture.

SPRING 2020
COMPLIT 135: Experiencing Literature in the 21st Century

Topic: Magical Realism and the Fantastic in Literature and Film
Kristin Pitt [kepitt@uwm.edu]
Lec 201 / GER [HU] / 3 cr / ONLINE
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) & L&S International reqs. Affiliated with Cultures & Communities; Digital Arts & Culture; Film StudiesLatin American & Caribbean Studies; and Latin American, Caribbean, & U.S. Latin@ Studies.

SPRING 2020
COMPLIT 208: Global Literature from the 17th Century to the Present

Topic: Cross-Cultural Contact and Exchange
Kristin Pitt [kepitt@uwm.edu]
Lec 001 / GER [HU] / 3 cr / TR 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm
This course approaches modern world literature through the lens of cultural contact and exchange. Some definitions of modernity mark its beginnings at 1492, with the travels of Christopher Columbus to what we now call the Americas and the processes of global exchange that followed. While there was certainly a great deal of global travel and cultural exchange before 1492, in the centuries that follow it becomes increasingly difficult for societies to remain insular and isolated. 
Beginning with literature written just under a century after Columbus’s first voyage, this course explores intercultural contact as one of the defining features of modernity. As such, it is also one of the defining subjects of modern literature and one of the defining influences upon modern literary forms. In order to undertake this study, we will examine some of the cultural components of globalization, for while we all may recognize that today we are increasingly interconnected with societies and peoples around the globe, we do not always interrogate the nature of such connections. What are the possibilities, the difficulties, and the conflicts associated with cross-cultural contact and exchange? We will also examine the literary techniques employed to communicate and frame these cultural relationships through a survey of literature from the 17th to the 21st centuries and from a wide range of global perspectives portraying the negotiations, understandings, and misunderstandings of “contact zones” and other sites of cultural exchange where we have constructed notions of what constitutes literature as well as what constitutes the world. Works studied will include the literary forms of novel, poem, play, essay, autobiography, short story, novella, and film. Satisfies GER(HU) and L&S International req. Affiliated with Cultures & Communities; Great Books & Liberal Arts; International Studies; Latin American & Caribbean Studies; and Latin American, Caribbean, & U.S. Latin@ Studies. 

SPRING 2020
COMPLIT 230: Literature and Society

Topic: Rock ‘n’ Roll Narratives: Literature, Music, and the Media
Drago Momcilovic [momcilovic@uwm.edu]
Lec 201 / GER [HU] / 3 cr / ONLINE: 8-week course, March 9-May 7
Rock’n’roll is more than just a musical genre. It is a lifestyle, one that transcends historical boundaries and cultural borders. It is also a lifestyle that has been mythologized and critiqued in literary narratives and cinematic chronicles from around the world. This online course explores the various life stories, industry narratives and experimental visions of various international rock and pop legends and their protective impresarios, devoted fan followings, and self-righteous critics. We will study a variety of texts and films, as well as albums, songs, music videos, and live concerts, all of which raise fundamental questions about the meaning and general sustainability of the rock’n’roll lifestyle from its inception in the early 20th century to the present day. We will also pose the following questions: How do artists measure success or respond to failure? How does rock’n’roll become a vehicle for the formation of subcultures, youth movements, and emerging political ideas? In what way does the rock’n’roll lifestyle enable musicians and fans from around the world to claim generational, sexual, ethnic and national identities for themselves? Our readings will tentatively include Mikael Niemi’s best-selling Swedish novel Popular Music from Vittula & Ryu Murakami’s coming-of-age novel Sixty-Nine. We will also study films like A Hard Day’s NightHedwig and the Angry InchLa vie en rose& selected rock operas & concert tours. Students will also have the opportunity to create their own rockzine,” a creative final project devoted to any aspect of the rock’n’roll lifestyle of their choice. Satisfies GER (HU) and L&S International req. 

SPRING 2020
COMPLIT 316: World Cinema

Topic: Contemporary Chinese Cinema
Jian Xu [jianxu@uwm.edu@uwm.edu]
Lec 001 / 3 cr / TR 2:00-3:50PM
This course explores Chinese cinematic imagination through a series of films produced in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The point of entry is the surge of creative innovations taking place in the 1980s as the Chinese-speaking communities began to re-imagine their world and history, forming new cultural identities and building a symbolic universe that interfaces with the world at large. Focusing on some earlier contemporary works that have achieved classic status as well as new works that came out in the 21st century, the course examines how the region’s transnational filmmaking addresses the pressing issues of the world through cinematic affects and sensations unique to Chinese-language cinema. Our goal is twofold: as we study film forms and visual signs, we learn too the system of ideas, symbols, and beliefs by which modern Chinese societies justify rapid changes while also perpetuating an old way of life. The students learn to analyze Chinese-language films at the same time as they acquire an understanding of modern Chinese cultures that are plural and keep evolving. Jointly offered with ENGLISH 316 and FILMSTD 316. Satisfies L&S International req. 

SPRING 2020
COMPLIT 340: Studies in Literary Genres and Modes

Topic: Holocaust Testimonies
Drago Momcilovic [momcilovic@uwm.edu]
Lec 201 / 3 cr / ONLINE
Writers and artists engaged in the work of testimony attempt in various temporal landscapes and with different aesthetic strategies to “document”, reconstruct, or vicariously reimagine the experiences of suffering, guilt, and witnessing, as they are embodied in a wide range of figures connected to the Shoah and its representations. What are the ethical responsibilities built into the very idea of a testimonial address, confession, reverie or exploration? How are the obligations of bearing witness, as well as our collective demand to ‘never forget’, imputed to ourselves and to future generations that exist at increasingly distant removes from the camps? How does translation and the search for languages of trauma shape or constrain the work of testimony, from literature to the visual arts and mass media? This course introduces students to a wide variety of literary, theoretical, and cinematic testimonies about suffering, anguish, and the perils of witnessing, inaction, and collaboration in the context of the Holocaust and its representational traditions. We will study a selection of literary works—including Primo Levi’s memoir The Drowned and the Saved, Tadeusz Borowski’s short story collection This Way for the Gas, Ladies & Gentlemen, selections from non-fiction writings like Anne Frank’s diary and Hannah Arendt’s coverage of the Eichmann trial, Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus, and Albert Camus’ allegorical novel The Plague—and films like Schindler’s List, Night and Fog, Triumph of the Will, and selections from Shoah. We will also read a selection of theoretical writings about trauma and the testimonial impulse by thinkers and critics like Giorgio Agamben, Maurice Blanchot, Theodor Adorno, Shoshana Felman and Dori LaubSatisfies L&S International req. Affiliated with Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Studies; and Jewish Studies. 

SPRING 2020
COMPLIT 350: Topics in Comparative Literature

Topic: Animals, Beasts, and Creatures
Drago Momcilovic [momcilovic@uwm.edu]
Lec 001 / 3 cr / MW 3:30-4:45PM
The animal goes by many names—beast, pet, guide, meat, creature, monster, being, even family member. As such, animals activate different social, cultural and philosophical meanings about the world and our place in it. Is the expulsion of the wild animal from city settlements a mark of its nonhuman “otherness”? Is the domesticated pet or service animal a sign of our singular accomplishments and esteem as human beings? Is the presence of the wild animal in nature and its connection to the landscape an expression of divine forces always at work, or perhaps a reminder of our evolutionary origins? Which responsibilities do we have to the animal world, and how do those responsibilities shape our ethical awareness, our political engagements, and our literary and cinematic representations? This course explores these questions in relation to the animal’s body, its habits and habitats, and its connections to the human world. Our tentative readings include selected fables by Aesop and folktales from Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm Brothers; Tchaikovsky’s iconic ballet Swan Lake; selected Jataka Tales and animal tales from The Bible; short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Anton Chekhov, Franz Kafka, Clarice Lispector and Jorge Luis Borges; and films like Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic The Birds and Werner Herzog’s documentary Grizzly ManAll texts will be taught in English translation, and all media texts will be subtitled or close-captioned. Satisfies L&S International req. 

SPRING 2020
COMPLIT 360: Seminar in Literature and Cultural Experience

Topic: Early Christian Literature
Demetrius Williams [williamd@uwm.edu]
Lec 201 / 3 cr / ONLINE
What did the faithful of the early Church believe? How did they address the questions of politics, society, gender, and history? Why were women able to attain leadership roles in some Christian groups and not in others? Why did some Christian groups reject sex, even within marriage? Why were some Christian groups labeled “heretical” and others “orthodox”? Why has the literature, beliefs and doctrines of ‘heretical” groups been kept hidden from general readers? (As portrayed in the movie Stigmata [1999]!) Why are there so many different Christian groups and divisions among them? This course, composed as an introductory course, is designed to address the questions above and others by critically exploring the diverse literature of early Christianity from the second through the fourth centuries of the Common Era (100s – 300s C.E.), which was an explosive era of growth and debate within the emerging new religion of Christianity. While no prior knowledge of the literature is required, a close reading of the literature provides insight to the above and other intriguing questions. The purpose of this course is two-fold: (1) to introduce students to a broad array of early Christian literature outside of the New Testament canon; and 2) to critically examine and explore the variety of early “Christianities” and other related social and religious issues that are reflected in these writings. Satisfies L&S International req. Affiliated with Religious Studies.