Courses

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.

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.

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; Latin American & Caribbean Studies; and Latin American, Caribbean, & U.S. Latin@ Studies. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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 online 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 Man. All texts will be taught in English translation, and all media texts will be subtitled or close-captioned. Satisfies L&S International req. 

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. 

FALL 2019

COMPLIT 133: Contemporary Imagination in Literature & the Arts

Drago Momcilovic [momcilov@uwm.edu]
Lec 001 / GER [HU] / 3 cr / TR 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm / Bolton B92

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.

COMPLIT 135: Experiencing Literature in the 21st Century
Topic: Zombie Metaphors

Drago Momcilovic [momcilov@uwm.edu]
Lec 001 / GER [HU] / 3 cr / MW 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm / Bolton B92

The zombie, the zombie horde, the zombie precursor—for generations, these figures have haunted literature and folklore, the visual and performing arts, and contemporary mass media. In the process, they have unleashed troubling metaphors about modern identity, the nature of fear, the exercise and misuse of power, illness, death and mourning. How do these creaturely figures of the undead shape the way we see ourselves, our bodies and environments, our social order, life itself, and the world around us? What are the key genres in which zombies flourish and proliferate, and which artistic terrains do they have yet to conquer? How have zombies been understood, or misunderstood, in pre-modern artistic traditions, and what future awaits them in 21st-century artistic traditions? And finally, why do we love to watch them, read about them, think about them, talk about them so much? This course explores these questions and other zombie metaphors. Our texts tentatively include novels like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Dinner by Cesar Aira; ethnographic “accounts” by Zora Neale Hurston and William Seabrook; various zombie- and mummy-themed short stories by Stephen King, Tadeusz Borowski, August Derleth and Naguib Mahfouz; classic genre films like Night of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later; selected episodes from Les revenants [The Returned] and The Walking Dead; and more. Satisfies GER(HU) and L&S International reqs. Affiliated with Cultures & Communities; Digital Arts & Culture; and Film Studies.

COMPLIT 207: Global Literature from Antiquity to the 1600s

Demetrius Williams [williamd@uwm.edu]
Lec 001 / GER [HU] / 3 cr / TR 11:00 AM-12:15 PM / CRT 209 / U

CompLit 207 serves as an introductory survey of world literature in translation from antiquity to the early 1600s and will cover literature from a broad array of cultures from the Middle East to Greece, from Europe to India, and from China and to Japan. One particular approach it will explore, although not exclusive, is to examine the ideology of a particular literary cultural production. For example, how might these texts present and construct categories of gender and sexuality? What does it mean to be a woman or a man in ancient societies?  Are these roles primarily sexual, or social, or religious?  What might this tell us about our conceptions regarding gender or sexuality? Another aspect of ideology explores the notion of power and authority – who has it and why? What gives kings the right to rule? What gives one class a status above another class? Does this authority or power come from a particular deity or is it somehow inscribed in nature or the cosmos? Satisfies GER(HU) and L&S International reqs. Affiliated with Ancient Mediterranean Studies; Cultures & Communities; and Great Books & Liberal Arts.

COMPLIT 309 Great Works of Modern Literature
Topic: The Truth of Others

Jay Xu [jianxu@uwm.edu]
Lec 002 / GER [HU] / 3 cr / MW 4:00pm-5:15pm / LUB S233 / U/G

In this class we’ll be exploring a modern literary experience that is mediated by a narrative encounter with otherness. This experience of otherness can be cultural, social, racial/ethnic, religious, or sexual, and is always embodied. We will focus on a range of well-known works from various parts of the world and examine how in these works the encounter with various kinds of otherness unsettles our normal ways of looking at the world, bringing to crisis our assumed values, cultural identities, and a sense of a stable and coherent self always in control… Central to our study are various textual formations that generate an embodied experience of the Other, creating an array of literary subjectivities capable of answering to the truth of others. We will examine how literary texts posit different epistemological relations to this truth and enable our experience of otherness to be authentic and richly rewarding. In this semester, we’ll be exploring also the topics of diaspora and immigration in the context of both postcolonial and global capitalist conditions worsened by the rise of nationalism. The general goal of the course is to expose students to the transformative power of literature and to equip them with ethical and interpretive tools to make sense of a number of literary and visual texts produced in diverse cultural and social conditions. In addition, they may assimilate a variety of critical ideas relevant for addressing some of the most urgent problems of society and find creative solutions. Satisfies the GER(HU) and L&S International reqs.

COMPLIT 316 World Cinema
Topic: French New Wave Cinema

Tami Williams [tamiw@uwm.edu]
Lec 001 / GER [HU] / 3 cr / TR 12:00pm-1:50pm / CRT 104 / U

Jointly offered with ENGLISH 316 and FILMSTD 316.

COMPLIT 350: Topics in Comparative Literature [Online]
Topic: Global Sports Narratives

Drago Momcilovic [momcilov@uwm.edu]
Lec 201 / 3 cr / Online/ U/G

Sport is not just a business venture or an extracurricular activity. It can also shape the way we think about broader issues like illness and health, politics and identity, nationalism and internationalism, celebrity culture and spectatorship, and even the mind and the body. This online literature course introduces students to the full range of social, cultural, political, and even philosophical meanings of sport. Our survey will include a wide selection of texts dealing with sports and athletic activities around the world—from football, wrestling, and baseball, to horseback riding, hunting, and running, and even the Olympic games and the World Cup. Our texts will tentatively include Homer’s Odyssey and Pindar’s ancient Olympic odes; Yukio Mishima’s Sun and Steel; short stories by Ernest Hemingway, Franz Kafka, Julio Cortazar, and Willa Cather; and films like Field of Dreams and A League of Their Own. Satisfies L&S International req.

COMPLIT 365: Literatures and Cultures of the Americas
Topic: Gender and Protest

Kristin Pitt [kepitt@uwm.edu]
Lec 001 / 3 cr / TR 12 :30pm-1 :45pm / LUB N130 / U/G

This course will explore multiple ways in which understandings of gender have shaped both the practices and targets of protest and dissent in the contemporary Americas. How do political and cultural protests challenge or enforce dominant narratives of patriarchy, gender binaries, or compulsory heterosexuality? How do narratives of gender and sexuality shape what we understand as protest at all? Course materials will include literature and other forms of art as well as cultural criticism, theory, and journalism. Satisfies L&S International requirement. Affiliated with Latin American & Caribbean Studies; Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. Latin@ Studies; and Women’s & Gender Studies.