Introduction to Jewish Cultures
This introductory course focuses on the cultural syncretism and the global diversity of Jewish experience. It provides a comparative understanding of Jewish culture from antiquity to the present, examining how Jewish culture has emerged through the interaction of Jews and non-Jews, engaging a wide spectrum of cultures throughout the Jewish world, and following representations of key issues such as sexuality or the existence of God in different eras. The course's interdisciplinary approach covers Bible and Talmud, Jewish mysticism, Zionism, Jewish cinema, music, food, modern literature, and graphic arts. All readings and films are in English.
The Classical Roots of Western Literature
An introduction to the methods and some major texts of comparative literary study. It will focus on the Greco-Roman tradition, asking what it means to call a work a "classic": it will consider the outstanding characteristics of this tradition, how it arose and gained influence and attempt to place it in a global context. Readings will be divided into three topics: Epic Heroes (centering on Homer's Odyssey), Tragic Women (in ancient and modern drama), and the "invention" of modernity (Aeneid). Selected additional readings in non-Western literatures and in influential critical essays. Two lectures, one preceptorial.
Masterworks of European Literature
This course seeks to discover (or rediscover) a series of significant works in the European tradition, and also to ask once again what a tradition is. The focus will be firmly on the close reading of particular texts, but discussions will also range freely over large questions: What is a classic, what difference does language make, can we think both about world literature, in Goethe's phrase, and about the importance of national and local loyalties? No easy answers promised, but astonishing adventures in reading guaranteed.
The Bible as Literature
Professor/InstructorDonald Vance Smith
The Bible will be read closely in its own right and as an enduring resource for literature and commentary. The course will cover its forms and genres, including historical narrative, uncanny tales, prophecy, lyric, lament, commandment, sacred biography, and apocalypse; its pageant of weird and extraordinary characters; and its brooding intertextuality. Students will become familiar with a wide variety of biblical interpretations, from the Rabbis to Augustine, Kafka and Kierkegaard. Cinematic commentary will be included--Bible films, from the campy to the sublime. One 90-minute lecture, one 90-minute preceptorial.
Thinking Translation: Language Transfer and Cultural Communication
Professor/InstructorDavid Michael Bellos
What is translation? What is a language? So essential and widespread is translation today that it has become a central analytic term for the contact of cultures, and a paradigm for studying many different aspects of our multilingual world. This course will consider translation as it appeared in the past, but especially as it constructs everyday life in the contemporary world. It will look at issues of anthropology, artificial intelligence, diplomacy, film, law and literature that involve interlingual and intercultural communication. Students should acquire an understanding of the problems and practices of modern translation.
Creative Writing (Literary Translation)
Practice in the translation of literary works from another language into English supplemented by the reading and analysis of standard works. Each student is expected to prepare a manuscript each week. There will be a weekly workshop meeting and occasional individual conferences. Prerequisite: fluency in a language other than English and by application.
Introduction to Literary Theory
Professor/InstructorSandra Lekas Bermann
An introductory course in the history of European literary theory. Readings include Plato, Aristotle, Longinus, Boccaccio, Dryden, Corneille, Schiller, Sartre, Lévi-Strauss, Barthes, Derrida. Theories will be related to selected literary texts in an effort to explore how theory illuminates literature while shedding light upon larger human questions. One lecture, one two-hour seminar.
East Asian Humanities I: The Classical Foundations
Professor/InstructorBrian R. Steininger, Pieter Christiaan Aize Keulemans
An introduction to the literature, art, religion, and philosophy of China, Japan, and Korea from antiquity to ca. 1400. Readings are focused on primary texts in translation and complemented by museum visits, films, and other materials from the visual arts. The lecturers include faculty members from East Asian studies, comparative literature, art and archaeology, and religion. Students are encouraged to enroll in HUM 234 in the spring, which continues the course from ca. 1400 into the 20th century.
East Asian Humanities II: Traditions and Transformations
Professor/InstructorErin Yu-Tien Huang, Franz K. Prichard
An introduction to the literary, philosophical, religious, and artistic traditions of East Asia. Readings are focused on primary texts in translation. Lectures and discussions are accompanied by films, concerts, and museum visits. Lecturers include faculty members from East Asian studies, comparative literature, art and archaeology, and religion.
Introduction to African Literature and Film
Professor/InstructorWendy Laura Belcher
African literature and films have been a vital (but often unacknowledged) stream in and stimulant to the global traffic in invention. Nigerian literature is one of the great literatures of the 20th century. Ethiopian literature is one of the oldest in the world. South Africans have won more Nobel Prizes for Literature in the past forty years than authors from any other country. Senegalese films include some of the finest films ever made. In this course, we will study the richness and diversity of foundational African texts (some in translation), while foregrounding questions of aesthetics, style, humor, and epistemology.
Junior Seminar: Introduction to Comparative Literature
Introduction to Comparative Literature for departmental concentrators. What is it to read comparatively across languages, disciplines, and media? How does Comparative Literature relate to a globalized world with its many cultures, languages, and literatures? What is the place of translation in this picture? We will address these questions by both looking at Comparative Literature as a historical institution and as a site at which disciplines, methods, and positions blend and clash. Readings from a wide variety of texts: fiction, poetry, travel writing, theory, history; consideration of other media such as visual culture and music.
Theory and Methods of Comparative Literature: Critical and Literary Theory
A course in the formative issues of contemporary critical theory. Questions of the relationships between literature, philosophy, aesthetics, and linguistics will be treated with regard to the rise of modern philology, new criticism, hermeneutics, speech act theory, semiotics, structuralism, Marxism, the Frankfurt School, and poststructuralism. Readings in Auerbach, Spitzer, Brooks, Wimsatt, Schleiermacher, Gadamer, Ricoeur, Austin, Burke, Frye, Propp, Saussure, Jakobson, Lévi-Strauss, Barthes, Jameson, Adorno, Derrida, de Man. One three-hour seminar.
Comparative History of Literary Theory
Professor/InstructorSandra Lekas Bermann
A historical introduction to literary theory from Plato to the present. By reading philosophers, critics, and creative writers, students consider issues such as mimesis, imagination, religion, sexuality, and ethics, noting how each casts light on our understanding of literature and its cultural roles. Past terms and current problems are related to an inquiry into the nature--and the power--of literature through the ages. Students will read critical works from Plato and Aristotle, through Nietzsche, Beauvoir, Benjamin, Derrida, and Achebe, as well as poetry and plays by Sophocles, Shakespeare, Eliot, and Brecht. One three-hour seminar.
The East European Novel of the 20th Century
Caught between Russia and the West, traded off among European empires, the peoples of Eastern Europe are again independent in the postcommunist era. For them, surviving the 20th century became, literally, an art. After a geopolitical introduction to the region, students will read modern proseworks from the Polish, Czech, and Serbo-Croatian traditions, including novels cast as national epics during times of total war, as fantasy or science fiction, and as the tragicomedy of everyday life. Five films built off these novels will be screened during the course. Two lectures, one preceptorial.
The European Novel: Cervantes to Tolstoy
Professor/InstructorMichael George Wood
The emergence and development of the major forms of the novel as seen in the works of Cervantes, Mme. de Lafayette, Diderot, Laclos, Goethe, Balzac, Stendhal, Gogol, Turgenev, Flaubert, and Tolstoy. Emphasis is placed on the novel as the expression of human relationships with individuals and with society. Two lectures, one preceptorial.
The Modern European Novel
Professor/InstructorMaria A. DiBattista
Using Flaubert's Madame Bovary as a paradigm of the major thematic and technical preoccupations of the novel, lectures offer detailed interpretations of Ulysses, The Magic Mountain, Swann's Way, and theoretical speculations on symbolism, stream-of-consciousness, linguistic structures, psychoanalysis. Two lectures, one preceptorial.
Professor/InstructorSandra Lekas Bermann
The lyric as a form of literary art, as distinct from narrative or drama. Readings encompass a variety of lyrical forms and a number of different cultures. Translations will be used. One lecture, one two-hour seminar.
The Literature of Medieval Europe
An introductory survey of major representative Latin and vernacular texts in modern English versions, including hagiography, romance, lyric and philosophical poetry, allegory, religious and secular prose, and drama. Special attention will be paid to Christian transformations of classical traditions and to the emergence of the Continental vernaculars of the late Middle Ages. Lecture and preceptorials.
Special Topics in Performance History and Theory
Designed to provide students with an opportunity to study theater and/or dance from a historical or theoretical perspective. Topics, prerequisites, and formats will vary from year to year.
Contemporary Literary Theory
Fundamental questions about the nature, function, and value of literary theory. A small number of strategically selected theoretical topics, including exemplary literary works as reference points for discussion. Two 90-minutes seminars.
An introduction to the literature of the Renaissance in Europe and in England. Emphasis upon major genres--lyric, drama, pastoral, and prose-fiction--as they arise in Italy, France, Spain, and England. Readings from Boccaccio, Castiglione, Lope de Vega, Sidney, Shakespeare, Erasmus, Rabelais, and Cervantes. Two 90-minute seminars.
Cervantes and His Age
Professor/InstructorMarina S. Brownlee
Since 1605, Don Quixote has elicited passionate reactions: Faulkner read it once a year, as some read the Bible, while Malraux saw it as the most meaningful book for survivors of concentration camps. Quixote has been construed in disparate ways, from debating good and bad reading and writing, to mocking the medieval world view; from exploring the serious impact of the printing press, to benevolently satirizing the conquistadors; from being a study of deviant social behavior and the nature of madness, to a meditation on human sexuality and ageing. One lecture, two precepts. Prerequisite: a 200-level Spanish course or equivalent.
Communication and the Arts
Professor/InstructorAnthony Thomas Grafton
The arts and the media in different cultures. Topics will vary, for example, history of the book, art/architecture and society, opera and nationalism, literature and photography, theater and politics.
The Modern Period
Modern Western literature in the perspective of its development since the Industrial Revolution. The peculiarity of "modernist'' style exemplified by various genres. Significant philosophical trends that define the parallel development of modern art and thought. Texts from English, German, French, and other literatures. Two lectures, one preceptorial.
Masterworks of European Literature: The Romantic Quest
Works central to the tradition of modern European literature, including Goethe's Faust, Byron's Don Juan, Flaubert's Sentimental Education, Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, and Mann's Doctor Faustus. Each work treats the quest for greatness; each will be examined as to its form and place in the history of ideas. Two 90-minute seminars.