Graduate Seminars, 2017-18
Comparative Literature, French, and German
The seminars below respond to the needs and interests of students in Comparative Literature as well those students studying in French in Comparative Literature (CLF) or German in Comparative Literature (CLG). Our students also take seminars from other departments of areas of interest to them such as Classics, English, East Asian Studies, Film and Media Studies, Religious Studies, Spanish and Portuguese, Chicano/a Studies. Global Studies, Feminist Studies, etc.
CLIT200/FR231B: Spectral Cities: Modernity, History, Post/Memory (from Balzac and Baudelaire to Sebald and Sebbar). In this seminar we will read French and German literary texts and screen movies featuring urban walks and city settings, and dealing with disturbing, violent events of varying scope, from rapid modernization and industrialization to brutal repressions of anticolonial movements as well as major traumatic events such as the Holocaust and the dropping of the first nuclear bomb in Hiroshima. We will combine several critical tools to analyze the work of witnessing, memorialization, and literary testimony as well as the relations between literature, historiography, and Holocaust studies. We will also shed critical light on the current trends in trauma and memory studies, and address the different media (print text, “iconotext,” fixed image, moving image) in which the work of memory is being carried out. See syllabus in download area below.
Instructor: Catherine Nesci, Professor of French & Comparative Literature (Affiliate in Feminist Studies)
CLIT260: Literary Translation: Theory and Practice Examination of translation and the canon, questioning the hierarchical division between translation and original, illustrating the concept of the original as translation and the literary text as "work-in-progress" in which translation forms part of the creative process.
Instructor: Jon Snyder, Professor of Italian Studies, Comparative Literature, & Renaissance Studies (Affiliate in Religious Studies)
CLIT 210: Proseminar. Recently Ali Behdad and Dominic Thomas (re)defined Comparative Literature as an “inter-disciplinary, cross-cultural, and trans-national endeavor.” In this proseminar, we ask, what does it mean to read and study literatures and cultures from comparative perspectives, across geographical and linguistic boundaries, and through wide historical periods, along other print or visual media? Through readings and discussion, we pursue this multi-pronged question and address the tools and goals of comparative literature as an evolving discipline, from the early nineteenth century to the present. We discuss seminal essays and theoretical works that have shaped and are currently reshaping “comparative literature” and “world literature” from Western and non-Western vantage points. We also read two reports on the state of the discipline prepared by the American Comparative Literature Association in recent decades and examine issues pertaining to the material conditions and interpretive practices of literary inquiries in the era of globalization and digitization. See syllabus in download area below.
Instructor: Sara Weld, Associate Professor of Slavic Studies and Comparative Literature
CLIT 220: Cognitive Approaches to World Literature. This seminar introduces students to key contemporary theories of world literature along with recently formulated ideas of human identity in neuro-cognitive sciences. It provides an opportunity to engage in detailed study of the some of the more significant developments in contemporary discourse of mind/brain and to address the connections between the world literary archive and the human mind. See syllabus in download area below.
Instructors: Professors Dominique Jullien (French and Italian) & Sowon Park (English)
CLIT249: Music and Literature Since antiquity, verbal and musical arts have always been in touch, related to each other through intense exchanges and cooperations: the poet as a singer of “cantos,” the importance of formal rules like repetition, reflection, and variation; the effects of sound and rhythm which do not seem to have clear semantic references, but still are “meaning something” to us, just to name a few examples. In order to observe and discuss the aesthetic differences and similarities of these two “neighbor arts,” the seminar will focus on four historical paradigms of music that have gained rich attention in literature: (1) J. S. Bach and the art of counterpoint: here we will examine novels by Thomas Bernhard (Der Untergeher/The Loser) and Richard Powers (The Gold Bug Variations); (2) the Viennese classics Mozart and Beethoven, seen through descriptions by E. T. A. Hoffmann (Don Juan) and Thomas Mann (Dr. Faustus); (3) the narrative voice in romantic songs (Schubert: Winterreise/Winter Journey) and (4) music in the age of politics (with selected chapters from William T. Vollmann’s Europe Centrale and with Julian Barnes’s The Noise of time, dedicated to Dmitry Shostakovich. See syllabus in download area below.
Instructor: Professor Alexander Honold (Basel University), Kade Visiting Professor
CLIT265/French 227F: Religion and Skepticism in Renaissance Europe In this seminar, we will read Rabelais’s Gargantua, Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptameron, and Montaigne’s Essais in the context of the rise of skepticism in sixteenth-century Europe. Our focus will be on the relativity of human cultural and intellectual achievements, a relativity that was to undermine the whole concept of the nature of human being and his place in the moral cosmos. Readings from Rabelais, Marguerite de Navarre, and Montaigne will be analyzed in dialogue with the works of some of their contemporaries (Erasmus, Pico Della Mirandola), and replaced in the religious, political, and social tensions of the time. Critical works will include texts by Michel Foucault, Michel de Certeau, Paul Ricoeur, Emmanuel Levinas. Lectures and readings in English.
Instructor: Cynthia Skenazi, Professor of French, Comparative Literature, & Renaissance Studies
CLIT200/German 210: Computability “Not count! One of the few satisfactions in life?” protests Mr. Rooney in Samuel Beckett’s radio play All that Fall. According to the sophist Gorgias’ s Defense of Palamedes, this mythical hero not only invented “letters, the tools of memory,” but also “number, the guardian of things,” statements which are echoed by Socrates in Plato’s Phaedrus, who states that Thamus, the inventor of letters, also invented number, counting, geometry, and astronomy. At a time when even scholars in the humanities claim to “be” digital, we better take these old testimonies seriously. Whoever studies letters, should think about numbers as well. We consider a few moments in the history of alphanumerical systems from early modernity up to the nineteen fifties. Readings will include not only philosophical and literary texts, but also some mathematical and technical treatises. If time allows, and if students are willing to take the risk, we could also do some practical exercises with a breadboard and such basic electronic parts as transistors and logic gates.
Leon Battista Alberti, A Treatise on Ciphers; François Viète, Introduction to the Analytical Art Peter Pesic, “François Viète, Father of Modern Cryptoanalysis"; “Secrets, Symbols, and Systems. Parallels Between Cryptoanalysis and Algebra, 1580-1770"
René Descartes, “Letter to Mersenne, 20 November 1629”
John Wilkins, An Essay Towards A Real Character, and a Philosophical Language (excerpt)
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, “Preface to a Universal Characteristic”; “Samples of a Numerical Characteristic”; “Monitum de characteribus algebraicis” (with English translation)
Edgar Allan Poe, “Maelzel’s Chess Player”; “Cryptography”; “The Gold Bug”; “The Purloined Letter”
L. F. Menabra, “Sketch of the Analytical Engine invented by Charles Babbage, Esq.” with the notes by the translator Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelac
Sigmund Freud, “The Forgetting of Proper Names”
Jorge Luis Borges, “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins”
Claude E. Shannon, Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits; The Mathematical Theory of Communication (excerpt)
Alan M. Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”
Jacques Lacan, “Seminar on The Purloined Letter”
Thomas Pynchon, “Entropy”
Instructor: Wolf Kittler, Professor of German Studies, Comparative Literature, and Media Studies