Graduate Seminars, 2018-19

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). Also check seminars from other departments of areas of interest to you and the building of your knowledge in your three fields and potential emphases, such as Classics, English, East Asian Studies, Linguistics, Religious Studies, Global Studies, Black Studies, Feminist Studies, Environmental Studies, Education, Cognitive Science, etc.

Fall 2018

Comparative Literature 210:  Proseminar in Comparative Literature. Reading Comparatively: Old and New Questions in “Comparative” Literature.  Taught by Dominique Jullien, Professor of French & Comparative Literature.
What does it mean to read and study literatures and cultures from comparative perspectives, across geographical and linguistic boundaries, through wide historical periods, along other print or visual media? In this pro-seminar in Comparative Literature, we pursue this multi-pronged question and address the tools and goals of comparative literature as an evolving discipline (or indiscipline), 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 as well as non-Western vantage points. We also read the last two reports on the state of the discipline prepared by the American Comparative Literature Association, and examine issues pertaining to the material conditions and interpretive practices of literary inquiries in the era of globalization and digitization. This seminar allows students to examine and assess the key concepts, themes, and debates that have shaped the evolving fields of Comparative Literature and the literary humanities in the western world (description by C. Nesci).

Comparative Literature 253: Techniques and Aesthetics of Simulation. Taught by Christine Vagt, Professor of German & European Media Studies. The seminar addresses simulation as a cultural and media technological phenomenon and from a historical point of view, in the context of a longue durée that stretches from antique philosophy and the courtly culture of early modern Europe to contemporary governing modeling in science, economy, and politics. We focus on the interaction of aesthetics and techniques of simulation in the settings of literature, media theory, philosophy, and history of science. In 17th-century Europe, under the pressures of the Inquisition and censorship, the art of dis/simulation—masking one’s true intentions respectively faking them—was a pivotal technique of courtly culture, an amplifier of enlightened knowledge and governance. With the advent of modern computing technologies, simulation has become a prime methodology in natural and social sciences on a global scale. Today, economic, social, and political decisions are often based on simulations, changing worldly interactions and scientific modelling fundamentally. This culture of simulation also challenges traditional conceptions of what is human or humane, and interferes with core concepts such as intelligence, critique, and truth. Through a close examination of historical sources and theories of simulation, we will address larger questions about the epistemic status of models and future knowledge, the aesthetic role and poetics of simulations as well as their political impact. Our seminar combines inquiries into specific fields like literature, media theory, philosophy, and the history of science and technology in order to literacy of simulation-based knowledge and decision making.

Winter 2019

GER210/CLIT200/CLIT198H: Memory and Cinema. Taught by Professor Ute Holl (Basel University), Kade Visiting Professor, Winter 2019.

Since cinema was established as a cultural technique around 1900, it has fundamentally changed concepts of memory and remembering. Concepts of the unconscious, of trauma or the suppressed have frequently referred to models of the optical apparatus and the moving image. On the other hand, films that deal with the difficulties of remembering always also negotiate historical models of memory. The seminar will explore the relation of memory and cinema in analysing current and historical films and the concepts of memory and historiography they refer to. It is an introducton into the analysis of filmic forms as well as into memoria-theories.

CLIT252: Art, Activism, and Autonomy in Times of Crisis. Taught by Sven Spieker, Professor of Russian, Aesthetics, and Art History.
Thursday, 5:00-7:50pm. Art 2622. Enrollment code: 57588
One of the most powerful contestations of the autonomy of art—the idea that art and literature are separate by nature from everyday life—was issued by the philosopher T. W. Adorno when he questioned whether “after Auschwitz” poetry could still be written. In recent years, there has been renewed interest in the problem of art's autonomy, especially on the part of Marxist critics who critique the pervasive commodification and co-optation of art and argue for the need to reinstate its independence in some form. Yet, how can autonomous art provide much-needed resistance to the pervasive oppression and discrimination we are witnessing all around us? The seminar will seek to provide both a historical reconstruction of artistic autonomy (Schiller, Kant) and read the work of contemporary philosophers and historians who have considered the issue (Boris Arvatov; Vladimir Nabokov; T. W. Adorno; Peter Bürger; John Roberts; Alain Badiou; Jacques Rancière; Peter Osborne; Jürgen Habermas). Discussions are supplemented by the consideration of the work of contemporary artists and writers in whose practice the problem of autonomy and its practicality comes to the fore.

Spring 2019

CLIT 260: Literary Translation. Theory and Practice. Taught by Suzanne Jill Levine, Research Professor (Spanish, Comparative Literature, Translation Studies) & Director, Translation Studies Graduate Emphasis.
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.

GER210/CLIT279: Ethics in Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Philosophy. Taught by Elisabeth Weber, Professor of German Studies, European Philosophy, and Comparative Literature.
In 1994, Jacques Derrida wrote that to speak about the “new cruelty” of the “wars of religion” psychoanalysis was indispensable. The seminar will explore seminal texts in psychoanalysis and continental philosophy to explore the relevance of these fields for some of today’s most challenging ethical questions. Authors we will read include Sigmund Freud (“Drives and their vicissitudes,” “Repression,” “Untimely Thoughts on War and Death,” and others), Alenka Zupan?i? (Why psychoanalysis?, The Ethics of the Real), Jacques Lacan (The Ethics of Psychoanalysis), Kenneth Reinhard and Julia Lupton (on  Lacan and the Ten Commandments), Jacques Derrida (“Psychoanalysis searches the state if its soul,” from The Death Penalty Seminar), Cathy Caruth and others on the question of trauma, Fethi Benslama (“Dying For Justice”), Talal Assad (On Suicide Bombing), Catherine Malabou (The New Wounded [on psychoanalysis and neuro-sciences]), Elizabeth Rottenberg (on psychoanalysis and the death penalty).

CLIT200/ FR 230B. Ecopoetics of the French Caribbean. Taught by Eric Prieto, Professor of French/Francophone Studies and Comparative Literature.
This seminar will introduce students to recent developments in ecocritical theory as they relate to the environmental imagination in French Caribbean literature. This course will ask how the environmental features of the region have shaped the literary imagination of its writers and how their work can, in turn, intervene in debates over the region's ecological needs. Historical topics, discussed in support of this central theme, will include: the ecological transformation of the islands during the colonial period via the institutions of slavery and the plantation system and the ongoing transformations wrought by urbanization, tourism, agricultural crisis, globalization, climate change, and rising sea levels. Along the way we will examine various perspectives within the field of ecocriticism, including debates over the respective priorities of deep ecological and ecomodernist/ecopragmatist outlooks, activist and aesthetic approaches, localist vs. globalist perspectives, anthropocentric and posthumanist values, the relationship between social justice and ecological stewardship, race, gender, and environmental justice, and the promise and perils of applying evolutionary paradigms to social and cultural phenomena. Questions of representation will permeate our discussions at every turn, beginning with the fraught question of how to define nature and humanity's place within it. Primary readings by Saint-John Perse, Aimé Césaire, Jacques Roumain, Edouard Glissant, Maryse Condé, Daniel Maximin, and others. Theoretical/critical readings by Kenneth White, Ursula Heise, Felix Guattari, Bruno Latour, Stephanie Posthumus, and many others. Most readings will be in French and the primary language of class discussion will be French. (Alternative arrangements can be discussed for interested students with limited French.)