Graduate Seminars 2019-20

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.
All seminars will be offered in English, with enhancement sessions in French and German for French-track and German-track students, who will be reading texts in their original languages.

Fall 2019

Comparative Literature 210:  Proseminar in Comparative Literature. Reading Comparatively: Old and New Questions in “Comparative” Literature.  Taught by Sara Weld, Professor of Slavic and Scandinavian Studies & Comparative Literature.

In 2011 Ali Behdad and Dominic Thomas (re)defined Comparative Literature as an “inter-disciplinary, cross-cultural, and trans-national endeavor” (Behdad & Thomas 1). 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. This seminar encourages students to examine and assess the key concepts, themes, and debates that have shaped the evolving fields of Comparative Literature and the literary humanities. It provides students with opportunities for professional development in writing, presenting, and revising work, as well as engaging in scholarly dialogues. In addition, students develop specific skills required by the profession, such as facilitating discussion, reviewing work by others, presenting work formally and informally, and answering questions in a conference format (description by Catherine Nesci and Sara Weld).


Winter 2020

Comparative Literature 260/170: Literary Translation. Theory and Practice. Taught by Suzanne Jill Levine, Research Professor (Spanish, Comparative Literature, Translation Studies) & Founder, Translation Studies Graduate Emphasis.
In this seminar we examine translation and the canon, question the hierarchical division between translation and original, and illustrate the concept of the original as translation and the literary text as "work-in-progress" in which translation forms part of the creative process. The main topics of our critical inquiry and practice include: 
1) Translation as domesticating or foreignizing practice: bring the text to the reader, or the reader to the text (Schleiermacher); 
2) Translation's invisibility & the hierarchical categories of "translation" and "original" vs. the concept of the original as "work-in-progress" and of translation/or re-translation as a “mode of writing” and a stage in the creative process; 
3) Critical examination of normative terms, i.e. “literal” vs. literary translation, fidelity vs. infldelity; 
4) The history of translation (studies): diverse cultural /national/ ethical/ theoretical views toward translation through the diachronics of history; 
5) Transcultural challenges: literary allusions, transposing colloquial speech, regionalisms, language-bound poetic forms such as the sonnet or the haiku; 
6) Ideological perspectives on appropriation and reception.

Comparative Literature 200/GER210/C LIT 198H. Hans Blumenberg: Philosophizing in a New Key (Texts and Contexts).   Taught by Kade Visiting Professor Eva Geulen, Director of the Center for Literary and Cultural Research (ZfL), and Professor in the Department for Cultural History and Theory at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Hans Blumenberg (1919-1996), Jewish born German philosopher raised as a Catholic, is primarily known as the author of voluminous erudite books covering the history of philosophical metaphors such as the cave, the shipwreck or the ‘book of nature’ from classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to his own present. His discussions of equally vast topics such as the history of myth, the Copernican revolution or his refutation of the secularization thesis possess similar scope. Until recently much of the international debate on this work has focused on the question what ‘school’ (Husserlian or Heideggerian) he belonged to and whether he actually developed his own philosophical program or whether his work is “just” historiographical reconstruction. In the past decade, however, as ever more material has come to light posthumously, Blumenberg has emerged as a theoretician in his own right who forged a new and different path between philosophical anthropology, Husserlian phenomenology, and Heidegger’s ontology. In particular, his reflections on the shared history of aesthetics and technology have attracted increasing attention as both a corrective and an alternative to the dominant historical account of philosophical aesthetics since Baumgarten and Kant. Moreover, it has also become increasingly clear that Blumenberg enriched the genres of philosophical inquiry by including aphorisms, anecdotes, fables, and other literary forms, both as primary sources and in his own writing.

The seminar will introduce students to a thinker who enables us to reconsider the ways in which the map of postwar European thought is usually drawn. Blumenberg offers a theory of modernity that deviates both from “left” accounts (Benjamin, Adorno, Kracauer, Habermas, Derrida) as well as those from the “right” (Gehlen, Arendt, Koselleck, Marquard). The seminar will bypass the larger works in favor of shorter, often more poignant and generally more accessible texts. Thematically, the seminar will concentrate on questions of aesthetics and the relationship between philosophy and literature. Primary Blumenberg-readings will be read along related materials from other writers such as Koselleck, Kracauer and Benjamin. The seminar will also present a unique opportunity for students to read as of yet unpublished materials in English, since Visiting Kade Professor Eva Geulen has access to them and will share them with students.  

Spring 2020

Comparative Literature 220/198H: Mental States in the Novel: Proust, Woolf, Borges.Taught by Professor Dominique Jullien (Chair, Comparative Literature),

In the works of Proust, Woolf, and Borges, depiction of mental states, cognitive processes and emotional experience, seems to anticipate on an intuitive level what modern cognitive science is only beginning to verify as our knowledge of brain function develops. Traditional notions of selfhood are radically uprooted and reframed both in fiction and psychology. Proust’s analysis of habit parallels William James’s; James’s stream of consciousness conception comes alive in Woolf’s late novels; Bergson’s ideas on time and memory find echoes in the Proustian novel of recollection; Mrs. Dalloway offers a metaphorical counterpart to Freud’s trauma theories. At the other end of the century, Borges’s fictions take views of the self and cognitive processes to fantastic extremes. Issues explored in this seminar include: memory & oblivion, the ethics & aesthetics of habit, memory & the fantastic, involuntary & unconscious memory, memory & trauma, metaphor & understanding, epiphanies of the mind, deductive reasoning & detective fiction logic, creativity & everyday experience, stream of consciousness, dream & sleep, individual & collective memory, etc.       
 In English. Open to advanced Undergraduates with instructor’s approval.