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Comp Lit Luncheon Series

The Comparative Literature Luncheon is a weekly informal lunchtime gathering of students, faculty, and other members of the University community.  Each week there is a short (20 minute) presentation, by a visitor or a local speaker, on a topic related to any humanities discipline.

Jonathan Abel ( and Shuang Shen ( are the coordinators for the series this semester. We meet Mondays in 102 Kern at about 12:15 p.m.  You can bring your lunch or buy a lunch tray in Kern Cafeteria (next door) and bring it into 102. Coffee and tea are provided in 102 (no charge).  The speaker will begin at about 12:30 p.m. Allowing a few minutes for discussion, we'll conclude in time for classes that meet at 1:25 p.m.  All students, faculty, colleagues, and friends are welcome.

Click here for information regarding our luncheons from previous semesters.

We're on the air: Recordings of these presentations are broadcast on C-NET, the regional cable network for educational and government programming.   Each program is usually broadcast 4 times in the week following the date listed here. Click here for C-NET archive of broadcast in streaming video.

Or, download the talks at iTunes U.

The 2013-2014 Comparative Literature Luncheon is sponsored in part by a generous contribution from the Center for Global Studies.


Monday, January 26
"Plastic: The Desire for a Container," Heather Davis, Penn State

From take-out containers to water bottles to hazmat suits, the practically ubiquitous material of plastic seals objects and bodies from their surrounding environment. But it does not do so benignly; it is one of the foremost causes of pollution in the oceans amongst other environmental problems. As an agent of containment and contamination, plastic is bound to new ecological realities, creating new aesthetic surfaces as it coats the earth. This paper will reconsider the world of plastic containers, asking how this material contains life.

Comp Lit lunch flyer

Heather Davis is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of numerous articles and the editor of Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environment and Epistemology (Open Humanities Press, forthcoming 2015) and Desire/Change: Contemporary Canadian Feminist Art (McGill-Queen's Press, forthcoming 2016).


Monday, February 2
"Resuming Maurice: Maeterlinck and Literary Celebrity," Philip Mosley, Penn State, Worthington Scranton

However one chooses to define a literary celebrity, there is no doubt that Maurice Maeterlinck was one. For much of the first half of the twentieth century, the Nobel prizewinning Belgian was one of the most famous authors in the world, his books translated into many languages and selling in huge numbers. On his first visit to the United States in 1919 people clamored to meet him and hear him speak. Along Fifth Avenue in New York City bunting was hung in his honor. Yet since his death in 1949 his oeuvre--mainly poetry, plays, and essays--has been largely neglected. His translated works with very few exceptions exist only in reprints of those early versions that had poured from the printing presses in the first quarter of the century when he was at the peak of his fame. In a media-saturated age, one in which the line increasingly blurs between being a celebrity for what you have accomplished and being one for who you happen to be, it is unsurprising that celebrity studies has already become a fully-fledged academic discipline. An offshoot of cultural studies, its main interest is in contemporary celebrity, but it has also begun to historicize the phenomenon. As far as it concerns literary celebrity, most work so far suggests that the modern idea begins in the Romantic period, gathers pace through the nineteenth century, and evolves to the point of producing a primary celebrity figure in Maeterlinck by the beginning of the twentieth century. Such an idea of modern literary celebrity involves the post-Rousseau cult of individual subjectivity, and the key factor in separating it from, for instance, the renown of an Enlightenment figure such as Samuel Johnson is the commercialization of literature as a result of industrial production of books and magazines. This revolutionary turn in literary culture brings with it an increase in critics and reviewers, a vast readership (due also in no small measure to the extension of education), and a wide dissemination of corresponding images made possible by the art of photography. By the time of Maeterlinck’s career as an author, we may add to this cumulative process the elaboration of promotion and publicity via motion pictures and radio, and the emergence of modern techniques of advertising, marketing, and public relations.

Comp Lit lunch flyer

Philip Mosley is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the Worthington Scranton campus of the Pennsylvania State University, USA. He is an Associate Editor of Comparative Literature Studies and has served on the board of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. His book publications include Ingmar Bergman: The Cinema as Mistress (1982); Georges Rodenbach: Critical Essays (1996); Split Screen: Belgian Cinema and Cultural Identity (2001); Anthracite! An Anthology of Pennsylvania Coal Region Plays (2006); The Cinema of the Dardenne Brothers: Responsible Realism (2014). Additionally, he has translated a number of Belgian authors from French to English including Guy Vaes (October Long Sunday, 1997), Georges Rodenbach (Bruges-la-Morte, 2007), Maurice Maeterlinck (The Intelligence of Flowers, 2008), and François Jacqmin (The Book of the Snow, 2010, shortlisted for the international Griffin Poetry Prize). He was awarded the 2008 Literary Translation Prize by the French Community of Belgium in recognition of his contribution to the dissemination of Belgian francophone literature. A native of England who immigrated to the USA in 1988, he holds a BA in English from the University of Leeds, an MA in European Literature and a PhD in Comparative Literature, both from the University of East Anglia. In 2000 he was Visiting Professor at the University of Toulouse, France; in 2003-04 was Fulbright Visiting Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; and in 2013 was Visiting Professor at the University College of Sint-Lukas, Brussels, Belgium.


Monday, February 9
"The Disintegration of Civil War Memory in Brown v. Board Literature," Michael LeMahieu, Clemson University

Monday, February 16
"The First Hebrew Shakespeare Translations," Lily Kahn, University College London

Monday, February 23
"Towards an Aesthetics of Stigmata: From Van Gogh's Paintings to Claire Denis's Films," Sabine Doran, Penn State

Monday, March 2
"Mirrored Resonance: Writing English in Chinese Characters," Jonathan Stalling, University of Oklahoma

Monday, March 16
Mykola Polyuha, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Monday, March 23
Matthew Hart, Columbia University

Monday, March 30
"Fine Illuminations: A visual essay on refinement, finesse, and global Cuba," Jacqueline Loss, University of Connecticut

Monday, April 6
Ian Fleishman, University of Pennsylvania

Monday, April 13
Nathaniel Mackey, Duke University

Monday, April 20
Dorothy Wang, Williams College

Monday, April 27
Jing Tsu, Yale University


Department of Comparative Literature
The Pennsylvania State University
215 Ritenour Building | University Park, PA 16802
phone: 814.863.0589 | fax: 814.863.8882 | email:

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