Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

What’s new? What’s next? Seminars in Comparative Literature, Fall 2021


Comparative Method in Literary Studies

Monday, 2:30 - 5:30 p.m.

Charlotte Eubanks / Caroline D. Eckhardt / Adrian Wanner

These three one-credit micro-seminars (or one aggregate 3-credit seminar) introduce students to crucial aspects of literary study and praxis. While based on the discipline of comparative literature, these five-week seminars also explore interdisciplinary topics and methods of interest to students in other literary fields. Unit 1 focuses on comparative reading, unit 2 on research methods, ethics, and design (fulfilling the Graduate School’s research ethics requirement), and unit 3 on genres of academic writing.

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Theory and Praxis of Teaching Global Literatures

Wednesday, 2:30 - 5:30 p.m.

Caroline D. Eckhardt

This pedagogy course is intended for all CMLIT graduate students and others interested in theoretical, practical, and ethical questions related to teaching literatures from multiple cultures and languages around the world. Offered each Fall, it can be taken by CMLIT students in Year 1 (required if you are teaching); in Year 2 (if you do not teach in your first year); or at any point in preparation for, or while, teaching in CMLIT.

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CMLIT 597.001

The Geo-Biography of Race

Tuesday, 2:30 - 5:30 p.m.

Rosemary Jolly

Starting with Sylvia Wynter as a guide, we shall trace how what she calls the Genre of Man comes to over-represent the human, so that a privileged rendering of Enlightenment Man comes to stand for the human in the twentieth-first century in the West/Global North. We shall navigate the topic with awareness ways of the ways in which focus on the race ‘elsewhere’ can be used simultaneously to overlook US racist histories and to exceptionalize them. We shall look at ‘race’ in the Anglo/postcolonial context, nuancing the hegemony of this tradition by looking at race as concept and lived experience in Asia, Africa, S. America, and Australasia over time. That is to say, the premise of the class is that narratives of and about race provide a series of overlapping, competing and distinct frames distributed geographically and historically, such that an explicitly comparative approach to the question of race requires what we might call a GeoBiography of race: One that understands how various constitutions of what ‘race’ is in a specific context mediate what becomes ‘human’ in that context, such that the human may not be(come) a desired status. In particular, we shall pay attention to race as an embodied experience of enfleshment (Weheliye) and its extra-anthropocentric dimensions (Sharpe; Hartman); and ‘race’ as movement (e.g. Négritude; Pan-Africanism; Decolonial projects and projections).

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CMLIT 597.002

What Is Ecocriticism

Thursday, 2:30 - 5:30 p.m.

Jonathan Abel

Today climate change affects every organism on the planet. Although the causal role of human activities in planetary changes has been well proven by scientific analysis of geological and climate data, the cultural and ideological roles enabling, justifying, forming, and transforming the human decision-making behind those changes remain often overlooked. This seminar surveys the recent rise of ecocriticism in cultural studies and its antecedents. This course is not a review of the policy debates around climate change, but rather takes for granted the scientific fact that climate change is impacting life on the planet to examine the role of global cultures in that change. We will consider the ways in which culture grounds and informs science, public policy, and environmental justice even as culture itself is also impacted by such endeavors. Traversing a wide range of ecocritical approaches to culture, specific topics will be determined in part by the participants but will likely include: the anthropocene, cli-fi, cultural histories of the human relationship with the environment, ecocentricism, ecocinema, ecofeminism, ecological imperialism, ecological thinking, ecopoetry, environmental aesthetics, environmental classicism, environmental racism, eschatology, folklore, human cosmogony, life writing, literary ecology, myth, nature writing, romanticism, toxic consciousness, and zoocriticism.

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CMLIT 597.003

Race, Scholarship, and Appropriation: Medieval and Early Modern Literary Studies

Wednesday, 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Robert Edwards

This seminar will focus on race and representation in medieval and early modern literature; it aims to generate a series of research and pedagogical projects by graduate students, building from three focal points. The first is a body of primary works from the two periods (romances, travel and utopian literature, wonders of the east, and canonical texts) that represent race, ethnicity, and racialized differences as sites of fantasy, desire, fear, and identity. A second focus is literary scholarship—the array of interpretative discourse and disciplinary practices that have historically framed race and ethnicity as topics of critical scrutiny in period studies. A third focus will be on the afterlife of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in cultural idealization, satire, racist propaganda, and resistance. The seminar will require active participation, several short presentations, a conference paper or presentation, and a final project (a fully developed course proposal or a scholarly paper).

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