Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

What’s new? What’s next? Seminars in Comparative Literature, Fall 2024


Comparative Method in Literary Studies

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

Magalí Armillas-Tiseyra, Caroline Eckhardt, Jonathan Abel

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 research method and design, unit 2 on close reading, and unit 3 on genres of academic writing.”

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Studies in Literary Genres: The Novel as “Global” Form

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

Magalí Armillas-Tiseyra

“The study of the novel as a genre,” writes Mikhail Bakhtin in “Epic and Novel: Toward a Methodology for the Study of the Novel” (1975), “is distinguished by peculiar difficulties. This is due to the unique nature of the object itself: the novel is the sole genre that continues to develop, that is as yet uncompleted.” Taking Bakhtin’s observation as a guiding principle, this seminar offers a wide-ranging survey in theories of the novel, including of what the novel is (questions of genre), of how it developed (its relationship to other narrative forms), of how it works (its internal dynamics, narrative modes, etc.), and, finally, of what it does in the world. The readings are drawn from a range of narrative and critical traditions, juxtaposing Europe-centered theories of the novel with the ways in which these questions have been engaged elsewhere in the world. A crucial component of our conversation will be attention to the centrality of the novel—specifically, of the “globalization” of the novel—to theorizations of world literature post-2000, as a means to engage with recent debates about the “global novel” in contemporary literature.


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Theory and Praxis of Teaching Global Literatures

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

Jonathan Eburne

This course is a professional development seminar that prepares graduate students to contribute professionally to the advancement of teaching global and world literature courses at the college and university level. We will investigate the range of global literatures and consider the term “world literature” in two senses: (a) discerning the theories and meanings inherent in the concept and (b) charting the scope of a world of literature that can fit into one semester within specific institutional expectations. We will discuss the challenges and opportunities inherent in teaching works that are written in a variety of languages, come from a wide range of temporal periods and diverse cultural settings, reflect or provide alternatives to international canons, rely upon varying assumptions and ideologies, and demonstrate different relations to translation, literacy, visuality, orality, and performance. Students will become acquainted with aspects of learning theory and research questions as well as with professional resources such as conferences and journals in this field. We will theorize and explore concrete matters such as teaching within different institutional settings and delivery modes (including online), determining learning objectives and assessment instruments, crafting a syllabus, designing lesson plans, and selecting instructional materials including OER (Open Educational Resources) and other alternatives to expensive textbooks in relation to issues of equity and access. Throughout, we will focus on student learning, on creating an inclusive instructional environment, and on professional ethics as involved in the ways we teach literature. The course is intended to strengthen graduate students’ abilities and confidence as teachers now, and their readiness for professional scholarship and for the academic job market later (most faculty jobs in literature are at teaching-focused institutions). We will also consider career diversity: since professional careers other than faculty appointments can often include forms of teaching, aspects of this course may be useful for other career options too.

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Trees in Comparative Literary Contexts

Thursday, 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.

Anna Ziajka Stanton

This graduate seminar explores the role of trees in the literary imaginary across a range of cultural, linguistic, and historical contexts. In so doing, it takes a cue from recent work in the so-called Arboreal Humanities (and the related fields of Arboreal Ethics, Dendrocriticism, and Critical Plant Studies) and yet seeks to move past the predominantly Anglophone/Anglo-American corpus of literary and critical texts that has guided such scholarship thus far. With this aim in mind, in this class we will read literature from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and beyond in which trees feature not as a threat or antithetical other to human civilization—as they have in the European literary imagination (see Robert Pogue Harrison, Forests [1992])—but as agents of transformational human becomings, sentient beings in their own right, or integral members of the human and nonhuman communities around them, imbricated in art, culture, politics, religion, and more.  

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Gender and Sexuality in Modern Turkish Literature

Tuesday, 2:15 - 5:15 p.m.

Nergis Ertürk

This course will examine the foundational works of modern Turkish literature though the lens of gender and sexuality studies. Beginning with a study of the Quran, Ottoman-Islamic sexual health literature (bahnames) and court poetry, the course will move onto the long nineteenth century and explore the changing codes of gender and sexuality through a study of late Ottoman and early republican Turkish novel by Ahmed Midhat, Recaizade Ekrem, Peyami Safa, Sait Faik, Kerime Nadir, and Suat Derviş. We will conclude with a study of contemporary works by Leyla Erbil, Bilge Karasu, Mehmet Murat Somer, and Janset Karavin from the 1950s to the present. Focusing on criticism by Afsaneh Najmabadi, Selim Kuru, Dror Ze’evi, Evren Savci, Nikita Dawan, Tom Boellstorff, and Jasbir Puar, we will address the following questions: what does the concept of cins register in the classical Ottoman-Islamic episteme, and what are the principal methodologies used to study gender and sexuality in Ottoman studies? How were Ottoman-Islamic racial, gender, and sexual codes rearranged by the regimes of global modernity? How do twentieth-century works of literature represent the relation between law, desire, and jouissance in response to Turkish nationalism, and how do they imagine futures beyond phallocentrism? How do work produced by transgender and queer writers intersect with Anglophone trans and queer theory and criticism? Other topics to be discussed include (post)secularism and (un)veiling; homonationalisms; and queer in translation.

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