Spring 2024 Courses


**No prerequisites; all CMLT courses below are GH courses. CMLT 10 and 100 are requirements for the CMLT Major and WLIT Minor. For more info visit, https://complit.la.psu.edu/undergraduate/major.

CMLIT 001— Introduction to Western Literatures Through the Renaissance  

MoWeFr 2:30PM – 3:20PM Buckhout Lab 213 Gavin Davis  

This course provides a survey of Western literary tradition and considers a variety of genres — such as epic, drama, sonnet, essay, saga, chronicle, folktale, and novel — with attention to the literary and historical contexts which these works reflect in the Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance (Early Modern) periods. Universal themes and cultural values, along with individual differences, will be discussed and compared in works from such authors as Homer, Dante, Chaucer, Cervantes, and Marguerite de Navarre. Comparative study focuses on the understanding and appreciation not only of the individual works, but also of their influence on other literary works and artistic forms and the ways in which they relate to their cultures. You will articulate and compare interpretations of texts spanning 2500 years of Western literary history. The variety of the Western tradition will lead you to an understanding and critical discussion of the process by which certain works become regarded as “great.” This course will also allow you the pleasure of encountering a wide variety of creative literary expressions from three distinct periods. This course also fulfills the General Education Humanities requirement, the Bachelor of Arts Humanities requirement, and International Cultures requirement.  

CMLIT 004 —Introduction to Asian Literatures  

TuTh 12:05PM – 1:20PM Hammond Bldg 214 Ming En Joshua Tee  

This course aims to provide an introductory survey of Asian literature (through English translation), to engage students in a preliminary discussion on Asian cultures, and to ground students in a basic understanding of literary theory and methodology. We will read works spanning from 8th-century BCE to the contemporary present, from the Indian subcontinent to the Malay Archipelago to East Asia, in forms such as epic poetry, the short story, the novel, and the comic book. Exploring the historical and cultural contexts of these works, we will pay attention to the ways in which each text depicts the diversities within geographical areas, the cultural tradition these texts have emerged from, and their links to global flows and development. This class satisfies the General Education (GH), International Cultures (IL), and Other Cultures (BA) requirements. Students with little to no exposure to literature or Asian languages are welcome to join!  

CMLIT 10 – Introduction to World Literatures  

  1. Section 001 MoWeFr 1:25PM – 2:15PM Engineering Unit B 107      Hyun Jung Kong 
  1. Section 002  MoWeFr 10:10AM – 11:00AM       Willard Bldg 370                   Elena Quinones  
  1. Section 003 Web   Henry Morello 

The development of literature around the world—from epic, legend, lyric, etc. in the oral tradition to modern written forms. (GH;IL)(BA) As a one-semester introduction to the range and diversity of world literature from the ancient past to the present, CMLIT 10 is intended to help you read (or listen to) a work of literature from any time or place and to appreciate it more fully – whether it belongs to the more familiar types of literature you may have read in the Western tradition or is a fable, folktale, hero story, play, or narrative from another cultural tradition. You will practice expressing your ideas through written exams and in-class and on-line discussions/activities. Discussion sessions allow interaction with the instructor and with other students in the class. This course presents a global sampling of masterpieces of world literature. Students will become familiar with various literary genres and become proficient in the analysis of the similarities and differences between texts from many different time periods and cultures. CMLIT 10 is a prerequisite for the Comparative Literature major and the World Literature minor. This course also fulfills the General Education humanities requirement, the Bachelor of Arts humanities requirement, and the United States and International requirement. 

CMLIT 100 – Reading across Cultures 

TuTh 12:05PM – 1:20PM Health and Hum Dev  256 Nergis Erturk 

How do texts travel beyond their immediate context into different cultures across time and space? An introduction to the study of comparative literature, this course will focus on the transnational travel of foundational works of European literature. In the twentieth century, classic works by William Shakespeare, Charlotte Brontë, and others representing colonial encounters between Europeans and non-Europeans were responded to, and in some cases, rewritten by Middle Eastern, African, and Caribbean writers. Examining the adaptation and rewriting of foundational works of European literature by postcolonial writers, we will ask the following questions: How do different works of literature represent cross-cultural encounters? What new perspectives are introduced by Middle Eastern, African, and Caribbean writers in their adaptations of European authors? What are the ethics and politics of reading across cultures?  This course is a prerequisite for the CMLIT major and the World Literature minor.  

CMLIT 101 – Race, Gender, and Identity in World Literature  

MoWeFr 9:05AM – 9:55AM Willard Bldg 169 Jessica Klimoff  

 (GH;US;IL)(BA) This course examines issues of race, gender, religions, and ethnicity as expressed in literary, social, and cultural contexts. We will address these questions in works from a variety of traditions and time periods. Literary works from around the world show a wide range of response to the “other” — idealization of difference as exotic, fear of difference as threat, the desire to suppress difference or force it into conformity, the recognition of difference within ourselves, etc. The scope includes authors who are themselves members of racial, sexual or ethnic groups with which you may be less familiar. You will also consider the question of who and what constitutes identity as perceived by oneself and by others. 

CMLIT 107: The Literature of Exploration, Travel, Migration, and Exile 

TuTh 10:35AM – 11:50AM Willard Bldg 371 Andrew Hoffman 

CMLIT 107 examines the notions of exploration, travel, migration, and exile through the lenses of time, space, language, and genre. We will consider questions of home, of place, of identity, and of belonging through literary and cultural productions that depict crossings both real and imaginary, voluntary and forced, geographic and personal. Through reading, discussion, and writing, we will examine and compare the different roles that travel can play in the imaginations of both the individual writers and the cultures from which they come. We will not only explore recurrent themes and timeless topics, but also the ways in which travel writing can both reinforce and subvert the basic value-systems, stereotypes, or other assumptions present in its cultural context. To that end, we will consider how literature of travel, migration, and exile address questions of gender, race, class, colonialism, human rights, the environment, social institutions, and political organization. Throughout our study, we will ask the following questions: What are the historical, social, and psychological conditions under which a person embarks on a journey, and what does a person search for in other places? How does the experience of travel transform one’s relation to oneself, one’s home culture, and the world at large? How are people understood, or misunderstood, during encounters made in the context of journeying? How is literature and language itself a space of traversal? This course fulfills requirements for the Comparative Literature major, the World Literature minor, General Education Humanities, Bachelor of Arts Humanities, and General Education International/Intercultural Competency.

CMLIT 108 – Myths and Mythologies  

  1. Section 001. MoWeFr 2:30PM – 3:20PM Hammond Bldg 214 Justin Halverson 
  1. Section 002. MoWe 4:00PM – 5:15PM Willard Bldg 268  Justin Halverson 
  1. Section 003. Web  Kendra McDuffie 

In CMLIT 108—an introduction to myth and world mythologies—we will read and think about some of the foundational stories that humans have created in answer some of those Big Questions: What sorts of beings are we humans, and how did we get here? How did our world come to be the way that it is, and what is our part to play in it? How can we live our best lives in this complex and uncertain world? These often deceptively simple tales encode deep truth claims that go right to the heart of our sense of the shape of the world and how we fit into it, providing a framework for understanding our experiences.  

                Our readings will include stories about the creation of humans and the world, and about heroes and tricksters from all over the world including Africa, Asia, and the indigenous Americas. In addition to engaging with the myths themselves, we’ll also trace the development of the study of myth and several significant theoretical approaches. We will ask what connects various cultures across the ages—and explore many ways of being in the world.  

This course fulfills the General Education humanities requirement, the Bachelor of Arts humanities requirement, and the International Cultures requirement. 

CMLIT 112N – Introduction to Global Drama, Theatre, and Performance  

TuTh 10:35AM – 11:50AM    Wartik Lab 106 Henry Morello 

(IL) (US) (GA) (GH) (Integrative: Interdomain). Introduction to Global Drama, Theater, and Performance will enable students to discover the power and excitement of drama in a global context. Students will encounter a variety of cultural contexts as they observe how playwrights portray local histories and lifestyles, in settings from many parts of the world. The course will offer (1) an introductory overview of concepts and terms associated with understanding drama and the technical aspects of theater. It will present (2) traditional dramatic forms such as tragedy, comedy, history play, allegory, Noh, etc., as seen in plays prior to the twentieth century; and (3) the dramatic contributions of multiple cultural groups in the U.S., with African American, Asian American, Latino, and other U.S. plays seen not in isolation, but in relation to world drama. (4) the course will consider ways in which drama, as a form of world literature, can have an international and intercultural impact, both in earlier periods and recently, when global circulation and international collaboration are increasingly frequent. Finally, (5) this course will look at world drama and theater from a design and performance perspective. Class work may include lectures or presentations by the instructor, presentations by students, web based activities, and focused discussions. 

CMLIT 120—Literature of the Occult 

TuTh 1:35PM – 2:50PM   Willard Bldg 370  Bangce Cheng 

This course introduces you to the world of the occult—magic, pseudoscience, traditional rituals, mysterious experiences, and fantastic beings. In reading and discussing major works of literature that involve “occult” thinking, this course aims to explore the far horizons not only of art, but of reason itself. Rather than assigning ideas about supernaturalism, absurdity, and dreams to the dustbin of intellectual history, we will study how a diverse body of authors have engaged with these kinds of thought to shed light on our complicated world.  

Throughout this course, we will encounter a wide array of esoteric beliefs and practices and gain a solid understanding of the contested forms of knowledge and expertise they represent. You will develop the ability to interpret literary texts with respect to their political, cultural, and social backgrounds as well as their implications for contemporary thinking. Meanwhile, this course approaches the occult not as a fixed object but as a historical construct defined in relation to the legitimate knowledge of the time. We will investigate issues of cultural difference, colonization and imperialism, and the politics of knowledge by looking at how the “occult” and the “non-occult” consider, interact with, and convert into one another. The course reading will feature a parallel between texts from “Western” and “Eastern” traditions. 

This course fulfills the General Education Humanities requirement, the Bachelor of Arts Humanities requirement, or the United States and International Cultures requirement. 

CMLIT 122—Global Science Fictions  

MoWeFr 11:15AM – 12:05PM  Willard Bldg 268   Vasilije Ivanovic 

(GH;US;IL) (BA) A study of the relationships between science, literature, and film, from an international and interdisciplinary perspective. This course meets the Bachelor of Arts degree requirements. This course examines science fiction and the fictions of science from an international and interdisciplinary perspective. Course content includes a history of the idea of science, of its engagement with and by fictional, filmic, dramatic, and poetic narratives, within an explicitly comparative framework that includes material from Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa. Students will develop a theory of genre and its development over time; they will recognize regional, cultural, and historical differences and forms of change that affect the intellectual development of the arts and sciences.  

CMLIT 128N—The Holocaust in Film and Literature  

  1. Section 001. TuTh 1:35PM – 2:50PM       Willard Bldg 060  Will Weihe 
  1. Section 002. TuTh 3:05PM – 4:20PM       Tyson Bldg 108   Lisa Sternlieb 
  1. Section 003. MoWe 4:00PM – 5:15PM     Willard Bldg 258 Bettina Brandt 

(also GER, JST, ENGL) This class studies how art, literature, film, and other media can help us to gain a perspective on one of the most horrific events in human history, the Holocaust: the genocidal murder of more than six million men, women, and children (mostly Jewish) under the Nazi regime during World War II. We will also examine the theoretical questions involved in any attempt to capture what appears to be beyond our comprehension, in terms of moral outrage and the sheer scale, inhumanity, and bureaucratic efficiency. To this end we will study literary works, such as Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz, films such as Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, and Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, as well as photographs, poems, artworks, installations, museum architecture, the design of monuments and other artifacts. We will also examine questions of memorialization (Holocaust museums and memorials), national guilt, survivor’s guilt, stigmatization, and the ethics of historical representation. 

CMLIT 130— Banned Books: International and Comparative Perspectives 

MoWeFr 1:25PM – 2:15PM   Willard Bldg 371  Eunice Lim 

This course will dive into the historical and current debates around the challenging and banning of books, focusing on both comparative and international perspectives and with an emphasis on graphic novels and visual narratives. Discussions in this course range from national and pedagogical debates on Critical Race Theory, cancel culture, and trigger warnings to explicit and implicit censorial, exclusionary, and discriminatory regimes around the world. Readings include How to Read Donald Duck by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Flamer by Mike Curato, and The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa. Students will evaluate the reasons cited to remove a book from a shelf and consider their legitimacy and appropriateness. This course raises the following questions: Is Banned Books Week (BBW) a marketing ploy that merely seeks to drive up the sales of controversial books? How do powerful media conglomerates like the Walt Disney Company control and manipulate foreign and local markets through storytelling, producing sociopolitical and commercial outcomes that benefit itself at the expense of others? How do visual narratives mediate, represent, and highlight controversial or taboo subjects? Who gets to decide the appropriateness of narratives and on behalf of whom? What really happens to challenged or banned books and where do they go? For the finals, students will have the option of writing a traditional essay or completing a hybrid project that combines a creative and written component.  

CMLIT143 – Human Rights and World Literature  

MoWeFr 9:05AM – 9:55AM    Willard Bldg 370  Muyun Zhou 

(GH;US;IL)(BA) “Human rights” refers to basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, often held to include the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law. But these ideas have not always been a part of human thought and some scholars believe that without certain forms of literature today’s understanding of human rights would not exist. Through comparative analysis of a variety of human rights storytelling genres that reflect a range of contexts, this course will suggest that it is impossible to understand human rights without also thinking about the stories that create and sustain their idea. One main premise of this course is that the representation of human rights violations is always a vexed undertaking. It is both urgent and necessary, while also incomplete and inadequate. In order to explore this dilemma, this course focuses on the intersection between human rights advocacy and the various cultural forms that explicitly attempt to participate in human rights discourse. The course will cover a variety of cultural forms such as comic books, movies, photography, novels, testimonials, poetry, plays, etc. that reflect on human rights atrocities such as slavery, the Holocaust, war, dictatorships, apartheid, genocide, and more. At the center of the course are questions about aesthetics and ethics. What are the risks and obligations of human rights storytelling and how are these linked to specific cultural forms and aesthetic practices? This course examines a range of human rights stories through a balance of context and close reading, where stories are studied both for what they say and how they say it. 

CMLIT 153 —International Cultures: Film and Literature  

MoWeFr 10:10AM – 11:00AM   Willard Bldg 169    Anna Ziajka Stanton 

(GH;IL) (BA) This course will compare narrative and artistic techniques employed by literature and film in portraying different social and cultural environments, which will range widely around the globe and may include Africa and the Middle East, East Asia, and South America, as well as European and North American examples. Students will view films and read novels or other texts such as short stories, plays, and poems. The purpose of this course is to have students examine how the selected artists have developed their intentions and their subject matter in their respective medium, literature or film, and to allow students to study modes of narration across different cultures and media. Through a combination of lectures and comparative discussions, students will examine how components, including plot, genre, environment, character, and point of view are developed in films and fiction from diverse cultures. The course will also discuss techniques that are exclusive to each medium such as editing and cinematography. The comparative nature of the course allows students to understand, evaluate, and appreciate both the universal and unique qualities of the human condition. The study of narrative technique will help students develop analytical skills in discussing and writing about the literary and cinematic expression of cultural values.   

CMLIT 184 — The Short Story  

MoWeFr 11:15AM – 12:05PM  Willard Bldg 370   Eunice Lim 

This course explores short stories in World Literatures with a thematic focus on autobiographical fiction, a genre of literature that combines autobiography and fiction and creatively blurs the boundaries between the author’s own experiences and fictional narrative elements. Although autofiction is typically associated with the long-form novel, this class will challenge this convention by discussing how today’s attention economy increasingly compels writers to condense and parcel their narrativizations of selfhood. Does this phenomenon encourage reductive, essentialist fragmentations of the self or does it counterintuitively emphasize and alert us to a frustrated desire for detail, elaboration, and attentiveness?  

Students will be reading, discussing, analyzing, and curating a collection of short stories throughout the course as individual and collective critical responses to a range of broadly-construed themes like “Self & Other”, “Face/Phases”, “Word(s) Count(s), Word(s) Limit(s)”, “Queer in Words, Queering Worlds”, “Intimacies & Intimations”, and “(Im)mobilities”. Students will be exposed to a selection of short stories from prominent award-winning writers in North America like Ernest Hemingway, Alice Munro, and George Saunders, as well as lesser-known contributors to the short story genre from other parts of the world like Junji Ito, Leila S. Chudori, and Amparo Dávila.  

Students will a) examine the sociohistorical and cultural contexts that inform the production, circulation, and reception of short stories around the world; b) study the literary techniques, narrative devices, and styles that contribute to the popularity of the short story genre; c) critically analyze or creatively employ these techniques, narrative styles, and styles in their own interpretive or creative writing.  

All readings will be in English, but students who are able to read in the original languages are encouraged to do so. Students who are interested in Creative Writing will also have the option to experiment with writing their own short-form autofictions. 

CMLIT 197 — Political Theatre 

MoWeFr 1:25PM – 2:15PM Willard Bldg 370  Mandisa Haarhoff 

This course examines the work of theatre towards political transformation. How has theatre been used to challenge paradigms of power, to elucidate socio-political problems, and to agitate for change? How does theatre stage critical questions that remain salient across time and in different geographical contexts? We will read a series of adaptations to understand how different political contexts modulate the core questions of the select plays and how different world contexts transform the original world of the play. Along with discussions of Antigone, The Tempest, and Waiting for Godot and their adaptations, we will engage Augusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed liberation art workshops, the first published play by a first nation Australian, Kevin Gilbert’s The Cherry Pickers, and Ngugi wa Thiongo’s politically provocative The Trial of Dedan Kimathi. 
Focus Texts: 
Sophocles, Antigone 

Jean Anouilh, Antigone 

Fugard, Ntshona, and Kani, The Island (an adaptation of Antigone) 

Shakespeare, The Tempest 

Aimé Césaire, A Tempest 

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot 

Athol Fugard, Boesman and Lena  

Ngugi wa Thiongo, The Trial of Dedan Kimathi 

Augusto Boal, Theater of the Oppressed  

Kevin Gilbert, The Cherry Pickers 


** open to first-year students with instructor permission. 400-level courses are intended for but not restricted to students considering the CMLT Major or WLIT Minor. For more info: https://complit.la.psu.edu/undergraduate/major 

CMLIT 404Y (ASIA 404Y) – Topics in Asian Literature: “Reading Asian Poetry” 

TuTh 10:35AM – 11:50AM Willard Bldg 268 Nicolai Volland  

The theme of this spring’s class is “Reading Asian Poetry.” The shortest of literary works, poems are also among the most imaginative and artful forms of literary works. How do you write a Haiku? How to read a Tang poem? In this class, we will explore poetic works from Japan, China, the Indian subcontinent, as well as other Asian nations, depending on participants’ interests. We will cover Asia’s poetic traditions as well as modern and contemporary writings. Topics we will address include the relationships between these varied literary traditions, their encounter with Western poetic forms, and poetic responses to modernity across Asia. Expect to encounter drunkards dancing with the moon, lovelorn ladies lost on moonlit lakes, samurai wielding sword as well as pen, revolutionary leaders lyrically surveying their empires, and migrant worker poets. This course uses free or low-cost required texts. 

CMLIT 438 – Fantastic Worlds 

MoWeFr 2:30PM – 3:20PM Hammond Bldg 215 Mandisa Haarhoff 

A comparative, international study of fantastic worlds in literature and visual culture. This course will explore a wide range of “fantastic” narrative voices, crossing the boundaries of genres, periods, and nations from world exploration in the 1400s, moon voyages in the 1900s, the fantastical visual cultures of black artists, the magical fantastic, and animism. Students will examine various types of literary techniques and concepts, such as magic realism, grotesque realism, the absurdity, the fantastic, etc., and learn how texts best capture/grasp the nature of “realities” in their creation of “fantastic” worlds.  

Focus Works may include: 
George Méliès, A Trip to the Moon 
Stanley Kubrick, 2001: a Space Odyssey 
Guillermo del Toro, Pan’s Labyrinth 
Ekow Eshun’s The Black Fantastic (includes art by Nick Cave, Sedrick Chisom, Ellen Gallagher, Wangechi Mutu, Iris Viktor and Kara Walker) 
Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories 
vangi gantsho, red cotton (9780639946504) 
Gogol, The Nose and other stories (9780231190695) 
Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (9780802144423) 
Rebecca Roanhorse, Black Sun (9781534437685) 
Toni Cade Bambara, The Salt Eaters (9780679740766) 
Alejo Carpentier, The Kingdom of This World (9780374537388) 

CMLIT 453 (PORT 497) – Narrative Theory: Film and Literature: “Through the Looking-Glass: Race in the U.S. and Brazil” 

TuTh 1:35PM – 2:50PM Ferguson Bldg 105 Sarah Townsend 

This course takes a comparative approach to the political and cultural dimensions of race in the United States and Brazil through the lens of literature and film. Among the topics we will discuss are constructions of the “Indian,” Indigenous mobilization around the defense of similarities and differences in the systems of slavery, Jim Crow segregation versus the Brazilian myth of racial democracy, the influence of funk and rap in Brazilian music, and cases of collaboration between African American and Afro-Brazilian activists. We will focus primarily on films and literature (including graphic novels), but materials will also include historical and political writings as well as music. Throughout the semester we will also reflect critically on the tendency of intellectuals and artists in each country to use the other as a prism through which to view race relations at home. 

CMLIT 471 – Poetry and Poetics: “Love, Struggle, and Politics” 

TuTh 9:05AM – 10:20AM Willard Bldg 169 Tembi Charles 

If you have ever felt apprehensive about engaging with the poetic form, this course is for you. In this course you will acquire the skills necessary to read, comprehend, and potentially develop an affinity for poetry. Throughout the course, you will cultivate interpretive abilities enriched by exposure to diverse poetic forms and structures, enabling you to contemplate the essence of what it means for something to be deemed “poetic.” The objectives of this course are to equip you with a foundational understanding of how to comprehend the mechanics of poetry, and to develop the critical skills required to analyze and interpret poetic works. We will embark on an exploration of the historical evolution of poetics as a discipline, examining its roles as a “science,” a “method,” and a “theory.” We will attempt to answer questions such as: how does a poem make meaning?  As we explore the techniques of poetry as a genre, we will delve into how famous poets have used poetry to explore the intricate interplay of love, struggle, and politics. We will explore the notion that love, and struggle are inseparable, with love often encompassing elements of hardship and resistance, while struggle inherently embodies elements of love. This complex interrelationship may be directed towards the self, one’s homeland, others, or a combination of all three. We will read poets such as Walt Whitman, Mahmoud Darwish, Koleka Putuma, Gabeba Baderoon, Shara McCallum, Natasha Trethewey, and NourbeSe Phillip.  

CMLIT 497 – Comparative Literature as Public Humanities 

MoWeFr 1:25PM – 2:15PM       Willard Bldg 169        Shuang Shen  

This proseminar examines comparative literature as a social practice. The course has two components: 1) The course delves into the social production of comparative literature by examining the roles played by cultural institutions, media form and platforms, cultural facilitators and mediators, as well as readers, in the production, circulation, and reception of comparative literature texts and knowledge. This course gives as much attention to the new cultural ecologies of Web 2.0 and emergent electronic literatures as it does to older media forms, such as print and oral cultures. The topics examined in this course include amateurism and independence, the market and the state, archive and institution, translation and publishing. 

2) The course is a practicum that provides students an opportunity to apply their writing and analytical skills to public knowledge production and cultural criticism. Students will work on public facing humanities projects, such as providing content for the department run website associated with the journal Comparative Literature Studies or creating podcasts on topics related to comparative literature. Instruction will be provided to facilitate students’ acquisition of necessary media production skills. Activities could include interviewing academic or non-academic authors, writing book reviews, conversing with external speakers with experience in public literary or cultural production, and exploring archives of community cultural organizations and participating in their activities. The course further hones their competence in reading, writing, and conducting research gained from other humanities classes. It also provides an invaluable opportunity for the students to apply those skills in the real world.