Comparative Literature Courses

UWM Schedule of Classes
Fall
UWinteriM
Spring
Summer

UWinteriM 2015, January 5-22

Comp Lit 350: Topics in Comparative Literature 3cr (U/G)

Topic: World Microliterature & Short Film
Class Number: 70079, Lec 202, Online (Momcilovic)

The recent surge in social media and mobile technology has opened us onto new views of artistic inspiration and modes of literary production in the digital era. Novelists are taking to Twitter to release novels in 140-character “bursts,” or chapters, while short story writers are turning increasingly to “flash fiction” challenges to tell a story under the constraint of a 500-, 100-, or even a 10-word limit. But “microliterature” has a surprisingly long and international history that predates the advent of the digital era. This course will introduce students to a variety of literary forms and genres, from classical antiquity to the contemporary age, that shape our view of literature “in brief” and allow us to theorize its key points and unique interpretive challenges. Our survey will include Aesop’s fables and other fairy tales from around the world; assorted poetry, including Sappho’s poetic fragments, Matsuo Basho’s haiku, Charles Baudelaire’s prose poems, and imagist poems by William Carlos Williams; assorted Sufi tales, Zen koans, Christian parables, and Hindu sutras; theoretical and philosophical micro-writings, including Friedrich Nietzsche’s aphorisms, Walter Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” and Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp”; micro-stories by modern masters like Ernest Hemingway, Jorge Luis Borges and Franz Kafka; short films, including early cinema “shorts” by Luis Buñuel and Fernand Léger, the anthology film Paris, Je T’aime, and contemporary music videos from around the world; and assorted digital texts from the Twitterverse. No foreign language training is necessary. Satisfies L&S Int'l req.

Spring 2015

Comp Lit 133: Contemporary Imagination in Literature & the Arts 3cr (U; HU)

Class Number: 41656, Lec 001, MW 11am-12:15pm (Momcilovic)
Class Number: 43602, Lec 202, Online (Momcilovic)

From Gothic terror to modern alienation, the artistic impulse and the human imagination have been prominent themes in literature and the visual and performing arts for the last 200 years. This course, which is taught in online and face-to-face sections, is an introductory survey of some of the most gripping, imaginative narratives, images, and performances from around the world. Our survey will include bewildering short stories by Franz Kafka; popular detective fictions from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; decadent poetry by Charles Baudelaire; various folk tales and oral epic songs from around the world; Mozart's enchanting opera The Magic Flute; Tchaikovsky’s timeless ballet Swan Lake; musical masterpieces from Beethoven to the Beatles; Fritz Lang’s sci-fi classic film Metropolis; Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso's revolutionary art; Madonna’s controversial concert performances; Marjane Satrapi’s contemplative graphic novel Chicken with Plums; and so much more. Satisfies GER(HU) and L&S Int'l req. Affiliated with Cultures & Communities.

Comp Lit 135 Experiencing Literature in the 21st Century 3cr (U; HU)

Topic: Literature, Film, and the World Wars
Class Number: 43601, Lec 001, TR 11am-12:15pm (Paik)

The world wars of the last century, with their horrors of trench warfare, concentration camps, and aerial bombings, have left indelible marks on the contemporary imagination. In this class, we will read literary narratives and view films that examine various aspects of these historical experiences: the effect of modern weapons on the psyche of the front-line soldier, the atrocities of the concentration camps, the resistance against Nazi occupation, and the clash between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Books may include Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger, Night by Eli Wiesel, The Skin by Curzio Malaparte, and A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous. Films may include Army of Shadows, which is about the French resistance to Nazism, Fires on the Plain, focusing on Japanese troops isolated and cut off by American forces in the Philippines, The Cranes Are Flying and Come and See, which depict the Second World War from the Russian perspective. Satisfies GER(HU) and L&S Int'l req.

Comp Lit 208 World Literature in Translation: The 71st to the 21st Century 3cr (U; HU)

Class Number: 41657, Lec 201, Online (Pitt)

This course approaches modern world literature through the lens of cultural contact and exchange. Beginning with literature written just under a century after Columbus’ first voyage, this course explores intercultural contact as one of the defining features of modernity. As such, it is also one of the defining subjects of modern literature and one of the defining influences upon modern literary forms. In order to undertake this study, we will examine some of the cultural components of globalization. What are the possibilities, the difficulties, and the conflicts associated with cross-cultural contact and exchange? We will also examine the literary techniques employed to communicate and frame these cultural relationships through a survey of literature from the 17th to the 21st centuries and from a wide range of global perspectives portraying the negotiations, understandings, and misunderstandings of “contact zones” and other sites of cultural exchange where we have constructed notions of what constitutes literature as well as what constitutes the world. Works studied will include the literary forms of novel, poem, play, essay, autobiography, short story, novella, and film. Satisfies the GER(HU) and L&S Int'l req. Affiliated with Cultures & Communities.

Comp Lit 230: Literature and Society 3cr (U; HU)

Topic: The Historical Novel
Class Number: 48405, Lec 001, MW 2-3:15pm (Russell)

Since the publication of Walter Scott's first novel, Waverley: Or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since in 1814, historical fiction has played an important social and political role in defining the relationship of the past to the present through the realm of the imaginary. In this course, we will read examples of historical fiction beginning with essential Romantic historical novels of the mid-nineteenth century, when the genre became very popular among the reading public. The success of these works provide contemporary artists a framework by which they might reconstruct our relationship to the past and question the veracity of accepted historical truths. We will read books that use the genre of historical fiction to reconstruct times of revolution and historical change, as well as re-imagine of the past (through the "steampunk" genre and graphic novels). Throughout the semester, we will try to sort out the contradictions and tensions inherent in historical fiction in order reflect on broader, theoretical issues related to the representation of the past and our relation to history. Texts may include Rob Roy (Walter Scott); Hunchback of Notre-Dame (Victor Hugo); The Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas); The Leopard (Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa); The General in his Labyrinth (Gabriel García Márquez); In the Time of the Butterflies (Julia Alvarez); The Difference Engine (“steampunk," William Gibson and Bruce Sterling); From Hell (graphic novel), Alan Moore; and The Last King of Scotland (film; dir., Kevin MacDonald). Satisfies GER(HU) and L&S Int'l req.
Note: This course will provide an excellent basis for students interested in a proposed Summer 2015 Study Abroad course in Scotland, "On the Trail of Sir Walter." We will visit and discuss the significance of many of the famous sites associated with Walter Scott's novels and their relationship to Scottish history.

Comp Lit 233: Literature and Film 3cr (U; HU)

Topic: The Gangster Film in the East and West
Class Number: 44455, Lec 201, TR 2-3:15pm (Xu)

This course approaches modern world literature through the lens of cultural contact and exchange. Beginning with literature written just under a century after Columbus’ first voyage, this course explores intercultural contact as one of the defining features of modernity. As such, it is also one of the defining subjects of modern literature and one of the defining influences upon modern literary forms. In order to undertake this study, we will examine some of the cultural components of globalization. What are the possibilities, the difficulties, and the conflicts associated with cross-cultural contact and exchange? We will also examine the literary techniques employed to communicate and frame these cultural relationships through a survey of literature from the 17th to the 21st centuries and from a wide range of global perspectives portraying the negotiations, understandings, and misunderstandings of “contact zones” and other sites of cultural exchange where we have constructed notions of what constitutes literature as well as what constitutes the world. Works studied will include the literary forms of novel, poem, play, essay, autobiography, short story, novella, and film. Satisfies the GER(HU) and L&S Int'l req. Affiliated with Cultures & Communities.

Comp Lit 233: Literature and Film 3cr (U; HU)

Topic: Global Food Narratives
Class Number: 49399, Lec 202, Online (Momcilovic)

We all love to eat—and talk about what we eat. We post “food selfies” on Facebook, we express concern about the nutritional value of our food and farming practices that bring our food to the table, and we share recipes and stories about the way food influences the way we see ourselves and the rest of the world. What is this strange and powerful fascination we have with food, beyond its role as biological fuel? What kinds of stories do we tell about our relationship to cooking, cuisine and taste? This online course takes a trans-national and inter-disciplinary look at food and its relationship to rituals and hospitality; social and personal identity; health and disease; graphic food fantasies and painful food realities; and industry and the environment. We will watch a variety of films and read a selection of literary and theoretical texts that address the many different faces of food and cuisine. Our selection of texts will include Laura Esquivel’s enchanting magical realist novel Like Water for Chocolate; Hemingway’s existential “café” stories; Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” and “A Hunger Artist”; selected vampire and cannibalism tales; Jonathan Safran Foer’s memoir Eating Animals; and films including Mildred Pierce, Bitter Rice, Julie & Julia, and the controversial “haute cuisine” film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. Students will also have an opportunity to write a restaurant review and a food memoir as part of their required coursework. Satisfies the GER(HU) and L&S Int'l req. Affiliated with Film Studies.

Comp Lit 309: Great Works of Modern Literature 3cr (U/G; HU)

Topic: The Truth of Others
Class Number: 44856, Lec 001, TR 11am-12:15pm (Xu)

In this class we are going to study an experience of modern literature that is often mediated by a narrative encounter with otherness. This otherness can be cultural, social (e.g. class), racial/ethnic, religious, or sexual. We will focus on a range of influential works from different parts of the world and examine how in these works the encounter with otherness unsettles our normal ways of looking at the world, bringing to crisis our value systems, moral compasses, cultural identities, and sense of a stable and coherent self always in control... Central to our study are various textual formations that condition our experience of the encounter and produce an array of literary subjectivities answering to the truth of others. We will examine how modernist, postcolonial, and postmodern texts (including their many variations) posit different epistemological relations to this truth and in what sense our experience of otherness through literature can be one of authenticity. The goal of the course is to enable students to experience the transformative power of literature and to equip them with interpretive tools to make sense of a number of influential works produced in diverse cultures under different social conditions so that they can discuss and critique them comparatively and in a theoretically informed way. Satisfies the GER(HU) and L&S Int'l req.

Comp Lit 365: Literatures and Cultures of the Americas 3cr (U/G)

Topic: Border Narratives
Class Number: 49253, Lec 201, Online (Pitt)

This course examines narratives and theories of borders and migration within the Americas. How are national and political borders defined, conceptualized, and experienced? How do narrative constructions of borders shape border experience, and how do borders shape narrative representations? What does it mean to cross the border and live as an immigrant? How is this process represented in literature and film? Through our investigation of borders and migration, we will also deepen our understanding of a wide range of contemporary discourses, including nationalism, exile, diaspora, security, human rights, hybridity, transnationalism, globalization, race, gender, community, and identity. While the U.S./Mexico border will serve as a starting point for many of our theoretical and literary engagements with the concepts and representations of borders, our collective readings will take into account other border experiences as well. Satisfies L&S Int'l req. Affiliated with Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. Latino Studies.

Comp Lit 461: Film-Fiction Interactions 3cr (U/G)

Topic: Holocaust Testimony in Literature and Film
Class Number: 44857, Lec 001, TR 12:30-1:45pm (Momcilovic)

Writers seeking to “document” the suffering and memory of the Jewish Holocaust in literature, philosophy and cinema continue to struggle with the Shoah’s traumatic and seemingly un-representable nature. How do writers, film makers, and theorists use their experience, training, and imagination to “revisit” scenes of personal and cultural devastation, and introduce newer generations of witnesses to a history of representation that urges them to “never forget”? This course introduces students to a wide variety of literary, theoretical, and cinematic texts that explore the ethical compulsions and aesthetic limitations of writing and film that works as testimony, texts that reconstruct an experience of bearing witness—always from the outside. We will study a selection of literary works—including Primo Levi’s memoir The Drowned and the Saved, Tadeusz Borowski’s short story collection This Way for the Gas, Ladies & Gentlemen, selections from non-fiction writings like Anne Frank’s diary and Hannah Arendt’s coverage of the Eichmann trial, Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus, and Albert Camus’ allegorical novel The Plague—and films like Schindler’s List, Night and Fog, Triumph of the Will, and Shoah. We will also read a selection of theoretical writings about trauma and the testimonial impulse by thinkers and critics like Giorgio Agamben, Maurice Blanchot, Theodor Adorno, Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub. Satisfies the L&S Int'l req. Affiliated with Film Studies and Jewish Studies.

Comp Lit 464: Seminar in Contemporary Literary Criticism 3cr (U/G)

Topic: Democracy and Literary Criticism
Class Number: 49398, Sem 001, TR 2-3:15pm (Paik)

What are the standards and values that govern literary criticism? What makes one interpretation better - i.e. more insightful, more profound, or more persuasive than another? Is the practice of literary criticism democratic, in that it cultivates the independence of thought necessary for active participation in civic life? Or is it aristocratic, in preserving the values and hierarchies of previous ages that provide an alternative perspective to the utilitarian calculation and conformity to opinion that defines modern mass society? Or could it be anarchic, disrupting the conventions and traditions that characterize the status quo in order to break through to new modes of thinking and thereby to transform society? In this seminar we will examine debates over the nature and function of literary criticism but also analyze the works of philosophers and political theorists in order to deepen our understanding of the social dimensions of the act of reading. Readings will be drawn from the work of Alexis de Tocqueville, Friedrich Nietzsche, George Santayana, John Dewey, Irving Babbitt, Kenneth Burke, Hannah Arendt, Philip Rieff, Jacques Derrida, Richard Rorty, Allan Bloom, Pierre Manent, Martha Nussbaum, Boris Groys, John Milbank, and Catherine Pickstock.

Comp Lit 704: Seminar in Cultural Studies 3cr (G)

Topic: Anthropology and Literature
Class Number: 48717, Sem 001, W 4:30-7:10pm (Seymour-Jorn)

The concept of culture has become a complicated and vexed one for scholars in the humanities, in anthropology and sociology. Scholars in these fields have looked to other disciplines in order to think about representing and defining cultures. The “literary turn” in anthropology has concerned itself with the modes and politics of ethnographic representation. At the same time, literary writers have been experimenting with ethnographic approaches in their writing. Increasingly, anthropologists and other social scientists look to literature as a way of knowing about culture. This is particularly true as scholars attempt to think not only about representing the “other” but also understanding how the “other” looks back. This course will examine the convergence of literature and anthropology and will examine questions such as: To what extent is anthropology now literary? To what extent is literature ethnographic and what does this mean for our growing intercultural understandings? This course is jointly offered with MALLT 704.