Graduate Courses

CPLT 510 The Mortality of the Soul: From Aristotle to Heidegger

This course explores fundamental philosophical questions of the relation between matter and form, life and spirit, necessity and freedom, by proceeding from Aristotle’s analysis of the soul in De Anima and his notion of practical agency in the Nicomachean Ethics. We study Aristotle in conjunction with seminal works by contemporary neo-Aristotelian philosophers (Korsgaard, Nussbaum, Brague, and McDowell). We in turn pursue the implications of Aristotle’s notion of life by engaging with contemporary philosophical discussions of death that take their point of departure in Epicurus (Nagel, Williams, Scheffler). We conclude by considering Heidegger’s analysis of mortality as pursuing the implications of Aristotle’s notion of the constitutive form of the soul.

Professor: Martin Hägglund
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2020
Day/Time: Monday, 1:30p.m. - 3:20p.m.

CPLT 512 Essays: Moral Political and Literary

The course surveys the essay as a genre of writing and thinking, from Montaigne to Virginia Woolf. Among the authors are Bacon, Hume, Johnson, Hazlitt, Emerson, Shaw, Gandhi, Sartre. This is a cross-listed graduate seminar in English and Comparative Literature in the Ivy Consortium, taught in alternate weeks at Columbia University and Yale. We test Adorno’s thesis that the essay is the distinctively modern and emancipatory form of writing.

Professor: David Bromwich
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2021
Day/Time: HTBA

CPLT 515 Proseminar in Comparative Literature

Introductory proseminar for all first- and second-year students in Comparative Literature (and other interested graduate students). An introduction to key problems in the discipline of Comparative Literature, its disciplinary history, and its major theoretical and methodological debates (including philology; Marxist, structuralist, and poststructuralist approaches; world literature; translation). Emphasis on wide reading and intense discussion, in lieu of term paper. Graded Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory; offered every other year.

Professor: Rüdiger Campe
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2021
Day/Time: Tuesday, 1:30p.m. - 3:20p.m.

CPLT 547: Slavery, Dependency, and Genocide in the Ancient and Premodern World

Covers the subject of class and ethnic repression from the third millennium B.C.E. to the mid-second millennium C.E. Analyzes textual, epigraphic, and iconographic sources for slavery, dependency, and genocide in Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Han, Germanic, Angkorian, Vietnamese, Burmese, Malay, Mayan, and Aztec cultures.

Professor: Noel Lenski, Professor: Benedict Kiernan
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2018
Day/Time: Monday 1:30p.m. - 3:20p.m.

CPLT 548: The Trilogy of Mosteghanemi

Examination of the social injustices of the conservative, post-colonial Maghreb as they are clearly-and intentionally-visible in twentieth-century, contemporary literature of the region. Because of the candid themes of poverty, unemployment, prostitution, drug and alcohol use, corruption, homosexuality, isolation, and rape, much of the literature has been banned in North Africa, finding audiences instead in Europe and North America.

Professor: Jonas Elbousty
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2018
Day/Time: Monday, 1:30p.m.- 3:20p.m.

CPLT 549 Memory and Memoir in Russian Culture

How do we remember and forget? How does memory transform into narrative? Why do we read and write memoirs and autobiography? What can they tell us about the past? How do we analyze the roles of the narrator, the author, and the protagonist? How should we understand the ideological tensions between official historiography and personal reminiscences, especially in twentieth-century Russia? This course aims to answer these questions through close readings of a few cultural celebrities’ memoirs and autobiographical writings that are also widely acknowledged as the best representatives of twentieth-century Russian prose. Along the way, we read literary texts in dialogue with theories of memory, historiography, and narratology. Students acquire the theoretical apparatus that will enable them to analyze the complex ideas, e.g., cultural memory and trauma, historicity and narrativity, and fiction and nonfiction. Students acquire an in-depth knowledge of the major themes of twentieth-century Russian history—e.g., empire, revolution, war, Stalinism, and exilic experience—as well as increased skills in the analysis of literary texts. Students with knowledge of Russian are encouraged to read in the original. All readings are available in English.

Professor: Jinyi Chu
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2020
Day/Time: Wednesday, 9:25a.m. - 11:15a.m.

CPLT 554: Novel Minds: The Representation of Consciousness from Austen to Woolf

Close study of selected novels by Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf, with particular attention to the representation of consciousness and the development of the free indirect style. Our reading of fiction is supplemented by narrative theory drawn from James, Wayne Booth, Käte Hamburger, Ann Banfield, Gérard Genette, Dorrit Cohn, and others.

Professor: Ruth Yeazell
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2019
Day/Time: Tuesday, 1:30pm-3:20pm

CPLT 562: Living Form: Organicism in Society and Aesthetics

Starting with Kant, the organic is defined as a processual relation of the part and the whole, thereby providing a new model of the individual as a self-contained totality. We explore the implications of this conception in Goethe’s writings on morphology (The Metamorphosis of Plants, “Orphic Primal Words”), the Romantics’ Athenaeum, Hanslick’s On the Beautiful in Music, Oswald Spengler’s cultural morphology, the concept of autopoiesis in Maturana and Varela, Luhmann’s systems theory, and Canguilhem’s critique of the analogy of organic life and society.

Professor: Kirk Wetters
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2019
Day/Time: Monday, 1:30pm-3:20pm

CPLT 564 Rethinking Representation

How can we speak for others? What does it mean to be spoken for? And what type of agency is evoked by this constellation? The course explores the implications, both productive and problematic, of representation—for agency and subjectivity, for recognition and acknowledgment, for political action, and for the conception of literature and art. Close readings of major literary works, from Greek tragedy and Shakespeare to Kleist and Kafka, is accompanied by theoretical texts, from Arendt’s notion of the Greek polis to the critique of representation by Foucault, Spivak, and others, and debates about the legal representation of nature in the climate crisis.

Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2021
Day/Time: Thursday, 1:30p.m. - 3:20p.m.

CPLT 603 Desire in Yiddish Literature

What does “desire” mean to a Yiddish writer? Desire most commonly refers to sexuality and the erotic life. The object of desire may be a person, but it can also be a thing, an idea, an art form, and more. How does our milieu affect our sense of who or what we desire? Yiddish writers have always been necessarily multicultural, multilingual, transcontinental in knowledge and perspective. They responded to an extraordinarily diverse array of political and social movements including emigration/immigration, various forms of nationalism, socialism, religious belief, and rejection of religious observance. In exploring the short fiction and poetry that address these concerns, we consider authors whose names may be familiar to some (e.g., Isaac Bashevis Singer, Sholem Aleichem); we certainly read authors who are largely unknown despite English translations of their work (e.g., Celia Dropkin, Lamed Shapiro, Yankev Glatshteyn, and more). Experimenting with modern literary forms and modern personal and political choices, these authors reveal the remarkable range of Yiddish writing in the twentieth century. All works are read in English translation; no knowledge of Yiddish is required.

Professor: Anita Norich
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2020
Day/Time: Tuesday, 1:30p.m. - 3:20p.m.

CPLT 619: Walter Benjamin and Critical Theory in Latin America

This seminar studies transformations of European critical theory in a Latin American context. Taking one exemplary European critical theorist, Walter Benjamin, and one exemplary Latin American intellectual, cultural, and political milieu, Chile, it surveys the conjunctures among them. Critical theory names a cluster of intellectual methods and goals in early 20th-century Germany, which sees philosophy as too theoretical and Marxism as too untheoretical, and tries to fix the one with the other and visa versa. Later in the century, critical theory travels outward, occupying other discourses, becoming occupied by other histories, contributing to political occupations in systems not forseen in the original movement. We trace two Benjaminian motifs—violence and its relation to the image and critique—as these motifs migrate out of texts by Benjamin into artworks, films, and theoretical texts by Spanish-language thinkers and makers, against the singular backdrop of 20th-century Chilean political history. What interest us are the readings and misreadings, correspondences and responses, citations and fantastical reconstructions, turn arounds and cul de sacs of a reception and repurposing of critical theory. 

The course will be taught in English, with texts available in both Spanish and English. Some texts will be available in English translation for the very first time.

This seminar is partially funded by a Mellon Foundation program on Critical Theory in the Global South.

Professor: Paul North
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2018
Day/Time: Monday, 3:30p.m. - 5:20p.m.

CPLT 628 Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister

A detailed study of Goethe’s 1795/96 Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship—the first novel of the nineteenth century and the prototypical novel of education (Bildungsroman); engagement with critical and scholarly reception starting with Schiller and Schlegel; theories of the novel and transformations of modern society.

Professor: Kirk Wetters
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2020
Day/Time: Wednesday, 1:30p.m. - 3:20p.m.

CPLT 639: Gender and Genre in Renaissance Love Poetry

This course interrogates a persistent theme in the literature of the European Renaissance: the love for a much-desired, frequently unobtainable beloved. How and why does love—erotic yearning, sexual passion, unfulfilled desire, religious devotion—become a key subject and metaphor from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century? Focusing on two main poetic genres of the Renaissance—the lyric and the epic-romance—we investigate how questions of desire, love, and gendered subjectivity become a potent means for articulating psychological, social, political, philosophic, and spiritual concerns. Engaging with normative views of gender, erotic discourse, and romantic love from a long historical perspective, this course investigates the development of modern poetry and sexuality in conjunction with each other.

Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2018
Day/Time: Wednesday, 2:30p.m.- 4:20p.m.

CPLT 642: Modern Arabic Poetry and Poetics

Poetry was the preeminent art of the Arab world for much of the twentieth century. Poets served as the region’s public intellectuals, framing and shaping debates about the most urgent events and topics of communal concern. The post-WWII period was also a moment when the very definition of Arabic poetry—formally as well as historically—was subject to important transformations. This course serves as an introduction to the major Arab poets of the postwar period—including Badr Shakir al-Sayyab, Nazik al-Mala’ika, Adonis, Mahmoud Darwish, Sargon Boulus, and Iman Mersal—as well as central debates about the nature and scope of poetry. Topics include the poetics of exile, “committed literature,” poetry and myth, the dialectic of tradition and modernity, the prose poem, and translation. Primary readings are in Arabic, with occasional secondary readings in English. 

Prerequisite: Arabic L5 or higher, or permission of the instructor.

Professor: Robyn Creswell
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2019
Day/Time: Monday, 1:30pm-3:20pm

CPLT 646 Rise of the European Novel

In the eighteenth century, the novel became a popular literary form in many parts of Europe. Yet now-standard narratives of its “rise” often offer a temporally and linguistically foreshortened view. This seminar examines key early modern novels in a range of European languages, centered on the dialogue between highly influential eighteenth-century British and French novels (Montesquieu, Defoe, Sterne, Diderot, Laclos, Edgeworth). We begin by considering a sixteenth-century Spanish picaresque life history (Lazarillo de Tormes) and Madame de Lafayette’s seventeenth-century secret history of French court intrigue; contemplate a key sentimental Goethe novella; and end with Romantic fiction (an Austen novel, a Kleist novella, Pushkin’s historical novel fragment). These works raise important issues about cultural identity and historical experience, the status of women (including as readers and writers), the nature of society, the vicissitudes of knowledge—and novelistic form. We also examine several major literary-historical accounts of the novel’s generic evolution, audiences, timing, and social function, and historiographical debates about the novel’s rise (contrasting English-language accounts stressing the novel’s putatively British genesis, and alternative accounts sketching a larger European perspective). The course gives special emphasis to the improvisatory, experimental character of early modern novels, as they work to reground fiction in the details and reality of contemporary life. Many epistolary, philosophical, sentimental, and Gothic novels present themselves as collections of “documents”—letters, diaries, travelogues, confessions—carefully assembled, impartially edited, and only incidentally conveying stories as well as information. The seminar explores these novels’ documentary ambitions; their attempt to touch, challenge, and change their readers; and their paradoxical influence on “realist” conventions (from the emergence of omniscient, impersonal narrators to techniques for describing time and place).

Professor: Katie Trumpener
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2021
Day/Time: Monday, 1:30p.m. - 3:20p.m.

CPLT 646: Rise of the European Novel

In the eighteenth century, the novel became a popular literary form in many parts of Europe. Yet now-standard narratives of its “rise” often offer a temporally and linguistically foreshortened view. This seminar examines key early modern novels in a range of European languages, centered on the dialogue between highly influential eighteenth-century British and French novels (Montesquieu, Defoe, Sterne, Diderot, Laclos, Edgeworth). We begin by considering a sixteenth-century Spanish picaresque life history (Lazarillo de Tormes) and Madame de Lafayette’s seventeenth-century secret history of French court intrigue; contemplate a key sentimental Goethe novella; and end with Romantic fiction (an Austen novel, a Kleist novella, Pushkin’s historical novel fragment). These works raise important issues about cultural identity and historical experience, the status of women (including as readers and writers), the nature of society, the vicissitudes of knowledge—and novelistic form. We also examine several major literary-historical accounts of the novel’s generic evolution, audiences, timing, and social function, and historiographical debates about the novel’s rise (contrasting English-language accounts stressing the novel’s putatively British genesis, and alternative accounts sketching a larger European perspective).

The course gives special emphasis to the improvisatory, experimental character of early modern novels, as they work to reground fiction in the details and reality of contemporary life. Many epistolary, philosophical, sentimental, and Gothic novels present themselves as collections of “documents”—letters, diaries, travelogues, confessions—carefully assembled, impartially edited, and only incidentally conveying stories as well as information. The seminar explores these novels’ documentary ambitions; their attempt to touch, challenge, and change their readers; and their paradoxical influence on “realist” conventions (from the emergence of omniscient, impersonal narrators to techniques for describing time and place).

Professor: Katie Trumpener
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2018
Day/Time: Tuesday, 1:30p.m.- 3:20p.m.

CPLT 672: Milton

This course studies Milton’s poetry and some of his controversial prose. We investigate the relation of the poetry to its historical contexts, focusing on the literary, religious, social, and political forces that shaped Milton’s verse. We survey and assess some of the dominant issues in contemporary Milton studies, examining the types of readings that psychoanalytic, feminist, Marxist, and historicist critics have produced. A brief oral report and a term paper (as well as a prospectus and preliminary bibliography for the term paper) required.

Professor: David Quint
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2019
Day/Time: Thursday, 1:30pm-3:20pm

CPLT 673 Golden Age Theater

The development and apogee of the Spanish comedia, as well as contemporary minor subgenres such as the auto sacramental and the entremés. Exploration of how the theater synthesizes post-Garcilaso lyric, the commedia dell’arte, renaissance epic, the romancero, Spanish history, and the European renaissance literary tradition. Works by Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, Guillén de Castro, Mira de Amescua, Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, Luis Quiñones de Benavente, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Comparison with English and French theater is encouraged.

Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2020
Day/Time: Tuesday & Thursday, 1:00p.m. - 2:15p.m.

CPLT 675 El Quijote en español

A detailed and contextualized reading of Cervantes’s masterpiece conducted entirely in Spanish. The study of this iconic text familiarizes students with its literary and cultural values and Cervantes’s language.

Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2020
Day/Time: Tuesday & Thursday, 2:30p.m. - 3:45p.m.

CPLT 677 The Performing Arts in Twentieth-Century Russia

The course covers ballet, opera, theater, mass spectacle, and film, as well as theory of the performing arts, including selections from the writings of some of the most famous Russian directors and choreographers, such as Constantine Stanislavsky, Vsevolod Meyerhold, and Michel Fokine. It also includes their major productions and some of the most important Russian plays of the twentieth century (e.g., by Anton Chekhov, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Mikhail Bulgakov) and works by contemporary dramatists. All readings are available in both English and Russian.

No knowledge of Russian required. Students taking the course for credit in Comparative Literature can write their papers on texts in other languages.

Professor: Katerina Clark
Course Type: Graduate
Term: Spring 2021