Undergraduate Courses

LITR 017 All the World's a Stage: A Brief History of Western Drama and Theater (1400 to Present)

Close reading of exemplary dramas in the Western tradition from the late medieval period to the present, with some attention to critical texts about the history of Western drama. Changing conceptions of what a play is and does; drama’s developing theatrical context; underlying world views.

Enrollment limited to first-year students. Preregistration required; see under First-Year Seminar Program.

1 Yale College course credit(s)
Professor: Jan Hagens
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2020
Day/Time: Tuesday & Thursday, 1:00p.m. - 2:15p.m.

LITR 018 Politics and Literature in the Middle East

This first-year seminar considers the relationship between literature and politics in Turkey, Iran, and the Arab world since the late 19th century. We read novels, short stories, poetry, essays, play scripts, and comics, and watch movies, while situating them in their artistic and political contexts. This course considers the ways that an artwork can intervene in the political debates of its time, while taking seriously the distinctive modes of political thought that are possible only through art. Topics include gender relations, the legacies of European colonialism, modernization and modernism, revolutionary movements, the role of religion in society, experiences of violence and trauma, and the drastic changes to Middle Eastern societies wrought by the oil boom.

Professor: Samuel Hodgkin
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2021
Day/Time: Monday & Wednesday, 9am-10:15am

LITR 020: French Literature in Global Context

Introduction to contemporary French fiction in a global perspective. Close readings of prizewinning novels by writers of the former French Empire—in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean—alongside key manifestos and theoretical essays that define or defy the notion of world literature.

 

Enrollment limited to freshmen. Preregistration required; see under Freshman Seminar Program.

Professor: Jill Jarvis
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2018
Day/Time: Tuesday & Thursday, 11:35a.m. - 125:50p.m.

LITR 024 Game of Thrones and the Theory of Sovereignty

Introduction to the classical and modern theory of sovereignty in the context of G.R.R. Martin’s popular Game of Thrones series (primarily the books, which are formally more complex and narratively more sophisticated than the television series). Although The Game of Thrones is obviously not a work of German literature, it addresses theoretical and literary-historical discourses that are prominently represented in the German context. Emphasis on strategies of literary and theoretical analysis; literature as a testing ground for theoretical models; theory as an analytic framework for evaluating literary and cultural depictions. Questioning the basis of the contemporary relevance and popularity of this material in light of questions of tragedy, individual agency, myth (vs. history), realism (vs. fantasy), environmental catastrophe and geopolitics.

Enrollment limited to first-year students.

Professor: Kirk Wetters
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2020
Day/Time: Tuesday & Thursday, 9:00a.m. - 10:15a.m.

LITR 025 African Literature in the World

This seminar introduces students to a subset of African literature that has entered the canon of world literature. Bookended by the writings of Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Adichie, we explore the marks of regional specificity in these works and how they transcend local geographical markers to become worldly artifacts. Our considerations include why certain texts cross the boundaries of nation and region while others remain confined within territorial bounds. We also examine advantages of the global circulation of African literary works and the pitfalls of a global readership. The class moves from an introductory unit that orients students to African and world literature to focus on close reading of primary texts informed by historical and theoretical nuances. From analyzing works responding to the colonial condition and the articulation of anticolonial sensibilities, to those narrating the African nation at independence and the postcolonial disillusionment that followed, the seminar attends to the formal and thematic implications of globalization for African literary writing. Authors include Chinua Achebe, Mariama Ba, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Mbolo Mbue, NoViolet Bulawayo, Taiye Selasie, and Chimamanda Adichie.

Professor: Cajetan Iheka
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2020
Day/Time: Monday & Wednesday, 1:00p.m. - 2:15p.m.

LITR 028 Medicine and the Humanities: Certainty and Unknowing

Sherwin Nuland often referred to medicine as “the Uncertain Art.” In this course, we address the role of uncertainty in medicine, and the role that narrative plays in capturing that uncertainty. We focus our efforts on major authors and texts that define the modern medical humanities, with primary readings by Mikhail Bulgakov, Henry Marsh, Atul Gawande, and Lisa Sanders. Other topics include the philosophy of science (with a focus on Karl Popper), rationalism and romanticism (William James), and epistemology and scientism (Wittgenstein).

Enrollment limited to first-year students. Preregistration required; see under First-Year Seminar Program.

Professor: Matthew Morrison
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2021
Day/Time: Tuesday & Thursday, 1:00p.m. - 2:15p.m.

LITR 102 Writing the Gift: Creativity and Exchange in Literature and Theory

This course explores the literary imagination of “the gift” in a variety of contexts. Reading fiction by Toni Cade Bambara, Ursula Le Guin and James Joyce, and non-fiction by Lewis Hyde, Georges Bataille and WEB Du Bois, we seek to answer questions such as: What distinguishes a transaction from an exchange of gifts? Why do ideas of generosity and reciprocity persist in a society defined by contracts and debts? Combining literary study and instruction in writing, this seminar is designed to help students develop analytical skills across different disciplines.

Sophomore Seminar: Registration preference given to sophomores. Not normally open to first-year students.

Professor: Lukas Moe
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2021
Day/Time: Tuesday & Thursday, 11:35a.m. -12:50p.m.

LITR 103 Contexts of College Education

College is a crucial institution in which our society works through its expectations for young people. This course of 13 lectures in the spring semester explores some of the social and intellectual factors that shape college education today, including debates about the curriculum, career preparation, the cost of higher education, and the relationship of college education to social class. Readings from recent writers and memoirists on education including Ta-Nehisi Coates, Andrew Delbanco, Ross Douthat, J. D. Vance, and Tara Westover, as well as some more technical writings on economics and sociology. In-person lectures will also be recorded and available for remote enrollment. Those who are able to do so should attend the in-person lectures. Appropriate for first-year students and sophomores.

Intended for first-year students and sophomores.

Professor: Pericles Lewis
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2021
Day/Time: Wednesday, 7:00pm-8:00pm

LITR 130 How to Read

Introduction to techniques, strategies, and practices of reading through study of lyric poems, narrative texts, plays and performances, films, new and old, from a range of times and places. Emphasis on practical strategies of discerning and making meaning, as well as theories of literature, and contextualizing particular readings. Topics include form and genre, literary voice and the book as a material object, evaluating translations, and how literary strategies can be extended to read film, mass media, and popular culture. Junior seminar; preference given to juniors and majors.

Professor: Martin Hägglund
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2021
Day/Time: Wednesday, 1:30p.m. - 3:20p.m.

LITR 140 How to Compare

This course is an exploration of literary comparison from methodological as well as historical perspectives. We compare texts within genres (stories and stories), across genres (poems and animations), across periods (classical and modern), and between cultures and languages. We consider questions such as whether all comparisons must assume a common ground, and whether there is always an implicit politics to any comparison. Topics range from theories of translation and ekphrasis, to exoticism and untranslatability. Readings include texts by Auerbach, Ibn Rushd, Tsvetaeva, Flann O’Brien, Lukács, and Nona Fernández. We will also examine operas (Brecht and Fuentes-Berain), films (Parajanov and Barta), and one computer game.

Professor: Samuel Hodgkin
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2020
Day/Time: Monday 9:25a.m. - 11:15a.m.

LITR 140: How to Compare

Exploration of literary comparison. Study of different literary and aesthetic objects, as well as different means and ends that such comparisons can have. Topics range from theories of translation and ekphrasis to proper use of archives. Readings include works by Borges, Andre Breton, Chen Kaige, Hafiz, Dickinson, Ovid, Durrenmatt, Murasaki Shikubu, Mambety, and Segalen; the paintings of Mantegna, Rembrandt, and Caravaggio; as well as the Pancatantra, Arabian Nights, and the oral epics of the Haida. Junior seminar; preference given to juniors and majors.

Professor: Robyn Creswell, Professor: Marta Figlerowicz
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2018
Day/Time: Tuesday & Thursday, 1:00p.m.-2:15p.m.

An exploration of literary comparison from methodological as well as historical perspectives. We compare texts within genres (stories and stories), across genres (poems and paintings), across periods (classical and modern), and between cultures and languages. We consider questions such as whether all comparisons must assume a common ground, and whether there is always an implicit politics to any comparison. Topics range from theories of translation and ekphrasis, to exoticism and untranslatibility. Readings include texts by Auerbach, Borges, Andre Breton, Hafiz, Victor Segalen and Edward Said; and films by Chen Kaige and Pasolini.

Professor: Robyn Creswell, Professor: Jing Tsu
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2019
Day/Time: Wednesday, 2:30pm-4:20pm

LITR 143 World Cinema

Development of ways to engage films from around the globe productively. Close analysis of a dozen complex films, with historical contextualization of their production and cultural functions. Attention to the development of critical skills. Includes weekly screenings, each followed immediately by discussion.

Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2021
Day/Time: Monday & Wednesday, 9:25a.m.-10:15a.m.

LITR 143: World Cinema

Development of ways to engage films from around the globe productively. Close analysis of a dozen complex films, with historical contextualization of their production and cultural functions. Attention to the development of critical skills. Includes weekly screenings, each followed immediately by discussion.

Professor: Dudley Andrew, Professor: Marta Figlerowicz
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2019
Day/Time: Monday & Wednesday, 11:35am-12:50pm Screening Monday 6:30pm-9:30pm

LITR 151: The Wisdom of Ancient Egypt

Overview of the different text genres attested in ancient Egypt. Critical analysis of primary sources and their important role in the reconstruction of the history and cultural aspects of ancient Egyptian civilization.

Prerequisite: general introductory class on the Egyptian history and culture, or permission of the instructor.

Professor: Christina Geisen
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2019
Day/Time: Wednesday, 1:30pm-5:20pm

LITR 152: Sanskrit Classics in Translation

The chief genres of Sanskrit secular literature set against the background of the cultural history of ancient India. Various literary styles compared with those of other world literary traditions.

Professor: David Brick
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2018
Day/Time: Thursday, 1:30-3:20

LITR 154 The Bible as a Literature

Study of the Bible as a literature—a collection of works exhibiting a variety of attitudes toward the conflicting claims of tradition and originality, historicity and literariness.

Professor: Leslie Brisman
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2020
Day/Time: Monday & Wednesday, 2:30p.m. - 3:45p.m.

LITR 154: The Bible as Literature

Study of the Bible as a literature—a collection of works exhibiting a variety of attitudes toward the conflicting claims of tradition and originality, historicity and literariness.

Pre-1800 with completion of supplementary assignments in the language of the King James Bible. If there is sufficient interest, a second section will be offered.

Professor: Leslie Brisman
Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2018
Day/Time: Monday & Wednesday, 2:30p.m.-3:45p.m.

LITR 157 Rewriting Ancient Greek Classics in Contemporary Anglophone Fiction

“We are still mythical” as Kae Tempest intones in Brand New Ancients (2013). This course analyzes creative rewritings of ancient Greek literature in contemporary Anglophone fiction, spanning the novel, lyric poetry, and drama. We consider why and how authors continue to turn to ancient Greek literature and myth to give form and fresh meaning to contemporary experience, ranging from the narratives that we use to articulate our personal, inner lives to the forces of culture, politics, and society. The authors studied in this course come from several different countries and write from diverse cultural, ethnic, racial, religious, and queer backgrounds. In addition to analyzing rewriting as the creation of original literature and the counter-canonical use of the Classics, we also study what happens to the alterity of antiquity in the process of adaptation and rewriting. Above all, this course is an opportunity to read and discuss some of the most scintillating contemporary Anglophone fiction. The authors on the syllabus are Anne Carson, Natalie Diaz, Michael Hughes, Daisy Johnson, Tayari Jones, David Malouf, Jonah Mixon-Webster, Alice Oswald, Kamila Shamsie, Kae Tempest, and Ocean Vuong. Please consult the syllabus for preparatory reading.

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

LITR 165: The Invention of the Classic

The discourse of classicism from antiquity to modern times. Contemporary debates over the value of the classics in education; the emergence of classics as a discipline; changing definitions of the classic across time; notions commonly associated with the classics such as timelessness, beauty, and canon. Readings from Cicero, Horace, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Winckelmann, Eliot, Gadamer, Foucault, Kermode, Calvino, and Nussbaum.

Course Type: Undergraduate
Term: Spring 2019
Day/Time: Wednesday, 1:30pm-3:20pm