Taught by Linda Matheson
Course Description: This course surveys a selection of foundational “classics” from the ancient world. We read works representative of different genres of sacred and secular literature, and explore the way each type of story communicates ideas and cultural practices such as love, war, heroism, hospitality, patriarchy, and gender relations. This course might be called “Pathways through the Ancient Epics” as you will be required to track a theme, motif, image, or relationship of your choice through each work, recognizing its role within the literary structure and in its society. As this is a comparative literature course you will be comparing and contrasting your pathways in the different texts that you read. Thus, we will engage these texts as each culture’s contribution to a discourse that reaches across thousands of miles and years. Thinking, discussing and writing reflectively about the material will be critical, and the basis of your success in the class. We in the humanities use writing to test our ideas in the same way that scientists do experiments to test theirs. Instead of laboratory results however, our ideas must be backed up by textual support.
Because this course satisfies the lower division writing requirement, significant time is spent on the conventions of academic writing, while recognizing its ability to improve our cognitive skills.
Section 002: Making History
Taught by Nicholas Talbott
Course Description: This course aims to use classical literature as a lens for approaching the study of history before 500CE. We will cover a variety of selections from early historical writings with an eye for how the genre’s earliest stages are colored by contemporary tropes, forms, and phenomena commonly found in literature. In turn, the course will also attempt to trace history and historiography as an important influence on the study of classical literature itself. Selections to cover a period from 2000BC to 500CE, and to include major classical writings such as Herodotus’ Histories, Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian, Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. As literary case studies we will look at selections from canonical literary texts such as the Odyssey, the I Ching, The Commentary of Zuo, and Cicero’s Orations Against Cataline, among others. Major themes will include the literary elements of ancient history, the purpose of literature versus that of history, and the politics/philosophies of history as an exercise in writing. This course may be counted toward satisfaction of the English Composition Requirement in all three undergraduate colleges.
Section 003: Moving Horizons
Taught by Kyle Proehl
Course Description: Why was Harriet Tubman called the Moses of the Underground Railroad? What did John Cage change about music by composing to the laws of chance? How has the island of Lesbos shaped the understanding of sexuality? These are just a few of the questions we hope to ask by engaging with the enduring legacy of a selection of ancient texts. Our readings will revolve around three thematic divisions: Exodus and exile; the I Ching and adoption; and Sappho’s lyric fragments and the nature of desire. By looking not just directly at these texts but also at the ways they have been taken up and put to use, we may begin to grasp the roles language and art play in shaping human communities.
- The Bible: Authorized King James Version with Apocrypha, edited by Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett (Oxford World Classics, 2008)
- Sarah Bradford, Harriet Tubman: Moses of her People (Dover Publications, 2004)
- The I Ching, or, Book of Changes (3rd Edition) edited by Hellmut Wilhelm and translated by Cary F. Baynes (Princeton University Press, 1967)
- Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle (Mariner Books, 2012)
- Sappho, If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, translated by Anne Carson (Vintage Books, 2003)
- Ingeborg Bachmann, The Book of Franza and Requiem for Fanny Goldman, translated by Peter Filkins (Northwestern University Press, 2010)
Section 001: Major Books: Medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment
Taught by Linda Matheson
Course Description: This course surveys a selection of foundational “classics” from the medieval, renaissance and enlightenment world. We read works representative of different genres of literature, and explore the way each story communicates ideas and cultural practices such as love, heroism, hospitality, patriarchy, and gender relations. As this is a comparative literature course you will compare and contrast the different texts that you read. Thus, we engage these texts as each culture’s contribution to a discourse that reaches across thousands of miles and years.
Thinking, discussing and writing reflectively about the material will be critical, and the basis of your success in the class. You will do close readings and relatively short essays with revisions. This will help you build skill sets that can help you in your career as a student and beyond.
This particular section focuses on the themes of utopia and dystopia and how these play out in gender relations across the texts. We will ask how to define these terms, why this matters and what, if anything, in this regard, has changed over the centuries? Who determines what is utopic or dystopic?
Taught by Ted Geier
Course Description: This course is an introduction to select major works between the 18th century Revolutionary era and the World Wars of the 20th century. This period is marked by a confluence of increasingly secular and scientific explanations of reality, intensifying technological mastery of the world and daily life, and the challenges to old conceptions of valuable individual life posed by rapid urbanization and the atrocities of modern warfare. The result, as explored in literary, artistic, and philosophical works of the period: a “flattened” community of objects reduced to atoms, molecules, viral permeation, and genetic competition; processes of economic production, alienation, and popular cultural consumption; untraceable historical and cultural intersections and mutations; and uncontrollable, unknown, subjective mental worlds. The modern crisis, in its most horrifying form, invokes a traumatic resistance (or submission) to disposable nonhuman coexistences. Our literary selections negotiate the attending problems of that crisis through various aesthetic strategies and formal conventions. Some use stream of consciousness “direct access” first person voice to capture the subjective psychology of everyday experience. Others attempt to record damaging social reality in omniscient, objective prose. The period also spawns a particular brand of a “crisis” genre you will be very familiar with as contemporary consumers of culture: the horror or monster narrative. We will read a landmark text in this mode and examine poems and shorter works that interrogate the strange, the surreal, the terrifying, and the horrible shocks of modernity.
Section 002: Alienation and Liberation
Taught by Jeremy Konick-Seese
Course Description: In this course, we will use novels, poems, philosophy and film to explore the ideas of alienation and liberation: how are we held back by society, political forces, others, and ourselves? What options do we have to escape into freedom? We will look at representations of social, personal, romantic, and spiritual alienation and the ways in which different authors navigate their way out of these conditions, focusing primarily in 19th and 20th century Europe and America. Course work includes four essays and weekly readings from authors such as Rilke, Dostoevsky, Nella Larsen, and Langston Hughes.
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, translated by Charlie Louth (Penguin Classics, 2014)
- Nella Larsen, The Complete Fiction of Nella Larsen: Passing, Quicksand, and The Stories (Anchor Books, 2001)
- Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Vintage Classics, 1993)
- William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses (Vintage Classics, 1990)
- Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (2nd Edition), translated by Eleanor Marx Aveling (W.W. Norton & Company, 2004)
Taught by Magnus Snaebjoernsson
Course Description: TBA
Taught by Xuesong Shao
Course Description: TBA
- Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Vintage Books, 1989)
- Peter Hessler, Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West (Harper Perennial, 2013)
- Chan Koonchung, Fat Years, translated by Michael S. Duke (Anchor Press, 2013)
Taught by James Straub
Course Description: TBA
Section 004: The Experience of Defeat
Taught by Pat Cabell
Course Description: This is a survey course of world literature from the 20th century, and this section will focus on narratives of defeat. What would be the implications of determining that what the philosopher Alain Badiou terms ‘the socialist century’, today stands unequivocally defeated? We will attempt to assess the outcome of various ‘utopian’ projects, including the Spanish Civil War, anti-fascism, decolonization, the 1960s world revolution, and later struggles from feminism to environmentalism. Through novels, poetry, short stories, films and theoretical essays, we will engage with the historical, personal, and political experiences of defeat.
Novels include 1984, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Transit and Distant Star. Students will benefit from practicing critical thinking, writing, and expression in class discussions.
To what extent is the contemporary period a defeat of the colonial and slavery systems, and to what extent their continuation? How might a dwelling with the finality and the failure of social movements better inform an account of what was lost and, intriguingly, a reestimation of future possibilities?
- George Orwell, 1984 (Berkley Books, 2003)
- Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West (Picador Press, 2007)
- Anna Seghers, Transit, translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo (New York Review Books Classics, 2013)
- Gilles Dauve, Eclipse and Re-emergence of the Communist Movement (PM Press, 2015)