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Fall 2021

MSCP 70100: Introduction to Medieval Studies: Medieval Culture. Mon, 4:15PM-6:15PM. 3 credits, Nicole Lopez-Jantzen.   

This course provides an introduction to medieval culture and society, from the fifth to the fourteenth centuries, as well as an introduction to the discipline of Medieval Studies. The course will be interdisciplinary in nature, drawing on approaches from history, literature, art history, and gender studies to explore both scholarly analysis and also the material and textual sources of medieval Europe. We will focus on how scholars have defined the Middle Ages, both temporally and geographically, major people and events in the Middle Ages, as well as emerging fields in medieval studies, such as the study of race. Topics include the end of antiquity, conquest and colonization, and the interaction of Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Middle Ages. 



CL 89100: History of Literary Theory & Criticism I, GC, Wednesdays, 6:30pm-8:30pm, 4 credits,  Monica Calabritto. Room 3306. In person. 

With readings from Plato, Aristotle, and Longinus to Dante, Sidney, Boileau, Dryden, and Lessing, this course will examine the history and evolution of literary theory in the classical, medieval, and early modern periods. It will also examine such fundamental terms as truth, beauty, nature, and artifact with which pre-Romantic Western critics have attempted to understand literary works of art. This course will also explore the legacy and limitations of these and other terms and their impact on criticism today. 


CL 80100: The Qur’an: Literary Perspectives, GC, Thursdays, 2:00pm-4:00pm, 2/4 credits, Anna Akasoy. Online.   

As the scope of Comparative Literature departments is being diversified and globalized, the Qur’an is frequently included as a canonical text of world literature. There is no doubt that the Qur’an is a text of great, even singular importance in the Islamic tradition, but what does it mean to treat the Qur’an in the context of literature, especially comparative literature? Is a text which is considered inimitable in the Islamic tradition also incomparable? 

This course aims at bridging the gap between two different fields, one the study of the Qur’an in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, the other the study of literature. The course will provide students with an introduction to perspectives on the Qur’an in recent scholarship, but we will be primarily exploring the Qur’an and its literary dimensions in conversation with select examples of Middle Eastern, European and world literature. 

The course will focus on three topics: 

Prophecy as a mode of literary production. We will be discussing theories of prophecy in medieval Islamic philosophy and for comparative purposes material from the Arabian Nights as well as Mario Vargas Llosa’s The War at the End of the World. 

The Qur’an and poetry. The Qur’an itself states that Muhammad was not a poet, but his historical milieu was very much defined as a literary space in which poetry loomed large. In addition to samples of pre-Islamic and classical Arabic poetry, we will be exploring Rumi’s Masnavi, a key text of Sufism which is sometimes referred to as the Qur’an in Persian. We will also be discussing western European responses to Middle Eastern poetry (e.g., Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan). 

The Qur’an and storytelling. This section will focus mostly on stories of prophets, notably Joseph. We will be discussing other forms of storytelling in medieval Islamic literature (the ‘stories of the prophets’) as well as Biblical storytelling and examples from modern Middle Eastern (e.g., Children of the Alley by Naguib Mahfouz) and European literature (e.g., Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers). 

This course does not require any previous knowledge of the Qur’an, Arabic literature or Islamic history. 

CL 80100/FREN 70500: Writing the Self: From Augustine to Covidity, GC, Tuesdays, 4:15pm- 6:15pm, 2/4 credits, Domna Stanton. Room 4419. In person.  

How is the self written, constructed? What forms and shapes does this writing take over time, in different genres? what purposes does it serve, what work does it accomplish for the several selves inscribed in the text and for others (including the self) who will read it? This course will begin by tracing self-writing from the Middle Ages to today, in theoretical texts (Derrida, Butler, Lacan, Lejeune), and primary works, beginning with confession (St Augustine, Rousseau); then early-modern discursive forms of interiority (Gentileschi, Sévigné) that steadily enlarge both the scope of self writing and the figures of the self. We will consider the centuries that women's autogynography and the self-writing of persons of color and other others took to be recognized -- from Kempe, Heloise and Pisan to slave narratives (Equiano, Jacobs, Douglass), and letters, diaries and journals (Woolf, Nin, de Beauvoir). Our readings will culminate with the proliferation of forms in the 20th- and 21st century: from autofiction (Colette, Stein, Eggers) and pictorial modes (Leonard, Bourgeois, Abramovic); Holocaust memorials, trauma narratives (Frank, Levi, Agamben) and testimonials (Manchu); to AIDS memoirs (Arenas, Guibert), the matter of black lives (Cullors, Kendi and Blain), and the global pandemic that engender terror and dying along with possible transformation and rebirth. Finally, given the untraceable lines between the ‘real’ and ‘the fictive,’ we will end by debating whether all writing is self-writing.   


ENGL 70500.  Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales,  GC, Thursdays 11:45AM – 1:45PM.  2/4 Credits, Steven Kruger.  Room 3306.  In Person. 

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales remains a compelling work even more than six centuries after its composition. Presenting a fictional pilgrimage that functions simultaneously as religious devotion and secular entertainment, it sets up a frame into which Chaucer writes an extraordinarily wide range of stories: stories both poetic and prosaic; bawdy and religious; taking on grand themes of empire at one moment and then the petty rivalries of a small town at the next. We will learn to read this complex text in its original Middle English form (and in doing so, we’ll learn a lot about the history of English as a literary and spoken language). We’ll also consider what the poem might teach us about medieval (and specifically fourteenth-century) culture and history, highlighting ways in which modern constructions—of nations, race, religion, gender, sexuality, individual subjectivity—differ from their medieval predecessors. But we’ll also consider how and why Chaucer’s work has remained of deep interest across a long history and how it might speak to us in the twenty-first century. What does it mean to encounter a world that is so different from our own, and yet, of course, still “the same” world? What can we learn from this encounter with difference that might allow us to think about ourselves—our culture, our politics, our identities, our relationship to the earth—in new ways? And might this encounter, even, be productive for a creative movement into the future that, while not replicating anything like the medieval past, nonetheless remains cognizant of how that past, with its violences and its beauties, might help us chart human and earth-bound futures that are less violent and more beautiful?   

Though the text of The Canterbury Tales will form the core of our course reading, we will also intensively explore those theoretical and critical approaches that have most significantly shaped readings of Chaucer across the past decade. These include critical race theory and postcolonial theory (with particular attention to Chaucer’s representation of Islam, Asia, North Africa, and Judaism); feminist, gender, and queer theory, including especially trans approaches (with attention to Chaucer’s writing “as a woman,” to characters we might think of as genderqueer, and to Chaucer’s own implication in rape culture); historicizing readings that emphasize politics, class formations, and material culture; the history of the book and manuscript studies; disability theory; and ecocritical and environmental approaches, including animal studies.   

Students will give oral presentations as part of the seminar structure of the course. Students taking the course for 3 or 4 credits will develop an independent research project; this can be focused on Chaucer and the Middle Ages, but it also can take up material from other periods (as long as that material bears some connection to the kinds of question at the center of the seminar). First-year students in the English Program will have the option of working on one element of the portfolio examination for their project. Students taking the course for 2 credits will be expected to do all the work of the course except for the larger final project.  

HIST 72500: Race and the Middle East/North Africa, GC, Thursdays 2:00pm – 4:00pm,  3 credits, Professors Kristina Richardson and Mandana Limbert. Room 3309. In person. 

This seminar explores how notions of race (jins or `unsur and similar terms in Turkish, Persian, and other Middle Eastern languages) have been examined, experienced, and deployed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In particular, and in dialogue with scholarship on the United States, the Americas, and the Atlantic, the course addresses practices, policies, and beliefs of hierarchy and power, “blood,” biology, and marriage, appearance and regulation, exclusion and inclusion. Rather than presuming either the stability of the notion of “race” or its “irrelevance” (as it is often argued) for the MENA region, this seminar highlights the specific, differing, and changing ways that race has been understood, used, and reproduced in the Middle East and North Africa; among Middle Easterners and North Africans in Sub-Saharan Africa; in confrontations and conversations with Europeans; and among diaspora populations in the United States. 


HIST 72600: Comparing Pandemics, GC, Wednesdays 2:00pm – 4:00pm,  3 credits, Professor John Torpey.  Room 6114. In person. 

This course examines epidemic diseases and their social consequences across historical time and geographic space.  We will focus primarily on the Black Death of the mid-fourteenth century, smallpox and its role in the conquest of the Americas, the “Spanish” flu pandemic of 1918-1919, and the coronavirus pandemic of 2020-2021(?).  We will seek to understand how different societies were affected by these plagues, how they responded to them, and the consequences of these public health and social crises for the societies in question.