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Fall 2017

CL 79500-Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism:  Comparative Literature in the Age of Globalization, Thursdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm,  4 credits, Prof. Sonali Perera

CL 80100-The Outcome of German Classical Philosophy-Mondays, 6:30pm-8:30pm, 2,4 credits, Prof. Richard Wolin

CL 80100-Borges and his Precursors, Wednesdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm, 2,4 credits, Prof. Lia Schwartz

CL 80900-Intro to Renaissance Studies: Neoplatonism Across Faith and Time, Wednesdays, 2-4pm, 4 credits, Prof. Clare Carroll and Prof. Feisal Mohamed. *This course is cross-listed with RSCP 72100

CL 84000-Memory, Political Thought and Italian Destiny in the Works of Foscolo and Leopardi, Tuesdays, 6:30pm-8:30pm, 2, 4 credits, Prof. Morena Corradi

CL 85000-Lyric, Prose, Modernity, Tuesdays, 2-4pm,  2,4 credits, Prof. Joshua Wilner

CL 85000-Neapolitan Narratives from Ferrante to Gomorra: Literature, Cinema, Television, Tuesdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm, 2,4 credits, Prof. Giancarlo Lombardi

CL 89100-Literary Theory & Criticism I, Mondays, 4:15pm-6:15pm, 4 credits, Prof. Martin Elsky

CTCP 71088-Critical Theory: Foundations and Practices, Wednesdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm, 3 credits, Prof. John Brenkman

*Please note that CTCP 71088 is the required core course for the Critical Theory Certificate. Permission is required to enroll in the course. Interested students should contact criticaltheory@gc.cuny.edu. No auditors permitted. Students who wish to earn the certificate should visit www.gc.cuny.edu/criticaltheory to submit a registration form and view the certificate’s full list of elective courses.

”Courses of Interest”

FRE 70500-Writing the Self: From Confession to Life Writing, Tuesdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm, Prof. Domna C. Stanton

HIST 78110-Islamic Rulership. The Caliphate in Theory and Practice, Tuesdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm (co-taught by Anna Akasoy and Chase Robinson).

Course Descriptions

CL 79500-Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism:  Comparative Literature in the Age of Globalization, Thursdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm,  4 credits, Prof. Sonali Perera 

As a range of comparatist scholars have noticed, Marx observes in the manifesto (of all unlikely places) that world literature “arises” as the by-product of exploitative, even imperialist, designs. Where world literature is defined narrowly as literature of global circulation, its market driven, cosmopolitan character might be deemed to be the happy accident of capital movement guided by its cultural and economic custodians. But what happens when we expand and complicate our frame of reference? What of other methods and models for conceiving/reconceiving world literature as literary internationalism? What concepts and ideologies of comparison derive from a theory of value in a global and unequal world? And how do we understand the relationship between comparative literature and world literature—as antagonistic or supplementary?

Since Marx’s thoughts on the subject, in recent years, literary theory scholars find themselves returning to consider the problems and possibilities of world literature. The past two decades have seen a surge of publications agitating for and against both a revitalized Weltliteratur and a newly re-tooled comparative literature. WReC (The Warwick Research Collective) proposes a new world-systems theory approach which conceives of world-literature (with a hyphen) as a “re-making of comparative literature after the multicultural debates and the disciplinary critique of Eurocentricism.” In the latest issue of the PMLA journal devoted to “Literature in the World,” Simon Gikandi keeps the question alive: “But if world literature takes us everywhere and nowhere, are we better off with comparative literature, a disciplinary formation driven by the idea that literatures can be studied in their distinctive languages, across national and linguistic boundaries, without abandoning the languages and grounds that gave rise to them?” And yet, if in minimal terms, the study of comparative literature is distinguished from that of world literature on the grounds that the former requires specialized knowledge of multiple languages whereas world literature is merely literature in translation and generally studied in English, do we agree with how this academic sub-division of labor is coded and institutionalized? What is at stake in constructing the difference between world literary approaches and comparative literature in this way? Is it the case, as has been argued, that the turn to world literature has prompted a new strain of scholarship in comparative literature?
In our class, we will engage with some of these questions, as we take the measure of the state of the field debates. Throughout our course, you are encouraged to consider how these debates might shape the way that we think of research and writing in literary studies today.
Simply put, then, this course offers us a chance to study the resurgence of world literature as an interpretive paradigm against and through the perspective of new scholarship on the theory and practice of comparative literature. While we will study touchstone texts (by Goethe, Marx, Heidegger, Auerbach, Said, Jameson, Ahmad, Wallerstein, Moretti, Damrosch, Spivak, Saussy, Amin), we will also familiarize ourselves with recent scholarship including works by Casanova, Apter, Melas, Mufti, Robbins, Cheah, WReC, and Llowe. We will ground our discussions by “applying” theory to literary works by Woolf, Manto, Pamuk, Devi, and Salih. If time permits, alongside selections from theory and literature, we may also read excerpts from one or two of the ACLA’s emblematic state of the discipline reports.
Course requirements: 1.) A 20 minute presentation on one or two of the weekly readings. 2.)  A 2 page prospectus for the final paper. 3) A 15-20 page final paper. 4.) Engaged class participation.


CL 80100-The Outcome of German Classical Philosophy-Mondays, 6:30pm-8:30pm, 2,4 credits, Prof. Richard Wolin

In 1886, Friedrich Engels wrote a perfectly mediocre book, Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy, which nevertheless managed to raise a fascinating and important question that is still being debated today: how should we go about evaluating the legacy of German Idealism following the mid-nineteenth century breakdown of the Hegelian system? For Engels, the answer was relatively simple: the rightful heir of classical German philosophy was Marx’s doctrine of historical materialism. But, in truth, Engels’ response was merely one of many possible approaches. Nor would it be much of an exaggeration to claim that, in the twentieth-century, there is hardly a philosopher worth reading who has not sought to define him or herself via a confrontation with the legacy of Kant and Hegel.

Classical German Philosophy – Kant, Fichte, Hegel, and Schelling – has bequeathed a rich legacy of reflection on the fundamental problems of epistemology, ontology and aesthetics. Even contemporary thinkers who claim to have transcended it (e.g., poststructuralists such as Foucault and Derrida) cannot help but make reference to it in order to validate their post-philosophical standpoints and claims.

Our approach to this very rich material will combine a reading of the canonical texts of German Idealism (e.g., Kant and Hegel) with a sustained and complementary focus on major twentieth-century thinkers who have sought to establish their originality via a critical reading of Hegel and his heirs: Alexandre Kojève, Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, Theodor Adorno, and Jürgen Habermas.

The course will primarily focus on the nexus between philosophy, reason, and, autonomy. We will also examine the substantive arguments that the school’s leading representatives have set forth, with special attention to the “healing” role of both reason and the aesthetic dimension. If thought and being are sundered in real life, art and reason offer the prospect of making the world whole once more. Thus, in German Classical philosophy, aesthetic consciousness often plays what one might describe as a redemptory or reconciliatory function.

In his “Discourse on Language” Foucault warns us appositely that, “Truly to escape Hegel involves an exact appreciation of the price we have to pay to detach ourselves from him. It assumes that we are aware of the extent to which Hegel, insidiously perhaps, is close to us; it implies a knowledge that permits us to think against Hegel, of that which remains Hegelian. Thus we have to determine the extent to which our anti-Hegelianism is possibly one of his tricks directed against us, at the end of which he stands, motionless, waiting for us.” Foucault’s insightful caveat will, in many respects, function as our interpretive watchword as we seek to decode and reconstruct German Idealism and its innovative contemporary legacies. ****


CL 80100-Borges and his Precursors, Wednesdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm, 2,4 credits, Prof. Lia Schwartz

J. L. Borges wrote en essay in 1951 with the title, “Kafka and his Precursors”. He declared that the word was indispensable in the vocabulary of criticism, a statement that may sound puzzling to a comparatist. This course seeks to examine how Borges’s fictions, essays and poetry establish a literary and ideological dialogue with some literary and philosophical texts written in the early modern and modern periods, which function as a source of rhetorical inventio. Motifs and themes to be examined include, books and imaginary libraries, the art of memory, the search for wisdom,  mythological and metaphorical labyrinths and dreams, as well as the concepts of time and eternity. Borges ‘s corpus will be based on translations into English, as they were published in Collected Fictions, Selected Poems, The Total Library: Non-Fiction, 1922-1986. Readings will include works by Cervantes, Quevedo, Gracián, Pascal, Coleridge, Poe, Kafka and Calvino.

 
CL 80900-Intro to Renaissance Studies: Neoplatonism Across Faith and Time, Wednesdays, 2-4pm, 4 credits, Prof. Clare Carroll and Prof. Feisal Mohamed. *This course is cross-listed with RSCP 72100
 
Engaging in questions of Platonic influence may seem to support a traditional view of the Renaissance as reviving and redoubling a unitary sense of Western culture tracing its roots to ancient Greece. This course poses a strong challenge to that narrative. By focusing on the Platonism of late antiquity, we in fact engage in a profound re-mapping of the period’s engagement with classical and medieval locales, one less centered on Athens and Rome and taking into its ken Alexandria, Damascus, and Baghdad.
 
The Neoplatonic tradition was the philosophical limgua franca of the Renaissance: the rediscovery of Plotinus and Proclus achieved in no small measure through the prodigious influence of Marsilio Ficino was a spark generating widespread interest. And as was recognized in the period, it is a tradition that spans all three Abrahamic faiths: the great wellspring of biblical Neoplatonism is the Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria, whose influence can be discerned in the seminal Christian mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius and in the Islamic tradition of falsafa. These interests certainly display themselves in literature, though this course will ask whether such engagements constitute thick intellectual engagement or a merely ornamental embellishment.
 
We will see in the course how Neoplatonism continues to provide a common philosophical language to theologians of all three faiths, as in the work of the twentieth-century Shi’a philosopher Henri Corbin and of the member of the “Radical Orthodoxy” school Simon Oliver.
 
Preliminary list of primary texts:
Ariosto, Ludovico. “Voyage to the Moon” from Orlando furioso.
Corbin, Henri. “Mundus Imaginalis” and selections from History of Islamic Philosophy
Crashawe, Richard. Poems.
Donne, John. Metempsychosis and Anniversaries.
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, Mystical Theology.
Ficino, Commentary on Plato’s Symposium on Love  and selections from Platonic Theology.
St. John of the Cross. Poems.
Al’Kindi. Selections from On First Philosophy.
Leone Hebreo (Judah Abrabanel). Dialoghi d’Amore.
Michelangelo. Sonnets.
Nicholas Cusanus. Selections from On Learned Ignorance, Dialogue on the Hidden God, and De pace fidei
Oliver, Simon. Selection from Radical Orthodoxy.
La Pléiade
Plotinus. Selections from Enneads
Porphyry. Against the Christians [fragments]
Proclus. Selections from Platonic Theology and Commentary on Plato’s “Parmenides”
Tullia d’Aragona, Dialogue on the Infinity of Love.
Smith, John. Selections from Dialogues.
Spenser, Edmund. The Fowre Hymnes and Mutabilitie Cantos
Pernette du Guillet. Rymes
Wroth, Lady Mary. Pamphilia to Amphilanthus.
Vittoria Colonna. Sonnets for Michelangelo.
 
There are good English translations of the Italian and French texts:
Tullia d'Aragona, Dialogue on the Infinity of Love, ed. and trans. Rinaldina Russell and Bruce Merry, introd. and notes Rinaldina Russell (1997)
 
Vittoria Colonna, Sonnets for Michelangelo. A Bilingual Edition, ed. and trans. Abigail Brundin (2005)
 
Pernette du Guillet. Complete Poems: A Bilingual Edition. Ed., Karen Simroth James. Trans. Marta Rijn Finch (2010). 


CL 84000-Memory, Political Thought and Italian Destiny in the Works of Foscolo and Leopardi, Tuesdays, 6:30pm-8:30pm, 2, 4 credits, Prof. Morena Corradi
 
Foscolo and Leopardi are among the most prominent literary figures who passionately addressed the social and political questions vexing their homeland in the 19th century. Their distress and indignation for Italy’s moral and political situation inevitably affected both their poetics and their interpretation of the role of poetry within society.
The course will focus on the works of the two authors which better express their views as well as hopes with regard to the Italian nation, its customs, and its destiny. While addressing the peculiarities of Italian Romanticism as expressed in some of the best examples of patriotic literature, we will trace the trajectories of the two authors’ political thought and its relations to the Italian national character. Particular attention will be given to the function of poetry in recollecting as well as enhancing memory. Our analysis and discussion of Foscolo’s and Leopardi’s oeuvres will be conducted in the light of their most relevant historical, philosophical, and biographical sources.


CL 85000-Lyric, Prose, Modernity, Tuesdays, 2-4pm,  2,4 credits, Prof. Joshua Wilner
 
In one of Baudelaire’s late prose poems, a poet tells of losing his halo while dodging traffic on a crowded boulevard: “It slipped from my head into the mire of the pavement, and I didn’t have the courage to pick it up - better to lose my insignia than to break my bones.” In this allegorical sketch, Baudelaire propels the desanctified language of the lyric poet into the busy, crowded world of prose.
The cultural condition Baudelaire evokes and its connection with a changing sense of the relationship between poetry and prose will be the subject of this course. We will begin by examining a group of romantic texts (some pages from Rousseau’s Reveries, some fragments by Schlegel, the debate over “poetic diction” between Wordsworth and Coleridge) which more or less directly challenge neo-classical genre theory and adumbrate formal possibilities which will emerge more distinctly over the course of the century. We will then turn to another group of romantic texts, including writings by Dorothy Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Mary Shelley, to study the gender sub-text which informs this history:  a sub-text in which the figure of poetic election is male and the matrix of prose female. Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, which was a self-conscious experiment in “impassioned prose,” and the prose poems of Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen, a number of which are directly influenced by De Quincey, are at the historical center of the course. These writings will provide a bridge between the romantic writers with whom we began and the late nineteenth and early twentieth century writers of experimental prose with whom we will conclude, among them Rimbaud, Stein, Woolf, and Benjamin.
Requirements: 4 credits – a weekly reading journal, informal class presentations, a term paper; 2 credits – a weekly reading journal.


CL 85000-Neapolitan Narratives from Ferrante to Gomorra: Literature, Cinema, Television, Tuesdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm, 2,4 credits, Prof. Giancarlo Lombardi
 
Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan tetralogy shined a spotlight on an Italian city which had long exercised the imagination of philosophers, literati and visual artists. Called by Walter Benjamin a porous city for its theatrical architecture and for its ‘inexhaustible law of life’, Naples is not merely setting but protagonist in recent literary, cinematic, and televisual texts. Starting from the critical reflections of Benjamin, Antonio Gramsci and Franco Cassano, this course will discuss the complex portrayal of contemporary Naples in three different modules: the first will center exclusively on Elena Ferrante’s entire literary production, while the second will analyze the cinematic works of a group of directors known as Scuola Napoletana (Mario Martone, Pappi Corsicato, Antonio Capuano, and Antonietta De Lillo). The seminar will conclude with a module that will focus on Roberto Saviano’s Gomorra and on its adaptations: Matteo Garrone’s film and the SKY Italia series Gomorra La Serie. The course will be conducted in English.


CL 89100-Literary Theory & Criticism I, Mondays, 4:15pm-6:15pm, 4 credits, Prof. Martin Elsky

A study of the major statements in literary theory during the classical, medieval, and early modern periods, the course will focus on issues related to the nature of literary representation and transmission. As much of the course deals with the absorption of ideas by one culture from another and the migration of texts from one linguistic, geographical and religious center to another, we will introduce translation theory and histoire croissé as methods. Topics will include the various ways the following have traveled from setting to another from period to period: mimesis and imitation; literary truth and beauty; genre and structure; figurative language; affectivity. Classical readings will include Plato, Aristotle, and Horace; medieval readings will include Augustine and Dante; early modern readings will include Valla, Tasso, Sidney, and Milton. Course requirements: oral report and seminar paper.


CTCP 71088-Critical Theory: Foundations and Practices, Wednesdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm, 3 credits, Prof. John Brenkman.

*Please note that CTCP 71088 is the required core course for the Critical Theory Certificate. Permission is required to enroll in the course. Interested students should contact criticaltheory@gc.cuny.edu. No auditors permitted. Students who wish to earn the certificate should visit www.gc.cuny.edu/criticaltheory to submit a registration form and view the certificate’s full list of elective courses.

Starting from the tension between Marx and Weber, the seminar will explore debates and developments that inform contemporary theory, focused around salient conflicts in social theory, philosophy, and aesthetics. (1) How do conflicting paradigms of society as system (Luhmann), as norm-governed institutions (Habermas), as symbolic-institutional habitus and practices (Bourdieu), or as actor-networks (Latour) bear on interdisciplinary research? (2) How does the encounter between philosophy and cultural studies illuminate or obscure the political purport of cultural analysis (Žižek, Sloterdijk, Habermas, Laclau, Butler)? (3) How to conceptualize the artwork or literary text in its difference from other objects and practices, its immersion in institutions and social networks, its hermeneutical instability and variability, its relation to prevailing forms of “communication” (Heidegger, Deleuze, Luhmann, Harman, and others)?
In the course of addressing these three blocs of critical theory, we will reflect on such fundamental concerns as the “linguistic turn” and the “affective turn”; alternative conceptions of “critique” as normative, utopian, or dialectical as well as rejections of critique as a model; the longstanding difference regarding the task of theory to change the world or to interpret it in various ways; and what is meant by “world” in the age of globalization.
Texts: Garth and Mills (eds.), From Max Weber; Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?; Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought; Pierre Bourdieu and Roger Chartier, The Sociologist and the Historian; Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau, and Slavoj Žižek, Contingency, Hegemony, Universality; Peter Sloterdijk, In the World Interior of Capital. Excerpts and essays by Marx, Jürgen Habermas, Niklas Luhmann, Bruno Latour, Seyla Benhabib, Brian Massumi, Graham Harman, and others.


"Courses of Interest"


FRE 70500-Writing the Self: From Confession to Life Writing, Tuesdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm, Prof. Domna C. Stanton

How is the self written, constructed? What forms and shapes does this writing take over time, in different genres, and what purposes does it serve, 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 primary and theoretical texts, beginning with confession (St Augustine, Rousseau); then  early-modern memoirs and discursive forms of interiority (Abbé de Choisy); and  steadily enlarging both the scope of self writing and the figures of the self. We will consider the long passage that women's autogynography and the self-writing of persons of color and other others took to be recognized  -- from Julian of Norwich and Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz; to slave narratives (Harriet Jacobs; Douglass); and letters, diaries and journals (Virginia Woolf, Anais Nin, Simone de Beauvoir). Our readings will culminate with the proliferation of forms in the twentieth century:  from holocaust memorials and trauma narratives (Primo Levi); testimonials (Rigoberta Manchu); human rights narratives (Dongala; Beah), AIDS memoirs (Arenas, Guibert, ) and transgender  texts (Bornstein, Stryker ) that highlight transformations and rebirth. We will end by considering what the continued obsession with revealing/inscribing the selves might mean (N. Miller; J. Leonard;  M. Nelson); and finally, whether, as auto-fiction implies,  all writing is self-writing?
Work for the course: Whether the course is taken for 2, 3, or 4 credits, all students will  be reponsible for doing the readings closely  and for engaging consistently in class discussion.
a Students who take the course for 2 credits will present in class a reading of one primary text, which will also be submitted in writing (c 5-7 pp); these students will also take the final exam.
b Students who take the course for 3 credits, will do all of the above and in addition, they will do a 10-13 page paper on a topic they select, after consultation with the instructor. They will also submit a thesis statement, a bibliography and an outline and  the introduction (the schedule will be indicated on the syllabus).
c Students who take the course for 4 credits will do all of the above, and will also do a 20-25 page paper on a topic they select, after consultation with the instructor; they will also submit a thesis statement, a bibliography and an outline, and an introduction (the schedule will be indicated on the syllabus).
Please contact Domna Stanton with any questions (dstanton112@yahoo.com).  Suggestions for readings are welcome especially for translation from languages other than French; the syllabus and texts will be posted on Blackboard by August 15, 2017.