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Spring 2012

Comp. Lit. 71000 - Research Techniques to Renaissance Studies
GC: W, 2:00-4:00 p.m., 4 cr., Prof. Carroll (crosslisted with RSCP 82100)

Comp. Lit. 78200 - Fictions of the Psyche
GC: T, 4:15-6:15 p.m., 4 cr., Prof. Aciman

Comp. Lit. 80100 - Studies in Comparative Literature:
Critical Theory Today
GC: Th, 4:15-6:15 p.m. [rooms/dates], 4 cr., Prof. Aciman
With the participation of Professors Harold Bloom, Linda Alcoff, John Brenkman, Morris Dickstein, Martin Elsky, Richard McCoy, Noam Scheindlin, and Charity Scribner.

Comp. Lit. 80100 - Beyond the Criminal: Evil and the Dilemma of Vampirism in Art and Literature
GC: W, 6:30-8:30 p.m., 4 cr., Prof. Oppenheimer

Comp. Lit. 80900 - Being and Seeming: The Art of Authenticity and the Virtue of Appearance in Renaissance Literature
GC: Th, 6:30-8:30 p.m., 4 cr., Prof. Milligan

Comp. Lit. 85000 - French Ethnographic Tradition
GC: T, 2:00-4:00 p.m., 4 cr., Prof. Crapanzano (crosslisted with Anthro. 81100)

Comp. Lit. 85000 - What is Reading? Classical and Contemporary Theories
GC: T, 6:30-8:30 p.m., 4 cr., Prof. Ender/Prof. Lee

Comp. Lit. 88000 - Italy's Languages Today. Sociolinguistic Variation of the Italian Language in Contemporary Italy and Across the Globe (taught in Italian)
GC: M, 4:15-6:15 p.m., 4 cr., Prof. Haller

Comp. Lit. 89000 - Mood and Trope in Lyric
GC: W, 4:15-6:15 p.m., 4 cr., Prof. Brenkman

Comp. Lit. 89200 - History of Literary Theory and Criticism II
GC: M, 6:30-8:30 p.m., 4 cr., Prof. Elsky

Comp. Lit. 90000- Dissertation Supervision
GC: 1 cr., Staff

See Also:

Fr. 87100 - Human Rights and Critical Theory
GC: T, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Prof. Stanton

Course Descriptions

Comp. Lit. 80100
Beyond the Criminal: Evil and the Dilemma of Vampirism in Art and Literature
Prof. Oppenheimer

A serious and thorough study of the Western obsession, as reflected in much of its literature and art over the past 5,000 years, with vampirism—or the philosophy of physical immortality, often referred to as the possibility of life-in-death. The winged and cannibalistic figure of the vampire, in its various forms—ranging from Dante's Satan to Bram Stoker's Dracula and more modern poems, plays, and films will be explored, with a view to exposing Western ideas of evil and some of the chief premises of Western culture. Readings and studies of Dracula (novel and film versions), The Inferno, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, Beowulf, Doctor Faustus, Nietzche, Schopenhauer, The Chinese Torture Garden (by Octave Mirbeau), Keats, Coleridge, Baudelaire, James Merrill, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and others; examination of pertinent works or art by Bosch, Goya, and certain decadent artists. Recent scholarly work on the subject. Students may consult my book, Evil and the Demonic: A New Theory of Monstrous Behavior, available in the library, for background. Pre-requisites: enthusiasm for unusual ways of reading and thinking, and curiosity.  One research paper.

Comp. Lit. 80900
Being and Seeming: The Art of Authenticity and the Virtue of Appearance In Renaissance Literature
Prof. Milligan

The early modern period was marked by a fascination with the tension between being and seeming to be, giving rise to the question: Is it better to be something or seem to be so? In an era when perspective art was theorized and when culture fashioned itself on a distant past, the art of appearance became part of the fabric of everyday life. What is more beautiful, authenticity or artifice? Is it better to be virtuous or seem to be? Should a Jew appear to be Christian in order to avoid persecution? And, perhaps the most haunting question—Do we even posses an authentic identity without art?  This seminar will address these questions within the debate of being/seeming, and it will question how this debate may differ from the more common concepts of lying and dissimulation.  The course will begin by addressing various classical philosophical and theological commentaries on dishonesty and dissimulation, and then move to focus on Renaissance texts that address seeming and being.  We will divide the semester in three thematic segments: gender, politics, and religion.  By first addressing questions of gender identity we will familiarize ourselves with the debate of men and women’s virtue and the collective surveillance that regulated it.  We will then move to discuss the social control of political virtue, dependent as it is on rhetorical propaganda. And finally, we will end with the texts that tackle the moral debate of the dissimulation of religious groups (Christians, Muslims and Jews) in times of oppression.    

Following is a provisional list of the primary sources that will be read during the seminar:

Plato, The Republic (selections)
Augustine, On Lying, Against Lying
Thomas Aquinas, Dissimulation and Hypocrisy (from Summa Theologica)
Thomas More, Dialogue on Conscience
Leon Battista Alberti,
 The books of the Family;
 On Painting (selections),
 On Architecture (selections)
Lucrezia Tornabuoni, Esther
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
Baldessarre Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier
Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso  (selections)
Torquato Tasso, Jerusalem Delivered (selections)
Thomas Wyatt, (selections)
Francis Bacon, Of Simulation and Dissimulation
Balthazar Gracían, A Manual of the Art of Discretion
Torquato Accetto, Della dissimulazione onesta

Those who can read these texts in the original are encouraged to do so. The course will be conducted in English.

Comp. Lit. 72100
Research Techniques in Renaissance Studies
Prof. Carroll

The course is designed to help students work on their own research for their dissertations, orals, or research papers in Renaissance Studies.

We will study how the material conditions of texts influence their transmission and interpretation. Readings will include articles on the history of the book, as well as on literary and cultural history. We will also study the representation of books and printing in early modern texts, including Marie de Gournay’s editing of Montaigne’s Essais, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and Milton’s Areopagitica.

We will also closely examine and read primary texts in manuscript and early printed form. Students will receive instruction in topics specifically related to research in the early modern period: codicology, paleography, textual editing and analytical bibliography.

The major assignment for the course is an annotated bibliography.  Other assignments include exercises in paleography, analytical bibliography, and an oral report related to one of the readings.

We will make visits to the Manuscript and Rare Book Collections at the Morgan Library.

Reading list (texts from which weekly readings will be selected, and useful reference works):
Michelle P. Brown, A Guide to Western Historical Scripts; Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts
A. Cappelli, Dizionario di Abbreviature latine ed italiane;
Roger Chartier, Forms and Meanings: Texts, Performances, and Audiences from Codex to Computer
Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe
Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book
David Kastan, Shakespeare and the Book
James A. Knapp, Illustrating the Past in Early Modern England
Andrew Pettegree, The Book in the Renaissance
Brian Richardson, Manuscript Culture in Renaissance Italy
Articles by Robert Darnton, Anthony Grafton, Arthur Marotti, and Peter Stallybrass.


Comp. Lit. 78200
Fictions of the Psyche
Prof. Aciman

With its intricate and beguiling analysis of human motivation, psychological fiction has a long history and is known for its penetrating focus on desire, deceit and tangled web of human emotions. The course seeks to examine how literature has portrayed the psyche, how it narrates interiority, and how language seeks to unravel the paradoxes implicit to any treatment of love. The course will also establish a typology of the genre and a vocabulary with which to investigate what the French call the roman d'analyse. Readings will include Ovid, Tristan, Boccaccio, Marguerite de Navarre, LaFayette, Cervantes, Sterne, Austen, Stendhal, Wharton, Svevo, and Proust.

Comp. Lit. 88000
Italy's Languages Today. Sociolinguistic Variation of the Italian Language in Contemporary Italy and Across the Globe (taught in Italian)
Prof. Haller

This course will introduce the students to the sociolinguistic varieties of Italian that can be observed in contemporary Italy across the geographical and social space. The formal aspects and gradually evolving social uses of Italian and dialects will be analyzed within contemporary Italian society, and with particular attention to the great transformation that took place since the country’s unification from a largely dialect speaking to an Italian speaking society. We will discuss such topics as the standardization of the language, regional Italian, the language of the media, the uses made by the young generations. In the second part we will discuss Italian as a language of emigration across the globe, with particular attention to its presence and evolving history in the United States, with its dual perception as an ‘ethnic’ or ‘global’ language. Sociolinguistic concepts will also be applied to the analysis of contemporary literary prose texts.
The course will be taught in Italian; however, students with an advanced passive proficiency in Italian may register and do their work in English.

Texts: Alberto A. Sobrero, Introduzione all’italiano contemporaneo. La varietà e gli usi
(Laterza) (Text to be purchased by all students); Lorenzo Coveri et al., Le varietà dell’italiano (Bonacci); Hermann W. Haller, Una lingua perduta e ritrovata. L’italiano degli italo-americani (La Nuova Italia); Manlio Cortelazzo, Carla Marcato et al., I dialetti italiani. Storia, struttura, uso (UTET); Massimo Vedovelli, Storia linguistica dell’emigrazione italiana nel mondo (Carocci).

Comp. Lit. 80100
Studies in Comparative Literature:
Critical Theory Today
Prof. Aciman

Offered for the first time at the Graduate Center, this new seminar aims to give students in several disciplines the opportunity to explore, discuss, and assess recent developments in critical theory.  Several members of the Graduate Center and CUNY colleges will participate in this seminar, and each will cover specific domains. These will include the work of Foucault, Heidegger, Derrida, the Frankfurt School, and finally Auerbach.  Also, and as part of the seminar, every year a major critic will be invited to deliver two public lectures at the Graduate Center, and this coming spring Professor Harold Bloom from Yale University will speak about his life, career, and methodology as a critic.  Several weeks of the seminar will be devoted to the work of Harold Bloom.


Comp. Lit. 85000
French Ethnographic Tradition
Prof. Crapanzano

This seminar provides a critical overview of French anthropology in the Twentieth Century. It looks not only at important anthropological texts, among them, by Durkheim, Mauss, Lévy-Bruhl, Leenhardt, Griaule, Lévi-Strauss, and Descola, but also by other scholars – Bataille,  for example, Artaud, Fanon, Foucault, Derrida, Lacan, Lefevre, de Certeau, and Latour --  who have influenced the French take on anthropology (and the American take on French anthropology), if at times only by indirection and even through denial. Readings will be related to the socio-cultural circumstances in which they were written and read. Stress will be given to the intellectualist stance of French anthropology and the frayed edges that stance produces., as in anthropology’s flirtation with surrealism, the irrational (the College de Sociologie),and dedicated alterity.

Comp. Lit. 85000
What is Reading? Classical and Contemporary Theories
Prof. Evelyne Ender and Prof. Kyoo Lee

Surely, reading matters. But how and why? What may count as reading? Heidegger famously asked: what is called thinking?—and where does reading figure here?

This course aims to explore the nature of reading as an intellectual and embodied activity with a long history. As our reading practices inside and outside the academia are undergoing some revolutionary changes due, in part, to the rapid emergence of paradigm-shifting technologies, the time seems ripe to ask afresh what this artful act, reading, is. Both literature and philosophy have long practiced it while articulating its modalities at times, and recent research in the cognitive and neurosciences have sketched out new avenues well worth examining here as well.

The task of this seminar, taught jointly by a comparatist and a philosopher, is to develop a theoretical line of thinking on the activity of reading by charting a path leading to the present age. With a view to contextualizing some of the key neuroscientific findings today on this complex process, we will scrutinize a selection of texts by writers and theorists (among them Proust, Benjamin, Poulet, Sartre, Barthes, Iser, Scarry, Garrett Stewart). Our focus will be on bringing to light the orchestrated workings of the mind, the body, affect, mood, attention, cognition, voice, vision, etc., all of which become part of notable, phenomenological dramas of reading. Concurrently, as a way of taking stock of the current trends in the NeuroHumanities, we will also revisit some of the landmarks in the history of reading theories (exegetical, hermeneutic, structuralist, post-structuralist, etc.) through texts by Gadamer, Derrida, De Man, Felman, Culler, Gallop, among others. This self-reflexive investigation will help us better understand how, why, and where reading happens, and through this process, we could even become happier readers who understand the pleasures of slow, close reading. Some familiarity with the work of Proust, James, Joyce, Woolf, and the major poetic voices of the romantic era and nineteenth-century will be ideal but not assumed.

Comp. Lit. 89000
Mood and Trope in Lyric
Prof. Brenkman

The inaugural philosophical reflection on the emotions, Heidegger remarks, does not “come down to us…in the framework of ‘psychology,’” but in Aristotle’s Rhetoric. Rhetoric’s double focus on persuasion and figures of speech is also the hinge—or, rather, the knot—between politics and poetry, a tension already evident in Aristotle’s differing accounts of fear and pity in the Rhetoric and the Poetics. The seminar will examine the indissociable link between emotion and rhetoric as it bears on literary theory and specifically theory of lyric. Problems in the analysis of lyric will be considered in light of classic essays by Jakobson and Lévi-Strauss, Adorno, Benjamin, Kenneth Burke, and Hans Robert Jauss. Heidegger’s own reflections on language, poetry, and art yield his greatest insights and his most troubling historico-political visions. Paul de Man and Gianni Vattimo, like Peter Sloterdijk and Jean-Luc Nancy, do much to tame Heidegger by rethinking his aesthetics and refashioning his poetics. Their efforts will be tested against a sampling of Romantic and modern poetry: Shelley, Baudelaire, Eliot, Li-Young Lee, Jorie Graham.

Texts: Heidegger, On the Way to Language and Poetry, Language, Thought; Aristotle, Rhetoric; Gianni Vattimo, Art’s Claim to Truth; Paul de Man, Rhetorics of Romanticism; Peter Sloterdijk, Rage and Time; Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal; T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets; Jorie Graham, Dream of the Unified Field.

Comp. Lit. 89200
History of Literary Theory and Criticism II
Prof. Elsky

A study of the development of thought about literature in nineteenth and twentieth centuries criticism and philosophy. The course will start from attempts to incorporate literature into patterns of aesthetic, moral, cultural, and historical coherence, and will move to the specter of incoherence, force, and trauma as the underlying impetus of literature. Readings will include Hegel, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Schleiermacher, Nietzsche, Eliot, Brooks, Auerbach, Benjamin, Levinas, Derrida, Foucault, Bhabha, Casanova.