Undergraduate Courses Spring 2012

CL203:  Introduction to Cross-Cultural Literature:   Scary Monsters
Professor Chris Livanos
950 Van Hise - 263-3851
Lecture:  MW 12:05 (3 credits)

We will examine how and why the human imagination creates non-human monsters. The monster helps humanity define what we are by showing clearly what we are not. Sometimes we disown our own undesirable traits by projecting them onto monstrous others and having an imaginary hero destroy them.

We will begin by studying the ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh’s portrayal of humanity rising to civilization from an earlier beast-like existence. After reading how monsters act as obstacles and markers on the journeys of two heroes finding their way home after the Trojan War in Homer’s Odyssey and Vergil’s Aeneid, we will then turn to Dante’s use of various monsters as symbols of different human vices. Beowulf and The Saga of the Volsungs will provide us with a sound sense of Tolkien’s background in Medieval Literature as we read the The Children of Hurin. In addition to preparing us to read Tolkien, The Saga of The Volsungs will show us examples of transgressors whose crimes cause them to forfeit their humanity and become monsters or animals. Here we will discuss how portrayal of the animal differs from portrayal of the monster, and how humanity relates to each.

Mary Shelley provides a modern twist on the monster story by sympathizing with the monster as a well-meaning but misunderstood social outcast. We will finally examine H.P. Lovecraft’s construction of extraterrestrial, malign, and superhuman monsters as the embodiment of the modern fear that man is not the center of the universe, the measure of all things, or really very significant at all.

Tentative reading list:
The Epic of Gilgamesh

Homer’s Odyssey, selections
Vergils’s Aeneid, selections
The Saga of the Volsungs
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Hú
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness

CL205: Introduction to Comparative Race & Ethnicity:
Literature, Society, and History – In and Beyond the U.S.
This course satisfies both L&S Ethnic Studies and Humanities requirements.
Professor Mary Layoun
938 Van Hise - 262-9767
Lecture: MW @ 1:20 (3 credits)

CL 205 is an introduction to the comparative history of the idea of race, to the modern literary and cultural articulations of race, and to the modern cultural and social practices predicated on that idea and its articulations in and beyond the United States.

We will examine modern and contemporary literary and cultural constructions of race in its own right and as distinct from the ethnic or the minority as well as the relation of those constructions of race to cultural and historical processes.
While at least half of our reading will focus on and originate from the U.S., CL 205 will also include illustrative examples from societies and literatures outside of the U.S.-this semester from Lebanon, Sudan, and South Africa. For understanding race in the U.S. is also realizing the boundaries of its definitions, fictions, and practices here as illustrated by its considerably different configuration elsewhere. The course will focus both on the historical and social context(s) of race matters and on their literary articulations. For, as Deleuze and Guattari remind us about literature, "it seeks to fill the conditions of collective enunciation that is lacking elsewhere in the milieu: literature is the people's concern."

Reading List:

Etel Adnan: Sitt Marie Rose (Lebanon)
Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man (U.S.)
Nadine Gordimer: "Something Out There" (South Africa)
Walter Mosely: The Right Mistake (U.S.)
John Okada: No No Boy (U.S.)
Tayeb Saleh: Season of Migration to the North (Sudan)
Leslie Marmon Silko: Ceremony (U.S.)
Danielle Allen: Talking to Strangers (U.S.)
Amiri Baraka: Blues People: Negro Music in White America (U.S.)
Web materials:
Race: The Power of an Illusion: www.pbs.org/race/000_General/000_00-Home.htm
Race: Are We So Different?: www.understandingrace.org/
Additional selected readings may be drawn from the following:
Rudolfo D. Torres, Louis F. Miron, and Jonathan Xavier Inda, eds.: Race, Identity, and Citizenship: A Reader
John Stone and Rutledge Dennis, eds.: Race and Ethnicity: Comparative and Theoretical Approaches
Ronald Takaki: A Larger Memory: A History of Our Diversity, with Voices
Thomas F. Gossett: Race: The History of an Idea in America

CL358 Fantasy & Science Fiction:  Utopia, Dystopia & Labor
Professor Chris Livanos
950 Van Hise - 263-3851
MW 2:30-3:45

Science Fiction can inspire people to envision better futures and strive to make them real. It can likewise serve as a warning of dystopian futures that may come, or it can be a pessimistic indictment of human attempts to build utopia. We will study texts that examine how different societies might conceive of the purpose and value of labor. We will begin by studying two Renaissance English texts that present utopian and dystopian societies located on uncharted islands. We will then examine Mary Shelley’s portrayal of Victor Frankenstein as a man consumed by work. Other texts in the course will explore the social and ethical ramifications of political ideologies including communism, anarcho-syndicalism, and capitalism, all of which involve radically different ideas of the relationship of people to the labor they perform. In Yevgeni Zamyatin’s We and Mikhail Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog, we will study different critiques of collectivist ideologies from the early 1920’s. We will then read an account of extra-terrestrial class warfare in the anti-capitalist writer Alexei Tolstoy’s Aelita, and we will continue to study themes of class conflict in H.P. Lovecraft’s story of an alien culture destroyed in a slave revolt. We will then read Karel Čapek’s story of warfare, fuel consumption, and religious fanaticism, The Absolute at Large. The course will conclude with the portrayal of an anarcho-syndicalist society disrupted by contact with the outside world in Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed.

Thomas More, Utopia
William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Yevgeni Zamyatin, We
Mikhail Bulgakov, Heart of a Dog
H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness
Alexei Tolstoy, Aelita
Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed
Karel Čapek, The Absolute at LargeCL370 Comparative Problems in Periods & Movements:  Classics Love Poetry of the Ancient Mediterranean   (Honors Students only)
Professor Patricia Rosenmeyer
966 Van Hise
TR 8:25-9:40

Course Description: this class will introduce you to the love poetry of three ancient Mediterranean cultures: Ancient Israel, Greece, and Rome. Ideas of love and desire are culturally determined, reflecting assumptions often very different from our own. We will read a variety of poems in the context of their socio-historical settings, and confront a range of issues including physical vs. spiritual love, cultural ideals of beauty, literary representations of gender roles and sexual preferences, the dynamics of tradition and imitation in literature, and conventions of literary form. This course will be taught as a small seminar, allowing for discussion and in-depth analysis of the poetry; students will write a total of 20-25 pages during the semester, with a final project consisting of a 10-12 page research paper.

Prerequisites: there are no formal prerequisites, but this class assumes a basic knowledge of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, and a familiarity with the Hebrew Bible, Homer, and Vergil in translation. Useful courses for basic knowledge are Classics 320 (Greek Civilization) and Classics 322 (Roman Civilization), as well as selected courses in Comparative Literature, English, and Jewish Studies.

CL475  Problems in Poetice & Literary Theory:  European Nihilism
Professor Max Statkieiwcz
958 Van Hise - 262-7862
TR 1:00- 2:15

Nihilism stands at the door: whence comes this uncanniest of all guests?" asks Nietzsche in 1886, less than 20 years after Turgenev had popularized the word "nihilism" in his novel Fathers and Sons, and Dostoevsky had dramatized the nihilist ideas in his novel Demons. Nietzsche reflects on the uncanniest of all guests in "European Nihilism," the first chapter of "his" (in)famous Will to Power. Is the problematic of the will to power and of nihilism the thing of the past today (in the twenty-first century)? Or can we analyze some of the current events with André Glucksmann in the perspective of Russian nihilism (Dostoevsky in Manhattan) or in terms of the "victory of Euro-nihilism"? Nihilism doesn't seem to us today (in the twenty-first century) the "uncanniest of all guests," does it? Have we become so familiar with it that we can no longer see it? Is literature still capable of performing its function of de-familiarization and wake us up from the "nihilistic slumber"? In this course we shall ask these questions, after having traced the history of the notion of nihilism in Russian, German, and French literature and philosophy. We shall also read Thomas Pynchon's novel The Crying of lot 49 and Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, as well as the essays from the collection Nihilism Now! Monsters of Energy (edited by Pearson and Morgan in 2000) as the American heirs of the literary and philosophical confrontation with the "uncanniest of all guests."

CL500 The Comparative In & Beyond Comparative Literature:  Sovereignty, Terrorism & Globalization
Frederic Neyrat
930 Van Hise
TR 2:30-3:45

The goal of this course is to show that terrorism, sovereignty and globalization are nowadays inextricable. In this respect, it’s not possible to understand terrorism without explaining the logics of globalization (its technological, political and ecological aspects) and the base of sovereignty (its relation with the "state of exception" and power). To sum up, we can say that terrorism is 1) an act claiming to be sovereign in a world where sovereignty is in crisis; 2) an act beyond every limit in a world without limits. Terrorism seems to reveal the true nature of our globalized societies' overexposure to risks. Over the course of the term, we will read Beck, Baudrillard, Derrida, Agamben, Zizek, and also Hobbes, Rousseau and Schmitt. We will supplement these theoretical texts with several movies, focusing particularly on If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front



Ulrich Beck, extracts from Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity
Jean Baudrillard, extracts from The Spirit of Terrorism, Requiem for the Twin Towers
Jacques Derrida, extracts from Rogues
Giorgio Agamben, extracts from State of Exception
Zizek, presentation of Robespierre. Virtue and Terror
Carl Schmitt, excerpts from Political theology
Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front


Brian Massumi, "The Half-Life of Disaster" (Guardian, Friday 15 April 2011)
Carl Schmitt, excerpts from The Concept of Political and Theory of the Partisan
Jacques Derrida, extracts from Philosophy in a Time of Terror?
David Fincher, Fight Club
Sergio Leone, Duck, You Sucker (A Fistful of Dynamite)