Areas of Study

Media history and theory

This course aims to examine the philosophical foundation of data-driven storytelling and explore how data is incorporated into contemporary transmedia storytelling. The course will also explore how data can provide not only an analytical but also an experimental mode of scholarship. Topics covered may include data visualization, database aesthetics, game studies, and pattern recognition/discrimination.

Courses

Fall 2023

Dana-Palmer Seminar Room

Wednesday

CompLit 119X/REL119/NEC 107: History of the Book: Using Harvard’s Treasures to Study the Material Text

David Stern

You have been reading books since first grade if not earlier, but how much do you actually know about the physical object you’ve been reading—the book, the material artifact?  Drawing on a great deal of recent scholarship and the incredible treasures in Houghton Library’s Special Collections, this course will study the history of the book in Western culture from its earliest stages in cuneiform tablets through ancient scrolls, hand-written medieval manuscripts of all types, early and late printed books down through children’s books of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and modernist artists’ books of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries including recent ones utilizing digital technology.  The heart of the course will be weekly assignments in which students in groups of three each will be asked to intensively examine books in Houghton’s reading room and then report on them in the weekly seminar. Books studied in class will include papyrus fragments of Homer and the Old and New Testaments; Hebrew scrolls; early Qur’an leafs; Greek and Latin codices; Books of Hours and many other illuminated and decorated medieval manuscripts; the Gutenberg Bible; Copernicus, Galileo’s and Vesalius’ scientific works; censored books; the First Folio edition of Shakespeare; Alice in Wonderland; and Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés. For the final paper, each student will choose a book from Houghton’s collection and write a biographical study of its “life.”

4 Credits

In Person

Fall 2023

Dana-Palmer Seminar Room

Monday

CompLit 188/ROM-STD 188: Futurisms (A comparative history)

Jeffrey Schnapp

From its foundation in Feb. 1909 through WWII, futurism developed into the first truly international cultural-political avant-garde.  Its aim was a revolutionary transformation of all spheres of life and its influence extended to the whole of Europe, Asia, and the Americas.  Combating the tradi­tionalism and pro­vin­cialism of turn-of-the-century European culture, the move­ment sought to found a cosmopolitan (but often nationalist) countercul­ture based on the exaltation of youth, speed, violent revolt, innovation, and expe­ri­menta­tion. Hence the move­ment’s name: the label “Future-ism” denoting at once adoration of the new and struggle against the prevalence of “past-ism” or passatismo/passéisme (the idolatry of the past). In its first decade of ex­is­tence Futurism became the first full-fledged cultural/political avant-garde of our cen­tury, ga­ther­ing together pain­ters, musi­cians, archi­tects, political revo­lu­tion­aries, and poets from seve­ral European nations. A key progenitor of later move­ments such as Dada­, Vorticism, Sur­real­ism, and Fluxus, Fu­tur­ism had a powerful forma­tive influence not only on the cul­tural atmo­s­phere of Italy during the Fascist era (1922-1945), but also on 20th century cul­ture as a whole. Its contemporary legacies are many and extend from popular culture to the experimental art of our time.

This seminar will examine the movement’s various manifestations in Italy, France, England, Russia, Spain, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. In addition to Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, a wide range of writers and visual artists will be considered, including A. G. Bragaglia, Apollinaire, Mayakovsky, Malevich, Lissitzky, and Léger. Topics will include: machines and culture; the theater of surprise and futurist performance art; Futurism’s ties to anarchism, bolshevism, and fascism; words-in-freedom poetics; experiments with typography, photography, radio, and film; futurism’s interest in transforming the character of books; futurism’s impact on exhibition design; and futurism’s legacies in postwar culture.

 

4 Credits

In Person

Fall 2023

Barker 211

Thursday

CompLit 213Y: Beyond Subtitles: Cinema, Media, and Translation

Junting Huang

“Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” said Bong Joon Ho during his acceptance speech for Parasite’s historical Golden Globe wins. Are we finally ready to embrace subtitles? Are those one-inch-tall subtitles still a cultural barrier? Are they literary artifacts of translation? Despite their widespread use, subtitles are less often studied as a critical site for translation. Using subtitles as a point of departure, this course takes an interdisciplinary approach to explore the intricacies of translation in cinema and other media cultures. It situates translation at the intersection of media and literary theories. In this course, we explore how the media form of subtitles can enable philosophical reflection on issues such as nationalism, nativism, foreignness, aphasia, postcoloniality, labor, and technology. The course will draw on theoretical texts from a diverse range of thinkers, including Frantz Fanon, Frederic Jameson, Slavoj Zizek, John Mowitt, Rey Chow, Naoki Sakai, and Sergei Eisenstein, among others.

4 Credits

In Person

Fall 2023

Crosslisted: Aframer 115Y: Introduction to African Popular Culture

Timothy Ogene

This course will introduce students to defining trends, movements, and practices in twentieth and twenty-first century popular culture in Africa. Focusing on the lives, interventions and innovative practices of key figures in music, television, fashion, dance, and publishing, we will examine the socio-political and the historical in relation to broader aesthetic and stylistic links to the rest of the world. This will be discussed in the larger context of colonial and postcolonial class formation, the afterlives of Cold War cultural diplomacy, access to education and accumulation of socio-political capital, the emergence of new conceptions of self and nationhood in relation to the global, new modes of cultural circulation, and the new lives of rediscovered archives. Figures such as Fela Kuti, Ousmane Sembene, Fela Sowande, J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, Miriam Makeba, Duro Olowu, Charley Boy, Dele Momodu, and William Onyeabor will be discussed alongside new figures, with a focus on lines of influence, self-fashioning, and the interface between the socio-political and the commercial. The ubiquitous power of diasporic/Afropolitan presence (and performance of access) will be considered alongside the local and vernacular/indigenous, and the cosmopolitan and secular will be discussed alongside the traditional and religious. The steady rise/use of social media platforms as generative, where new forms of culture-driven protests and negotiation of identities unfold, will be considered alongside the history of audio-visual communication and the emergence of modern African celebrity culture. This course is suitable for students with a general interest in the production, circulation, and consumption of culture in modern Africa.

4 Credits

In Person

Fall 2023

2 Arrow St 420

Tuesday

Crosslisted: Rom-STD 201 & German 291: Questions of Theory

Doris Sommer & Nicole Suetterlin

Course Description: To explore key literary, cultural and critical theories, we pose questions through readings of classic and contemporary theorists, from Aristotle to Kant, Schiller, Arendt, Barthes, Foucault, Glissant, Ortiz, Kittler, S. Hartman, and Haraway, among others. Their approaches include aesthetics, (post)structuralism, postcolonialism, media theory, gender theory, ecocriticism. Each seminar addresses a core reading and a cluster of variations. Weekly writing assignments will formulate a question that addresses the core texts to prepare for in-class discussions and interpretive activities.

Notes: Conducted in English. This course is offered as Romance Studies 201 and German 291. Credit may be earned for Romance Studies 201 or German 291, but not both. The course is cross-listed with Comparative Literature and AAAS.

 

4 Credits

In Person

People

Curt Hugo Reisinger Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and Professor of Comparative Literature

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: Barker 377

Office Hours: Mon 1-2pm or by appointment

College Fellow

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: Dana-Palmer 205

Office Hours: Mon 1-3pm and by appointment

Eliot Professor of Greek Literature

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: Boylston 223

Office Hours: Wed. 2:45-4:45 and by appointment. Please use the Calendly link

Director of Graduate Studies

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: Dana-Palmer 202

Office Hours: Thurs 3-5pm and by appointment

Chair, Department of Comparative Literature

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: Boylston Hall 423

Office Hours: Wednesdays 9-10:30 am or by appointment

Areas of Study