Areas of Study

Colonial/post colonial dynamics

Georges Ngal’s pathbreaking satire Giambatista Viko explores the vexed relations between metropolitan centers and peripheral former colonies through its titular antihero, an African professor at an African studies institute divided between European-focused cosmopolitans and Africanists. Struggling to write the great African novel and subject to abuse, Viko realizes he can no longer separate the African and the European parts of his multilayered, African francophone culture. Viko’s fate is a warning about the perils of artistic creation in a world where power is not shared. Part of the wave of African novels of the 1960s and 1970s that grappled with the disenchantments of decolonization, Giambatista Viko can be read at once as a Congolese novel, a francophone novel, and a work of world literature.

Courses

Fall 2024

Wednesday

CompLit 101X: Finnegans Wake and Comparative Literature

John Hamilton

Finnegans Wake is a work that no one should read alone.

The seminar centers on a reading of James Joyce’s unique, brilliant, and purportedly unreadable novel as an opportunity to engage in comparative literary approaches. Close textual analysis and wild forays into the work’s inexhaustible allusiveness, its etymological digressiveness, its intertextual density, and its sheer delight in musical prose are coupled with a consideration of Joyce’s achievement in relation to European Modernism and twentieth-century disenchantment.

Each session is devoted to reading episodes from the novel collectively. References and allusions are discussed, together with historical and cultural contexts and the ramifications of wordplay, puns, and other verbal devices. There is no expectation of mastering the text. Rather, in confronting this audaciously experimental work, the seminar encourages reading as an open, dynamic and interactive experience.

There are no short essay assignments and no midterm or final exams. Instead, each week, participants submit a one-page explication, reflection, or gloss on a selected sentence from the novel. The format of this assignment will be outlined in the introductory meeting. Grades are determined on the overall quality of these weekly responses, as well as the level of engagement during our weekly sessions.

In Person

Fall 2024

Thursday

CompLit 108X: Translating the World

Ursula Deser Friedman

What role does literary translation play in world-making? What is (un-)translatability? How does the reader determine the “fidelity” of a translation by mediating between author and translator? How might we use the paradigm of self-translation to unravel hierarchies in Translation Studies? In what sense is the source text already a translation? This course uses cases of literary translation and transmediation into and out of modern China, Taiwan, and Latin America to explore the history, theory, and aesthetics of global literary translation and intertextual adaptation. Adopting a transcultural perspective, we will identify key aesthetic and conceptual issues in the field of Translation Studies and explore their implications for politics, canon formation and linguistic evolution. Readings will include selections from Jorge Luis Borges, Susan Bassnett, Itamar Even-Zohar, Andre Lefevere, Suzanne Jill Levine, Efrain Kristal, Emily Apter, Eugene Nida, Gregory Rabassa, Susan Bernofsky, and Yan Fu. We will bridge theory and practice through role-plays, self-translations, podcasts, prize committee deliberations, and a Translate-a-Thon. This course will culminate in a roundtable conference in which students present and workshop their own (collaborative) translations and multimedia adaptations. Source texts of all languages and media are welcomed, though all translations and adaptations will be into English.
Prerequisite: Students must be conversant in at least one non-English language (both written and oral forms).

In Person

Fall 2024

Monday, Wednesday

CompLit 111X: Breaking Points: Art, Scholarship, and Social Movements

Matylda Figlerowicz

At certain times, it seems that things simply cannot continue as they have gone before. What then?

This course looks at some collective breaking points—moments when scholarly, artistic, and activist practices come together to respond to urgent sociopolitical crises. The concept of breaking points, on the one hand, refers to the collective experience of a pressing need for change. On the other hand, it speaks to formal experimentation––to practices that break genre conventions or theoretical frameworks. When the conventional forms of thought don’t serve us, how do we build new ones?

Throughout the course, we look at different breaking points, and at the forms of thought that arise from them. For instance, we trace the emergence of happenings and performance art, analyzing how they’re rooted in anti-war activism, and we discuss how Indigenous cultural practices create ways to analyze and stand up to colonialism and imperialism.

As a final project, the students will present a creative scholarly work, in which they experiment with formal boundaries, combining different genres or media.

In Person

Fall 2024

Tuesday

CompLit 112X: Reparative Co-Futures in Chinese Sci-Fi

Ursula Deser Friedman

How does modern Sinophone sci-fi reveal the “dark side” of China’s rise to power? How does Sinophone speculative fiction and its transmediated afterlives chart a reparative vision in the face of ongoing ecological and political crises? How do memories of past traumas intersect with future catastrophes in short stories and novels by Sinophone creators? How does speculative fiction produced by women and nonbinary creators forge an alternative path for human-AI collaboration? How do queer, transgressive, and non-human desires coalesce into a flora-fauna-AI symbiosis? How does contemporary Sinophone sci-fi advance inclusive futures for queer, crip, rural, neurodiverse, non-Han, and otherwise disenfranchised individuals in the face of ongoing exploitation? How do translators of Chinese-sci-fi employ a reparative praxis to transmediate trauma for global audiences?

In this course, we encounter an array of sci-fi and speculative fiction authored by Ken Liu, Cixin Liu, Han Song, Regina Kanyu Wang, Hao Jingfang, Xia Jia, Gu Shi, Wang Nuonuo, and Chu Xidao, alongside selections by Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Italo Calvino, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. LeGuin, Ray Bradbury, and Isaac Asimov (reading selections subject to change). We will also examine multimedia adaptations of contemporary Chinese sci-fi, examining the work’s evolution from page to screen to stage. All readings will be available in English and films will be available either dubbed or with English subtitles. By engaging with material through a variety of written, oral, and multimedia responses, you will co-create reparative futures alongside these speculative creators.

In Person

Fall 2024

Wednesday

CompLit 114/HDS 3802: Mysticism and Literature

Luis Girón-Negrón

Examines trends, issues and debates in the comparative study of mystical literature. Close readings of primary works by Jewish, Christian and Muslim authors from the Middle Ages through the 16th century. Topics include poetry and mysticism; allegory, symbolism and Scripture; body and gender; apophasis vs cataphasis; exemplarity and autobiographism; language and experience. Also examines creative engagement of pre-modern mystical literature in selected works by modern authors and literary theorists.

In Person

Fall 2024

Monday

CompLit 119/JEWISHST 106: Mainstream Jews

Saul Zaritt

Why is it that Jews and discussions of Jewishness appear with such frequency and with such prominence in American culture of the twentieth and the twenty-first century? One can often hear the claim that Hollywood is “owned by Jews.” Many call attention to the number of Jews involved in comics and graphic novels. The State of Israel, and its definition of Judaism, has become an important touchstone in American politics, while antisemitic dog whistles have become commonplace in contemporary political discourse. Contemporary left-wing activists often refer to the legacies—contested or otherwise—of Jewish American labor politics of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. What can we make of these intersecting and surprising references to Jews/Judaism/Jewishness in the current American moment? This seminar discusses the ways that images of the Jew—philosemitic, antisemitic, and everything in between—recur in the American mainstream. Through analysis of film, television, music, comics, and other mass media, we will track the multiple and contradictory portrayals of Jewishness in the popular American imagination.

In Person

People

Harry Tuchman Levin Professor in Literature, Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: c/o Reischauer Institute CGIS South S222 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA

Office Hours: By appointment. To meet during office hours or at another time, you must reach out via email in advance to make an appointment

Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: Dana-Palmer 203

Office Hours: Fall 2024 Office Hours TBA

Professor of the Classics and Comparative Literature

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: Boylston 224

Office Hours: Fall 2024 Office Hours TBA

Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Office: Wadsworth House 134

Office Hours: By appointment

Areas of Study