Courses

Fall 2024

Wednesday

12:45 pm - 2:45 pm

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

9am - 11:45am

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

10:30 am - 11:45 am

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

2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

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

3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

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

12:00 pm - 2:45 pm

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

Fall 2024

Monday

6 pm - 8 pm

CompLit 153/SLAVIC 154: Nabokov

Justin Weir

This course on the major fiction of Vladimir Nabokov begins with his major Russian novels in English translation, including The DefenseLaughter in the Dark (Camera Obscura), Invitation to a Beheading, and Despair, and concludes with classic English works, SpeakMemoryLolita, and Pnin. Topics in the course include emigration and cross-cultural translation, literary modernism, metafiction, nostalgia and stories of childhood, as well as the literary representations of tyranny, violence, and abuse. We will pay additional attention to Nabokov’s interest in film and film aesthetics, and we will consider four screen versions of his novels (Luzhin’s Defense, Laughter in the Dark, Despair, and Lolita).

In Person

Fall 2024

Thursday

3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

CompLit 171: Counter-Imperialism and Asian-African Literatures

Annette Lienau

The first Asia-Africa conference of newly independent states (held in Indonesia, in 1955) was once hailed by contemporary observers as an event as significant as the European renaissance in global importance.
It inspired a sequence of initiatives in pursuit of new forms of cultural exchange and political brokering unmediated by former colonial centers.  This course explores how this historic transition towards a decolonized future was anticipated, envisioned, and critiqued in literary form.  Moving through a range of texts and historical documents that mark this transition, the course invites you to engage with the comparative legacies of African and Asian independence movements and solidarity initiatives as they rose to international circuits of recognition, with implications for enduring cultural debates across the Global South.
Readings for the course will include Richard Wright’s The Color Curtain, an iconic account of the first Asian-African conference of independent states, on the cultural commonalities and uneven temporalities of African-Asian independence movements; theoretical texts on the cultural ambiguities of anti-colonial nationalisms (such as Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Masks); and literary texts that include revolutionary and counter-imperial poetry and prose works. Course assignments will include three analytical papers. (All required texts will be available in English.)

In Person

Fall 2024

Wednesday

3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

CompLit 185X/CLS-STDY 185: Adapting to the Present: Rewriting Ancient Greek Classics in Contemporary Fiction

Emily Greenwood

“We are still mythical” as Kae Tempest intones in Brand New Ancients (2013, p.1). This course will analyze creative rewritings of ancient Greek literature in contemporary Anglophone fiction, spanning the novel, lyric poetry, and drama. We will also read Han Kang’s Greek Lessons (in Deborah Smith’s and Emily Yaewon’s translation, 2023) as an innovative counterexample of how to write with and back to ancient Greek literature in contemporary fiction. Broadly, we will consider why and how contemporary authors turn to ancient Greek literature and myth to give form and fresh meaning to contemporary experience, ranging from autofiction to crises of culture, politics, and society. The authors studied in this course come from several different countries and write from diverse cultural, ethnic, racial, religious, and LGBTQ backgrounds. In addition to analyzing the dynamics of rewriting works received as classics of world literature, we will also study what happens to the alterity of antiquity in the process of adaptation and rewriting. Above all, this course is an opportunity to analyze and discuss some stunning contemporary Anglophone fiction. We will study works by Anne Carson, Natalie Diaz, Michael Hughes, Daisy Johnson, Tayari Jones, Han Kang, David Malouf, Alice Oswald, Kamila Shamsie, Kae Tempest, and Ocean Vuong.

In Person

Fall 2024

Tuesday

3:00 pm - 5:45 pm

CompLit 201X/NEC 201: The Material Text and the History of the Book

David Stern, Peter Stallybrass

This seminar is intended to introduce students to the history of the book in the West as a physical artifact– and to the growing scholarly field around the history of the book– through hands-on study of books from Harvard’s incredibly rich Special Collections Libraries. Professor Peter Stallybrass (University of Pennsylvania, emeritus) will co-teach the seminar with Professor Stern as a regular weekly visiting participant. The course will study the material text from its earliest stages in cuneiform tablets through ancient scrolls, hand-written medieval manuscripts of many types, early and late printed books down through children’s books of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and conclude with 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 will intensively examine books in Houghton Library’s Reading Room and then report on them in the weekly seminar through PowerPoint presentations. Books studied in class will include papyrus fragments of Homer and the Bible, 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 one of Harvard’s Special Collections and write a biographical study of its “life.”

In Person

Fall 2024

Monday

3pm - 5:45pm

CompLit 207 Theorizing Digital Capitalism

Moira Weigel

Since at least the nineteenth century, computation and capitalism have co-evolved with each other. In many respects, computers have served the interests of capital, by creating new modes of accumulation and means of automating, managing, and outsourcing labor, as well as new tools for researching, advertising to, and transacting with customers. However, computers have also been described as fundamentally changing or even overcoming capitalism–both for better and for worse. Theorists have credited computers with eliminating work or turning it into play and transforming market exchanges into gift exchanges. Contemporary platforms and artificial intelligence inspire dreams of “fully automated luxury communism” and fears that law and contracts are being replaced by code and neo-colonial or neo-feudal forms of coercion.

In this seminar, we will engage with an outpouring of recent scholarship that attempts to describe and theorize digital capitalism and culture, pairing recent texts with excerpts from canonical works that their authors cite and build upon. In the process, students will gain exposure to key concepts, debates, and methods in the emerging field(s) of critical data studies, new media studies, and platform studies. We will also reflect upon the nature and purpose of theorizing. A series of assignments and workshops over the course of the semester will guide students through the process of identifying a promising research topic, reviewing scholarly literature, articulating an original research question, and writing a review essay or research paper.

In Person

Fall 2024

Tuesday

9:00 am - 11:45 am

CompLit 224/JEWISHST 224: Jew Theory

Saul Zaritt

This seminar will discuss the possibility of “Jew theory” as a method for theorizing modernity. The course begins with an examination of how the figure of the Jew, as symbol and stereotype, enters the work of important thinkers of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first century—from Marx to Slezkine, from Rosenzweig and Benjamin to Arendt and Derrida. We then shift to the history of Jewish studies in the academy and how many of these same figurations recur in the construction of this field/discipline/association. We will also explore the potential of new modes of “Jewish cultural studies” emerging over the last decades.

In Person

Fall 2024

Thursday

12:45 pm - 2:45 pm

CompLit 272: Ritual Poetics

Panagiotis Roilos

This course explores the interaction between ritual modes of signification, (written as well as traditional oral) literature, and performance. The seminar proposes an interdisciplinary approach to the topic on the basis of anthropological research and literary and cultural theory. Specific literary examples are discussed in transhistorical and comparative contexts, ranging from ancient Greek tragedy to avant-garde literature.

In Person

Fall 2024

Tuesday

6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

CompLit 343 AB, BB, CB: Professing Literature 1, 2, 3

John Hamilton

This course focuses on professional development and preparation for academic careers in literature and related fields as well as positions outside academe. Part one of a two-part series. Students must complete both terms of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year in order to receive credit. Notes: It is open to all Harvard graduate students and is required of first-year Ph.D. students in Comparative Literature.

In Person

Fall 2024

Wednesday

9:00 am - 11:45 am

TS 280: Exploring Translation Studies: History, Theories, the State of the Art

Spencer Lee-Lenfield

Translation Studies — or Translationswissenschaft, traductologie, przekładoznawstwo, перекладознавство, переводоведение, çeviribilim, 翻訳研究 etc. – is a worldwide discipline. How was the discipline shaped? And what does it actually study? Is it mainly focused on texts or on people (translators, editors publishers)? This seminar will address these questions through the history of the discipline and its leading theoretical paradigms. Each week we will read and discuss texts on ideas about translation over time and explore how they relate to the actual practice of translation.

Various readings will be from Lawrence Venuti, The Translation Studies Reader, 4th edition; others will be supplied in PDF.

In Person

Fall 2024

Tuesday

12:00 pm - 2:45 pm

Crosslisted: AFRAMER 205/ROM-STD 201/GERMAN 291: Questions of Theory

Doris Sommer, Nicole Suetterlin

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, and Butler, among others. Their approaches include aesthetics, (post)structuralism, (post)colonialism, 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.

In Person

Fall 2024

Monday, Wednesday

12:00 pm - 1:15 pm

Crosslisted: GENED 1074: The Ancient Greek Hero

Gregory Nagy

How did ancient Greek heroes, both male and female, learn about life by facing what all of us have to face, our human condition?

How to face death? Concentrating on this central human question, we will explore some of the greatest works of ancient Greek literature in English translation. For the Greeks, a special way to address the problem of death was to think long and hard about what they called heroes in their myths. Our purpose in this course is to extend that kind of thinking to the present. Assignments invite you to engage in personal reflections on the meaning of life and death in the light of what we read in Greek literature about the ordeals of becoming a hero.

In Person

Fall 2024

Thursday

12:00 pm - 2:45 pm

Crosslisted: MODMDEST 158A: Modern Arabic Literature Seminar: Displacements in Mod. Arabic Lit.: An Introduction

Nader Uthman

How have Arab writers and artists from the past century to the present narrated a variety of displacements – among them migration, diaspora, exile, imprisonment, banishment, and resettlement? How do such narratives address philosophical questions as well as contemporary challenges facing individuals and collectivities? In what ways have scholars and thinkers reckoned with displacements and literary narratives that stage them? The focus of the seminar is on the poetics of these narratives, with reference to how authors’ own experiences of displacement may structure their writing. We will investigate how these narratives may interrupt hegemonic discourses, claim multiple sites of belonging and depict hybrid subjects.

 

All readings are available in translation; those with sufficient competence in Arabic or other languages are highly encouraged to read the original texts and work comparatively between them and translations.

In Person

Fall 2024

Tuesday

12:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Crosslisted: SAS 170: Translating India: History, Theory, Craft

Martha Selby

This seminar will introduce students to the art of literary translation through a wide variety of approaches. Over the course of the semester, we
will read various tracts, articles, and books on the theory and craft of translation from a wide range of Euro-American and South Asian stances and viewpoints. We will analyze editions of various classics from India that have been translated into English repeatedly, paying particular
attention to the political nature of the act and art of translation in its colonial and post-colonial contexts. This seminar will also have a practical component, and one session each week will allow students to present translations-in-progress to their peers for comment and critique.

In Person

Fall 2024

Monday

9:45 am - 11:45 am

Crosslisted: SPANSH 141: The Novel after the End of the Novel (Argentina, 1925-2024)

Mariano Siskind

As a literary event, as a narrative artifact bent on capturing the totality of the real, the novel has been at war with its form, its social function, and its reading publics, at least since it emerged as a global, privileged narrative genre. These historical conditions were always particularly intense in the peripheries of the world. In Latin America, the novel was born as a battlefield where writers disputed the meaning of what it meant to be modern (what kind of novels do we need to write to inscribe ourselves in the transnational literary world of modernity where novels rule?). For them, the novel as a cultural monument revered globally was a thing of the past; they felt the need to reinvent it in order to account for their own time and marginal geopolitical situation. This course will interrogate how Argentine writers addressed these cultural dilemmas since the 1920s and, in the process, produced some of the region’s most remarkable experimental novels, non-novels, and anti-novels, as well as insightful reflections on the cultural potential and blindspots of literature as a social institution. We will read texts by Macedonio Fernández, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Silvina Ocampo, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Manuel Puig, Alejandra Pizarnik, Juan José Saer, Sylvia Molloy, Ricardo Piglia, César Aira, Tamara Kamenszain, Sergio Chejfec and Selva Almada.

In Person