Along with providing core courses that introduce students to major literary phenomena in a comparative frame, our program of study accommodates the interests of students in areas such as specific geographic regions, historical periods, and interdisciplinary connections between literature and other fields such as philosophy, music, the visual arts, gender and queer theory, and race and ethnicity. A Comparative Literature major prepares a student as a reader and interpreter of literature through sophisticated examination of texts and the development of a critical vocabulary with which to discuss them. Attention to verbal expression and interpretive argument serves students who will proceed into careers requiring strong language and communication skills and cross-cultural knowledge of the world.
The seminar questions common ideas about early-modern Europe and the "modernity" then established. It looks at Africa, the Americas and Europe as equal partners in making what is now called the Renaissance. Among these ideas are those of the "subject" and the "other," of "history," fiction, "science," "literature," etc. We will discuss issues of cultural exchange; colonialism and postcolonialism; history and orature; the "fictive imagination" and the politics of "literature"; formations of "methodical" knowledge; and the very idea of Renaissance and all it entails for people's still-normative understanding of Euro-modernity. We will do this chiefly through texts from Africa and the Americas, as well as Spanish, English and French Europe. We look at invasion, cultural imposition, indigenous cultures and back-formation of European culture, and the aforementioned concepts and issues as they set certain kinds of cultural creations in place whose continuing dominance and supposed "universality" needs querying.
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This course explores the special connection between jazz and literature. In texts that range from American novels to the poetry of African independence movements, jazz emerges at once as a structuring principle (as in Toni Morrison's Jazz and James Baldwin's The Amen Corner) and a unifying theme (for example, Noémia de Sousa's "A Billie Holiday, Cantora"). It is also part of a larger philosophical discussion on rhythm that connects to deep questions of selfhood, ethics, democracy, listening, and vital force. If you love jazz and want to dig deeper into its possibilities or want to find new ways to express literature's power, this class provides the venue. The rest is, as Sonny Rollins put it, "creation and surprise.".