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Fall 2015

Comparative literature courses explore a range of times, places and media. But they usually focus on one central issue: the ways poems mean, what sides have been taken in the debate over women, what makes a text anti-Semitic, how settled peoples imagine and depict foreigners, how travelers see new worlds.

Smith College reserves the right to make changes to all announcements and course listings online, including changes in its course offerings, instructors, requirements for the majors and minors, and degree requirements.


Introductory Courses


FYS 120 Writing Home

Jocelyne Kolb

Are letters home and love letters obsolete? Has skyping replaced letter-writing? Is the mail of e-mail the same as letters sent through the post office? What role do letters play in literature, and how have letters influenced the historical record? These are some of the questions we will consider in letters from the 17th century to the present, literary and non-literary, beginning with the letters of Madame de Sévigné. Visits to the Rare Book Room;use of the Smith Archives. This is a writing-intensive class. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students.


FYS 165 Childhood in African Literature

Katwiwa Mule

A study of childhood as an experience in the present and as a transition into adulthood, and of the ways in which it is intimately tied to social, political and cultural histories, and to questions of self and national identity. How does the violence of colonialism and decolonization reframe our understanding of childhood innocence? How do African childhood narratives represent such crises as cultural alienation, loss of language, exile and memory? How do competing national and cultural ideologies shape narratives of childhood? Texts include Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions, Zoe Wicomb's You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town, Ngugi wa Thiongo's Weep Not Child and Tahar Ben Jelloun's The Sand Child. This course counts toward the comparative literature major. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students.

FYS 168 Damaged Gods: Myth and Religion of the Vikings

Craig Davis

We will read eddic poems and prose sagas recalling traditions of the old Norse gods and their cults during the Viking Age (ca. 800-1100 CE), as these were preserved in 13th-century Icelandic texts, but also in Arabic, Latin, Old High German and Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and runic inscriptions. We will explore the dark world-view and desperate religion of the Vikings from the creation of the world to the end of time, including relations between living and dead, male and female, animals and humans, gods and giants, Æsirand Vanir —a crowded universe of trolls, elves, witches, dwarfs, valkyries, berserks, shapeshifters and various kinds of human being. Readings will include the Germania of Tacitus, ibn Fadlan's Rûsiyyah, Beowulf, the Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson, selections from the Poetic Edda,Völsunga Saga, The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, the Vinland Sagas, The Saga of Gisli, in addition to two films in Icelandic:Útlaginn 'The Outlaw' and Hrafninn Flygur 'The Raven Flies'. Requirements: a reading journal, critical essays, a research project, faithful reading and discussion in class. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students.

FYS 175 Love Stories

Ambreen Hai

Could a Jane Austen heroine ever marry a servant? What notions about class, decorum, or identity dictate what seem to be choices of the heart? How are individual desires shaped or produced by social, historical and cultural forces, by dominant assumptions about race, class, gender, or sexuality? How do dominant love stories both reflect these assumptions, and actively create or legislate the boundaries of what may be desired? How may non-dominant (queer or interracial) love stories contest those boundaries, creating alternative narratives and possibilities? This course explores how notions of love, romance, marriage or sexual desire are structured by specific cultural and historical formations. We will closely analyze literature and film from a range of locations: British, American and postcolonial. Required texts: Jane Austen's Persuasion, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah, Shyam Selvadurai's Funny Boy. We will also read some theoretical essays to provide conceptual tools for our analyses This course can count towards the major in English, CLT or SWG. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students.

CLT 202 Western Classics in Translation, from Homer to Dante

Maria Banerjee,T/Th 10:30-11:50

Robert Hosmer, M/W 9:00-10:20

Scott Bradbury, T/Th 9:00-10:20

Same as ENG 202. Texts include The Iliad; tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides; Plato's Symposium; Virgil's Aeneid; Dante's Divine Comedy. Lecture and discussion. CLT 202/ENG 202, like CLT 203/ENG 203, is among the courses from which comparative literature majors choose two as the basis of the major. Students interested in comparative literature and/or the foundations of Western literature and wanting a writing-intensive course should take 202 or 203 or both.


Intermediate Courses

CLT 204 Writings and Rewritings
Topics course.

Reyes Lazaro

M/W 1:10-2:30

Writings and Rewritings: Queering Don Quixote
This course is devoted to a slow reading of Don Quijote de la Mancha (1605-1615), allegedly the first and most influential modern novel. Our approach to this hilarious masterpiece by Cervantes is through a "queering" focus, i.e., as a text that exposes all sorts of binary oppositions (literary, sexual, social, religious and ethnic), such as: high-low; tradition vs individual creativity; historical vs literary truth; man vs woman; authenticity vs performance; Moor vs Christian; humorous vs tragic. The course also covers the crucial role played by Don Quixote in the development of modern and postmodern novelistic concepts (multiple narrators, fictional authors, palimpsest, dialogism) and examples of its world-wide impact. With an optional 1-credit course in Spanish (SPN 356) for those who want to perfect their linguistic and literary skills by reading, translating and commenting selected sections of Miguel de Cervantes' masterpiece and additional secondary literature in Spanish

CLT 205 20th-Century Literatures of Africa

Katwiwa Mule

T/Th 10:30-11:50

A study of the major writers of modern Africa with emphasis on several key questions: how did modern African literature emerge? Is the term "African literature" a useful category? How do African writers challenge Western representations of Africa? How do they articulate the crisis of independence and postcoloniality? How do women writers reshape our understanding of gender and the politics of resistance? Texts may include Achebe's Things Fall Apart,Ngüg wa Thiong'o's The River Between, Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions, David Mulwa's We Come in Peace, Ndebele Njabulo's he Cry of Winnie Mandela, and Ama Ata Aidoo's Our Sister Killjoy. We also watch films such as White King, Red Rubber, Black Death, Tsotsi and District 9.


CLT 220 Colloquium: Imagining Language

Margaret Bruzelius

M/W 2:40-4:00

This course explores the ways in which philosophers and artists have imagined the links between language and the world. We read mostly pre-20th century theories of language–Plato's Cratylus, St. Augustine's On the Teacher, Locke on language from the Essay, Herder and Rousseau on The Origin of Language, Freud on jokes—and link them to novels, poems and other artwork by (mostly) 20th-century artists such as Louis Zukofsky, May Swenson, Lewis Carroll, Richard Powers, Xu Bing, Russell Hoban and others who focus on the materiality of language, on words as things. Readings are accompanied by weekly exercises such as rebuses, invented etymologies, alphabet poems, portmanteau words, emoticons and so on.

CLT 231 American Jewish Literature

Justin Cammy

M/W 2:40-4:00

Same as ENG 230 Explores the significant contribution of Jewish writers and critics to the development of American literature, broadly defined. Topics include the American dream and its discontents; ethnic satire and humor; literary multilingualism; crises of the left involving Communism, Black-Jewish relations, and '60s radicalism; after-effects of the Holocaust; and the aesthetic engagement with folklore. Authors include Mary Antin, Henry Roth, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, E.L. Doctorow, Cynthia Ozick. Yiddish, Canadian and Latin-American writers provide transnational perspectives. Must Jewish writing in the Americas remain on the margins, "too Jewish"for the mainstream yet "too white" to qualify as multicultural? No prerequisites.

ENG 241 The Empire Writes Back: Postcolonial Literature

Ambreen Hai

M/W 1:10-2:30

An introduction to Anglophone fiction, poetry, drama and film from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia in the aftermath of the British empire. Concerns include: the cultural work of writers as they respond to histories of colonial dominance; their ambivalence towards English linguistic, literary and cultural legacies; the ways literature can (re)construct national identities and histories, and explore assumptions of race, gender, class and sexuality; the distinctiveness of women writers and their modes of contesting cultural and colonial ideologies; global diasporas, migration and U.S. imperialism. Readings include Achebe, Adichie, Aidoo, Dangarembga, Fanon, Walcott, Cliff, Markandaya, Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Mohsin Hamid and some theoretical essays.

ENG 249 Literatures of the Black Atlantic

Andrea Stone

T/Th 3:00-4:20

Visiting the pulpits, meeting houses, and gallows of British North America to the colonial West Indies and docks of Liverpool to the modern day Caribbean, U.S., Canada, U.K., and France, this course analyzes the literatures of the Black Atlantic and the development of Black literary and intellectual history from the 18th to the 21st century. Some key theoretical frameworks, which will help inform our study of literature emerging from the Black Atlantic, include diaspora, transnationalism, internationalism, and cosmopolitanism. Readings range from early African diasporic sermons, dying words, poetry, captivity and slave narratives to newspapers, essays, novels, drama and film.

CLT 264 Dostoevsky

Maria Banerjee

T/Th 9:00-10:20

A close reading of all the major literary works by Dostoevsky, with special attention to the philosophical, religious and political issues that inform Dostoevsky's search for a definition of Russia's spiritual and cultural identity. In translation.


Critical Therory and Method

CLT 300 Literary Theory and Literary Practice: Conflicts and Consensus

Anna Botta

T/Th 3:00-4:50

This course presents a variety of practices and positions within the field of literary theory. Approaches include structuralism, poststructuralism, psychoanalysis, Marxism, gender and queer studies, cultural studies and postcolonial studies. Emphasis on the theory as well as the practice of these methods: their assumptions about writing and reading and about literature as a cultural formation. Readings include Freud, Lacan, Levi-Strauss, Barthes, Derrida, Foucault, Bakhtin, Gramsci, Bhabba, Butler, Said, Ngügï wa Thiong'o, Zizek. The class is of interest to all students who wish to explore a range of approaches and methodologies within the humanities as well to students who plan to go to graduate school in literature programs. Enrollment limited to 25.



Spring 2016

CLT 150 The Art of Translation: Poetics, Politics, Practice- Carolyn Shread

M 7:00-9:00

We hear and read translations all the time: on television news, in radio interviews, in movie subtitles, in international bestsellers. But translations don’t shift texts transparently from one language to another. Rather, they revise, censor and rewrite original works, to challenge the past and to speak to new readers. We explore translation in a range of contexts by hearing lectures by experts in the history, theory and practice of translation. Knowledge of a foreign language useful but not required. Graded S/U only. Can be taken concurrently with FRN 295 for 4 credits.


CLT 177 Journeys in World Literature

Topic: Epic Worlds-Craig Davis

T/Th 10:30-11:50

A comparison of the first literary works to emerge from oral story-telling among several ancient, medieval and modern peoples to express their cultural ideas and sense of collective identity: the Akkadian Gilgamesh, the Hebrew Genesis and Exodus, the Hindu Mahabharata, the Greek Odyssey, the Irish Táin, the Anglo- Saxon Beowulf, the Welsh Mabinogi, the Finnish Kalevala and the Nyanja (Congolese) Mwindo. We explore these epics as sites of hard political thought and moral contest, especially how they seek to shape their societies’ broader world-view, value system and understanding of history through the struggles of vividly imagined heroes and heroines.


CLT 203 Western Classics in Translation, From Chrétien de Troyes to Tolstoy-Maria Banerjee

T/Th 9:00-10:20

Same as ENG 203. Chrétien de Troyes’s Yvain; Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra; Cervantes’ Don Quixote; Lafayette’s The Princesse of Clèves; Goethe’s Faust; Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Lecture and discussion. CLT 203/ENG 203, like CLT 202/ENG 202, is among the courses from which comparative literature majors choose two as the basis of the major. Students interested in comparative literature and/or the foundations of Western literature and wanting a writing-intensive course should take 202 or 203 or both.


ENG 207 The Technology of Reading and Writing-Douglas Patey

M/W/F 9:00-10:20

Same as HSC 207. An introductory exploration of the physical forms that knowledge and communication have taken in the West, from ancient oral cultures to modern print-literate culture. Our main interest is in discovering how what is said and thought in a culture reflects its available kinds of literacy and media of communication. Topics to include poetry and memory in oral cultures; the invention of writing; the invention of prose; literature and science in a script culture; the coming of printing; changing concepts of publication, authorship and originality; movements toward standardization in language; the fundamentally transformative effects of electronic communication.


POR 221 Portuguese and Brazilian Literature and Culture

Topic: Envisioning "Lusofonia": Transnational Encounters and Imaginaries in Portuguese-Language Film-Malcolm McNee

M/W 1:10-2:30

A focus on film from the Portuguese-speaking world. This course introduces the intertwined histories and diverse cultures of Portuguese-speaking communities spread across three continents through a survey of films from Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Guine-Bissau and Portugal. We discuss through these films and a selection of short, critical readings, questions of colonialism and post-colonialism, immigration and diaspora, and the historical and contemporary contours of a Portuguese-language globalization. Course taught in Portuguese.


CLT 230 "Unnatural" Women: Mothers Who Kill their Children-Thalia Pandiri

T/Th 3:00-4:50

Some cultures give the murdering mother a central place in myth and literature while others treat the subject as taboo. How is such a woman depicted — as monster, lunatic, victim, savior? What do the motives attributed to her reveal about a society’s assumptions and values? What difference does it make if the author is a woman? We focus on literary texts but also consider representations in other media, especially cinema. Authors to be studied include Euripides, Seneca, Ovid, Anouilh, Christa Wolff, Walker, Morrison and others.


CLT 242 What and Where is Main Street-Ann Leone

M/W/F 11:00-12:10

Where is Main Street? What times, spaces or places does the expression conjure? Are there equivalent concepts and places in other cultures? What are the aesthetics, the life and livelihoods, the politics that we associate with it? How are images and the concept manipulated to affect us, in the arts, in environmental issues, and in public discourse? When do we treasure this landscape, and when do we flee it? We begin by looking at American Main Streets, and then explore related concepts in British, French, German and Russian texts and other media. Prerequisite: one course in literary studies.


JUD 260 Yiddish Literature and Culture

Justin Cammy

M/W 2:40-4:00

Why did Yiddish, the language of Eastern European Jews and millions of immigrants to America, so often find itself at the bloody crossroads of art and politics? Explores the Yiddish novel as a forum for political engagement and creative expression in the differing contexts of tsarist and revolutionary Russia, interwar Poland, Weimar Berlin and immigrant America. How have post-Holocaust writers memorialized not only a lost civilization but also a murdered language? All texts in translation. Enrollment limited to 18. No prerequisites.

CLT 266 Studies in South African Literature and Film
Topic: Adapting Violence to the Screen in South African Film-Katwiwa Mule

T/Th 1:00-2:50

A study of South African literature and film with a particular focus on adaptation of literary texts to the screen. We pay particular attention to texts and films in which violence — political, economic, psychical, xenophobic, homophobic etc. — is the main focus. For what purposes do South African film makers adapt canonical and contemporaries texts, auto/biographies, and memoirs to the screen? How do these adaptations and modifications help us visualize the banality of evil of the apartheid system and its enduring legacies? How do race, class, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity complicate how we define, conceptualize and critique violence? Texts and films may include Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country, André Brink’s A Dry White Season, Mahamo's The Last Grave at Dimbaza, John Wood’s Biko (Cry Freedom) Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, Anne Mare du Preez Bezdrob’s Winnie Mandela: A Life (Winnie), and Athol Fugard’s Tsotsi. We also study film classics such as The Voortrekkers as well as transcripts and footages of testimonies from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.


CLT 271 Writing in Translation: Bilingualism in the Postcolonial Novel

Dawn Fulton

M/W 1:10-2:30

A study of bilingualism as a legacy of colonialism, as an expression of exile, and as a means of political and artistic transformation in recent texts from Africa and the Americas. We consider how such writers as Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Kenya), Assia Djebar (Algeria), Patrick Chamoiseau (Martinique) and Edwidge Danticat (Haiti/U.S.) assess the personal and political consequences of writing in the language of a former colonial power, and how they attempt to capture the esthetic and cultural tensions of bilingualism in their work.


ITL 281 Italian Cinema Looks East

Anna Botta

Western cultures have long been fascinated and puzzled by the East, and by China in particular. As critics such as Edward Said have long made clear, from the late medieval period until the 19th century the encounter between the West and China has also been predominantly one-sided. One of the earliest encounters was through the well-documented travels of the Venetian merchant Marco Polo. Seven centuries later, Italian film directors seem to have continued that tradition, and have been among the first Westerners to make full-length films in the People’s Republic of China. By examining Italian films made in China and, more recently, films made in Italy about Chinese immigrants, we will examine changing cultural perceptions about China and how ideological assumptions manipulate cinematic production and experiences.


ENG 309 Seminar: Black Prison Intellectuals

Andrea Stone

T/Th 3:00-4:50

Interrogating theories of intellectualism, among them Antonio Gramsci’s notion of traditional and organic intellectuals, and distinctions between categories of criminal and enemy, this course traces the role of black prison writings in the development of American political and legal theory. From 18th-century black captivity narratives and gallows literature through to the work of 20th- and 21st century thinkers like Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver and Angela Davis, this course asks how the incarcerated black intellectual has informed and challenged ideas about nationalism, community and self-formation from the early republic to the present.

CLT 340 Problems in Literary Theory
Topic: Comparative Literature in the Age of Cosmopolitanisms- Anna Botta

T 3:00-4:50

The concept of cosmopolitanism has recently gone through a process of democratization. Dismissing the singular “cosmopolitanism” as a form of Eurocentric universalism, critics today study a plurality of cosmopolitanisms, focusing on transnational experiences, both elite and subaltern, Western and non-Western. How can we study comparative literature within this new framework? If the Western canon is no longer setting the standards, what are the new aesthetic values? How can we avoid the pitfalls of both cultural relativism and Orientalism,that is, reading unfamiliar literatures through an exotic lens? Does “World Literature” promote reading in translation at the expense of original languages? Authors may include Appiah, Apter, Casanova, Chakrabarty, Damrosch, Moretti, Nussbaum, Robbins, Said, Coetzee, Maalouf, Naipaul, Pamuk and Zadie Smith. The seminar is required of senior majors. Prerequisites: CLT 300 or permission of the instructor.

CLT 342 A Double Vision: Heroine/Victim

Maria Banerjee

Th 1:00-2:50

We shall examine how the iconic status of woman as moral redeemer and social path breaker is shadowed by a darker view of female self and sexuality in some representative works by male authors of the Russian 19th century. The primary texts are Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, Turgenev's On The Eve, Chernyshevsky’s What Is To Be Done?, Dostoevsky’s A Gentle Spirit and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and the Kreutzer Sonata. These novelistic narratives are supplemented with theoretical essays by Belinsky, J.S. Mill, Schopenhauer and Vladimir Soloviev.