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Spring 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

CLT 100 Introduction to Comparative Literature: The Pleasures of Reading

Topic: Islands, Real and Imaginary

Janie Vanpée, T/Th 1:10-2:30

We explore and compare how different cultures have imagined the island as a blank page and an idealized place to tell stories about themselves and their relation to other cultures, from the myths of Atlantis and Calypso's seduction of Odysseus to the castaway Robinson Crusoe, from Darwin's ecologically pristine Galapagos to the tourist paradise of the popular imagination, from Prospero's magical kingdom to the experimental playground of Dr. Moreau, from the space of freedom and social reinvention to the subjugation of colonial empire. Films and readings from a wide variety of genres and traditions, including short theoretical texts.


CLT 150 The Art of Translation: Poetics, Politics, Practice

Carolyn Shread, M 7:00-9:00 p.m.

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'll 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 203 Western Classics in Translation, from Chrétien de Troyes to Tolstoy

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

Elizabeth Harries, M/W 1:10-2:30

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.

Intermediate Courses

CLT 206 Empathy, Rage and Outrage: Female Genital Excision in Literature and Film

Katwiwa Mule, T/Th 10:30-11:50

This colloquium will examine the representations of female genital cutting through literature and film of Africa and the Diaspora. Using a variety of
documents—literary and legal texts, films, cartoons, posters, essays and manuals,—we focus especially on the politics and controversies surrounding this issue by posing and answering the following questions: What are the parameters of the discourse of female genital cutting? What is the appropriate way to name and combat the practice? Who is authorized to speak on behalf of African women? Why has Western feminist insurgency failed to register any meaningful success in promoting change? Is there any relationship between imperialism and the discourse of female genital excision? Are comparisons between cosmetic surgeries in the West and FGC legitimate? Enrollment limit of 20.

ENG 207 The Technology of Reading and Writing

Douglas Patey, M/W/F 9:00-9:50

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.

CLT/EAL 232 Modern Chinese Literature

Sabina Knight, T/Th 10:30-11:50

Same as EAL 232. Can literature inspire personal and social transformation? How have modern Chinese writers pursued freedom, fulfillment, memory and social justice? From short stories and novels to drama and film, we'll explore class, gender and the diversity of the cultures of China, Taiwan, Tibet and overseas Chinese communities. Readings are in English translation and no background in China or Chinese is required. Open to students at all levels.


CLS 260 Transformations of a Text: Shape-Shifting and the Role of Translation

Thalia Pandiri, T/Th 3:00-4:50

Whose work are you reading when you encounter a text in translation? How is the author's voice modulated through the translator's? What constitutes a "faithful" or "good" translation? How do the translator's language and culture, the expectations of the target audience and the marketplace determine what gets translated and how? We will consider different translations of the same text, including rogue translations, adaptations, translations into other forms (opera, musicals, film). Students will also produce their own translations or adaptations. No prerequisites, but students who have not taken CLT 150 are urged to enroll in that (two credit, S/U) course concomitantly.

CLT 266 Studies in South African Literature and Film

Topic: Adapting Violence to the Screen

Katwiwa Mule, T/Th 1:00-2:50

A study of South African literature and film since 1948 in their historical, social, and political contexts. How do writers and film makers of different racial and political backgrounds remember and represent the past? How do race, class, gender and ethnicity shape the ways in which they use literature and cinema to confront and resist the racist apartheid state? How do literature, film and other texts such as testimonies from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission function as complex cultural and political sites for understanding the interconnections among apartheid taxonomies, various forms of nationalisms and the often hollow post-apartheid discourse of nonracial "New South Africa?" Texts include testimonies from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, novels such as Alan Paton's Cry the Beloved Country, Mazisi Kunene's Mandela's Ego, Njabulo Ndebele's The Cry of Winnie Mandela, Nadine Gordimer's July's People, J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, Athol Fugard's Tsotsi and Zoe Wicomb's You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town. We will also analyze films such as Cry the Beloved Country, Sarafina!, Tsotsi, Cry Freedom and South Africa Belongs to Us.

CLT 268 Transnational Latina Feminisms

Nancy Sternbach, M/W/F 11:00-12:10

This course examines the last 20 years of Latina writing in this country while tracing the Latin American roots of many of the writers. Constructions of ethnic identity, gender, Latinidad, "race," class, sexuality and political consciousness are analyzed in light of the writers' coming to feminism. Texts by Esmeralda Santiago, Gloria Anzaldúa, Sandra Cisneros, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Denise Chávez, Demetria Martínez and many others are included in readings that range from poetry and fiction to essay and theatre. Knowledge of Spanish is not required, but will be useful.

ENG 285 Introduction to Contemporary Literary Theory

Ambreen Hai, T/Th 1:00-2:30

What do we do when we read literature? Does the meaning of a text depend on the author's intention? Or on how readers read? What counts as a valid interpretation? Who decides? How do some texts get canonized and others forgotten? How does literature function in culture and society? How do changing understandings of language, the unconscious, class, gender, race, history or sexuality affect how we read? "Theory" is "thinking about thinking," questioning common sense, critically examining the categories we use to approach literature or any discursive text. This course introduces some of the most influential questions that have shaped contemporary literary studies. We'll start with New Criticism but focus on interdisciplinary approaches such as structuralism, poststructuralism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, New Historicism, postcolonialism, feminism, queer and cultural studies. Some attention to film and film theory. Strongly recommended for students considering graduate work.

CLT 288 Bitter Homes and Gardens: Domestic Space and Domestic Discord in Three Modern Women Novelists

Ann Leone, M/W/F 11:00-12:10

Same as LSS 288. The work of certain writers—often women and often Wharton, von Arnim and Colette—is categorized as small in scope, narrowly focused and therefore marginal in some ways. Here are questions, based in part on readings in landscape and domestic design theory, that we can ask to help us see their work differently: When and how is it appropriate to juxtapose writers' biographies on their fiction? How do they represent domestic discord—loss, rage,  depression—in their fiction? In particular, how do local landscapes and other domestic spaces—houses,rooms, gardens—figure in this representation? Texts will include novels, short stories, correspondence, excerpts from journals, and other autobiographical writing: Prerequisite: one other literature course at any level, or permission of the instructor.

Advanced Courses

GER 300 Topics in German Culture and Society

Topic: Vom Krieg zum Konsens: German Film Since 1945

Joel Westerdale, M/W 1:10-2:30

This course investigates German film culture since the fall of the Third Reich. Included are works by Fatih Akin, Michael Haneke, Werner Herzog, Margarethe von Trotta and Wolfgang Staudte. Students learn to analyze film and conduct basic research in German. Discussion address as aesthetic and technical issues; portrayals of race, gender, class and migration; divided Germany and its reunification; and filmic interventions into the legacy of Nazism. In German. Prerequisite: GER 250 or permission of the instructor.

CLT 305 Studies in the Novel

Topic: The Philosophical Novel

Maria Banerjee, T/Th 9:00-10:20

This course charts the evolution of the theme of reason and its limits in the European novel of the modern era. Beginning with an examination of humanist assumptions about the value of reason in Rabelais, the course focuses on the Central European novel of the 20th century, the age of "terminal paradoxes." Texts include Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground, Kafka's The Trial, Musil's Man Without Qualities, and Kundera's The Joke, The Farewell Party, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

JUD 362 Seminar in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture

Topic: Punchline: The Jewish Comic Tradition

Justin Cammy, T 1:00-2:50

What makes a Jewish joke? Is it about self-deprecation? The deflation of majority culture? Finding humor in tragedy? Explores the evolution of modern Jewish humor, from Yiddish folk types to the influence of Jewish standup comedians, writers, and performers on post-war American popular culture. What do contemporary American comic masters such as Philip Roth, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Sarah Silverman, Larry David and the Coen Brothers have in common with European precursors such as Sholem Aleichem and Kafka? Also includes critical theories of humor by Freud and Bergson. Sophomores welcome to apply for admission.

POR 381 Seminar in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies

Topic: Angola, Brazil, and Cuba: Race, Nation, and Narrative

Malcolm McNee, T/Th 1:00-2:50

This course considers the formation and interrogation of national identities in three post-colonial settings: Angola, Brazil and Cuba. Our readings and discussions focus on notions of race, culture and hybridity in the narration of these national identities. How do different artists and intellectuals respond to the urge for national, cultural and racial unity in the face of dramatic diversity? How do they respond to the racialized legacies of colonialism and Eurocentrism? How does privileging the hybrid, mulatto, creole or mestizo/mestiço identity both subvert and reinvent sociocultural and aesthetic hierarchies? The focus is on fiction and poetry but also includes film, music and visual culture, as well as readings on sociohistorical contexts. Course taught in English. Students will have the option of doing selected readings and written work in Spanish and/or Portuguese. Enrollment limited to 12.

Critical Therory and Method

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.