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Fall 2014

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

RUS 126 Readings in 19th-Century Russian Literature: Topics course

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

This course presents the shorter works of major Russian nineteenth-century authors in their chronological sequence. The discussion of their cultural context will address questions related to the transformation of Western European stules and themes within the crucible of Petersburg Russia.

Topic for Fall 2014: Alienation and the Search for Identity
A study of the individual's struggle for self-definition in society: from the superfluous man, through the underground man, to the role of women. Emphasis on the social, political, and ideological context of the works considered. Authors treated include Pushkin, Lermontov,Gogol, Goncharov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov. In translation.


FYS 141 Landscape Studies: Reading/Writing/Placemaking

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

Landscape Studies is the interdisciplinary consideration of how we view, define, and use the land, whether it be our backyard, a moonscape, or a national park. How does land become a landscape? How does space become a place? Scientists study and manipulate landscapes, and so do politicians, builders, hunters, children, artists, and writers, among others. In this course, we will examine how writers, in particular, participate in placemaking, and how the landscape influences and inhabits literary texts. The course will include some landscape history and theory, visits by people sho study landscape from non-literary angles, and the discovery of how landscape works in texts in transforming and surprising ways. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students.

FYS 165 Childhood in African Literature

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

A study of childhood as an experience in the present and 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. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students.

FYS 167 Viking Diaspora

Craig Davis, T/Th 10:30-11:50

The Norse colonies of Iceland and Greenland, and the attempted settlement of Vinland in North America, were the first European societies of the New World, revealing patterns of cultural conflict and adaptation that anticipated British colonization of the mid-Atlantic seaboard seven centuries later. We will compare the strengths and weaknesses of the medieval Icelandic Commonwealth, founded in 930, with the 1787 Constitution of the United States, both political systems facing serious crises within two generations. Our source for these experimental communities are the oral memoriesof founding families preserved in the later Íslendingasögur Saga of Icelanders' of the thirteenth century. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students.

FYS 186 Israel: Texts and Contexts

Justin Cammy, M/W 2:40-4:00

What is the role of the writer in the construction of a nation's founding myths and interpretation of its present realities? Explores the relationship between Zionism as the political movement that established the State of Israel and Zionism as an aesthetic and cultural revolution. Focuses on efforts to negotiate tensions between sacred and secular; exile and homeland; language and identity; Arab and Jew; and Israel's self-definition as a democratic and Jewish state. Reading of fiction and poetry complemented by discussion of historical documents, popular culture, and landscape. Intended for students with an interest in the relationship between literature and politics. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. 

CLT 202 Western Classics in Translation, from Homer to Dante

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

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

Thalia Panderi, M/W 2:40-4:00

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

Some classes are open to students at all levels. Others are open to first-year students by permission of the instructor.


CLT 204 Writings and Rewritings

Topic: The Temptation of Knowledge: Faust, the Devil, and Modernity

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

What could lead you to you sell your soul? And what fate would await you if you did? Since the sixteenth century, the story of Faust the scholar-magician-charlatan has explored these questions anew, and each retelling provides a window into the struggles and ambitions of its age: from Elizabethan drama to Soviet-era samizdat, from the Germany of Sturm und Drang to that of the Third Reich. Readings from Marlowe, Calderón, Lessing, Byron, Goethe, Bulgakov, Thomas Mann; films from Murnau, Sokurov.

CLT 205 Twentieth-Century Literatures of Africa

Katwiwa Mule, T/Th 10:20-11:50

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 African cultures and the politics of resistance? Texts may include Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s The River Between, Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, David Mulwa’s We Come in Peace, Ndebele Njabulo’s The Cry of Winnie Mandela, and Ama Ata Aidoo’s Our Sister Killjoy, We will also watch films such as White King, Red Rubber, Black Death, Totsi, and Nairobi Half Life.

CLT 218 Holocaust Literature

Justin Cammy, M/W 1:10-2:30

Creative responses to the destruction of European Jewry, differentiating between literature written in extremis in ghettos, concentration/extermination camps, or in hiding, and the vast post-war literature about the Holocaust. How to balance competing claims of individual and collective experience, the rights of the imagination and the pressures for historical accuracy. Selections from a variety of artistic genres (diary, reportage, poetry, novel, film, monuments, museums), and critical theory of representation. All readings in translation.

CLT 220 Colloguium: 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 will read mostly pre-twentieth 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) twentieth-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, etc.

CLT/EAL 239 Intimacy in Contemporary Chinese Women's Fiction

Sabina Knight, M/W 1:10-2:20

How do stories about love, romance, and desire (including extramarital affairs, serial relationships and love between women) challenge our assumptions about identity? How do pursuits, successes, and failures of intimacy lead to personal and social change? An exploration of major themes through close readings of contemporary fiction by women from China, Taiwan, Tibet, and Chinese diasporas. Readings are in English translation and no background in China or Chinese is required.

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, Ngugi, Aidoo, Dangarembga, Fanon, Walcott, Cliff, Markandaya, Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Mohsin Hamid, and some theoretical essays.


Advanced Courses

Pre-requisite: A 200-level course in literature or permission of the instructor.


ENG 319 South Asians in Britain and America

Ambreen Hai, Th 1:00-2:50

This seminar will compare the literary and cultural consequences of two recent waves of migration of South Asian peoples: post-World War Two migrations of “skilled/unskilled” labor to Britain; and the post-1965 migrations to North America. Focusing on literature (and some film) that records, reflects on, and seeks to intervene in the cultural and psychological effects of such profound shifts, we will also read some interdisciplinary materials to investigate causes and consequences of migration and diaspora in their historical, political and economic contexts, with attention to questions of gender, nationhood, globalization, community, identity, religious fundamentalism and assimilation. Writers and filmmakers probably include Salman Rushdie, Hanif Kureishi, Meera Syal, Jhumpa Lahiri, Monica Ali, Kiran Desai, Bharati Mukherjee, Chitra Divakaruni, Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair.


Critical Theory & Method

CLT 300 Foundations of Contemporary Literary Theory

Anna Botta, T 3:00-4:50 p.m.

The interpretation of literary and other cultural texts by psychoanalytic, Marxist, structuralist and post-structuralist critics. 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, Barthes, Derrida and Foucault. Enrollment limited to 25.


Spring 2015

Introductory Courses

CLT 100 Introduction to Comparative Literature: The Pleasures of Reading

Topic: Islands, Real and Imaginary

Janie Vanpée

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

Carolyn Shread

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

Maria Banerjee, TBA

Intermediate Courses

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

Katwiwa Mule

ENG 207 The Technology of Reading and Writing

Douglas Patey

CLT/EAL 232 Modern Chinese Literature

Sabina Knight

CLT 260 Health and Illness: Literary Explorations

Sabina Knight

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

Thalia Pandiri

CLT 266 Studies in South African Literature and Film

Topic: Adapting Violence to the Screen

Katwiwa Mule

CLT 268 Transnational Latina Feminisms

Nancy Sternbach

ENG 285 Introduction to Contemporary Literary Theory

Ambreen Hai

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

Ann Leone

Advanced Courses

GER 300 Topics in German Culture and Society

Topic: Vom Krieg zum Konsens: German Film Since 1945

Joel Westerdale

CLT 305 Studies in the Novel

Topic: The Philosophical Novel

Maria Banerjee

JUD 362 Seminar in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture

Topic: Punchline: The Jewish Comic Tradition

Justin Cammy

POR 381 Seminar in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies

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

Malcolm McNee

Critical Therory and Method

CLT 340 Problems in Literary Theory

Topic: Comparative Literature in the Age of Cosmopolitanisms

Anna Botta