LIT 145

 The Iliad of Homer

Daniel Mendelsohn

M W      3:10 pm-4:30 pm

OLIN 101


Cross-listed: Classical Studies   This course will consist of an intensive reading of Homer’s Iliad over the course of a single semester.  The course, which mimics the design of a graduate seminar—a single, two-and-a-half-hour meeting each week, focusing on in-depth discussion and textual explication, with a heavy emphasis on how to write critically about a literary text—is designed to introduce first-year students to more profound and sophisticated techniques of reading and thinking about texts than they will have thus far encountered.  After two prefatory sessions, in which students will be introduced to the large issues particular both to this genre (the archaic Greek world, oral composition, the Homeric Question) and to this particular text (the epic cycle, the “heroic code,” violence and warfare, the clash of civilizations, East vs. West, the role of the gods in human history), we will read through the epic at a rate of two books per week. Throughout, students will be introduced, by means of excerpts and shorter articles, to the arc of the scholarly tradition, especially with respect to the Homeric Question: from Wolf’s Prolegomenon to Homer to M. L. West’s recent argument that the Iliad was, in fact, written down by a single author/poet. Two summary sessions will conclude the semester as we (a) look at the classical heritage of the Iliad (the Aeneid, especially) and then (b) look back at the broad literary and cultural issues raised by this essential document of the Western tradition, and look at some modern adaptations (Logue’s “War Music,” for instance; also attempts to dramatize the Iliad—and why they so often fail).  A premium will be placed on student participation in class discussion, and each student will be asked to present a book of the poem (focusing on structural analysis, interpretative issues, etc.) to the class.  At least three papers, midterm, final exam. This course is designed for First-Year Students.  Class size: 16



LIT / GER 199

 kafka: prague, politics and the fin-de siecle

Franz Kempf

M W      10:10 am-11:30 am

OLIN 203


Kafka can be read as the chronicler of modern despair, of human suffering in an unidentifiable, timeless landscape.  Yet he can also be read as a representative of his era, his “existential anguish” springing from the very real cultural and historical conflicts that agitated Prague at the turn of the century (e.g. anti-Semitism, contemporary theories of sexuality).  The course will cover Kafka’s shorter fiction ranging from fragments, parables and sketches to longer, complete tales (e.g. The Judgment, The Metamorphosis), as well as the novels The Trial and The Man Who Disappeared (Amerika) and excerpts from his diaries and letters. Together they reveal the breath of Kafka’s literary vision and the extraordinary imaginative depth of his thought. Taught in English. Students with an advanced proficiency in German can read selections in the original for extra credit.  Class size: 18



LIT 2005

 Middlemarch: the Making OF a Masterpiece

Stephen Graham

M W      11:50 am-1:10 pm

ASP 302


Cross-listed: Victorian Studies  How can personal letters, notebooks, and journals allow us into the psyche of a great writer?  Tracing the stages of conception, research, and composition of Middlemarch and forming as distinct as possible an understanding of the mind of the self-educated, self-created genius, who was born in provincial obscurity as Mary Ann Evans; who wrote her first fiction at age thirty-seven; and who, twelve years later, grown famous (and notorious) as “George Eliot,” wrote what many critics consider the greatest novel ever written in English.   In a bracing alternative to traditional Victorian novels courses, we will experience George Eliot’s Middlemarch as its first readers did, reading facsimiles of the eight bimonthly “parts” complete with advertisements and other ephemera.  We will intersperse our reading of the parts over the course of a semester; in the intervals, we will immerse ourselves in the politics, culture, and science of the high Victorian period, an epoch comparable to the Elizabethan era in the richness and variety of its literary production. Class size: 22



LIT 2016

 Great American Indian Novel

Alexandre Benson

 T Th    10:10 am-11:30 am

OLIN 204



Cross-listed: American Studies  In a 1996 poem titled “How to Write the Great American Indian Novel,” Sherman Alexie delivered a series of jabs at the stereotypical Native narrative: “the hero should often weep alone,” for instance, while “A white child and an Indian child, gender / not important, should express deep affection in a childlike way.” The endgame of such a story is, for Alexie, appropriation and genocide: “all the white people will be Indians and all the Indians will be ghosts.” The stereotypes are familiar and Alexie’s satire has bite. Yet of course the field of American Indian fiction is in fact remarkably diverse in its tropes and its narrative forms. We will explore that diversity in texts written in English from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twenty-first. Certain concerns will recur, including population displacement, ecological disaster, the politics of religion, and the relationship between orality and print. We will pay equal attention, though, to each writer’s unique approach to the genre of the novel. In doing so we will consider relationships to tradition, both cultural and literary, that exceed the commonplaces Alexie skewers. Authors will include Black Elk, James Fenimore Cooper, Louise Erdrich, D’Arcy McNickle, N. Scott Momaday, John Oskison, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Yellow Bird.  Class size: 22



LIT 2110

 Wise Fools: Madmen, Lunatics, and Other Literary Outcasts

Joseph Luzzi

 T Th    11:50 am-1:10 pm

OLIN 301


How have writers throughout history adopted an “outsider’s” perspective to critique society and offer new forms of knowledge—intellectual and creative acts of resistance that often earned them scorn, punishment, even exile? How has what Nietzsche called the untimely meditation informed the ideas of thinkers ranging from Vico and Rousseau to Erasmus and Ellison? This course will explore the role of the outcast from ancient to modern times, paying special attention to how literary discourses of disenfranchisement and alienation have played a powerful role in the history of ideas, as what we once thought of as “foolish” or even “crazy” literary behavior later emerges as a model of sober, prescient, and brilliant insight. Authors and texts will include Plato’s Apology, Apuleius’s Golden Ass, Erasmus’s  Praise of Folly, Cervantes’s Don Quixote, Shakespeare’s King Lear, Rousseau’s Reveries of a Solitary Walker, Nietzsche’s Untimely Meditations, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground, Collodi’s Pinocchio, and Ellison’s Invisible Man.  Class size: 15



LIT 2142


Thomas Bartscherer

M W      6:20 pm-7:40 pm

HEG 308


Cross-listed: Classical Studies; Philosophy  What is courage? In this course, we shall approach this question, in the spirit of Plato, both directly and obliquely. In the Republic, Socrates maintains that courage is one of the four virtues (or excellences) to be found in a good regime and in a good soul. Yet it is not entirely clear from his argument whether courage should be understood the same way in all contexts, and if so, how. Is a warrior’s courage the same as that of a philosopher? Who is truly courageous, the one who defends the regime, the one who questions it, or both? Is the courage of Hektor or Achilles the same as that Socrates or Antigone? In this course, our discussion of courage will proceed through close readings of philosophical texts, both ancient and modern (Plato, Aristotle, Emerson, Tillich, Arendt) and imaginative representations in literature and film (Homer’s Iliad, Sophocles’ Antigone, Brecht’s Mother Courage, Fugard’sThe Island, Zinneman’sHigh Noon, Bertolucci’sThe Conformist). Among other things, we will be asking whether and in what way it makes sense to speak of a single virtue, courage, as being manifest in varying circumstances and in different times and places, and what we may mean today when we characterize a person or an act as courageous.  Class size: 16



LIT 2183

 Kundera: The Art of Fiction

Helena Gibbs

M W      11:50 am-1:10 pm

OLIN 304


Cross-listed:  Human Rights;  Russian & Eurasian Studies  The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1982) by the Czech/French writer Milan Kundera is regarded as an exemplary postmodern novel. This course will examine how Kundera’s idiosyncratic textual strategies explode traditional notions of character and fictional identity, and unsettle the comfortable boundaries between such oppositional categories as the fictional and factual, totalitarian and democratic, and Eastern and Western. It will discuss Kundera’s creative use of philosophy and history, placing his novels in the context of larger political issues, such as the question of Central Europe and the predicament of small countries during the Cold War. It will also consider matters of language and translation (including cinema). Additional readings will include other of Kundera’s novels (The Joke, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Immortality), as well as his theoretical writings (The Art of the Novel, Testaments Betrayed). Each class is organized around supplemental texts by Benjamin, Borges, Broch, Brodsky, Calvino, Fuentes, Havel, Huyssen, Lacan, Nietzsche, and Rorty.  Class size: 18



LIT / JAPN 2216

 Human Rights AND ModERN Japanese LitERATURE

Scott Mehl

M W      1:30 pm-2:50 pm

RKC 102


Cross-listed: Asian Studies; Human Rights; Literature  This course will approach major works of modern Japanese literature and film by examining how human rights dilemmas are represented in works of fiction and nonfiction. Major topics will include women’s rights, the burakumin liberation movement, and the rights of citizens vis-à-vis corporations. Texts will include works by Tanizaki Junichiro, Kurihara Miwako, Nakagami Kenji, Ishimure Michiko, Shirow Masamune, Shimazaki Toson, with additional readings on historical context and theoretical approaches. Texts will be in English.  Class size: 22



LIT 2331

 Classic American Gothic

Donna Grover

 T Th    11:50 am-1:10 pm

ASP 302


Cross-listed: American Studies; Gender and Sexuality Studies  The gothic novel is considered to be the stronghold of ghost stories, family curses and heroines in distress.  Its use of melodrama and the macabre often disguise the psychological, sexual, and emotional issues that are in fact more horrifying than the contents of a haunted house.  The gothic novel in America has often confronted topics pertinent to American identity and history.  In this course we will examine how many American authors used the gothic genre to actually engage with social, political and cultural concerns.   We will read novels and short stories that span the 19th and 20th century by authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe,  Louisa May Alcott, Henry James, Charlotte Perkins Gilman,  Harriet Jacobs, Edith Wharton, William Faulkner, Shirley Jackson and James Baldwin.  Class size: 22



LIT 235

 Introduction to Media

Collin Jennings

 T Th    11:50 am-1:10 pm

RKC 111


Cross-listed: Experimental Humanities  This course offers a foundation in media history and theory, with a focus on how to use aspects of traditional humanistic approaches such as close reading and visual literacy to critically engage with both traditional and new media. We will examine how new media interacts with and transforms culture by considering the emergence of digital media in relation to a prior moment of media shift with the explosion of print in eighteenth-century Europe. Exploring how writers and readers responded to the growing influence of print during what we now call the Enlightenment will provide a backdrop for discussing how new media has re-shaped our perception of time, space, publicity, knowledge, and identity. The premise of this course is that the new-ness of new media can only be approached against the background of humanistic experimentation and imagination with both old and new media. We will read eighteenth-century writers (Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, and Charlotte Lennox), contemporary fiction writers (Doris Lessing and Neal Stephenson), and key media theorists (Walter Benjamin, Fredrick Kittler, Marshall McLuhan, Donna Haraway, and Katherine Hayles). As part of our ongoing examinations of how material conditions shape discourse, we will assess our own positions as users, consumers, and potential producers of media. This course fulfills a requirement for the Experimental Humanities concentration, and will involve a “practice” component that complements our engagement with media theory.  Class size: 22



LIT 2421


Lianne Habinek

M W      11:50 am-1:10 pm

OLIN 205


Famed encyclopedist Samuel Johnson terms him “an acrimonious and surly republican”; T. S. Eliot laments the fact that he had been “withered by book-learning.”  John Milton, man of letters, Englishman, poet of and for his country.  Milton was an insightful observer of human relationships, and particularly, of man's relationship to God.  In this course, we will examine the history of mid-17th-century England - religious controversies, the Civil Wars, the nature of intellectual debate - alongside Milton's important writings.  The key focus of this course will be on Paradise Lost, though we will also consider Milton’s sonnets, theatrical works, and essays and tracts.  As we do, we shall develop a nuanced and complex picture of one of England's greatest epic poets.  Class size: 22



LIT 243

 Literature in the Digital Age

Nathan Shockey

 T Th    1:30 pm-2:50 pm

OLIN 204


Cross-listed: Experimental Humanities  The proliferation of digital information and communications technologies over the past half-century has transformed and continues to transform how literary works are composed, produced, circulated, read, and interpreted. What new forms and practices of reading and writing have emerged in this late age of typography? What is the nature, extent, and significance of these changes? This course re-assesses questions and themes long central to the study of literature including: archiving, authorship, canon formation, dissemination, materiality, narrative, poetics, and readership, among others. The course aims to understand our present moment in historical context by pairing contemporary works with texts from and about other shifts in media from the ancient world to the modern era. Readings include Flusser, Hayles, Borges, Eisenstein, Chartier, Danielewski, Plato, and Augustine, as well as works of HTML/hypertext fiction, Twitter literature, online poetry, fan fiction, and so on. Coursework will include online and off-line activities in addition to traditional papers. Strongly recommended for current and potential EH concentrators. Class size: 22



LIT 249

 arthurian romance

Karen Sullivan

 T Th    10:10 am-11:30 am

ASP 302


Cross-listed: Medieval Studies  In this course, we will be studying the major works of the Arthurian tradition, from the early Latin accounts of a historical King Arthur; to the Welsh Mabinogion; to the French and German romances of Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, Merlin and Morgan, and the Quest for the Holy Grail; to Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. Throughout its history, Arthurian literature has been criticized for the effects it has upon its readers. The alternate world presented by these texts—with their knights errant, beautiful princesses, marvelous animals, enchanted forests, and decentralized geography—can seem more attractive than our own mundane world, and, in doing so, it is feared, can distract us from this world and our responsibilities within it. Over the semester, as we chart the birth and growth of Arthurian romance, we will be considering the uncertain moral status of this genre and its consequences for us today.  Class size: 22



See primary section for description.



PHIL 238

 Philosophy and Literature

Ruth Zisman

 T Th    11:50 am-1:10 pm

OLIN 202




PS 132

 Political and Literary Imaginations of Subjectivity after 1945

Jana Schmidt

M W      1:30 pm-2:50 pm

HEG 300