Course Descriptions

Literature Courses

 

01:013:130 Comics in the Middle East (3) (fall) HST

 

This course introduces students to the study of comics and graphic narrative traditions in the Middle East. The genres and media covered include the comic strip, the graphic novel, the satirical cartoon or karikatir, graffiti, and Internet memes, with a focus on materials translated from Arabic and French.  We will examine the work of artists and authors from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and Iran, while also exploring connections to the graphic narrative traditions of Europe, the United States, and Japan.  Though our focus remains on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, we will also investigate parallels between modern sequential art and pre-modern graphic narrative forms, such as books of mirabilia, illuminated manuscripts pertaining to various branches of knowledge, manuals on magic and the occult sciences, and the shadow play.

 

01:013:201 Crossroads: Classical Lit. of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia  (3) (fall & spring) AHo or AHp

 

This course is an introductory survey of the "classical" literatures of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, stretching from antiquity to about the beginning of the 19th century. It examines the critical areas of difference and similarity between the literary traditions of the three regions through the study of excerpts of sample "canonical" texts. It begins with an overview of the oral tradition and proceeds to demonstrate its enduring impact on the written word in various genres such as epic, folk tale and poetry across time and space. It also explores new literary formations that have arisen out of the historical interchange between the peoples of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. In the process, students will also be exposed to the different kinds of scripts, both original and improvised, that have been used over the centuries in the written traditions of the societies of these interlocking regions of the world.

 

 01:013:204 Introduction to Discourse Analysis (3) (fall) CCD, SCL

 

Introduction to Discourse Analysis introduces the theories, approaches and methodologies for the study of human discourse, or ‘socially situated language-use.’ Discourse Analysis is a highly interdisciplinary approach today, applied by scholars in various academic disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, philosophy, cultural studies, comparative literature, area studies, among others. This has resulted in a rich body of literature that offers different perspectives on different issues that concern the study of discourse. Applying a multidisciplinary approach, this course examines written and spoken languages/texts as a springboard to understand not only the linguistic qualities of socially situated language use but also, more importantly, the impact of surrounding discourse(s) on people’s beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, actions, interactions and social behaviors. Using the contemporary world of the 21st century, this course also explores issues and challenges that human beings are faced (both individually and collectively) as the consequence of globalization

 

01:013:205 Cultural Forces in International Politics (3) (spring) CCD

 

Most courses on politics and international relations focus on such issues as power, political economy, the military and military balance, diplomacy and inter-governmental relations. There is a missing agenda in the study of world affairs — and that is the role of culture at both the national and global level. This course seeks to explore how differences in culture contribute to the shaping of political actions, relations and policies internationally, and to understanding the nature of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic discourses engendered by the global hierarchy of cultures. This dual theme will be explored in the context of the functioning of language, literature, and popular culture as sites of cultural encounters with international political ramifications. Finally, in addition to providing a specifically cultural framework for understanding national and international politics and political relations, the course will show how political ideologies rooted in cultural difference and cultural hierarchies have responded to and/or led to the galvanization of languages, literary texts, and popular culture to influence politics at the national and international levels.

 

 

01:013:211 Introduction to the Literatures of Africa (3) (spring) AHo or AHp

 

This course examines literary and cultural texts composed in a variety of genres (oral narratives, poetry, short stories, novels and visual texts) from different geographic and cultural areas of Africa. Readings from languages other than English will be in translation. Through a comparative and intercultural approach, the students will read, analyze, and write about these texts from the viewpoint of race, gender, class and socio-political identities. This course will also assist the students to develop an understanding of the influence of oral storytelling traditions, arts and classical literary traditions as well as modern cultures on contemporary literary productions of Africa.

 

 

 01:013:215 African Short Stories (3) (fall) AHp

 

This course focuses on short fiction produced by African writers from the second half of the 20th century to the present. It examines short stories written by pioneering African writers, including Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ama Ata Aidoo, Flora Nwapa as well as more recent writers such as Chimamanda N. Adichie and Chris Abani. A variety of themes and characters illustrated in these texts demonstrate the transcendental and universal dimension of short fiction, as the individual anecdote is representative of a wider societal phenomenon. The stories cover a broad range of themes including cultural clash, women struggle, revolution, post-independence disillusionment, cultural nationalism and Afrocentricity, struggle for identity and self-determination, tradition vs. modernity, exile, war, violence and trauma. Added to a variety of selected texts excerpted from collections and anthologies, a concise short-story theory will expand our understanding of the texts analyzed and discussed.

 

01:013:221 Introduction to the Literatures of the Middle East (3) (fall & spring) AHo or AHp

 

This is a survey course designed to introduce students to the literatures of the region known as the Middle East, from ancient to modern times. The main literary genres we will cover are epic, scripture, belles-lettres, chronicle, essay, the modern novel and short story, the ode and lyric poetry. Documentary films will also be shown during class. The course is roughly divided into two broad time frames: from antiquity to the late medieval period, and from the beginning of the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st. The texts will be discussed in relation to their respective social and political contexts, and as coherent body of literature that shares a core group of themes and structures across languages and countries of origin. Some of the main themes that we will cover include the social role of the poet/author, sacred and profane identity, gender and sexuality, and colonialism and the challenges of modernity.

 

 

01:013:229 War and Literature in the Arab World (3) (spring) AHo or AHp

 

This course examines the nexus between war and literature through a multifaceted approach: by reading texts from a variety of genres and regions in the Arab world, students will be exposed to the diverse experiences and perspectives that helped shape the creative process of writing during times of high conflict and crisis. This course includes a comparative component that explores the interconnections between Arabic wartime fiction and several major historical events such as the Holocaust, Argentina’s ‘Dirty War,’ the Algerian War of Independence and the theoretical questions they raise. Do they each have their own unique structure and idiom, or can we think about individual and collective trauma through a translocal and cosmopolitan literary lens? Topics include: the individual and collective nature of trauma; the study of embodied practices such as testimony and witnessing; their uses in literature; the social role of sites of memory; performances of protest and resistance.

 

 01:013:231 Introduction to the Literatures of South Asia (3) (spring) AHo or AHp

 

This course introduces students to the literature of the Indian subcontinent, which is situated within the broader region of South Asia (Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka). It surveys a selection of translated texts in various Indian languages from the classical to the postcolonial periods and explores a range of genres such as the epic, drama, poetry, essay writing, the short story, the novel, and film. In particular, we will examine how key cultural concepts have reappeared across Indian literary traditions over time, re-imagined within the context of specific historical junctures and socio-linguistic networks. We will thus give attention to themes such as the conflict between tradition and modernity, man-woman relationships, communalism and caste conflict, colonialism and nationalism, problems of translation, and the intersections between ideas of religiosity and ideas of the literary.

 

 

01:013:232 Women Writers of South Asia (3) (fall) AHo or AHp

 

This course introduces students to women's writing in South Asia in the colonial and postcolonial periods, focusing on how these writers explore issues of identity, violence, and belonging in predominantly male literary traditions. In particular, it considers how poetry, short stories, novels, and autobiographies by South Asian women offer unique insight into meanings of gender, work, and family, and testify to women's struggle toward social and economic freedom, intellectual engagement, and political recognition. In doing so, the course will be motivated by two interrelated concerns: 1) how does South Asian women's literature relate to and help define the broader category of women's writing? And 2) how does South Asian women's writing offer new models of agency and resistance to women's marginalization within patriarchal cultures? In order to answer these questions, we will analyze the specific historical, cultural, social, and economic contexts with which South Asian women's writing engages and upon which it reflects, giving particular regard to concepts such as "tradition," "modernity," "nation," and "genre."

 

01:013:312 African Folklore and Mythology (3) (fall) AHo or AHp

 

This course is a survey of Africa’s rich folkloric heritage.  It explores the lore, folktales, epics, legends, myths, traditions and materiel folklore of the continent, taking note of the diversity of experiences, their uniqueness in form and content as well as the affinities that are evident among them.  The course will seek to reflect, among other things, the differing concepts of cosmogony, human creation and existence, and the social values that have motivated various African peoples in their pursuit of a meaningful life and an understanding of the spiritual and aesthetic attributes of the world around them. Conversely, it will demonstrate how the folkloric forms themselves have been woven out of the substance of human experiences: human struggles for survival, relations among humans, and between humans and animals; responses to the challenges to the unknown and to the universal need to create order and reason out of chaos and confusion. In addition to the required reading texts, the course will include films, slides, audio-tapes and musical materials that will enhance our understanding of the performance dimension of African folklore.

 

01:013:314 Islam and African Literature (3) (spring) AHo or AHp

 

For over a millennium, Islam has been an integral part of the life of large sections of African peoples, especially in North, East and West Africa. During the Middle Ages in Africa the religion served to expand the network of relations with the outside world, especially with the Middle East and Asia. In time, Islam came to play an important role in African literature, oral and written, both as a subject and in shaping the course of its development. Yet despite the common understanding of the term, Islam varies considerably from place to place, from one temporal setting to another, reflecting all the diversities of African culture. This course is intended to explore the varied expressions of Islam in literary texts from different parts of Africa, paying particular attention on how the conjuncture of culture and history has diversified the experience of Islam and its literary expression in Africa. In addition, the writers examined in the course differ considerably in their interpretations of Islam, from those espousing particular orthodoxies, to reformers of one shade or another, to critics who sometimes border on cultural apostasy.

 

01:013:322 Middle Eastern Folklore and Mythology (3) (spring) AHo or AHp

 

The course introduces students to the study of the folklore of the Middle East, with a focus on materials translated from Arabic.  In the first half of the course, we will engage with folklore in its traditionally recognized forms: folktales, poetry, epics, supernatural beings, magic, and food.  The second half of the course is dedicated to the expanding realm of cultural genres and practices that interest practitioners of folkloristics today: conspiracy theories, rumors or “fake news,” pop-music, graphic art, films, and social media. 

 

01:013:325 Women Writers of the Middle East (3) (spring)

 

This course is designed to provide students with a comprehensive overview of the emergence and development of fiction written by Arab women. Emphasis will be laid on differences and similarities between Western and Arab feminist theories and identity issues as reflected in their literature.  The course will provide a general understanding of modernist Arabic poetics, and the emergence and development of new literary genres of Arabic writing in the 19th and 20th centuries. Students will become familiar with the development and transformation of literary language, structures and imagery as embodied in selected texts by leading authors.  Students will be able to relate the processes of change and search for personal and cultural identity on the literary level to the projects of change in political and social spheres.

 

01:013:331 Modern Literatures in South Asia (3) (fall) AHo or AHp

 

This class on South Asian literature seeks to explore texts that grapple with diverse forces of colonialism, tradition and modernity over the course of various historical and social movements of the last one hundred years in India. The readings are a combination of Anglophone texts and texts in English translation from regional languages and all the texts highlight different ways in which the society and literature of India has grappled with the question of national identity. Through this intensive reading of Indian literature in English, students will encounter the various social processes and the disparate cultural pressures that mold the worldview of Indian writers of the twentieth and the twenty first century. This study will span all the major genres of fiction, drama and poetry and it will range from texts published at the beginning of the 20th century to ones that were published in 2009.

 

01:013:337: Film and Literature in South Asia (3) (spring) 

 

Indian Cinema has drawn on literary texts for its source material since its earliest days. From epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to the modern novel, many of the most celebrated films of South Asia are adaptations of literary works. In this course we will engage with a wide range of South Asian films and the literary works they are based on or “inspired by.” The relationship between the literatures and cinemas of South Asia is a complex one, because adaptation is more than a matter of simple fidelity to or deviation from the original source. Adaptation is fundamentally also a task of translation—of the correspondences between the written word and film language. In this course we will interrogate especially the poetics and politics of this translation in South Asia. We will explore a vast array of literary and filmic forms, from “high culture” films like Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (1955) and Charulata (1960) to popular Bollywood adaptations of Jane Austen such as Bride and Prejudice (2004) and Aisha (2010), in order to understand the range and diversity of adaptation in South Asia.

 

01:013:342 Modern Arabic Literature (3) (fall)

 

This course provides an introduction to modern Arabic literature of the nineteenth and twentieth century. We will examine the interaction between social, political and cultural change in the Middle East and the development of a modern Arabic literary tradition. The texts that form the basis of the syllabus deal with major political, social, religious, cultural, and linguistic aspects of modern Arabic society. The course aims to reflect the different spaces of literary development in diverse parts of the Arab world, including North Africa. The questions we will pursue throughout the semester include: How do these Arab writers conceive of "modernity"? How do they conceive of their relation to politics, and how do they understand the role of intellectuals in their societies? Who are the readers (actual or implied) of these texts? Finally, how do these authors relate to the Arabic literary tradition—including its myths and classical texts—and how is it different from the way they relate to the European and American literary traditions?

 

 

01:013:346 Literature and Memory in the Arab World (3) (fall) AHo or AHp

 

This course opens up avenues for exploring the nexus between conflict and memory in the Arab world. We will explore the often silenced memory narratives of Arab writers caught in the flux of upheaval for more than a century. How do Arab writers and artists engage and/or create memory narratives in times of war? How does fiction recreate, revise and re-examine the past? How do our human memories and imaginations give rise to the stories we tell and to the selves that we are becoming? In this course we consider the nature of memory and its relationship to imagination, both in the evolving life of the individual and in the development of the larger group or culture. This course will address these questions by tracing the interconnections between memory and literature through close readings of memoirs, novels, poems, short stories, films and graphic art.

 

 01:013:401 Senior Seminar in Literature and Society (3) (spring) WCD

 

This course is an advanced seminar on critical theories and methods of analysis related to the modern and contemporary literatures of the AMESALL regions. The course will include a selection of seminal texts from a variety of disciplines (literary studies, translation studies, postcolonial and cultural studies) as well as fiction, autobiography and poetry in translation.

 

01:013:430 Gender Nation and Literature in South Asia (3) (fall) WCD

 

This course examines literary representations of the modern Indian woman and the ways they have fashioned popular understandings of national belonging and community identity in South Asia. We will use two main lenses, social reform and law, to trace the ways that representations of women in literature articulate meanings of gender, caste, class, and religion. We will read novels and short stories by influential South Asian writers such as Tagore, Sharatchandra, Premchand, and Manto, and our literary analyses will be guided by texts in South Asian historiography and social theory, as well as films. Additionally, this course seeks to strengthen skills in literary and historiographical analysis and academic writing through in-class discussion on the process of academic writing, class presentations, written assignments, and a final research paper.

 

01:013:433 Modern Urdu Literature and Culture (3) (spring)

 

This course is designed to introduce students to modern Urdu literature and popular culture. It provides an overview of the diverse manifestations of South Asian culture and history in Urdu literature, produced mostly in India and Pakistan in contemporary times. Students will be introduced to a variety of artistic genre and registers: poetry recitation such as Ghazal, Nazm, Qawaali and Mushaira; classical dances including Kathak and Mujra; mass media products like films and television shows, and modern literary texts. The course will cover a large number of writers because of their unique importance within the canon of vernacular South Asian literatures. In addition, students will improve their understanding of the socio-cultural patterns and linguistic complexities of the Urdu language by exploring adaptations of film, drama, and other media.

 

 

01:013:442 Readings in Modern Arabic Literature (3) (fall)

 

This course is intended to be an advanced, fourth year Readings course in Modern Arabic literature.  The course will focus on the 20th century essay, short story and theatrical play in historical context, and will be conducted entirely in Arabic.  Students will read, present, and discuss weekly selections of approximately 10-20 pages in class. 

 

01:013:445 Storytelling in the Muslim World (3) (spring) WCD

 

Storytelling is a timeless human activity that is older even than writing and the Muslim world is home to one of the oldest, richest and most culturally diverse storytelling traditions in existence. This course will explore a selection of central texts from this tradition, from medieval times to the present. We will read classic popular narratives that have circulated across the Muslim world and interpret them in relation to enduring questions about power, justice, identity, knowledge and love
(both human and divine). We will also explore some of the ways in which the Islamic story has passed into European narrative genres and forms in the modern period.