Comparative Literature 596C (Special Studies in Comparative Literature)


What is Comparative Literature?
An Open-ended Question


Comparative Literature is often professed as a middle ground for contending approaches rather than a discipline in its own right. Yet as an institution and as a field of study, Comparative Literature has developed specific paradigms, encouraged particular directions of enquiry, and fostered relations with other programs. The course surveys contending and complementary models of Comparative Literature, providing an introduction to founding texts and the academic politics in which they have taken part.




MGH 293          Hours: Tu, Th 11:30  5 credits




Yomi Braester


office: C-504 Padelford


office hours: BY APPOINTMENT



course website:




    (1) Reading reports: Each student will email to all participants a report, about 200 words long, on 20 readings, at least 14 hours before class (double reports count as 2 readings and should be about 400 words long)
    (2) Presentation and response: Each student will make one in-class 15-20 minute presentation.
    (3) Final paper: 13-17 pages long, typed in Times New Roman 12 and double-spaced.


Grading components

Reading report and responses:

15 x 1.5





Final paper:





CLASS SCHEDULE (subject to change):


9/ 30 Introduction
week 2  
10/ 5 The current crisis
  Report #1:
Readings: Gerald Graff, Beyond the Culture Wars, Chapter 1 (UW Bookstore);
Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak, "Crossing Borders," in Death of A Discipline (e-reserve)
10/ 7 Comparative literature in the aftermath of WWII
  Report #2 (presentation - Sima):
René Wellek, “The Crisis of Comparative Literature”; "Comparative Literature Today"; Theory of Literature, 15-53 (e-reserve);
Erich Auerbach, “Odysseus’s Scar,” in Mimesis (e-reserve)
week 3  
10/ 12 Metropolis and periphery
  Report #3 (presentation - Pat):
Fredric Jameson, "Third World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism" (e-reserve);
Aijaz Ahmad, “Jameson's Rhetoric of Otherness and the National Allegory”; in In Theory (e-reserve);
Wlad Godzich, "Introduction"; "Emergent Literature and the Field of Comparative Literature," in The Culture of Literacy (e-reserve)
10/ 14
week 4
10/ 19
Comparative literature and area studies: the case of Chinese literature
  Report #4 (presentation - Laura):
Michael Duke, “Thoughts on Politics and Critical Paradigms in Modern Chinese Literature Studies,” Modern China 19 No. 1 (JSTOR)
Kang Liu, "Politics, Critical Paradigms: Reflections on Modern Chinese Literature Studies," Modern China 19, no. 1 (JSTOR)
Rey Chow "Introduction," in Writing Diaspora (e-reserve)
10/ 21 World literature
  Report #5 (presentation - Melanie):
David Damrosch, What is World Literature, Part I (UW Bookstore
week 5
10/ 26 DAMROSCH SEMINAR, 10:00
  Report #6:
David Damrosch, What is World Literature, Part II (UW Bookstore)
Note: Damrosch also lectures at 3:30 today
10/ 28
Textual Studies
  Report #7 (presentation - Ciara):
Leroy Searle, "Emerging Questions," in Voice, Text, Hypertext, eds. Modiano, Searle and Shillingsburg (e-reserve);
Jerome McGann, A Critique of Textual Criticism, Chapters 1 and 2 (e-reserve)
week 6
11/ 2
Structuralism and Post-structuralism
  Report #8 (presentation - Russ):
Claude Lévi-Strauss, "The Structural Study of Myth," in Structural Anthropology (e-reserve)
Jacques Derrida, "Structure, Sign and play" (e-reserve);
Paul de Man; "The Resistence to Theory" (e-reserve)
11/ 4 The Paul de Man scandal

Report #9 (presentation - Or):
Wlad Godzich, "Paul de Man and the Perils of Intelligence," in The Culture of Literacy (e-reserve)
Shoshana Felman "After the Apocalypse," in Testimony (e-reserve)
John Guillory, "Literature after Theory," in Cultural Capital (UW bookstore)
week 7  
11/ 9 The world as a text

Report #10 (presentation - Erik):
Umberto Eco, "The Myth of Superman" (e-reserve);
Toby Miller, "A short History of the Penis" (e-reserve)
Shoshana Felman, "Forms of Judicial Blindness," in The Judicial Unconscious (e-reserve)

11/ 11
Veterans' Day
week 8
11/ 16 The Culture Wars

Report #11 (presentation - Verena):
Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, 47-61; 185-216 (e-reserve);
Lynne Cheney, Telling The Truth (e-reserve)
Graff, Beyond the Culture Wars, Chapters 5 and 6 (UW Bookstore)
René Wellek, "The Attack on Literature" (e-reserve)
11/ 18
The economy of literature
  Report #12-13 (double length, double credit) (presentation - Will):
Guillory, Cultural Capital (UW bookstore)
week 9  
11/ 23 Comparative Literature and world cinema

Report #14 (presentation - Françoise):
Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, "From Eurocentrism to Polycentrism," in Unthinking Eurocentrism (e-reserve);
Lis Cartwright, "Film and the Digital in Visual Studies: Film Studies in the era of Convergence" (e-reserve)

Mette Hjort, "From Epiphanic Culture to Circulation" (e-reserve)

11/ 25 Thanksgiving
week 10  
11/ 30 High Theory's fall from grace

Report #15-16 (double length, double credit) (presentation - Matthew):
Eagleton, After Theory (UW Bookstore)
12/ 2 NO CLASS

week 11  
12/ 9