VIC401H Courses

Cross-listed from Comparative Literature

Please note: the course information listed on this page may change.

For up-to-date information on the cross-listed VIC401H1 courses, please visit the Centre for Comparative Literature's website: http://complit.utoronto.ca/courses/#schedule

VIC401H1F - Fall Courses


VIC401H1-F- L0101
Special Topics: New Addictions
Professor Eva-Lynn Jagoe 
T 1-3

Climate change is upon us, and we must change if we want to survive. It is not only through science and technology that we can enact a shift in our society, but also through an examination of who we think we are, what we think we need and want, and which of our habits and addictions are killing us and our planet. Catherine Malabou argues for what she calls “new addictions” as a way to think through our relationship to history and to our actions in the Anthropocene. 

This course focuses on addiction as it interrogates the concept of subjectivity. Addiction undermines the idea of the subject by putting into question ideas of self-aware freedom and consciousness. By reading theories of mind, critical theory, science fiction, novels, and essays, we will articulate a critique of self-possession and ask what addictions we need to cultivate in order to adapt to a new history. Texts will include readings from authors such as William James, Catherine Malabou, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Amitav Ghosh, Daniel Lord Smail, David Foster Wallace, Jeff Vandermeer, Nnedi Okorafor, Bill McKibben, and Naomi Klein.


Prerequisite: 
Permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/52RH5FV


VIC401H1-F- L0201
Special Topics: Gender, Agency, and Life Writing
Professor Barbara Havercroft
T 3-5

In this course, we will focus on issues that are situated at the intersection of four major trends in contemporary feminist literary studies : 1) the unprecedented interest in autobiographical writings, sparked by a profusion of the actual publication of such texts and by the development of a large body of criticism dealing with the numerous forms of life writing; 2) the rapid evolution of specifically feminist theories of autobiography (Gilmore, Smith, Watson) over the past twenty years; 3) current feminist theories of agency and subjectivity (Butler, Druxes, Mann); 4) the recent theoretical inquiry into the category of gender (Butler, Robinson, Scott), especially as it is represented in the literary text.

The seminar will begin with a critical study and problematization of the principal concepts outlined in these four theoretical groupings. We will then proceed with close readings of several works of contemporary life writing, drawn from the French, Québécois and German literary contexts, emphasizing the diverse textual strategies by which female autobiographical subjects are constructed and, in turn, make a claim to agency. In many instances, textual subjects merge both fact and fiction in an effort to become subjects-in-process, subjects with multiple facets that challenge androcentric theories of the supposedly unified, sovereign autobiographical subject ( Gusdorf ), while juxtaposing the personal, the political and the social in their texts. Notions such as the relational self, the writing of trauma and illness, performativity in autobiographical writing, the « death » of the subject and the author, and the problematics of memory (personal, historical, cultural, etc.) will be examined. While the focus will be on various forms of women’s life writing, we will also analyze one male author’s AIDS diary, not simply to further investigate the gendered basis of all writing, but also to examine the particular forms of agency mobilized in autobiographical accounts of illness.


Prerequisite: 
Permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/52RH5FV


VIC401H1-F- L0301
Special Topics: Critical Theory – The French-German Connection
Professor Willi Goetschel
W 2-4

This course examines central theoretical issues in Critical Theory with particular attention to the role that the “Frankfurt School” and its affiliates such as Benjamin, Kracauer, Horkheimer, Adorno, and others play in the context of modern German social and cultural thought. In France, thinkers like Foucault and Derrida respond to this tradition and enrich it. The course explores in which way the continuing dialogue between these thinkers informs current critical approaches to rethinking issues and concerns such as theorizing modernity, culture, secularization, multiculturalism, difference, and alterity.


Prerequisite: 
Permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/52RH5FV


VIC401H1-F- L0401
Special Topics: Benjamin’s Arcades Project
Professor Rebecca Comay
W 4-6

This course will be devoted to a close reading of the Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin’s unfinished and posthumously published montage of fragments, quotations and aphorisms on the urban culture of Second Empire Paris – “capital of the nineteenth century. ”   

Both the birthplace of consumer capitalism and the site of numerous failed revolutions, nineteenth century Paris crystallized, for Benjamin (writing during the rise of European fascism) the numerous ambiguities of modernity itself.    Many of these ambiguities were registered in disorienting new experiences of space and time.  

While exploring Benjamin’s reading of the various strands of nineteenth century visual, literary and architectural culture – fashion, photography, advertising, lighting, furniture, railways, exhibitions, department stores, catacombs, museums, etc.– we will consider the implications of his approach for thinking about history, memory, and politics today. Our reading of the Arcades will be supplemented with readings from Baudelaire, Blanqui, Fourier, Marx, Adorno, Brecht, Aragon, Simmel, and Freud as well as contemporary critical theorists.


No specific background is required, but it would be helpful to have read Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire beforehand.


Prerequisite: 
Permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/52RH5FV



VIC401H1-F- L0501
Special Topics: Comparative Modernisms
Professor Haytham Bahoora

R 10-12 

This course critically examines the spatial, temporal, and aesthetic parameters of global literary modernism. The “global” turn in modernist studies has expanded the spatial terrain of the field and the time of modernism itself. In this course, we will read a range of modernist fictions that break our geographical and temporal expectations of what qualifies as a modernist text. 

Our focus will be on how interpreting modernism as a movement of multidirectional flows and exchanges has fundamentally reconstituted the traditional canon and has redrawn notions of modernist style, genre and periodization. The course’s transnational approach considers how the contact zones of the colonized “periphery” were instrumental to the making of European modernism. In our examination of global modernisms, we will focus on the relationship between anti-colonialism and modernism and the ways that colonial intellectuals repurposed modernist notions of aesthetic autonomy to agitate against colonial domination. 

By reading modernist texts from a range of colonial literary traditions (African, Arabic, Caribbean), we will excavate how the aesthetic qualities of modernism have been redefined to accommodate anti-colonial and post-colonial literary modernisms. Colonial writers and artists appropriated indigenous cultural forms to stylistically dissociate their aesthetic production from European art and literature. Therefore, a significant component of the course addresses how stylistic qualities traditionally associated with modernist aesthetics—self-consciousness and interiority, formal adventurousness and textual obscurity, fragmentation and ambiguity—are reconstituted and often abandoned in modernist fictions of the colony and postcolony.

Authors include: Georg Lukács, Bertolt Brecht, Raymond Williams, Fredric Jameson, Jed Esty, Susan Stanford-Friedman, Simon Gikandi, Partha Mitter, Jean Rhys, Mulk Raj Anand, Jean Toomer, Nella Larsen, Chinua Achebe, Ferdinand Oyono, Tayeb Salih, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Ghassan Kanafani.


Prerequisite:
 Permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/52RH5FV


VIC401H1-F- L0601
Special Topics: The Rhetoric of Photography
Professor Atsuko Sakaki
R 2-4

This course concerns the way that photography, as the product and the process, and as the practice and concept, has inspired the narrative of formative questions regarding agency, temporality, and space, and has challenged—or yielded to—the narrative’s power/desire to make sense. Particular attention will be paid to rhetorical complicity and coercion of the two modes of representation which both emerged in the modern and nationalist age, and persist, in the wake of the newer media, as dominant registers of the everyday and departures from there. 

Participants read and discuss seminal theoretical literatures (e.g., Bal, Barthes, Batchen, Bazin, Burgin, Flusser, Hirsch, Metz, Mitchell, Sontag), photo roman (e.g., Abe, Berger, Calle, Cole, Pamuk), and narratives about photography (e.g., Calvino, Cortázar, Guibert, Horie, Kanai, Proust, Tanizaki, Vladislavic), along the theme for each session. Primarily a seminar, short lectures and students’ presentations will complement discussion sessions with materials that may not be accessible to all the members.


Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/52RH5FV





VIC401H1S - Spring Courses


VIC401H1-S- L0101
Special Topics:Memory, Trauma, and History
Professor Thomas Lahusen
T 12-2

This research seminar will explore methods of analyzing narratives of survival which emerged out of experiences of repression in different historical contexts, such as the Holocaust, the Soviet Gulag, the Chinese system of ?reeducation through labor,? and trauma following personal abuse in America. During the course, various theoretical and methodological approaches will be engaged to examine how diaries, memoirs, literary works, and film confront past and present.

Readings include Jacques Le Goff, History and Memory (1992), Shoshana Feldman and Dori Laub, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History (1992), Trauma: Explorations in Memory, ed. Cathy Caruth (1995), Dominick LaCapra, Representing the Holocaust:  History, Theory, Trauma (1996), Bernhard Schlink, The Reader (1995), Art Spiegelman, Maus : A Survivor’s Tale (1986-1991), Thomas Lahusen, How Life Writes the Book (1997), Zhang Xianliang, Grass Soup (1995), and Dorothy Allison, Bastard out of Carolina (1993). During the course, students will also prepare and discuss their own topic of research, leading toward a final research paper.

 

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DJ9KY9C


VIC401H1-S- L0201
Special Topics: Freud and Psychoanalysis
Professor John Zilcosky
T 2-4

 

In this seminar, we will examine the writings of Sigmund Freud in their historical context, starting with the intellectual and political milieu of fin de siècle Vienna that set the stage for the invention of psychoanalysis.

 From here we will investigate aspects of Freud’s entire career, grouped roughly in four stages: his early 1890s writings on hysteria and his experiments with hypnosis, which led to his discovery of the “talking cure” and, eventually, the “secret of dreams” (in Interpretation of Dreams [1900]); his 1900s creation of the major concepts of sexuality theory (his early case studies as well as “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality”); his central writings before, during and after the First World War, from Totem and Taboo and “The Uncanny” through to his seminal work on shell shock, repetition compulsion, and the death drive in Beyond the Pleasure Principle; and his attempts to diagnose wide-ranging pathologies of society and culture in late 1920s and 1930s (e.g., The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and Its Discontents, and Moses and Monotheism). 

The goal of the course is to present a broad critical introduction to Freud’s work and to key concepts of psychoanalytic theory.

 

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DJ9KY9C


VIC401H1-S- L0301
Special Topics: Literature of Contact and Anthropological Thought 16th-18th Century

Professor Andreas Motsch

W 10-12

This course analyzes the link between contact literature (travel literature, discovery literature, colonial literature) and the establishment of modernity and its discourses of knowledge. Taking into account the philosophical and political debates between the 16th and 18th century, the course seeks to account for the European expansion, in particular the colonization of the Americas, and the emergence of discourses of knowledge about other cultures.

Two aspects ought to be singled out here: the knowledge produced about «others» and the new consciousness of Europe’s own identity which was profoundly transformed in this very contact. The course follows the hypothesis that the philosophical and modern definition of modern Man is itself a result of the contact between Europe and its others. The discussions of the texts privilege epistemological aspects and anthropological and political thought. More precisely, the goal is to trace the various ways the emergence of the modern subject is tied to its construction of alterity. Literary texts for example will therefore be questioned about their social and political dimensions within the episteme of the time.

A prominent issue will be the intercultural dynamic between the 16th and 18th centuries between Europe and the rest of the globe, but also within Europe itself. The development of new discourses of knowledge will involve texts of very different nature : literary, ethnographic, political, philosophical, historical, etc. Other aspects to be discussed are the issue of literary genres and canon formation, the conditions which make anthropological writing possible and the conceptualization of the «other» (ethnicity, race, religion, gender, etc.)

 

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DJ9KY9C


VIC401H1-S- L0401
Special Topics: Non-disclosure Acts
Professor Eric Cazdyn
W 1-3

Sexual predators purchase secrecy from their victims, billionaires hide obscene wealth in off-shore bank accounts, government spies conduct counter intelligence under the cover of pseudonyms–so many dirty truths are managed today by what we might call “non disclosure acts.” But the double negative contained in the category of the “non disclosure” figures a limit to these agreements and opens up to the most pressing aesthetic and philosophical questions regarding what constitutes truth and representation.  In this seminar, we will focus on the category of disclosure as a way to question such key modern binaries as public-private, exposure-concealment, knowable-unknowable, conscious-unconscious and guilt-innocence. We will study theorizations of disclosure by such thinkers as Heidegger (unconcealment), Marx (ideology critique), Derrida (deconstruction), Lacan (the real), Butler (performativity), and Badiou (truth procedures).


Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DJ9KY9C


VIC401H1-S- L0501
Special Topics: Public Reading
Professor Ann Komaromi
R 10-12
 

This course considers the formation of publics and public intellectuals, according to some leading theorists. We will examine the nature of a public, its constitution and elaboration through shared texts, private reading, public interventions, media and social networks. 

Participants will be encouraged to look critically at assumptions about public vs. private, author vs. reader, and producer vs. consumer, as we think about how autonomy and a critical stance toward power could be forged in historical contexts and in the contemporary globalized world of social networks. We will talk about how filiation and affiliation work, consider the way citizenship and membership in a community are constituted, and ask what publics might mean for the past and future of democracy.

Readings will include selections from Jurgen Habermas, Nancy Fraser, Edward Said, Michael Warner, Ethan Zuckerman and Yascha Mounk, as well as from  Samuel Richardson, Laurence Sterne, Walt Whitman, George Orwell, Russian futurists and neo-futurists, and others.

 

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DJ9KY9C


VIC401H1-S- L0601
Special Topics: Visual Portraitures in Contemporary Autobiographical Narratives
Professor Julie LeBlanc
R 1-3

“In my view, text and image complement, rather than supplement, each other; since reference is not secure in either, neither can compensate for lack of stability in the other. Because both media are located on the border between fact and fiction, they often undercut just as easily as they reinforce each other.”(T. Adams).

In the “fictional” and “non-fictional” autobiographical narratives chosen to explore the various ways in which text and image can interact with and reflect on each other, the writers use a highly metalinguistic discourse to discuss the problems of self-referentiality in language and in images and to reflect on the use of paintings and photographs in their visualizations and articulations of selfhood. Marie-Claire Blais, Sophie Calle, Jacques Poulin, Michael Ondaatje and Carol Shields all express an awareness of the autobiographical self as decentered, multiple, fragmented and divided against itself in the act of observing and being. 

The use of paintings and photographic images (portraits and self-portraits), operate as visual supplements (illustrations) and corroboration (verification) of the autobiographical subjects and their narratives. The introduction of images (paintings, photographs, drawings) in autobiographical and fictional autobiographical texts problematizes the status of the autobiographical genre, referentiality, representation, the relationship between self-images and life-writings, etc. The study of theoretical texts pertaining to autobiography, painting, photography and the relationship between words and images will serve as a basis for our analysis of Blais, Calle, Ondaatje, Poulin and Shields autobiographical and fictional narratives.

 

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DJ9KY9C


VIC401H1-S- L0701
Special Topics: 1968: The Year of Revolution and Protest
Professor Dragana Obradovic
R 3-5



 1968 was a turbulent year of protest, revolution, and change that profoundly transformed philosophy, political thought, literature and cinema of the subsequent era. By focusing on certain historical flashpoints (such as the student protests and workers’ strikes in France or the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia), 1968 will act as an anchor from which the course will explore the cultural and philosophical meanings of revolution, social justice, class, and alienation. Philosophical readings by Marcuse, Bourdieu, Badiou, and the Praxis school of Marxist thought (amongst others) will be accompanied by novels and films from Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, the Soviet Union, USA, and Yugoslavia. 


In addition, the course will focus on readings that engage with the cultural perception and historical narrativization of this year. Political changes over the decades—not least the end of state socialism in 1989—have invariably affected the historical interpretation and memory of this crucial year, often marked by appropriation, erasure, and commodification. By looking beyond the year itself and seeking out its echoes, we will chart the shifting cultural meaning of protest and its impact on class, generational, gender, and race relations across national boundaries. Readings will be closely analysed with an eye to the broader intellectual and historical contexts.



Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DJ9KY9C


VIC401H1-S- L0801
Special Topics: Tragedy: Instantiations of a Dramatic Form in Theatre, Philosophy, Opera and Popular Cinema
Professor Martin Revermann
F 12-3

Ever since its creation in classical Athens, tragedy has been more than ‘just’ theatre: it has been a template that proved to be extraordinarily ‘good to think with’, from Plato and Aristotle through, for instance, German Classicism and Romanticism (Schiller, Nietzsche, Wagner) and 19th-century Naturalism (Strindberg, Ibsen) to 20th-century artists working in high-brow culture (Brecht, Beckett, Miller, Sarah Kane) and in the Hollywood machine (Francis Coppola, George Lucas and the collectives creating shows like ‘24’ or ‘Breaking Bad’). What exactly has constituted this persistent allure of tragedy to artists working in disparate media across cultures and centuries? What is there to learn about them (and for us) from their modes of engagement with tragedy?  And what does the comparatist method contribute to our understanding of these dynamics which other, more isolated approaches would not be able to deliver?

For the pursuit of these questions this course will follow a tripartite structure. ‘Foundations’ will centre on a close reading of the foundational text for thinking about tragedy, Aristotle’s Poetics (including critical responses to it such as Brecht’s Small Organon for the Theatre or Arthur Miller’s Tragedy and the Common Man). The module ‘Instantiations’ will scrutinize select works of art/theoretical writings from theatre, philosophy and opera, including Strindberg Miss Julie, Nietzsche Birth of Tragedy, selections from Schiller’s theoretical writings as well as Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung, Bizet’s Carmen, Enescu’s Oedipe and Weill/Brecht Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The final module ‘Challenges and survivals’ looks at modes of resistance to tragedy (e.g. Brecht The Good Person of Sezuan, Glass/Wilson Einstein on the Beach) or other noteworthy 20th/21st-century appropriations in cinematic popular culture (e.g. Godfather, Star Wars, 24) and in theatrical high culture (e.g. Beckett Krapp’s Last Tape and Endgame, Sarah Kane 4.48 Psychosis and Phaedra’s Love, and performance art responses to the 9/11 terror attacks).

This course should be of interest not just to comparatists but to participants from a wide range of philologies, theatre studies, cinema studies, philosophy and music. Ample opportunity will be given to course participants to integrate own interests both into the course work and the mandatory research paper.



Prerequisite: Permission of instructor
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirement: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DJ9KY9C

Current Students