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.

VIC401H1F - Fall Courses


VIC401H1-F- L0101
Special Topics: Climate Genres
Professor Eva-Lynn Jagoe 
M 1-3

In the era of the Anthropocene, we find ourselves increasingly seeking new forms through which to understand the effects of climate change. The climate nowadays not only indexes the atmosphere, but in fact all of human history. Because of this, the question of how to represent the climate has become more urgent. Many cultural producers across the globe are seeking new forms and genres to portray the scope and scale of anthropogenic climate change. In this course, we will examine various genres from different geographic locations in order to discuss the limits and possibilities of communication, knowledge dissemination, affective response, prescription, or witnessing that each one affords. Genres such as climate fiction, solar punk, indigenous literature, documentary, IPCC reports, papal encylicals, scientific popular prose, policy documents, memoir, lyric essay, environmental reportage, critical and cultural theory, and visual art will be included.


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

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vic401f2019


VIC401H1-F- L0201
Special Topics: Comparison and "The Human"
Professor Uzoma Esonwanne
T 11-1

To compare” is to think relationally (Felski and Friedman 2). But who thinks thus, and from what epistemological vantage point does she do so? Is she indifferent to or implicated in her relational thinking? If the latter, how might she think “the human,” understood as a universal category rather than as a being defined by sets of distinguishing particularities? How might a comparative analysis of works of art that is based on relational thinking address scepticism about the universality of the human that is now endemic in discourses of difference (“the English working class,” etc.)? Would it enhance or impair the efforts of scholars and artists who, three centuries after the French and Haitian revolutions, still conspire for a universal “‘human race’” (Buck–Morss 107)? To answer these questions, we will engage the instability of comparison they convey as the very condition of possibility of comparative literary scholarship today. Readings will include the volumes referenced above and selected writings by Glissant, Melville, Lloyd, Morton, Camus, Ishiguro, Menchu, Allende, Alloula, Said, Forster, and Rushdie. Classes will consist of weekly two-hour seminars, and evaluation will be based on presentations and a research essay.


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

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vic401f2019


VIC401H1-F- L0301
Special Topics: Feminism and Postmodernism: Theory & Practice
Professor Barbara Havercroft
T 3-5

This course will examine the complex and controversial relationship between feminism and postmodernism, as this encounter is staged in both theoretical and fictional writings. While many of the «canonical» theoretical texts on postmodernism were penned by male scholars (Lyotard, Baudrillard, Vattimo, Hassan, Scarpetta, etc.), who largely ignored questions of feminism, gender, and women’s artistic practices, feminist critics (Jardine, Butler, Suleiman, Nicholson, Yeatman, and others) soon intervened in the debate. As these latter theoreticians demonstrated, many of the notions characterizing postmodern theories and literary texts were in fact concerns common to feminist thought : the crisis of patriarchal master narratives and the ensuing emphasis on localized, small narratives; the criticism of binary, hierarchical oppositions (center/margin, life /art, culture /nature, mind/body, masculine/feminine); the endeavour to privilege the heterogeneous, the plural, and the hybrid; and the problematization of the subject, of representation, and of language. Doubtful as to whether disseminated subjects are capable of agency and effective political action, other feminist scholars (di Stefano, Hartsock) still question the possibilities of constructive intersections between feminism and postmodernism. Drawing on the principal feminist theories in the postmodern debate, we will study the contentious theoretical issues outlined above, before turning to an analysis of an international corpus of postmodern literary narratives written by women, which construct « strategic subjectivities » (Kaplan) and « forms of common action » (Mouffe), combining ethical perspectives and aesthetic experimentation. Our close readings of these texts will pay careful attention to textual devices typical of postmodern texts (see Hutcheon), such as the extensive use of intertextuality, the recycling and rewriting of mythological, religious, and historical figures and events, the questioning of major binary oppositions underpinning Western thought, genre hybridity, the representation of the author in the text, and so on.

Since this course will deal with feminist theories of postmodernism, as well as with feminist supplements to and criticisms of postmodern thought, it would be most helpful for students to have some prior knowledge of « male » theories of postmodernism (see certain references listed below) before beginning the course, although this is not a prerequisite.


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

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vic401f2019


VIC401H1-F- L0401
Special Topics: Space, Place and Power
Professor Haytham Bahoora
W 1-3

This seminar provides an overview of scholarship in the spatial humanities, with a focus on the ways that theorizations of space and place have informed aesthetics, culture, and politics. The “spatial turn” in critical theory designates an increased focus on space, place and spatiality across various disciplines to emphasize a geographic dimension as an essential aspect of the production of culture and experience. In the first half of the course, we will read seminal theorists of space whose work reinserted spatiality as essential to the discursive constructions of the categories of modernity and postmodernity. We will then examine how their challenges to historicism transformed understandings of the space-time experience of global capitalism and provided frameworks for expanded and revised theorizations of colonialism and imperialism, gender and sexuality, urbanization and architectural history, geocriticism and ecocriticism, and literary studies. We will investigate how the spatial turn has in recent decades resulted in attempts to map new historical geographies of literary production, and we will consider the methodological implications the spatial turn has had on the transformation of theoretical interventions in literary studies, particularly in postcolonial theory. Authors will include Gaston Bachelard, Michel Foucault, Henri Lefebvre, Frantz Fanon, David Harvey, Fredric Jameson, Edward Said, Jean Rhys, Tayeb Salih, Nuruddin Farah, Amitav Ghosh, Assia Djebar, and Mahasweta Devi.


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

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vic401f2019



VIC401H1-F- L0501
Special Topics: The French-German Connection
Professor Willi Goetschel

R 3-5 

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/vic401f2019


VIC401H1-F- L0601
Special Topics: Post Capitalist Fantasy
Professor Eric Cazdyn
R 11-1

Every now and then we sense a world beyond the capitalist one in which we live. Maybe it is a society without punishing inequality. Or a self without anxiety. Or an ecosystem without human rapaciousness. This sense (feeling, impulse, drive) can be as banal as a quiet moment alone, or as go-for-broke as a revolutionary act together. Like death, it is something we already know and something beyond our wildest dreams. Like love, it is in us more than us. Sometimes we attempt to shake open this otherness by the sheer force of our imagination or collective will; other times we meet it without any intention, without any focused desire or recognition that we are actually engaged in such a radical act.  Regardless of whether such post-capitalist worlds are possible or whether such desires are naïve or hysterical, our encounter with them—with these speculative futures—is promising.  But promising of what?


We will engage theories of utopia, temporality, fantasy, political-economy, historiography, subjectivity, aesthetics, and representation.


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

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vic401f2019



VIC401H1-F- L0701
Special Topics: Cervantes and Renaissance Humanism
Professor Stephen Rupp
R 1-3

A critical reading of Don Quixote, with particular attention to the text’s engagement with the thought and institutions of Renaissance humanism. Class discussion will focus first on Cervantes’s response to the ethical critique of imaginative literature, and proceed to his treatment of such topics as the theory of war and peace, the education of princes, and the duties of the good governor. Selected episodes from Don Quixote, will be studied in conjunction with readings from influential Renaissance authors (Castiglione, Erasmus, Vitoria, Machiavelli).


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

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vic401f2019


VIC401H1-F- L0801
Special Topics: Passage from History to Fiction
Professor Neil ten Kortenaar
R 3-5

This course will examine the intertextual movement of people from non-fiction (primarily history books and the news) to fiction. When do people who become characters in fiction keep their names? Migrants from history to fiction acquire interiorities and the characteristics that mark verisimilitude. When is such fictionalization permissible? Are there ethical constraints? When is the reader aware of the changes? How have the ethical and aesthetic rules changed in the last two decades? What difference does it make if the history and the fiction that people move between are postcolonial and not Western canonical?


To understand the movement from history to fiction, we will compare it to a similar but not identical migration: of people from history books and the news to cinema, specifically to the biopic. In this migration names are more likely to remain the same but narrative events and their sequence are more likely to be changed. Film, it seems, has its own constraints, different from prose fiction’s, that it must accommodate history to.


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

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vic401f2019



VIC401H1S - Spring Courses


VIC401H1-S- L0101
Special Topics: Critical Race Theory
Professor Mary Nyquist
M 10-1

Until pseudo-scientific discourses began to emerge in the late eighteenth century, “race” generally signified some form of inheritance, whether lineal or geopolitical. It could be used of non-human animals, economic-cultural status, or ethnic and (proto-) national groups. With European colonialism, racialized practices are integrated into systems of domination and oppression in ways that continue to operate and to be contested. We will begin by examining classical Greek conceptions of “barbarism,” one of the precursors to early modern and later racialist discourses and practices, and will then look at the category of “savagery” as it is deployed in connection with New World Amerindigenes. 

One of the questions to be asked in this course is what these earlier constructions of “race” have in common with the biologically based discourses that emerge later in Euro-American imperialism. Another question involves how “intersectionality” affects the study of race and racism or, more generally, the “critical race theory” that arose in the last decades of the twentieth century. We will also enter current debates concerning the language of racialized degradation such as “dehumanization” or “animalization,” and will explore possible interconnections among anti-racism, decolonization, and environmental justice. Because “critical race theory” is historically associated with the social sciences, we will want to explore the possibilities it does or does not open up for the study of literature, philosophy, and the arts. 

Primary texts may include Euripides’ Medea; Shakespeare’s Othello; von Kleist’s “Die Verlobung in St. Domingo”; Fanon’s Peau Noire, Masques Blancs; and Césaire’s Discours sur le colonialisme, Secondary readings will include numerous articles on the historical vicissitudes of racism as it is interconnected with the rise of capitalism, Atlantic slavery, settler colonialism, and other aspects of Euro-American imperialism. Participants will be asked to select some of the literary texts and films to complement assigned readings.

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/vic401s2020


VIC401H1-S- L0201
Special Topics: Sports Narrated: Literary & Interdisciplinary Exploration of Sports Represented in Textual and Visual Media
Professor Atsuko Sakaki
T 10-12

 

This course explores theoretical and literary texts on and of sports as participatory and spectatorial events in terms of translation between physical and textual practices, the temporality, spatiality and agency in playing and watching of sports, the body, tools and environment in sport activities, the instrumentality of sports to the promotion of ideologies, the engagement of sports in bildungsroman, the media and fan culture, and the relationship between narrative modes and the rules of the game in various sports. Both theoretical (e.g., Adorno, Barthes, Bourdieu, Derrida, Eco) and literary (e.g., Hornby, Murakami, Ogawa) readings will be available in English.

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

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vic401s2020


VIC401H1-S- L0301

Special Topics: Comparative Totalitarian Culture
 Professor Thomas Lahusen 
T 1-3

The purpose of the course is to historicize and theorize the concept of totalitarian culture by discussing traditional approaches of “totalitarianism” and more recent theories and histories in the context of various cultural manifestations of National-Socialist Germany and Stalinist Russia.

A key theme of the course is the relation between propaganda, entertainment, and mass culture, in the context of how both Germany and Soviet Russia related to the Hollywood type of entertainment.

The primary materials to be considered are American, German, and Soviet films of the 1930s and 1940s.

Additional material includes diaries, memoirs, illustrative material on art and architecture, and scholarly works. The viewing and discussion of these films are integral parts of course requirements. Some of the films are available online; others will have to be watched at Media Commons.

 

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

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vic401s2020


VIC401H1-S- L0401

Special Topics: Collections of Knowledge: Encyclopedism and Travel Literature, 1500-1800
Professor Andreas Motsch 
W 1-3

1500-1800 is the first period of modern globalization by the West, of the foundation of colonial empires and of the economic but also scientific exploration of foreign lands.  This seminar deals with the intersection of the “encyclopedic movement” and geographical expansions, more particularly the knowledge produced and disseminated about other cultures and “ethnography” in particular. The course seeks to show how the new anthropological knowledge becomes a point of public interest and political disputes and how this development is supported and accompanied by a dynamic book market.

The new ideas and ideals emerging between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment period and their reception are closely linked to the invention of the printing press, the progress in literacy within society, the emergence of a public sphere, and thus the development of an ever increasing market for printed materials and books. Due to political and religious censorship, but also economic considerations, the publishing history and the book trade of the time constitute a quite complex field of inquiry. Books were written  in one country, often enough printed in another, only to reappear clandestinely in legitimate or pirated copies on the marketplace for which they were intended, while their authors, editors and printers were censored, went  into exile or even to prison. 

Many works found their readers far away, across political, geographical and ideological divides in copied, translated or abstracted form. The changing worldview of this period is the result of new epistemological forces which seek to establish new paradigms and increasingly attempt to portray the world in encyclopedias, histories, dictionaries as well as other collections of knowledge (curio cabinets and museums). It is this worldview and its epistemological foundation which gives rise to philosophical and political modernity.

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

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vic401s2020


VIC401H1-S- L0501
Special Topics: Dramaturgy of the Dialectic
Professor Rebecca Comay
W 4-6

This seminar will explore the constellation of dialectics, theatre, and politics in (and in the wake of) Hegel.  We’ll be thinking about some repercussions of Hegel’s infamous pronouncement of the “end of art.”   Why does Hegel say that art “no longer counts” as the expression of truth, and what does this imply for the practice of philosophy and for political practice?  We’ll look at the ways in which art stages (literally) its own undoing in theatre and the peculiar afterlife of theatre in philosophy as a scene of pedagogy, a performance, and a political spectacle. 

The first part of the course will focus on selected portions of Hegel’s Aesthetics and the Phenomenology of Spirit.  We’ll then consider Marx’s deployment of the Hegelian dialectic in the Eighteenth Brumaire as he searches (in vain?) for a new revolutionary subject amidst the “farce” of the post-1848 counterrevolution.  Finally, we’ll consider some surprising reverberations in Beckett’s Endgame.  While the main authors will be Hegel, Marx, and Beckett, we’ll also have occasion to think about other writers (including C.L.R. James, Adorno, Benjamin, Badiou, Karatani,).

 

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

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vic401s2020


VIC401H1-S- L0601
Special Topics: The Two Avant-Gardes
Professor Ann Komaromi
R 11-1

Peter Burger described the avant-garde in terms of the destruction of bourgeois aestheticism and the attempt to bring art into life for a radical transformation of society. What do Burger and other theoreticians have to say about the survival of the avant-garde impulse after its heroic historical moment in the early 20th century? How did artists and writers then and later pioneer radically new ways of representing the world and engaging the audience? We will consider the historical positions and sustaining contradictions of work dubbed “avant-garde” through landmark developments including Abstraction, Conceptualism, Constructivism and Surrealism. Seminar discussions will engage the work of major figures in the history of the avant-garde, such as Malevich and Maiakovskii, Picasso and Duchamp, Breton, Cage, Pollack and Prigov.

Participants will be encouraged to consider the usefulness of translating analysis associated with the avant-garde to contexts beyond the one defined by Burger.

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

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vic401s2020


VIC401H1-S- L0701
Special Topics: Performative Autobiographical Acts: Personal and Political Testimonials
Professor Julie LeBlanc
R 3-5



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 autobiographical and historiographic 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. Edward Ardizzone, Roland Barthes, Marie-Claire Blais and Jacques Poulin, all express an awareness of the auto-bio-graphical 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 Ardizzone, Barthes, Blais and Poulin autobiographical and historiographic narratives.



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

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vic401s2020


VIC401H1-S- L0801
Special Topics: The Problem of Translation: Historical, Theoretical and Pragmatic Perspectives
Professor Martin Revermann
F 12-2

Translation Studies is a young field that has gained considerable momentum over the past 20 or so years (especially with the emergence of Postcolonial Studies). Comparatist by nature, translation is a good a gateway as any into the discipline of Comparative Literature and some of its principal concerns.

This course will combine the historical, theoretical and pragmatic dimension of translation (all of which overlap to a certain extent). On the historical side, there will be detailed and historically contextualized study of some main reflections on the problem of translation (including texts by Schleiermacher, Benjamin, Venuti and Apter) as well as specific broader case studies of the translation history of certain works (including the Bible, Virgil and Sophocles). For the theoretical dimension Munday (2008) will serve as a guide to a critical discussion of particular approaches and models developed by current Translation Studies. The litmus test will be the pragmatic dimension: hands-on, detailed and theoretically informed analyses of specific translations (usually short passages), mostly to be chosen and presented by the seminar participants themselves.



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

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vic401s2020

Current Students