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/2017-2018-core-program/

VIC401H1F - Fall Courses


VIC401H1-F- L0101
Special Topics: Literature, Trauma, Modernity
Professor John Zilcosky
M 3-5

 

In this course, we will examine literary representations of trauma from the early nineteenth century (the Industrial Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars) to the aftermath of World War One, when “shell shock” brought trauma irrevocably into the public eye. We will begin by examining the discourse of unrepresentability and doubt in nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century medical literature: if we can find no somatic source for trauma, how do we know that it exists? 

We will then investigate how the literature of this period—“modernism”—reacted to this discourse. Rarely focusing explicitly on traumatic events, this literature only hints at traumatic occurrences—foregrounding instead the problem of representability at the heart of the modern age. Just as the traumatized body no longer points back to a physical pathology, so too does language itself seem to be severed from the object it aims to describe, as evidenced by characters unable to give voice to the suffering at the core of their industrialized, belligerent era.


Authors to be studied could include E. T. A. Hoffmann, Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, W. G. Sebald, among others.


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

VIC401H1F (Fall) Application


VIC401H1-F- L0201
Special Topics: Literature, Culture,and Contact in Medieval Iberia
Professor Jill Ross
T 10-12

 

This course will examine the dynamics of cultural exchange between Muslims, Jews and Christians in medieval Iberia as manifested in the literatures produced by each group. Beginning with an introduction to theories of alterity and postcolonialism and their relevance to the medieval past, the course, through readings of Hebrew (in translation), Arabic (in translation) and Castilian literary sources will consider the way ‘others’ are represented, as well as the ways in which cultures come into contact in these texts through adaptation or hybrid literary forms. 

The course will move from Islamic Spain where cultural cross-fertilization produced such innovative, hybrid forms of poetry as the muwashshahat in Arabic with their accompanying Romance jarchas, and Jewish poets like Todros Abulafia who struggled to define himself and his writing within the dominant Arabic literary culture, to Christian Spain where the complex models of literary translation and transmission placed Arabic models at the centre of European intellectual culture. 

The course will follow the trajectory of Spanish history as Muslims and Jews were assimilated, converted or expelled by exploring the dynamics of conversion in poetry written by converted Jews in the 15th century and the domestication of the ‘other’ in such 16th-century Castilian texts as the Abencerraje. In addition to texts already mentioned, other readings may include Shem Tov’s Moral Proverbs, selections from the romances, and Juan Manuel’s El conde Lucanor. A reading knowledge of Spanish is required.


This course explores the cross-fertilization of cultures and literatures in medieval Iberia, a focus that is central to the mandate of Comparative Literature. The study of Hebrew, Arabic, Castilian and Latin literatures in the Spanish Middle Ages is more usually carried out in separate departments of Spanish, Near and Middle Eastern Studies or Medieval Studies. The offering of this course through Comparative Literature enables a much fuller and richer exploration of medieval Iberian literary culture.


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

VIC401H1F (Fall) Application


VIC401H1-F- L0301
Special Topics- Art and Politics: Bertolt Brencht, Robert Lepage, Robert Wilson
Professor Pia Kleber
W 10-12

 

Bertolt Brecht played a specific role in the paradigm shift of the art which began at the end of the 19th century. He advanced this change by trying to connect art to its social and political functions and structure with the positive acceptance of the industrial revolution and by trying to transform it with the help of the new technological media.

The goals of this course are:

1. to introduce students to Brecht’s theory and demonstrate how he connected art and politics.

2. to study productions directed by Bertolt Brecht, Robert Wilson and Robert Lepage and to see if they follow in Brecht’s footsteps or if they deviate from his concepts.

3. The following productions will be analyzed:


Mother Courage, written and directed by Bertolt Brecht

The Good Person of Szechwan, by Bertolt Brecht, directed by Benno Besson

The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht, directed by Robert Wilson

The Busker’s Opera by John Gay and Robert Lepage, directed by Robert Lepage



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

VIC401H1F (Fall) Application


VIC401H1-F- L0401
Special Topics: Post-Capitalist Fantasy
Professor Eric Cazdyn
W 1-3

 

Triggered by the 2008 Global financial meltdown, there has emerged a reinvigorated engagement with the question “what comes after capitalism?” This question—this desire—calls all parties to the table: artists, activists, intellectuals, psychoanalysts and the rest of us, who—whether we know it or not—stake a claim on this question in the most direct and indirect ways. 

This  seminar will depart from two problems: first, the concept and practice of fantasy (in a psychoanalytic mode) and, second, the historiographical/literary problem of employment on which any expression of a post-capitalist future must turn. We will then pursue these problems as they intersect culture, politics and subjectivity, with special attention granted to utopian and dystopian fiction and fi lm, radical

architecture and urban planning, new theoretical and political radicalisms, and the affective turn in the project of transforming the human subject.


Materials will include work by Sigmund Freud, Isozaki Arata, Jacques Lacan, Felix Guattari, Karl Marx, Fredric Jameson, Lauren Berlant, Slavoj Zizek, Rem Koolhaus, Jodi Dean, Karatani Kojin, Kim Stanley Robinson, Shigeru Ban, Kathleen Stewart, Franco Bifo Berardi, Alexander Kluge, Christian Marazzi, Jean-Luc Godard, Michael Hardt, China Miéville, Antonio Negri, Wang Hui, Alain Badiou, Hayden White, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Jacques Ranciere, Marge Piercy, and Bruno Bosteels.



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

VIC401H1F (Fall) Application



VIC401H1-F- L0501
Special Topics: Diasporic Cities: Itinerant Narratives of Metropoles by Travellers and Expatriates 
Professor Atsuko Sakaki
R 10-12

 

This course will look at six metropoles (Berlin, London, Paris, New York, St. Petersburg, Shanghai) from the perspectives of Japanese visitors such as Mori, Natsume, Nagai, Yokomitsu, Tanizaki, Gotô, Tawada, and Horie, and from those of natives and immigrants (e.g., Benjamin, Döblin, Nabokov, Woolf, Conrad, Rilke, Pushkin, Gogol, Shi). 

Those writers’ accounts of cities in the span of time between the late nineteenth century and late twentieth century are inflected by the itineraries of their movement before and after their experience of the cities and by their peripatetic as well as optical experience of urban spaces of varied historical, social, material and geopolitical conditions. They reveal cities not as cartographical spots but as sites in the traffic of bodies and sensations. 

The readings (all assigned are available in English, with additional materials to be introduced by the instructor) shall be arranged in such a way that participants can compare each city’s literary mediations by variably invested observers. Accompanying theoretical, critical and photographic texts (e.g., Apter, Atget, Benjamin, Brandt, Brassaï, Burgin, de Certeau, Doisneau, Gleber, Maeda, Ronis, Walker) shall define a conceptual framework for each session.



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

VIC401H1F (Fall) Application


VIC401H1-F- L0601
Special Topics: Feminism and Post-Modernism - Theory and Practice
Professor Barbara Havercroft
R 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.

 

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

VIC401H1F (Fall) Application


VIC401H1-F- L0701
Special Topics: Jean-Luc Nancy: Retreating the Aesthetic
Professor J. Ricco
R 3-5


Jean-Luc Nancy’s work on art, aesthetics, and sense has achieved widespread significance in contemporary philosophical, art historical, and theoretical discussions and debates on the relations between art, politics, and ethics. This course provides students with an opportunity to engage with close readings of his work, in order to develop an understanding of the specific priority granted to the praxis of art and aisthesis in his thinking on sense, existence, and being-with. 

Books by Nancy such as The Muses, The Ground of the Image, Being Singular Plural, Corpus, The Pleasure of Drawing, and Noli Me Tangere, will be read along with the work of other philosophers who have informed Nancy’s own thinking (e.g. Hegel, Kant, Freud, Heidegger, Bataille, Blanchot and Derrida).

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

VIC401H1F (Fall) Application


VIC401H1-F- L0801
Special Topics: Complicity
Professor E. Gunderson
R 1-3


This is a class about the relationship between politics and literature.


A Roman citizen who was twenty in 68 CE and lived to 98 CE would have witnessed three jagged transitions between the Julio-Claudian, Flavian, and Antonine dynasties. These were eventful decades. And the “events” were by no means merely the insertion of new persons into various political functions. New authors, texts, and projects arise in this period. And these same new arrivals themselves will fall out of favor and yield to others amid still further waves of political and cultural change.


We will explore aesthetics, culture, and power in Flavian and early Antonine authors. We will make a survey of the various major prose and verse projects on offer from this period with an emphasis upon the complex constellation of questions that circulate around the subject and power. In so doing we will also employ a species of methodological survey. Which theoretical works might help us to overcome some of the facile answers or trackless impasses that would otherwise confront us?


For example, a sentimental, romantic reading of poetry will almost inevitably churn up the idea of “resistance” as folded into any valorized verse project: power represses; the poet-as-critic resists. This paradigm probably says more about the modern reader than it does about the ancient object of criticism, since, one will note, the center of the discussion for the ancient authors of the period tends to be located around a question like “fawning”. The term adulatio spikes in this era. Betrayal, cynicism, despair, self-interest and stupidity are similarly “hot” motifs within these authors.


The facile oscillation between inculpation and exculpation, between complicity and resistance, needs to be set to one side precisely because of the self-interested insistence in so many ancient sources that politics and aesthetics must converge. It is all too easy to praise or blame the past because the ancients themselves insist that we play the praise-and-blame game and they set the very rules by which it will be played. Instead of following that lead, we will look at how and why politics and literature become entwined and who stands to gain from their their convergence, even if the profits seem to be nothing more than an ostentatious shudder of loathing. What is the politics of hermeneutics itself?


As this is a survey of a vast terrain, students will have a significant say in what we most need to cover in order to serve their own long-term interests. At the moment I expect to read selections from biography, epic, epigram, epistles, history, and lyric. On the theoretical side some subset of the following will be entertained: Adorno, Benjamin, Bourdieu, Deleuze, Foucault, Gramsci, Marx, Žižek. Additions to this list are also possible. The majority of concrete commitments to the shape of the syllabus will only take place after the introductory class session.


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

VIC401H1F (Fall) Application



VIC401H1S - Spring Courses


VIC401H1-S- L0101
Special Topics: Affinities: Readings of Realism and Radicalism
Professor Eva-Lynn Jagoe 
M 1-3

 

This course will examine theories and literatures of affinity in order to ask questions about community, love, family, friendship, intimacy, belonging, responsibility, and social change from the nineteenth century to the present. What are the politics of shaping oneself in relation to others, and how do affinities—to people, places, ideas, and things—lend a legal, biological, affective, and moral imperative to community and association? 

How do we experience the proximity of bodies, sentiments, and ideas, and what does it mean to live politically with others? In reading novels, essays, manifestos and treatises, as well as examining cultural production, we will look at the forms of affinity that get constructed between the different texts themselves and between their readers and consumers. 

The course will be constructed by investigation around the vectors of two periods, fin-de-siecle European radicalism (Fabian socialism, William Morris, Bloomsbury, Oscar Wilde, J.M. Barrie, Emma Goldman, etc), and the present era (activist movements, theorists of hospitality, community, cosmopolitanism, stranger intimacy, affect, insurrection, commonality—e.g. Hardt, Zizek, Agamben, Berlant, Tiqqun, Berardi).

 

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

VIC401H1S (Spring) Application


VIC401H1-S- L0201
Special Topics: Freud Case Histories
Professor Rebecca Comay
T 1-3

 

This course will be devoted to reading Freud’s case histories. We’ll be paying close attention to the unstable relationship between the theoretical and the clinical registers in Freud’s text, with particular emphasis on the psychoanalytic concepts of transference, resistance, repetition, working-through, “construction in analysis,” and the end-of-analysis. 

In addition to the major case studies — Dora, Anna O, Little Hans, Schreber, Wolfman, Ratman –we will also consider the snippets of Freud’s own auto-analysis (e.g. the “specimen dream” in the Interpretation of Dreams, the Autobiographical Fragment, and other first-person texts, including Freud’s early correspondence with Fliess). 

Our reading of the primary texts will be accompanied by recent theoretical and critical engagements with the case histories, including Jacques Lacan, Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, Jacques Derrida, Jacqueline Rose, and Eric Santner.

 

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

VIC401H1S (Spring) Application


VIC401H1-S- L0301
Special Topics: Visual Portraitures in Contemporary Autobiographical Narratives
Professor Julie LeBlanc
R 1-3

 

In autobiographical narratives where text and image interact with and reflect on each other, writers frequently use paintings and photographs in their visual representation of self-hood. Marie-Claire Blais, Sophie Calle, Michael Ondaatje and Carol Shields all express an awareness of the autobiographical self as fragmented and divided against itself. 

The use of paintings, drawings and photographic images (portraits and self-portraits), operate as visual supplements to the writers desire to visually represent the precarious referential status of illustrated life-narratives. 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 and Shields texts. 

 

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

VIC401H1S (Spring) Application


VIC401H1-S- L0401
Special Topics: Naming the World -Realism Travels the Globe
Professor Neil Kortenaar
W 9-11

 

When they first encountered novelistic realism, writers all over the world felt it constituted an invitation to include in their writing distinctly non-literary elements of their own world in the form of descriptions and names of things and places. Realism encouraged a new kind of vision: writing about things that had never been written about in order to make people see those things for the first time. 

We will examine the meaning realism acquired as it made its way around the world by looking at three Western texts to suggest the history of realism—a novel by Balzac, another by Zola, and a third by Updike—and then at six more realist novels from other traditions, that is, from Africa, India, China, and Latin America. We will also look at representative theory of realism by Auerbach, Lukacs, Barthes, Ermarth, Jameson, etc.

 

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

VIC401H1S (Spring) Application


VIC401H1-S- L0501
Special Topics: Text and Digital Media
Professor Ruoyun Bai
W 11-1

 

This course examines new forms of textualities and textual practices that are emerging in the digital era. It highlights an understudied dimension of the text, i.e. the medium that forms its material and technological infrastructure such as scroll, codex, book, CD, e-book, the Internet, and smartphone. The course starts with a historical investigation into the printed text and print culture. 

Then it moves on to the question of how digital technologies shape reading and writing as well as other text-based cultural practices. While the course revolves around the mediality of the text, it distances itself from technological determinism by stressing the facts that digital technologies are always embedded in and shaped by historically specific political, social, and cultural conditions. 

This course is designed for students who are interested in questions and issues related to literary production in the digital era and more generally the materiality of the text. Theoretical and scholarly works we will engage with in this course include, but not limited to, Understanding Media: Extensions of Man (McLuhan, 1964), The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Adrian Johns, 2000), Writing Machines (N. Katherine Hayles, 2002), Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print (Jay David Bolter, 2001), Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media (Mark Hansen, 2006), The Interface Effect (Alexander R. Galloway), The Language of New Media (Lev Manovich, 2002), Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies (Noah Wardrip-Fruin, 2009).

 

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

VIC401H1S (Spring) Application


VIC401H1-S- L0601
Special Topics: The Problem of Translation - Historical, Theoretical, and Pragmatic Perspectives
Professor Martin Revermann
F 12-3

 

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)

VIC401H1S (Spring) Application


VIC401H1-S- L0701
Special Topics: Sovereignty: Hobbes and his 20th and 21st Successors
Professor M. Nyquist
T 10-1



In discussing sovereignty,contemporary political theorists inevitably refer to Hobbes, reference to whom often legitimates or critiques contemporary conceptions of governmentality or power. Known as an apologist for royal absolutism in his own time, Hobbes is now usually regarded as the first theorist of the modern state and of liberalism.What is the significance of this often tacit re-evaluation? Further questions to be explored include, what understanding of “liberty” and the “political” do various 20th and 21st century theorists bring to their readings of Hobbes’s texts? 


What specific textual interpretations, if any, do they provide for their readings? What do later philosophers make of Hobbes’s view that sovereignty originates within the household, where it is held by the father, and/or slave-master? Is recent interest in “sovereignty” in any way connected with 9/11?


In this course, we will read Hobbes’s major political treatises alongside the major 20th and 21st theorists who have drawn on him. Efforts will be made to situate Hobbes’s treatises historically with reference to seventeenth century debates on sovereignty and selected contemporaneous political theorists. Throughout the course, we will explore tensions between the readings produced by historical contextualization and those presupposed or developed by modern theorists.



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

 VIC401H1S (Spring) Application

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