Each academic year, the comparative literature faculty offer 4-5 courses, typically 1-2 in the fall and 3 in the spring.
Coming in Spring 2012 are the following:
- TBA | Yuan Shu
- TBA | Kanika Batra
In the past two years, we've offered the following courses:
- Globalization and the Re-invention of Asia and Asian America | Yuan Shu
- Gender, Fame and Glory | Ann Daghistany Ransdell
- The Art and Theory of Translation | Wendell Aycock
- Orientalism | James Whitlark
- Gendered Chthonic Realities | Ann Daghistany Ransdell
- History as Literature | James Whitlark
- Shadows, Ghosts, and Nervous Conditions: Nationalist and Post-Nationalist Hauntings in Postcolonial Studies | Kanika Batra
The list below offers a fuller view of these courses. Reading lists are available at the graduate program course list by semester.
Globalization and the Re-invention of Asia and Asian America | Yuan Shu
As globalization continues to describe the flows of information, capital, and labor forces across national boundaries that are facilitated by transnational capitalism, critics have increasingly turned their attention to the question of human agency manifested in the historical process. How do we theorize ethnic identities and local communities at the moment of what David Harvey calls “time-space compression”? How do we engage, resist, and negotiate the forces of globalization in our daily life and cultural practice? This course seeks to investigate dialectically how Asian American literature has been informed and reshaped by globalization as well as how Asian American authors have actively intervened in the process.
We will begin by examining globalization as a historical process that reproduces Asia and Asia America as new geopolitical spaces. In reading the work of Maxine Hong Kingston, David Henry Hwang, and Le Ly Hayslip, we reconsider the Western encounter with Asia since the mid-19th century and reinterpret the configuration of Asia and Asian America as sites of labor and consumer markets. We then interrogate how Western and Japanese imperialisms and transnational capitalism have impacted third world cultures and societies. As we focus on Nora Okja Keller’s Comfort Woman, Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters, and Karen Yamashita’s Through the Arch of the Rain Forest, we discuss how the colonial wars have traumatized people in the third world and how Hollywood and transnational corporations have redefined third world desires and anxieties. We conclude our course by revisiting the binary of the local and global and invoking what Aihwa Ong calls “flexible citizenship” in theorizing transnational identities and communities in both mainland America and the unique space of Hawaii.
Gender, Fame and Glory | Ann Daghistany Ransdell
How does fiction about an author affect and distort his/her life and reputation? How does the life of an author become embedded in the fiction about him/her? What does posterity, in the values of different historical epochs, emphasize in its cultural memory of celebrated writers? What role does gender play in this process? this course will explore the impact oof gender on the fame and glory that surround well-known writers. It will compare and contrast the original work of authors to the revisions created by more contemporary novelists.
We will compare the milieu and character of Ahab in Melville's Moby Dick, on issues of fame and glory, with Sena Jeter Naslund's acclaimed Ahab's Wife. The class will study the factors that contribute to the accretion of legends surrounding a writer such as Edgar Allen Poe through his gothic and detective stories and through Matthew Pearl's novel The Poe Shadow. Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, a cultural icon, generated Geraldine Brooks' prizewinnning novel March. It presents the fictionalized life of Mr. March, himself a fictionalized version of Alcott's father, Bronson Alcott, away from his family--and relatively absent from the original novel--during his service in the Civil War. These works will each be studied in their historical and cultural context, with readings such as Alcott's Work, wherein she investigates the only respectable ways for women to earn money in her era. We will read the Civil War stories of Ambrose Bierce, and read his life as fictionalized by Carlos Fuentes in the novel about his disappearance into Mexico in The Old Gringo. We will begin our class with a notorious rewrite of a life, that of Queen Guenevere in the medieval romance "Lancelot" by Chretien de Troyes, as well as selections from Malory's Le Morte d'Artur. Attention will be paid to the questions raised by the metaphor of the Book of Life: where does reality lie? Is the ending already written?
The Art and Theory of Translation | Wendell Aycock
This seminar will be all about translation. The course will give students experiences in studying the art of translation and in examining some theories of translation. Although the course will focus primarily upon literature and how it is translated, we will also give some consideration to other types of translation. We will review the history of translation and see how translations have been done in various historical periods. We will look at translations of some famous works of literature (Don Quixote, in particular) to see how they have been have changed according to the eras and cultures in which they appear. We will consider how various genres fare when they are translated, and which authors are most easily translated (e.g., Walt Whitman was very popular in Latin America, whereas Emily Dickinson was hardly known at all). A general purpose of this class is to foster new and different appreciations for both literature and language.
Shadows, Ghosts, and Nervous Conditions: Nationalist and Post-Nationalist Hauntings in Postcolonial Studies | Kanika Batra
Postcolonial studies as a body of critical and creative work implicitly or explicitly refers to European colonialism and/or forms of neo-colonialism practiced by postcolonial states in league with Western capitalist interests. Some of these writings are, in a sense, ‘possessed’ by the memory of the nationalist ideals that provided the impetus for anti-colonial resistance; all are aware that there are new variants of imperialism that demand new forms of exorcism. We will read a selection of literature and theory from India, Jamaica, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe, originating in the now discredited but still used descriptor, ‘Commonwealth Literature’, its transformation into ‘New Literatures in English’ and, since 1989, with the publication of The Empire Writes Back, ‘Post-colonial Literatures’.
As an interdisciplinary mode of analysis that derives equally from the history of Western colonization in various parts of the world, a political response to it in the form of anti-colonial nationalist movements, cultural assertion of indigenous languages and traditions, an examination of the social consequences of colonialism and neocolonialism, and movements in response to these, postcolonial studies can be seen as an ‘overdetermined’ discourse. And within its ambit is included an ever-widening array of literature and theory that does not follow traditionally accepted genre and period based characterizations of literary studies. However, despite this lack of definitional co-relates, it is possible to see two main currents shadowing each other in this literature: the articulation of an upper class diasporic and distinctly post-nationalist sensibility evinced in much post-colonial writing and a grassroots oriented consciousness that takes the nation and national development as the basis of its discourse. We will examine the possibility and desirability of dialogues between these currents through a set of readings comprising theoretical essays, fiction, short stories, and life-narratives. We will also be viewing some documentaries related to the central ideas in the course.
Gendered Chthonic Realities | Ann Daghistany Ransdell
This course will ask the question, is madness a gendered political label? We will explore the archetypes of Dionysus and Inanna, and their impact on the cthonic dimension of literature, demonstrated in the mystery, madness and magical works. It will examine whether or not the male and female characters experience the "inner darkness" differently. Is the heroic journey within, undertaken for the sake of psychic integration, weighted differently for the male and female characters? Contemporary films of three fictions that we read will be shown in class to provide a novel/film comparison of character and theme.
History as Literature | James Whitlark
This course will focus on how American authors have tried to treat history (in the sense of what has happened) as a text, analyzable both for its original meaning and its current or even future relevance. In A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, the popular historian Barbara Tuchman, for instance, begins by seeing a medieval French fortress both as an ambiguous sign and as a parallel to problems of twentieth-century America. This looking for America’s roots in the distant past has, of course, had a long tradition, with Henry Adams one of its more notable authors. A novelist and historian with two presidents in his family, he felt driven to look for a meaning of America large enough to encompass the changes of it he and his family had witnessed. Similarly, Neil Howe’s and William Strauss’s Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069 uses the changing meaning of symbols as evidence for seeing history as a sequence of repeating psychological patterns. In other words, this course charts the faint (often very blurred) line between writing about historic symbols and composing fiction. We shall look at the shifting significance of American symbols in Retelling U.S. Religious History and then note how one American historian tries to deal with their primary source in Gospel Fictions, a study of the New Testament as literature. Finally, since the course is implicitly a psychological approach to history as literature, we shall examine A History of Psychology in Letters—letters being among the raw materials with which a historian works. This course is designed to fulfill a number of functions: (1) filling in students’ backgrounds in American history (for their greater appreciation of American literature), (2) exploring creative nonfiction as a genre, (3) practicing a psychological approach to literature, (4) investigating the relationship of Religion and Literature, and (5) tracing the interconnections between fiction and nonfiction. Consequently, the students’ term papers may either be literary studies of historical works or of historical fictions.
Orientalism | James Whitlark
Beginning perhaps with Homer’s Iliad, Orientalism—“Western” (particularly European and American) response to Asia-- has been a highly charged theme, involving globalism, imperialism, colonialism, exoticism, travel literature, fantasy, adventure, and the collision of worldviews. This seminar will explore the theme from a number of perspectives, including the post-colonial and psychological. Since the Texas Tech Comparative Literature Symposium will be on American attitudes toward Asia and Asian ones about America, papers for the class might be written with that venue in mind. Although the class will focus on the following texts, term-paper topics may include (but are not limited to) such obvious examples of Orientalism as Taoist influence on Ursula Le Guin, the many American novels inspired by Chinese Monkey King legends (or, indeed, any use of Asian material by Asian-American authors) , exoticism in Othello or Anthony and Cleopatra, John Barth and the Arabian Nights, Salman Rushdie torn between East and West, Chaucer’s “Squire’s Tale,” Orientalism in popular literature, or the Orientalism of Samuel Johnson (or of Jorge Luis Borges, or of John Dryden, or of Ezra Pound, or of Allen Ginsberg, or of Voltaire, or of Goethe, or of any of the authors listed here below).