CWL 220 Topics

Spring 2018

Exploring the Ties that Bind

The vitality of our most intimate bonds — whether they be familial, romantic, or our friendships — have a profound impact on our lives. However, the fatalities of these same intimacies are also our greatest sources of anguish. This course is designed around analyzing these intimate bonds and all their permutations: what might various forms of heartbreak and despair teach us about literature, or ourselves? Through the analysis of novels, short stories, poetry, and music we will consider the transformative power of literature’s closest relationships.

GTA: Ann Galvan

Fall 2017

The Legacy of Myth and Storytelling in World Literature

We all tell stories: some are true, some are false, but most are a mixture of truth, perspective, and imagination. In this course we will read literature about when, why, and how we tell stories, and we explore how differences in perspective change the how the same story is told or retold by others. This is an introduction to comparing literature, which means that our texts will come from a variety of historical, cultural, and linguistic boundaries. Along the way, you will acquire tools of analysis to help you interpret and write about not only these stories, but also the stories you tell and are told in your everyday lives.

GTA: Mary Dudro


Life, Death and the Deathless

Death is an inescapable fact of life. However, not all people and not all cultures depict death in the same manner.

We will explore how various writers and creators from different backgrounds represent the processes of grieving, loving, and finding the will to live in the face of a terminal end. As we do, we will also reflect on the relations of these representations to different socio-cultural value systems, including our own.

GTA: Megan Kwong

Spring 2017

Trapped in the Plot: Bodies and their Texts

How do we imagine and experience fictional bodies?  How do those bodies make us feel about characters, and even ourselves?  Is there some kind of special relationship between human bodies and textual ones?  Are fictional bodies just robots programmed by authors?  In this course we will explore the way that bodies in literature make demands on characters and readers that can move us into valuable states of thinking and feeling.

GTA: Ashely Kimura

Fall 2016

World Descent Journeys: From Hell to Freedom

This world literature course explores the concept of personal enlightenment with Dante’s Divine Comedy as the focal texts. In connection, we consider works of contemporary world literature insofar as they expand and supplement conceptions of personal and collective emancipation. Questions students will grapple with include: What do freedom and wisdom mean in different cultures? How is literary language used to render the complexities of a life’s journey? Our study includes narratives of antiquity and modern times, of East and West, investigating various ways in which we give meaning to individual and communal experience by traveling to real and symbolic underworlds.

GTA: Claudio Boyer

Spring 2016

Values and Literature

"Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declarared to be that at which all things aim. - Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
This course is an introduction to comparative literary studies. We will read texts from different cultures and time periods to discover the many ways literature expresses and reflects ideas of human value—especially ethical ones. In myths, epics, tales, poems, dramas, short stories, essays, and novels, we will encounter vastly different methods of representing human values. Throughout the semester, we will identify and discern the different effects that each literary form achieves, and how they work to communicate and shape the ideas, ideals, and passions that drive us.

GTA: Alessia Mingrone

Fall 2015

Love and Identity in the 21st Century

“Her face would now be, forever, more mysterious and impenetrable than the face of any stranger. Strangers’ faces hold no secrets because the imagination does not invest them with any. But the face of a lover is an unknown precisely because it is invested with so much of oneself. It is a mystery, containing, like all mysteries, the possibility of torment.” — James Baldwin, Another County
“It is because I dove into the abyss that I am beginning to love the abyss I am made of.” — Clarice Lispector, The Passion According to G.H.
Why do people fall in love? How do they fall in love? How are romantic relationships represented in literature? How does a text invite us to think about the way race, class, gender and sexual orientation affect romantic relationships? This semester, we will examine the struggles of fictional characters to create/discover their identities, focusing on the role that their love relationships play in that struggle. We will examine familial relationships, friendships, and romantic relationships, with the hope of shedding light on the profound effect those relationships have on our lives.
This class will place texts within their historical contexts, and explore the relevance of these contexts to themes of love and identity. By reading literature from different cultures and parts of the world, students will learn to locate themes which extend throughout. At the conclusion of the course, each student will write a paper comparing two or more texts which utilize the themes identified throughout the semester.
We will also use a literary lens to look at our own lives, writing about our experiences and the relationships which have effect us most. By working to discover a comfortable and authentic writing voice, students are encouraged to delve into a deeper understanding of their own lives.

GTA: Sophie Labaree

Fall 2014

Literature and Desire

This course will introduce you to the comparative study of literary texts, using the different forms and representations of desire in world literature as an entry point. The focus of the course will be on learning to identify similarities and differences in the ways that literature is mobilized and theorized to intersect with real historical, cultural, and social conditions. We will use desire in literature to help us think differently about the relevance of literary representation for our own iives and desires. There are three main topic areas: desire and romantic love; marginalized desire and otherness; and desire and power. For the first topic, love poetry, a short story, a play, and a film will offer a starting point for exploring desire, sex, and love within unique historical and social contexts. The second topic will focus on themes of marginalized desire and otherness in a graphic novel, a novel, and a film adaptation. For our final topic, we wili read contemporary novels and short stories where desire and power intersect in productive, potentially transformative ways.

GTA: Jon-David Settell

Fall 2013

Masked Identities in Fiction

What is Comparative Literature and why is literature worth comparing? Reading works from a variety of genres and literary traditions, this course will offer an introduction to the comparative study of literary texts. We will focus on situating these texts in their respective global, cultural and historical contexts and examine the various ways that literary representation intersects with its particular social and historical conditions. The focus on comparison will consider the significance of literary representation in lived experience and social mobilization, and the way in which comparison can foster new perspectives that promote deeper global and social understanding.

GTA: Rebekkah Dilts

Fall 2012

Literature Locked Up

The texts studied in this course have one thing in common: their protagonists have been locked up, and the work of literature centers on their experience of incarceration. In this course we will consider the implications of incarceration as a literary device, looking closely at its function and its use within these texts. We will also consider the historical, philosophical, social, and political implications of incarceration that are suggested by these literary works. These implications engage fundamental questions about the human condition and society, such as: the nature of freedom, the grounds for judgment and morality, the logic of punishment and rehabilitation, the standards and meaning of conformity and deviance, the dividing line between sanity and insanity, and the relationship between society and the individual. Given the profound questions raised by the idea of incarceration, it is no surprise that the figure of the prison and the psychiatric institution appear as literary devices in a wide array of texts and in a diversity of forms, from the purely metaphorical to the excruciatingly realistic. In this course we will study a range of texts from different national and linguistic literary traditions that center on this topic, and will learn how to use the skills of comparative analysis to illuminate the implications of incarceration across different cultural realities, historical periods, and literary genres. The fictional texts will be complemented by memoirs and works of theory addressing the implications of incarceration both inside and outside of the world of literature.

GTA: Chris Perry