Courses and Requirements

NOTE: The requirements for the concentrations and minors in comparative literature outlined in this section pertain to students in the classes of 2016 and 2017. Beginning with the Class of 2018, students pursuing the study of comparative literature and/or English and creative writing will take courses through the Literature and Creative Writing Department. See that department for more information. For more information about comparative literature contact Nancy Rabinowitz at nrabinow@hamilton.edu.

A concentration in comparative literature consists of nine courses, including five designated as comparative literature, two in a national literature in the original language (e.g., Chinese, Russian, Greek) and two in either a second national literature in the original language or in linguistics or in a related art (music, dance, visual arts, or film and media studies) selected in consultation with a departmental advisor. Students pursuing the linguistics or related arts option must complete study in a foreign language to the 140 level or equivalent. All concentrators are required to take 211 or 212, and 297, and all senior concentrators will take part in a Senior Program in which 500 (Senior Seminar) is required and 550 (Senior Project) is recommended. A complete description of the Senior Program is available from the department chair. Only one 100-level course may be counted toward the concentration. It is to the student’s advantage to begin foreign language study early; those planning graduate work in literature are urged to take two additional courses in a national literature and to study two foreign languages.

Honors in comparative literature will be awarded on the basis of a cumulative record of 3.5 (90) or above in all courses counting toward the major, as well as distinguished performance in 550.

A minor consists of five courses, including either 211, 212 or 297; two other courses designated as comparative literature; and two other courses in comparative, English or foreign literature, or linguistics. Only two 100-level courses may be counted toward the minor.

Many courses at the 200-level are open to seniors without prerequisites. For details, see the specific descriptions below.

[120S] Introduction to the History and Theory of Film.
A general introduction to the wide world of cinema and cinema studies, focusing on crucial films from many cinematic traditions. Topics include the evolution of film from earlier forms of motion picture, the articulation and exploitation of a narrative language for cinema, the development of typical commercial genres, and the appearance of a variety of forms of critical cinema. Focuses on basic film terminology, with the cinematic apparatus and ongoing theoretical conversation about cinema and its audience. (Same as Cinema and Media Studies 120 and Art History 120.)

[143] Literature on Trials.
Why are trials so fascinating? Our emphasis will be on the ways they clarify values, establishing borders between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, with attention to how they enforce cultural norms concerning race, gender, and sexuality. We will discuss literary and cultural representations of historical trials, such as those of Socrates, Joan of Arc, Galileo, the Salem Witches, and Oscar Wilde. Course materials to include readings from Aeschylus, Plato, Shaw, Brecht, Stendhal, Kafka, Camus, Morrison, as well as films and other primary and secondary sources. (Writing-intensive.) (Proseminar.) (Theme or Identity and Difference) Open to first-year students only. Maximum enrollment, 16.

146S (Re)Discovering Latin American in Literature.
In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue… to unfamiliar lands that were shocking, provocative and elusive. This course examines the ‘discovery’ of America, transcultural encounters, and the myths of/from America (paradise, utopia & lost cities of gold) in literature. Readings span from Mesoamerican stories (Aztec, Maya, Inca), New World voices (Inca Garcilaso, Guamán Poma) to modern Latin American writers & artists (Borges, Saer, Carpentier, Cortázar, Lam, Kahlo, Varos & others). (Writing-intensive.) Not open to students who have taken 100-level Comparative Literature, Literature or English courses. (History, Identity and Difference). Maximum enrollment, 20. N Serrano.

[152F] Literature and Ethics.
Study of literature as a vehicle for moral and political concerns and of the ways that literature shapes its readers. Special emphasis on popular literature, feminist criticism and the problems raised by censorship and pornography. Selected novels and plays by such writers as Ibsen, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Wright, Highsmith, Doris Lessing, Burgess and others. (Writing-intensive.) (Proseminar.) (Theme) Open to first-year students only. Maximum enrollment, 16.

[210S] Modern and Contemporary Chinese Literature: Traditions and Modernities.
Since 1919, Chinese literature has played a decisive role in interactions between tradition and modernity. This course examines the development of Chinese literature against such interactions. Students will familiarize themselves with the most representative modern and contemporary Chinese literary works and gain a broad understanding of many modernity-related issues, including politics, culture, class, labor division, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. All lectures and discussions in English. Requirements: presentations, class discussions, film viewings and a final paper. (Same as East Asian Languages and Literatures 210.)

211F Readings in World Literature I.
Great ‘masterpieces’ have been inscribed on cave walls, papyrus, tapestries, parchment (goatskin), and paper in order to comment upon the world. This course examines the human condition through a comparative study of mythology, epic, narrative, and poetry, from ancient Mesopotamia and Greece to the Roman Empire through to the Renaissance period. It pays special attention to how sexuality, identity, and politics play in the representation of diverse societies in Innana, The Odyssey, The Golden Ass, El Cid, Les Lais, 1001 Nights, The Pillow Book, Veronica Franco’s poetry, and others. (Writing-intensive.) (History) Maximum enrollment, 20. N Serrano.

212S Readings in World Literature II.
Study of representative texts in world literature from 1800 to the present, including novels, short fiction, and drama. Particular attention paid to the concepts of class, self and society, and they way they are intertwined with forms of narrative and drama. Readings to include works by such writers as Goethe, Balzac, Austen, Chekhov, Kafka, Hagedorn, Roy. (Writing-intensive.) (History) May be taken without 211. Maximum enrollment, 20. N Rabinowitz.

[219S] Checkmate!: Play, Games & Cultural Exchanges in the Mediterranean Basin.
Lewis Carroll mixes fantasy with logic when he confronts Alice in Wonderland with a "great huge game of chess that's being played—all over the world.” But chess originated in Eastern India, entered Muslim culture in 7th century, and then traveled across the Mediterranean into medieval Spain and Sicily. This course examines symbolic constructions of cosmopolitan ‘play’ through the waning middle ages, and how games challenge the literary representation of diverse communities in the Mediterranean basin. Readings include medieval Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French works. Prerequisite, One course in literature. (Intermedia or History). Open to sophomores, juniors, seniors, or consent of instructor..

220S Visual Narratives: Images With(In) Books.
How do you read images with(in) books? Can images persuade, seduce, or even lead the narrative astray? Drawing from the works on text and image from Visual Culture scholars, this interdisciplinary course focuses on visual textuality—the ‘book’ as a visible object of cultural consumption and production in the West and Mediterranean. Students will undertake the task of understanding and analyzing this multifaceted art form by examining illuminated manuscripts, woodcuts, printed texts, and illustrations (Duc de Berry, Goya, Max Ernst, Edward Gorey, Orhan Pamuk). (Intermedia, history) (Same as Art History 220). (Same as Art History 220.) N Serrano.

225F Madness, Murder and Mayhem: Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature.
Readings of representative works with emphasis on major literary movements, cultural history, and basic literary devices. Primary texts by Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, as well as some critical materials. (Writing-intensive.) No knowledge of Russian required. (Same as Russian Studies 225.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Bartle.

[226S] Sex, Death and Revolution: Twentieth-Century Russian Art and Literature.
Close analysis of major literary and artistic movements of the 20th century, with particular attention paid to the innovations of the avant-garde and the impact of the Bolshevik Revolution on the artistic imagination. Emphasis on the recurring theme of the fate of the individual in a mass society. No knowledge of Russian required. (Same as Russian Studies 226.)

234S The Hero as Failure: Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature.
Why does so much classic Russian literature center on weak male protagonists unable to come to terms with stronger, more adaptable women? This course will explore this repeated pattern both as a reflection of Russian attitudes toward love and as a metaphorical expression of political frustration in a repressive society. Readings to include fiction, plays, and criticism by such writers as Pushkin, Lermontov, Belinsky, Gogol, Turgenev, Chernyshevsky, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov. Prerequisite, A 100-level course in literature. Open to students who have taken LIT/RSNST 225. (History, Theme) (Same as Russian Studies 234.) P Rabinowitz.

[235] Love, Family and Loneliness in Modern Japanese Literature.
Love has always been a central theme in Japanese literature. Focuses on how Japanese writers of the modern period (particularly late 19th century to the present) depict the struggle with new concepts and forms of "love" and relationships. As well as basic readings about modern Japanese history and culture, assigned texts range from canonical work, various forms of early twentieth-century modernist mystery, technical and avant-garde writings, to contemporary "coming of age" novels. We will also examine such media as cartoons and films. Readings and discussion in English. (Same as East Asian Languages and Literatures 235.)

239/339F Modern Japan: Japanese Culture and Society From A(-Bomb) to (Dragon Ball)Z.
This course explores issues of imperialism, military conflict, pacifism, nuclear victimhood, foreign occupation, national identity, and social responsibility in 19th to 21st-century Japan. Materials include nonfiction, science fiction, poetry, war propaganda, novels, censorship documents, animé, and film. Taught in English. No knowledge of Japanese language or history required. (Same as East Asian Languages and Literatures 239/339.) Omori.

244F Tragedy: Then and Now.
How did Greek tragedy work in the city of Athens? Athens was a radical democracy but was based on slave labor and the exclusion of women. How is this implied contradiction displayed in the works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides? But tragedy also has contemporary life. How do these plays transcend their time of production? An opportunity to examine relations of gods/humans, fate/choice, as well as gender, class/ethnicity and sexuality. Readings to include works by Seneca, Racine, Sartre, O’Neill, Heaney, Fugard. (Genre) (Same as Theatre 244 and Classics 244.) N Rabinowitz.

[258/358S] Opera.
Study of literary and musical dimensions of operas by major composers from Monteverdi and Mozart to the present. Emphasis on the transformation of independent texts into librettos and the effects of music as it reflects language and dramatic action. Includes such works as Orfeo, The Marriage of Figaro, Otello, The Turn of the Screw and Candide. Prerequisite, two courses in music or two in literature, or one in each field, or consent of instructors. Music 358 has an additional independent project. Registration at the 300-level only with instructor's permission. (Same as Music 258/358 and Literature and Creative Writing 258/358 and Literature and Creative Writing 258/358.) Maximum enrollment, 24.

[270] Heaven, Hell and the Space in Between: Devils and Deities in Russian Literature and Art.
Examination of the portrayals of the cosmic conflict: Good vs. Evil, Heaven vs. Hell, God vs. Satan. The second half of the semester will be dedicated to a close reading and analysis of Fyodor Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov. (Writing-intensive.) No knowledge of Russian required. (Same as Russian Studies 270.) Maximum enrollment, 20.

278S The Straight Story?: Rethinking the Romance.
A study of the ways in which various forms of sexual desire (overt or closeted) drive the plot of literary works. How is desire constructed? How have authors used, manipulated and resisted the marriage plot for aesthetic and political ends? Special attention to works by gay and lesbian authors. Readings, which include works of theory as well as imaginative texts, to include such authors as Austen, Diderot, Balzac, Zola, Wilde, Baldwin. (Theme or Identity and Difference) (Same as Women's Studies 278.) N Rabinowitz.

288F Show and Tell: Comics and Graphic Narratives.
In Reading Comics, Douglas Wolk states “The cheap way of referring to them is “comics” or “comic books”; the fancy way is “graphic novels”. Erasing these common prejudices, this class reinforces that comics is a sophisticated and complex medium that bears close affinities with art, film, and literature. This is an introductory study of comics across cultures and within global contexts—Tintin, Astro Boy, Wonder Woman, Watchmen and others—one that emphasizes visual narrative storytelling as well as the socio-political and visual trends that have shaped the powerful creative industry of comics. (Theory or Intermedia) (Same as Art History 288.) N Serrano.

290F Facing Reality: A History of Documentary Cinema.
The history of cinema as representation and interpretation of "reality," focusing on nonfiction film and video from a variety of periods and geographic locales. Emphasis on the ways in which nonfiction films can subvert viewers' conventional expectations and their personal security. Forms to be discussed include the city symphony, ethnographic documentary, propaganda, nature film, direct cinema, cinéma vérité, the compilation film and personal documentary. (Same as Art History 290 and Cinema and Media Studies 290.) MacDonald.

[301F] Cinema as Theory and Critique.
A history of alternatives to commercial movies, focusing on surrealist and dadaist film, visual music, psychodrama, direct cinema, the film society movement, personal cinema, the New American Cinema, structuralism, Queer cinema, feminist cinema, minor cinema, recycled cinema and devotional cinema. While conventional entertainment films use the novel, the short story and the stage drama as their primary instigations, experimental and avant-garde films are analogous to music, poetry, painting, sculpture and collage. Not open to first-year students. (Same as Art History 301 and Cinema and Media Studies 301.)

318S Mapping in the Global Renaissance: Cartography & Literature.
Long before Google maps, real and imagined landscapes captivated people. Students will study texts and maps side-by-side, and how they inscribe socio-political and geographical boundaries as well as (de)form cultural identity. Beginning with Ptolemy's Geography we will examine Europe's spatial boundaries within the context of New World "discoveries" and interrogate the interstices between West/non-West in the Mediterranean and the borders of early modern Europe and the New World as depicted in the literary space by Sir Thomas More, Shakespeare, Cabeza de Vaca, Ariosto, Jean de Léry and others Prerequisite, A 200-level course in literature or art history. History and Intermedia Maximum enrollment, 20. Serrano.

[356S] Introduction to Japanese Film.
Traces the history of one of the world’s most innovative film industries. Since the early 20th century, Japanese film makers have experimented with and improved upon cinema; their work has been influential not only in Japan but throughout the world. From the drama of early silent movies to anime, we’ll cover some of the “greatest hits” of Japanese film, whether widely popular or critically acclaimed. This exploration of cinema in Japan will offer both a new perspective on cinema itself as well as an opportunity to view the genre’s development in a specific cultural context. Prerequisite, Cinema and New Media Studies 120, Comparative Literature 120, Art History 120, any 100-level course in Asian studies or Japanese, or consent of the instructor. No prior knowledge of Japanese history, language or film required. (Same as East Asian Languages and Literatures 356.)

[365S] Major Figures in Cinema.
Focus on crucial contributors to the wide world of cinema. The work of one, two, or three particular filmmakers, each from a different sector of the geography of cinema, will be examined in detail. Possible filmmakers include Alfred Hitchcock, James Benning, Ross McElwee, Stan Brakhage, Fritz Lang, the Coen brothers. Prerequisite, ARTH/CNMS/CPLIT 120; or ARTH/CNMS/CPLIT 290; or ARTH/CNMS/CPLIT 301; or permission of the instructor. (Same as Art History 365 and Cinema and Media Studies 365.)

[391S] Queer/Feminist Literary Theory.
Contemporary feminist and queer theories have a close connection to literature; they emerged from and later transformed literary studies. We will discuss selected theoretical writing, as well as creative texts from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century: fiction, plays, and films. Conversations will center around questions of identity and performativity, and the intersections of gender, sexuality, race and class. Readings to be drawn from the following: Oscar Wilde, Radclyffe Hall, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Tony Kushner, Cherrie Moraga. Prerequisite, At least one course in Literature and/or Women's Studies, or consent of instructor. (Theory or Identity and Difference) (Same as Cp Lit 391 and Women's Studies 391) (Same as Women's Studies 391.)

460S Beyond Proust.
What do you do after finishing In Search of Lost Time? The easy choice is to read it again. But for those not ready to take the plunge a second time, this course offers an alternative: the study of a group of works that take on special resonances in the context of Proust. Included will be Nabokov’s Lolita, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Makine’s Dreams of My Russian Summers, Turgenev’s First Love, Jacqueline Rose’s Albertine, Anne Carson’s Albertine Workout, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Goldstein’s The Properties of Light, and others. Prerequisite, CompLit 360 or consent of instructor. (Same as Comparative Literature 460.) Maximum enrollment, 12. P Rabinowitz.

500F Senior Seminar.
Topic: Great Novels and Beach Reading. Despite a variety of compelling attacks on the canon, many of us still have a sense that some novels are better than others—even though we’d be hard pressed to explain why. By placing certified classics against works with lesser reputations, this course will consider the question of literary quality—is it in the reader, in the text, in the culture, elsewhere, or nowhere? Readings to include novels by such writers as Chabon, Kafka, Harold Robbins, Southworth, Faulkner, and Margaret Mitchell, as well as selected essays in narrative theory. Prerequisite, Three courses in literature. Priority given to senior concentrators. Maximum enrollment, 12. Rabinowitz, Peter.

(from the Hamilton Course Catalogue)

Contact Information

Comparative Literature Department

198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323
Back to Top