COMPLIT 376 - Literature and Ideas
Section: 001 The Ends of Time
Term: WN 2009
Subject: Comparative Literature (COMPLIT)
Department: LSA Comparative Literature
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

We live in time, but to think about it, we have to invent structures — metaphors, analogies, theories, stories. The dominant “common-sense” metaphor in the contemporary west imagines time as an arrow with a future target, but this concept is neither natural, universal, or particularly useful for thought. This class explores narrative, ethical, imaginative and intellectual possibilities of doubled time — that is, experiences of temporal overlap, folding, and doubling. We’ll explore narrative, memory, history, historicity, photography, and fictions of time travel in literary or literature-friendly artifacts.

This course does not presume to offer an introduction to time in physics or philosophy. We’ll instead look closely at case studies in religious time (the Christian Bible & St Augustine), archeological/geological time (Pompeii & Herculaneum), anthropological & narrative time (Johannes Fabian & Amitav Ghosh), photographic time (Roland Barthes, Wisconsin Death Trip). Add a novel or two and a time-travel film and we’re ready to go. Backwards. Forwards. In circles.


  • St Augustine, Confessions
  • Amitav Ghosh, In an antique land
  • Johannes Fabian, Time and the other
  • Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida
  • Michael Lesy, Wisconsin Death Trip
  • Catherine Chidgey, The strength of the Sun
  • Connie Willis, The Doomsday Book
  • Alex Butterworth & Ray Laurence, Pompeii: The Living City
  • Carolyn Steedman, Dust

Other readings: JT Fraser, Time, the familiar stranger

COMPLIT 376 - Literature and Ideas
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
002 (LEC)
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 9780143039518
Confessions, Author: Saint Augustine ; translated w, Publisher: Penguin Books 2006
ISBN: 9780394583686
In an antique land, Author: Ghosh, Amitav., Publisher: A.A. Knopf 1993
ISBN: 9780231125772
Time and the other : how anthropology makes its object, Author: Johannes Fabian., Publisher: Columbia University Press 2002
ISBN: 9780809033409
Camera lucida : reflections on photography, Author: Roland Barthes ; translated by, Publisher: Hill and Wang 1st Americ 1981
ISBN: 9780826321930
Wisconsin death trip, Author: [compiled by] Michael Lesy ; w, Publisher: University of New Mexico Press 2000
ISBN: 9780312421168
The strength of the sun : a novel, Author: Catherine Chidgey., Publisher: Picador 1st Picado 2005
ISBN: 9780553351675
Doomsday book, Author: Connie Willis., Publisher: Bantam Books 1992
ISBN: 9780719060151
Dust, Author: Carolyn Steedman., Publisher: Manchester University Press 2001
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