COMPLIT 730 - Seminar in Literary Movements and Periods
Section: 001 Hard Books Made Easy (or Almost)
Term: FA 2017
Subject: Comparative Literature (COMPLIT)
Department: LSA Comparative Literature
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
Advisory Prerequisites:
Graduate standing.
May be repeated for a maximum of 9 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

This course, taught in English, offers a practical workshop in how to read contemporary novels often considered inaccessible. We will thus consider practical strategies for reading through the challenges that the French New Novel (le Nouveau Roman) brought to novelistic conventions such as linear narrative, the distinction between characters and objects, narrative time, and the omniscient narrator capable of authorizing a “true” version of a novel’s events. Then we will consider how Francophone novels incorporated similar challenges, often to more political ends. Rereading the French New Novel through its postcolonial parallels also allows readers to better understand the New Novel’s frequent reproduction of colonial discourse. Finally we will consider more recent works such as those from OULIPO writers. Along the way we will consider the way novelistic difficulties inflect questions of gender and sexuality in works by feminist and queer writers. Throughout the semester, we will also consider how questioning more conventional models of narrativity brings about a reconceptualization of the notions of identity, history, and nationality. Assigned novels will take up about 2/3 of the semester, with the final third being devoted to individual students each choosing 3-4 novels, which need not be written in French. Students enrolled under CompLit 730 are welcome to propose novels from multiple languages and/or “national traditions” in accordance with their comparative coursework and research trajectories. To further encourage comparative approaches to literary difficulty, students may read even the assigned novels in translation. The final reading list will be established in conversation with students enrolled into seminar.

Proposed Reading List (this list will be finalized in conversation with students enrolled in the seminar):

  • Michel Butor’s L’emploi du temps
  • Kateb Yacine’s Nedjma
  • Sony Labou Tansi’s La vie et demie
  • Hubert Acquin’s Prochaine episode
  • Monqiue Wittig, Le corps lesbian
  • Georges Perec, La disparition
  • Anne Garreta, Sphinx or La décomposition
  • Jean Genet Les nègres or Les paravents
  • Nina Bouraoui, La voyeuse interdite

Course Requirements:

Requirements: one-page reactions papers on independently read novels and one final seminar paper.

Class Format:


COMPLIT 730 - Seminar in Literary Movements and Periods
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
M 2:00PM - 5:00PM
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