Courses in Comparative Literature (Division 354)

240. Introduction to Comparative Literature. (3). (HU).

What sort of "poetry" is the verse on greeting cards? Are people who read the Bible "as literature" really reading the Bible? What can be learned about literature from jokes and advertising jingles? What does oral storytelling have to do with literary narrative? What does literary narrative have to do with film? the opera? ballet? What exactly is "fiction" and what sort of "truth" (or "truths") can it convey? Why do we read literature from remote cultures (which may not themselves recognize the concept of "literature")? As an introduction to comparative literature, this course asks the question: "What is literature?" Is it a specific category of discourse that can be isolated and defined in formal (or other) terms? Or is it an institution that needs to be accounted for in purely social terms? Is it perhaps both? Or neither? Many more questions will be asked and problems raised than answers given, but we will look at some influential theories of "literarity," examine the major genres, and question literary texts that themselves have something to say about their own nature and communicative situation. Classwork will be by discussion and the occasional (informal) lecture. Three short written assignments, one of which will involve some "creative" writing and another a comparative procedure. Midterm by interview with instructor; no final. Texts: Barth, Lost in the Funhouse; Cortazar, End of the Game; The Four Gospels; Beckett, Waiting for Godot; Pirandello, Naked Masks; Sophocles, The Oedipus Cycle; course pack of readings. (Chambers)


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