COMPLIT 140 - First-Year Literary Seminar
Winter 2021, Section 002 - Monstrous Creatures and Wise Kings: Wonder Tales in Middle Eastern Literature
Instruction Mode: Section 002 is  Online (see other Sections below)
Subject: Comparative Literature (COMPLIT)
Department: LSA Comparative Literature
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Requirements & Distribution:
FYSem, WorldLit
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
Advisory Prerequisites:
Enrollment restricted to first-year students, including those with sophomore standing.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:


This course introduces medieval literature of marvels and morals in the Middle East, in order to examine the connections between different wonder tales in a multilingual literary landscape, taking the Armenian versions as its starting point.

It introduces students to a wealth of historical material that is fun to read (Alexander encountering giant men with saws for hands! A fabulous city full of dead people! Impossible creatures!) but also provides insight into the processes of pre-modern literary transmission: the centuries of inspiration, translation, rewriting and reuse that created connections between stories. Students interested in the cultural history of the Middle East and the Caucasus will also learn about new sources to consider in their future research.

We’ll look at texts including the Alexander Romance (the very popular legendary history of Alexander the Great), the History of the City of Brass (originally an Arabic tale, which entered the 1001 Nights cycle in the 19th century), Barlaam and Josaphat (a retelling of the life of Buddha, which circulated widely in the Middle East and Europe), as well as saints’ lives, fables and more. Comparisons and connections are drawn between the versions of these texts found in Armenian and in languages such as Arabic, Georgian, Greek, Turkish, and medieval European vernaculars.

Materials are provided in English, with references given on request for students who wish to pursue these texts in other languages.

Course Requirements:

This course requires regular participation in lectures and discussion seminars. Students will write a series of short papers (2-3 pages) and develop one longer research paper (10-12 pages). At the end of the course, students are also invited to produce a creative response (prose, poetry, mixed-media art, video – the floor is open to any interpretation) which will not be graded, accompanied by an essay on the interpretative process of making the creative work. No mid-term, no final exam.

Intended Audience:

This is a hybrid course that welcomes entirely online participation. The planned structure of the week is a lecture-led session on Tuesday and a discussion-led session on Thursday, conducted synchronously, so students who intend hybrid attendance are most encouraged to join in-person on the Thursday session. However, no one is required to be on campus or present in-person.

This course is intended for first-year students, including those with sophomore standing. Students who are interested in learning about medieval literature and cultural history in general, and in particular of the Middle East and the Caucasus, are encouraged to attend.

Class Format:

Instruction will be undertaken in hybrid form, combining in-person classroom encounters with online synchronous attendance via Zoom (on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Students attending online will need to have access to a microphone or the use of chat. Switching the camera on is welcomed, but not obligatory.

Those wishing to enroll in-person should register for COMPLIT 140-002 or MIDEAST 295.003. Those wishing to enroll remotely should enroll in COMPLIT 140-003 or MIDEAST 295.004.


COMPLIT 140 - First-Year Literary Seminar
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
4Enrollment Management
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
002 (SEM)
4Enrollment Management
TuTh 4:00PM - 5:30PM

Textbooks/Other Materials

The partner U-M / Barnes & Noble Education textbook website is the official way for U-M students to view their upcoming textbook or course material needs, whether they choose to buy from Barnes & Noble Education or not. Students also can view a customized list of their specific textbook needs by clicking a "View/Buy Textbooks" link in their course schedule in Wolverine Access.

Click the button below to view and buy textbooks for COMPLIT 140.002

View/Buy Textbooks


Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

Click the button below to view historical syllabi for COMPLIT 140 (UM login required)

View Historical Syllabi

CourseProfile (Atlas)

The Atlas system, developed by the Center for Academic Innovation, provides additional information about: course enrollments; academic terms and instructors; student academic profiles (school/college, majors), and previous, concurrent, and subsequent course enrollments.

CourseProfile (Atlas)