Comparative Literature | Intro to Contemporary Lit Studies
C501 | 13542 | Prof. Patrick Dove


T 4:00-6:00

This course is intended to provide an introduction to important
debates concerning literature and the principles and methodologies of
its study. What is literature? What distinguishes it from other modes
of cultural production? What roles have been envisioned for it in
modern societies?

We will approach these questions with an eye to some of the serious
challenges facing Comparative Literature and the Humanities today, in
the context of global forces and tendencies that today call into
question or oblige us to rethink the national boundaries and
institutions upon which the ideas of national literature and
Comparative Literature are founded. We will also take into account
challenges to the traditional configuration and mission of the
university—and particularly of the Humanities—that arise in
conjunction with new forms of technology and new ways of organizing
labor and production.

Since Plato, one of the major concerns surrounding literature has been
the suspicion that literary language has no being or essence of its
own, and that rather than helping bring truth to light, literature
only introduces more confusion and uncertainty in the world. One of
the key lines of questioning in this course will be to interrogate the
Platonic critique of mimesis and literature, and to ask what kind of
response(s) literature itself—if we can presume to know that this
“itself” refers to—might offer to theoretical attempts to define,
compartmentalize and control its movement. Such questions become
especially pressing today with the emergence of new forms of mobility
as well as new forms of control around the globe.

For organizational purposes we will divide the semester into four
sections, each of which will define and examine a particular concept
or problem related to literature and contemporary literary theory:
“representation,” “difference,” “ideology” and “world”/“event.”
Primary texts will be drawn from a variety of theoretical schools and
tendencies, including Marxism and post-Marxism, deconstruction,
feminism, structuralism and post-structuralism, postcolonial and
subaltern studies, and psychoanalysis.

Comp Lit graduate students must also enroll in C502.