On this page, you will find generic descriptions of literature subjects that correspond to the MIT Bulletin (Course Catalog).

21L.430 Popular Culture and Narrative
(Same subject as CMS.920)
Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

Examines the relationship between popular and high culture and art, focusing on problems of evaluation and audience, and the uses of different media within a broader social context. Typically treats a range of narrative and dramatic works as well as films. Previously taught topics include Elements of Style; Gender, Sexuality and Popular Narrative. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments. Approved for credit in Women’s and Gender Studies when content meets the requirements for subjects in that program. May be repeated for credit with permission of instructor.

Currently offered this semester:
21L.431 Shakespeare on Film and Media
Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

Examines the adaptation, performance and interpretation of Shakespearean plays on film and video. Focus varies from term to term, to include films such as the Olivier and Almereyda versions of Hamlet and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet; “spin-offs” such as Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood and Shakespeare in Love; or theatrical videos of English language and international productions.

21L.432 Understanding Television
(Same subject as CMS.915)
Prereq: One subject in Literature or Comparative Media Studies
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

A cultural approach to television’s evolution as a technology and system of representation. Considers television as a system of storytelling and mythmaking, and as a cultural practice studied from anthropological, literary, and cinematic perspectives. Focuses on primetime commercial broadcasting, the medium’s technological and economic history, and theoretical perspectives. Considerable television viewing and readings in media theory and cultural interpretation are required. Previously taught topics include: American Television — A Cultural History. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments.

21L.433 Film Styles and Genres
Prereq: 21L.011 or permission of instructor
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

Close study of one or more directors, genres, periods, artistic movements, or national cinemas which have been of major significance in the history of film. Previously taught topics include: Hollywood and Hong Kong; and Movie Realists: Chaplin, Renoir, Neo-realism, Truffaut. May be repeated for credit by permission of instructor.

21L.434 Science Fiction and Fantasy
Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

Traces the history of science fiction as a generic tradition in literature, media, and popular culture. Considers formal ideological and cultural approaches to the analysis and interpretation of science fiction and fantasy texts.

21L.435 Literature and Film
(Same subject as CMS.840)
Prereq: One subject in Literature or Comparative Media Studies
3-3-6 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

Investigates relationships between the two media, including film adaptations as well as works linked by genre, topic, and style. Explores how artworks challenge and cross cultural, political, and aesthetic boundaries. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments.

Currently offered this semester:
21L.449 The Wilds of Literature
Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

A brief history of conflicting ideas about mankind’s relation to the natural environment as exemplified in works of poetry, fiction, and discursive argument from ancient times to the present. Examines views about the overall character of the natural world and whether mankind’s relation to it is one of stewardship and care, or of hostility and explotation. Readings include Aristotle, The Book of Genesis, Shakespeare, Descartes, Robinson Crusoe, Swift, Rousseau, Wordsworth, Darwin, Thoreau, Faulkner, and Lovelock’s Gaia.

Currently offered this semester:
21L.450 Leadership, Ethics, and Literature
Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

Examination of literary works to explore competing ethical concepts and the ethical implications of certain actions and commitments. Topics include origins of morality, ideals of justice, the nature of the virtues, notions of responsibility, ethics and politics, and the ethics of extreme situations. Philosophic texts by Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Kant. Narrative and dramatic texts by Sophocles, Shakespeare, Swift, Isben, Shaw, Dostoyevsky, and Conrad, as well as some Biblical materials.

21L.451 Literary Theory
Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

Examines how we read texts and the questions that we, as readers, ask of them. Introduces different critical approaches to literature by examining the relationship between readers and text, between different texts, and between text and context. Topics vary but usually include reader-response theory, structuralism and semiotics, post-structuralism and post-modernism, historicism, psychoanalysis, intertextuality, cultural criticism, and media theory.

21L.455 Ancient Authors
(Formerly Classical Literature)
Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

Close examination of major works of classical Greek and Roman literature in translation. Topics may include epic, history, lyric poetry, or drama and the works of authors such as Thucydides, Homer, Virgil, and Cicero. Texts and topics vary from term to term. May be repeated once for credit if content differs. Enrollment limited.

21L.458 The Bible
Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

An introduction to major books from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Particular attention given to literary techniques, issues resulting from translation from the original Hebrew and Greek, and the different historical periods that produced and are reflected in the Bible.

21L.460 Medieval Literature
Prereq: One subject in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

Covers readings in European literature between the years 800 and 1500, with particular focus on the English and French literary traditions. Addresses themes such as the complex relationship between love and war; the differences between medieval and modern understandings of character, psychology, and authorship; and the particular role of women (as both characters and authors) in the Middle Ages. May be repeated for credit with instructor’s permission when subject content differs: previous topics include Arthurian legends and Geoffrey Chaucer. Approved for credit in Women’s and Gender Studies when content meets the requirements for subjects in that program. Enrollment limited.

21L.460 Arthurian Literature
Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

Tracing the evolution of King Arthur (and principal knights), students consider what underlies the appeal of this figure whose consistent reappearance in western culture has performed the medieval prophecy that he would be rex quondam et futurus: the once and future king. Examines how Arthur’s persona has been reinvented and rewritten throughout history, including portrayals as Christian hero and war-leader, ineffective king and pathetic cuckold, and as a tragic figure of noble but doomed intentions. Enrollment limited.

21L.471 Major Novels
Prereq: One subject in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

Studies important examples of the literary form that, between the beginning of the 18th century to the present day, has become an indispensable instrument for representing modern life, in the hands of such writers as Cervantes, Defoe, Richardson, Sterne, Burney, Austen, Scott, Dickens, the Brontës, Eliot, Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert, Hardy, Conrad, Woolf, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Proust, and others. May be repeated for credit with instructor’s permission.

21L.473[J] Jane Austen
(Same subject as WGS.240[J])
Prereq: One subject in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H

An examination of Jane Austen’s satire in her seven complete novels, several fragments, and juvenilia. Students read these texts in relation to her letters and other biographical and historical information.

21L.475 Enlightenment and Modernity
Prereq: One subject in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

Examines selected topics in the 18th- and 19th-centry English/European literature and culture from the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660 to the end of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1901. Topics vary by term; authors may include Jonathan Swift, Laurence Sterne, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, and Arthur Conan Doyle, among others. May be repeated for credit with permission of the instructor.

21L.480[J] Identities and Intersections: Queer Literatures
(Same subject as WGS.245)
Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

This course will focus on LGBT literature from the late nineteenth century to the present with an emphasis on fiction and poetry.  In particular, we will analyze how LGBT identities and their literary representations have changed over time.  Our discussion will give special attention to the ways in which race, class, and disability intersect with sexuality and gender.  Some of the authors we will read include James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Delany, Tony Kushner, Audre Lorde, Alison Bechdel, and Leslie Feinberg.

21L.485 Modern Fiction
Prereq: One subject in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H

Tradition and innovation in representative fiction of the early modern period. Recurring themes include the role of the artist in the modern period; the representation of psychological and sexual experience; and the virtues (and defects) of the aggressively experimental character. Works by Conrad, Kipling, Babel, Kafka, James, Lawrence, Mann, Ford Madox Ford, Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner, and Nabokov.

21L.486 Modern Drama
Prereq: One subject in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-A

Explores major modern plays with special attention to performance, sociopolitical and aesthetic contexts, and the role of theater in the contemporary multimedial landscape. Includes analysis of class, gender, and race as modes of performance. Typically features Beckett and Brecht, as well as some of the following playwrights: Chekov, Churchill, Deavere Smith, Ibsen, Fornes, Friel, Kushner, O’Neill, Shaw, Stoppard, Soyinka, Williams, Wilson.

21L.487 Modern Poetry
Prereq: One subject in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H

Study of major modern texts and manifestos from the late 19th century through the 20th century. Examines works written in English, with attention to Modernist texts from other cultures and other languages as well. Poems by T.S. Eliot, W.C. Williams, Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, Pablo Neruda, Hilda Doolittle, Charles Baudelaire, and others.

21L.488 Contemporary Literature
Prereq: One subject in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H

Study of key themes and techniques in prose, poetry, and drama since the 1970s. Recent topics include postmodernism, globalization, new British and Irish writing, and literature and development.

Currently offered this semester:
21L.489[J] Interactive Narrative
(Same subject as 21W.765[J], CMS.845)
Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-A

Provides a workshop environment for understanding interactive narrative (print and digital) through critical writing, narrative theory, and creative practice. Covers important multisequential books, hypertexts, and interactive fictions. Students write critically, and give presentations, about specific works; write a short multisequential fiction; and develop a digital narrative system, which involves significant writing and either programming or the structuring of text. Programming ability helpful.

21L.490[J] Introduction to the Classics of Russian Literature (NEW)
(Same subject as 21G.077[J])
Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

Explores the works of classical Russian writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including stories and novels by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Bunin, Nabokov, Platonov, Solzhenitsyn and others. Focuses on their approaches to portraying self and society. Examines how writers responded to pivotal events in Russian history, including revolutions, wars, years of the Soviet regime, and the collapse of the communist system. Taught in English; students interested in completing an extra project in Russian should register for 21G.618.

Currently offered this semester:
21L.501 The American Novel
Prereq: Permission of instructor
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

Works by major American novelists, beginning with the late 18th century and concluding with a contemporary novelist. Major emphasis on reading novels as literary texts, but attention paid to historical, intellectual, and political contexts as well. Syllabus varies from term to term, but many of the following writers are represented: Rowson, Hawthorne, Melville, Twain, Wharton, James, and Toni Morrison. Previously taught topics include The American Revolution and Makeovers (i.e. adaptations and reinterpretation of novels traditionally considered as American “Classics”). May be repeated for credit with instructor’s permission so long as the content differs.

21L.504[J] Race and Identity in American Literature
(Same subject as WGS.140[J])
Prereq: Permission of instructor
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

Questions posed by the literature of the Americas about the relationship of race and gender to authorship, audience, culture, ethnicity, and aesthetics. Social conditions and literary histories that shape the politics of identity in American literature. Specific focus varies each term. Previously taught topics include Cultural Encounters from 1492 to the Civil War, Immigrant Stories, African American Literature, and Asian American Literature. May be repeated for credit with permission of instructor if the content differs.

Currently offered this semester:
21L.512 American Authors
Prereq: One subject in Literature, permission of instructor
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

Examines in detail the works of several American authors selected according to a theme, period, genre, or set of issues. Through close readings of poetry, novels, or plays, subject addresses such issues as literary influence, cultural diversity, and the writer’s career. Previously taught topics include: American Women Writers, American Autobiography, American Political Writing, and American Short Fiction. Approved for credit Women’s and Gender Studies when content meets the requirements for subjects in that program. May be repeated for credit with instructor’s permission so long as content differs.

21L.518 Literature from Anywhere
Prereq: none
2-0-7

Provides students studying abroad the opportunity to study a literature topic and interact with their peers on campus through feedback and discussion. Begins with an intensive on-campus seminar during IAP that introduces tools, background, and context for the readings; covers goals, methods, and logistics for the work students will conduct independently over the spring; and discusses the assigned text, films, etc. During the spring term, students synthesize and record their questions and understandings of the literature, producing materials for use and comment by peers enrolled in a six-unit, on-campus class that covers the same content (e.g., 21L.320 Big Books). Topics vary from year to year.

21L.590 Cultural Encounters: Global Literature Abroad (NEW IAP)
Prereq: none
3-3-3 HASS-H Can be repeated for credit

While living abroad, students study literature, art and history with a focus on the multi-national contexts of cultural production. Emphasis of the course will vary but it will always examine the dynamic exchange of culture beyond national borders, the relationship between geography, history and the literary imagination, and the different esthetic experience of seeing from within and seeing from the outside. Students study a variety of texts as well as music, dance and visual materials. Visits to museums, archives, and architectural sites are an integral part of this subject. May be repeated for credit with instructor’s permission so long as the content differs.