To find subjects taught in previous semesters, you may also look at the archived Literature Supplements.

Spring 2023 Literature Supplement IAP 2023 Fall 2022 Literature Supplement
Show Descriptions


21L.000[J] Writing About Literature: The Art of the Short Story
Same subject as 21W.041[J]
Ina Lipkowitz TR 9:30 - 11:00 4-144

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-HW

The short-story writer Alice Munro accepted the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature expressing her “hope [that] this would make people see the short story as an important art, not just something you played around with until you got a novel.” In this class, we’ll take Munro at her word and read a variety of short stories by writers including Amy Tan, Raymond Carver, John Updike, Tim O’Brien, Jamaica Kincaid, Sandra Cisneros, and Alice Munro herself. Of course reading stories for the sheer pleasure of it is one thing; thinking about what they might mean is another; expressing those thoughts in writing is still another. In this class, we’ll be doing all three. The goal will be to increase enjoyment in reading and in understanding, as well as to feel more confident in the ability to express oneself effectively, efficiently, and gracefully.

21L.001 Foundations of Western Literature: Homer to Dante James Buzard TR 3:30-5:00p 4-253

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-H

This course examines foundational literary works from the Ancient Greeks and Romans to Medieval Europe. We’ll consider these works as sources of some very long-lasting traditions in the representation of love, desire, conflict, justice, the quest for knowledge, the scope or limits of human action, human relations with the divine and animal realms. Works to be considered will most likely include:

Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey; Aeschylus’s Oresteia; Sophocles’s Oedipus The King; Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone; Euripides’s The Bacchae; Virgil’s Aeneid; and selections from Dante’s Divine Comedy

As a Cl-H class, 21L.001 will devote considerable attention to student writing and speaking. There will be a number of short essays and at least one formal oral report per student.

21L.003 Reading Fiction David Thorburn TR 1:30 - 3:00 14N-112

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-H

We’ll read about thirty remarkable stories — roughly two or three each week – by a roster of great and very good writers, chosen to represent something of the formal diversity and moral and artistic complexity of the short story as a literary form. Among our authors: Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Joyce, Gabriel Marquez, Doris Lessing, Flannery O’Connor,  Alice Munro, Lydia Davis.

I aim for lively discussion from everyone. In addition to reading our week’s stories, I expect students to have searched online for basic general information about our authors’ lives and major writings.  We’ll begin each class with a brief overview of our writer, and then work toward a close reading of the required story. Students must bring texts to class; we’ll be reading many passages together during our discussions. In most classes we’ll discuss two complex stories, so you must be truly prepared, familiar with the texts, and ready to talk about them seriously.

21L.004 Reading Poetry: Section 1 Noel Jackson MW 1:00 - 2:30 2-103

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-H

An introduction to poetry in English, chiefly by British and American poets. We will explore Renaissance, eighteenth-century, Romantic, and Modernist poetry in particular detail. Though the organization of the subject is chronological, our focus will be less on names and dates than on cultivating skills in careful reading and effective writing. Poets to be read may include Shakespeare, Sidney, Wordsworth, Keats, Dickinson, Frost, Eliot, and Elizabeth Bishop.

21L.004 Reading Poetry: Section 2 Stephen Tapscott MW 7:00 - 8:30 pm 2-103

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-H

An introduction to poetry in English. We will explore poems written during several periods and in several genres (nature-poems, narratives, the epic, sonnets, odes, experimental forms).  Focus will be less on names and dates than on tactics of analytic reading. Poets whose work we’ll read include William Shakespeare, John Keats, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, Liyoung Lee, and many others. Special course-related events (readings, lectures, film screenings) will take place on selected evenings throughout the term. Regular classroom hours will be reduced in the weeks for which a special event is scheduled.

21L.007 World Literatures Joaquín Terrones MW 3:30 - 5:00 2-103

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-H

Literature has always reached across borders, hemispheres and oceans in order to explore the conflicts and connections between cultures. In this course, we will discuss contemporary novels, short stories and graphic novels by non-Western authors in order to analyze how they intervene in the current global cultural landscape. We will study the ways in which these works of fiction reflect and refract the political, economic, and religious forces shaping the world, as well as the specific national contexts in which they were written.

Some of the authors we will read include Chimamanda Adichie (Nigeria), Patrick Chamoiseau (Martinique), Mia Couto (Mozambique), Santiago Gamboa (Colombia), Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan), Yuri Herrera (Mexico), Adriana Lisboa (Brazil), Haruki Murakami (Japan), Arundhati Roy (India), Marjane Satrapi (Iran) and Kyung-Sook Shin (South Korea).

21L.009 Shakespeare Kavita Mudan Finn MW 1:00-2:30p 16-644

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-H

This term Shakespeare (21L.009) approaches some of the playwright’s most enduring works through close reading of the text(s) and through their vibrant and varied afterlife in performance and on film, including scenes from productions from across the world in the MIT Global Shakespeares Video and Performance Archive. In addition to several papers, work for the subject will include class discussion, notes on each play, and short student presentations. Focuses on the reading of six to eight of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as their adaptation for stage and/or film. Selected texts cover the range of genres in which Shakespeare wrote (i.e., history, comedy, tragedy, and romance). Special emphasis in some terms on performances and adaptations of Shakespearean drama around the world. Plays studied vary term to term, and have recently included  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and The Tempest. We may also attend one or more theatrical performances, depending on what is available in the Boston area during the semester.

21L.010[J] Writing with Shakespeare
Same subject as 21W.042[J]
Diana Henderson TR 3:00 - 4:30 66-154

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-HW

William Shakespeare didn’t go to college. If he could time-travel like Dr. Who, he would be stunned to find his words on a university syllabus. But he would not be surprised at the way we will be using those words in this class, because the study of rhetoric was essential to all education in his day. We too will focus on communication using words, with Shakespeare as a capacious model and inspiration for dialogue, self-presentation, and writing. By writing ‘with’ Shakespeare—critically, creatively, in groups, and in a variety of media—you will have ample opportunity to explore the elements and occasions that shape effective, meaningful communication. In addition to famous speeches and sonnets, we will analyze film versions of the comedy Much Ado About Nothing and the tragedy Othello, and perform dramatic scenes from what is now a ‘problem play’, The Merchant of Venice.  We will look at how Shakespeare revises his stories and style, including in the late ‘romance,’ A Winter’s Tale, and at how his plays have in turn been reinterpreted across the globe. In the process, we will debate the reasons for Shakespeare’s enduring power. Nevertheless, our aim is less to appreciate his works as an end in themselves than to draw on his remarkable drama (including its vocabulary, variety, verve, and verbal command) in order to help you improve your own writing, speaking, analytic thinking, use of resources, and understanding of media today.

21L.011 Introduction to Film Studies Eugenie Brinkema
Lecture T 3:30 - 5:00 3-270
Screening M 7:00 - 10:00 pm 3-270
R1 R 3:00 - 4:00 1-273
R2 R 3:00 - 4:00 1-277
R3 R 4:00-5:00 1-273
R4 R 4:00-5:00 1-277

Prereq: none
3-3-6 HASS-A, CI-H

Films are familiar to you; this course should make them strange again. The Film Experience serves as an introduction to film studies, concentrating on close analysis and criticism. Students will learn the technical vocabulary for analyzing the cinematic narrative, frame, and editing; develop the critical means for turning close analysis into interpretations and comparative readings of films; and explore theoretical issues. We will look beyond the surface pleasures of cinema to ask how films are put together; what choices are made formally, narratively, and politically in the constructions of different types of films; and how films have changed historically and in different production and national contexts. We will study a wide range of works made between 1895 and 2010, including films from the early silent period, documentary and avant-garde films, European art cinema, and contemporary Hollywood fare. Directors will include Coppola, Dreyer, Eisenstein, Fellini, Godard, Griffith, Haneke, Hawks, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Kurosawa, Lang, Resnais, Spielberg, Tarantino, Vertov, Welles, and Zhang. Readings will include work from film theorists including Bazin, Bellour, Bordwell, Doane, Gunning, Metz, Mulvey, Williams, and Wollen. Format: one 90-minute lecture, one evening screening, and one discussion hour per week.

21L.015 Children's Literature Shankar Raman TR 2:30 - 4:00 5-232

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-H

Through the second half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century, a canon of “classic” texts for children took shape. This course will invite you to (re)encounter a variety of celebrated children’s books drawn from England and Europe. You will absorb yourselves again in such classics as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows, Treasure Island, or The Little Prince — as well as perhaps meet for the first time Tove Jansson’s Moomintroll family, or see what else Astrid Lidgren has written beyond Pippi Longstocking, or where Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story leads. Many of these books have not only been read by millions of children and adults, they have also been adapted, parodied, and recycled—transformed into movies, musical works, television shows, and so on. Why do we keep telling these particular stories over and over again? What does their popularity tell us about the history of childhood and its representation? As we study these and other influential works of art starring children, we will ask: What images of the child emerge out of these texts? What makes such images culturally appealing?

21L.020[J] Globalization: The Good, the Bad and the In-Between
Margery Resnick TR 3:00 - 4:30 14N-313

Prereq: none
3-0-6 HASS-H, CI-H

This subject examines the cultural, artistic, social, and political impact of globalization across international borders in a historical context. Novels and short stories as well as case studies on global health, human trafficking, and labor migration illuminate the shaping influence of contemporary globalization on gender, race, ethnicity, and class. Guest lecturers visit class as we examine the impact of globalization on cultural identity, the arts, the politics of language, and the media. How has migration changed notions of cultural and racial hybridity? What can we learn from specific examples of global media and expressive culture including popular music and film? In what ways has globalization affected human rights? Students develop sensitivity to other cultures and the ability to read broadly across national boundaries. Furthermore, the emphasis on the historical context gives students a foundation to continue work in literature, history, and the arts from a global perspective.

21L.021 Comedy Wyn Kelley MW 9:30 - 11:00 56-167

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-H

How do comedy and love get along? Does love conquer all, or just make us laugh? This class considers comedy and love in drama, narrative, and film spanning more than 2000 years. We will revel in Greek, Roman, and Shakespearean theater and the bawdy humor of Rabelais; explore Aphra Behn’s eighteenth-century feminist rakes in The Rover; investigate romantic comedy, and social satire in Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde; peek under the covers of small-town family life in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home; and explore the uneasy relationship between farce and romance, violence and redemptive humor, satire and festivity in comic art.

Discussion will draw on popular and contemporary forms, including political humor, stand-up and sketch comedy, and cartoons.

21L.023[J] Folk Music of the British Isles and North America
Ruth Perry, William Donaldson TR 12:30 - 2:00 4-158

Prereq: none
3-1-8 HASS-A, CI-H

This subject will introduce students to some of the folk music of the British Isles and North America and to some of the scholarship as well as the folklore about it. We will examine the musical qualities of “folk poetry” -particularly the old narrative Scottish and English ballads. We will try to understand the historical contexts in which folk music was a precious part of everyday life. We will survey how, when and why folk music began to be collected, beginning in the 18th century with broadsides, Percy’s Reliques, and Sir Walter Scott’s collections -and how it changed the course of literary history. We will compare the instrumental styles and sung ballads as they migrated from the U.K. to North America- with their attendant changes and continuities. We will examine the great confluence of African- American musics and texts with these European ones to create U.S folk music. We hope to conclude with the “folk revivals” in the USA and Britain in the 1950’s and 1960’s, although we usually don’t manage to get that far.


21L.310 Bestsellers: Literature without Borders Wyn Kelley MW 1:00 - 2:30 1-379

Prereq: none
2-0-4 Can be repeated for credit; first half of term

This class examines novels that trouble the boundaries between nations or states. In books by bestselling authors such as Art Spiegelman, Edwidge Danticat, Louise Erdrich, Mohsin Hamid, and Ruth Ozeki, we encounter stories of global itinerancy, questions about identity, family, and the past, and narratives of a search for home. Some of these themes may seem familiar to readers of “ethnic,” “immigration,” or “coming-of-age” stories.  At the same time, these works often break through established or familiar boundaries, engaging with terror, violence, and risk at the borders of self, nation, and literary form. In works by Spiegelman, Danticat, and Erdrich, characters experience conflicts between home and nation as they move toward identifying as “American.” Characters in works by Hamid and Ozeki more fully inhabit “America” before traveling physically or imaginatively away from the US to “home” countries. These different dynamics make visible the complexities of life at borders and draw attention to different literary strategies as well.

21L.320 Big Books: Moby Dick Goes to the Movies Wyn Kelley MW 1:00 - 2:30 1-379

Prereq: none
2-0-4 Can be repeated for credit

(BEGINS OCTOBER 21st) We take as our starting point a singular paradox: without popular culture (movies, radio, television, comic books, music) Moby-Dick would not be a literary classic, considered today one of the greatest literary texts written in the U.S., if not the greatest. But Moby-Dick was not always the greatest American novel.  The dissemination of Moby-Dick through twentieth-century mass media brought it to wide attention for the first time and resurrected a work that had never been popular in Melville’s day.  This class examines Moby-Dick, as both literary text and cultural phenomenon. Giving close attention to the novel as a rich experience in itself, we will also explore the emergence of Moby-Dick in twentieth-century media: early silent film, cinematic and theatrical adaptations, video, anime, music. Topics for discussion will include Melville’s sources and influences, changing definitions of the classic, race, gender, sexuality, and religion as questions for interpretations of the novel, and as issues in contemporary media translations of older forms and stories.


21L.433 Film Styles and Genres: Hollywood Renaissance - American Film in the 1970's David Thorburn TR 11:00 - 12:30 14N-112

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

A close study of landmark films of the 1970s, sometimes called Hollywood’s New Wave, when a new generation of actors and directors transformed American movies. Films by such directors and with such actors as Altman, Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg, Malick, others. This course requires heavy movie-viewing and selected reading in cultural history and film criticism.

All required films will be available for streaming to students’ laptops.

I aim for lively discussion from everyone. In addition to watching our week’s films, I expect students to have searched online for basic general information about our directors’ careers. We’ll begin each class with a brief overview of our director, and then work toward a close reading of the required films. In most weeks we’ll discuss two or three complex movies, so you must be truly prepared, familiar with the material, ready to talk seriously.

21L.434 Science Fiction and Fantasy Marah Gubar MW 11:00-12:30p 5-217

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

The Hugo Awards are named after Hugo Gernsback, who coined the term “science fiction” in 1926 while publishing Amazing Stories, the first magazine devoted solely to science fiction. Yet long before that, nineteenth-century writers such as Mary Shelley, Grant Allen, H. G. Wells, and Edith Nesbit were penning their own Strange Stories (Allen, 1884), testing out many of the sci-fi and fantasy tropes that contemporary authors continue to retool to this day. Mad scientists and the monsters they create! “Last man on earth” dystopias! Stories about robots, time machines, mummies who come back to life and rampage around museums—and even a park filled with dinosaurs living right next door to modern humans! In all of these cases, the Victorians got there before us, in fictions that were heavily influenced by the earth-shaking hypotheses being advanced by nineteenth-century scientists such as Charles Darwin, Caroline Herschel, and Richard Owen. In this course, we will explore not only how nineteenth-century science influenced art, but also how art influenced science. We will also investigate the integral (and often forgotten) role that children’s authors, women, and people of color played in pioneering and popularizing speculative fiction.

21L.473[J] Jane Austen
Ruth Perry TR 3:30 - 5:00 14N-112

Prereq: One subject in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H

This is your chance to read every word that Jane Austen ever wrote–not just her novels, but her earlier hilarious juvenilia, several unfinished fragments of novels, and the wonderful letters she wrote over her lifetime to her sister Cassandra. This great writer’s work will be examined in relation to both her biography and the historical period in which she lived and wrote. We will analyze Austen’s characteristic style and techniques, in order to gain an enhanced appreciation of her writing-its intelligence, its wit, and its themes. Because she was a serious satirist, we will also discuss her moral values, and in the process, become more familiar with the culture of eighteenth-century England and the place of women– and art– in it.

21L.489[J] Interactive Narrative
21W.765[J], CMS.845
James Paradis W 2:00-5:00 66-160

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.512 American Authors: Weird Americas Joaquín Terrones MW 7:00 - 8:30 pm 4-253

Prereq: One subject in Literature, permission of instructor
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

Christopher Columbus’s initial description of the Americas featured rivers of gold and man-eating monsters. From the moment settlers and conquistadors first encountered its endless frontiers, abundant nature, and alien cultures, the New World has often stood as otherworldly counterpart to European worldliness. This course will examine how contemporary North and Latin American authors have reflected on their national identities through horror, magical realism, and science fiction.

Our first unit will consider hauntings and ghosts stories as attempts to make sense of the hemisphere’s violent past. In the second, we will explore divergent worlds, geographies, and timelines that reimagine otherness and cultural plurality. The final unit will study genetic and cybernetic splicings that blur the carefully guarded lines between man, animal, and machine.

Some of the texts we will read include Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved, as well as short stories by Borges, Poe, Lovecraft, and Ocampo. We will also analyze the Brazilian graphic novel Daytripper, the Canadian television series Orphan Black, the film Jupiter Ascending, and the music of Janelle Monáe.

21L.580 Translations Stephen Tapscott T 7:00 - 10:00 pm 14N-325

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-A

In this subject we’ll work with literary texts, chiefly poems. We’ll read theories of translation (is linguistic translation even possible? It is necessary-but-undesirable? Is it even ethical? Is it imperialistic or politically-charged? Is it more like paraphrase or transformation or musical-performance? ), will do comparisons of texts-in-their-original-languages and texts-in-translation, and will try some translations and “versions” ourselves. We’ll consider whether transferring from one medium or genre (e.g., a poem or a novel) to another (e.g., film, opera) is a mode of “translation”—and also what to do when a text is considered sacred (what happens when we translate the Bible?) or when a machine does the work? Or a language is historically compromised (how does a Jewish writer use the German language immediately after the Shoah?).

No competence in any other language except in English is required (we can discuss the processes and theories of “translating” texts from languages one doesn’t know); students who do know other languages, however, are welcome.

Theorists and practitioners include Walter Benjamin, Benjamin Whorf, Nancy Chodorow, George Steiner, Jon Felstiner, William Gass. Artists whose work we’ll read include Basho, Li Bai, Ezra Pound, Xu Zhimo, Lam Thi My Da, Ngo Tu Lap, Cesar Vallejo, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Dante Alighieri, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Rainer Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Paul Celan, Czeslaw Milosz, Wislawa Szymborska, Aimé Césaire, Samuel Beckett, Constantine Cavafy, Robert Lowell, Charlie Chaplin…. and probably others.

Assignments and readings: Essays / theories of translation, comparisons of translated texts, working out our own versions, workshopping our own work, a final project.

International Literatures

21L.601[J] Old English and Beowulf
Arthur Bahr TR 11:00-12:30p 2-103

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

hƿæt ƿe gardena in geardagum þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon…

Those are the first words of the Old English epic Beowulf, and in this class you will learn to read them.

Besides being the language of Rohan in the novels of Tolkien, Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon) is a language of long, cold, and lonely winters; of haunting beauty found in unexpected places; and of unshakable resolve in the face of insurmountable odds. It is, in short, the perfect language for MIT students.

We will read greatest hits from the epic Beowulf as well as moving laments (The Wanderer, Wulf and Eadwacer, The Wife’s Lament), the personified Cross’s psychedelic and poignant account of the Crucifixion (The Dream of the Rood), and a host of riddles whose solutions range from the sacred to the obscene but are always ingenious.

21L.607 Greek I: Learn to Read Ancient Greek! Randall Colaizzi MW 7:00-8:30p 14N-112

Prereq: none
3-0-3; first half of term

Introduces rudiments of Greek to students with little or no prior knowledge of the subject. Aimed at laying a foundation to begin reading ancient and/or medieval literary and historical texts. Greek I and Greek II may be combined by petition (after completion of both) to count as a single HASS Elective.

21L.608 Greek II: Learn to Read Ancient Greek! Randall Colaizzi MW 7:00-8:30p 14N-112

Prereq: 21L.607 or permission of instructor
3-0-3; second half of term

Introductory Greek subject for students with some prior knowledge of basic grammar and vocabulary. Intended to refresh and enrich ability to read ancient and/or medieval literary and historical texts. May be taken independently of Greek I with permission of instructor. Greek I and Greek II may be combined by petition (after completion of both) to count as a single HASS Elective.

21L.613 Latin Readings Randall Colaizzi MW 4:00-5:00p 14N-325

Prereq: none
2-0-4 HASS-H

Read Latin literature in the original language! This year our text will be selections from Petronius’ Satyricon, a comic novel about the misadventures of several disreputable characters, showing the decadent life on the Bay of Naples during the Age of Nero. 21L.613 serves as a bridge for students with one semester or more of formal Latin training (Latin 1/2, high school Latin, or equivalent) between the study of Latin grammar and vocabulary and the reading of Latin authors. 21L.614 offers more of a challenge for advanced readers. They run simultaneously and each may be repeated once for credit.

21L.614 Advanced Latin Readings Randall Colaizzi MW 4:00-5:00 PM 14N-325

Prereq: none
2-0-4 HASS-H

Read Latin literature in the original language! This year our text will be selections from Petronius’ Satyricon, a comic novel about the misadventures of several disreputable characters, showing the decadent life on the Bay of Naples during the Age of Nero. 21L.613 serves as a bridge for students with one semester or more of formal Latin training (Latin 1/2, high school Latin, or equivalent) between the study of Latin grammar and vocabulary and the reading of Latin authors. 21L.614 starts Oct 17th and offers more of a challenge for advanced readers. They run simultaneously and each may be repeated once for credit.


21L.704 Studies in Poetry: Power,Protest, and Poetry Noel Jackson MW 11:00 - 12:30 4-253

Prereq: Two subjects in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-M; Can be repeated for credit

The poetry we’ll read in this seminar was written against the background of momentous social, political and economic transformation.  Alternately inspired by and aghast at these transformations, Romantic writers undertook an ambitious project to expand and redefine poetry and what it means to be a poet.  Beyond inventing new poetic genres, styles, and theories of poetry, these authors envisioned nothing less than a thoroughgoing reevaluation of the writer’s vocation in the modern world. To write (and to read) was to be part of a world-making, potentially world-changing enterprise – as potentially efficacious in changing the world as the historical and political events to which their poetry responded.

Our reading will focus on the work of two friends and collaborators, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and that of William’s sister Dorothy.  Along the way we’ll encounter a colorful secondary cast of poets, radicals, philosophers, and scientists. We will also read some later poetry and prose (Lord Byron’s Don Juan, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater) that revisits the poetry and ideas of the previous generation with irony, remorse, or humor.

21L.705 Major Authors: Dickens, Early, Middle, and Late James Buzard TR 1:00-2:30p 4-253

Prereq: Two subjects in Literature
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-M; Can be repeated for credit

If he had given us nothing more than Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, or Oliver Twist and “Please, sir, can I have some more?” we would probably still be reading Charles Dickens (1812-1870). And he gave us much, much more. This class will study three of his long novels, taking our time to sink into their immersive worlds of plentiful characters, multiple plots, unexpected connections, zany humor, and searing pathos. They are probably not the novels by him you may have read in high school. The early work Barnaby Rudge is a generally underrated and fascinating historical novel set in the turbulent 1780s. Bleak House is Dickens’s mid-career masterpiece of social critique, analyzing Victorian society from high to lowest of the low. Our Mutual Friend, his last completed novel, is a darkly brilliant work featuring hidden identities, lost fortunes, and (very likely) buried treasure. Students will be asked to give one or two brief oral reports, to write short response papers on a regular basis, and to either write a sustained critical essay or design and present a final creative project.

21L.706 Studies in Film: Color in Film
Eugenie Brinkema
Lecture TR 1:00-2:30p 56-169
Screening T 7:00-10:00p 4-253

Prereq: 21L.011, one subject in Literature or Comparative Media Studies; or permission of instructor
3-3-6 HASS-H, CI-M; Can be repeated for credit

Ce n’est pas du sang, c’est du rouge.”
[ It’s not blood; it’s red. ] —Jean-Luc Godard

The history of film theory has been the history of ignoring color.  Treated as a minor detail,  ornament, or gimmick, and aligned with degraded cultural modes such as the feminine, the exotic, and the melodramatic, a rigorous aesthetics of color has only recently received due scholarly attention.

This seminar explores those aesthetic issues in addition to the affective, political, ethical and interpretive possibilities made available by taking color seriously.  Although we will briefly study innovations in color film cinematography (attending to early hand-tinted films and the development of Technicolor), our focus will be on theoretical questions: How have philosophers defined color and how have these accounts moved between chromophobia and chromophilia (deriding or fetishizing it)? How does a logic of color work in specific genres and modes (melodrama, horror, surrealism, animation)? How is color linked to desire, excess, and other formal areas including sound, duration, space and movement? How is color attached to specific (gendered,  raced) bodies? How is color linked to violence and how is color affectively provocative?

Readings from philosophers, art historians, and film theorists pair with films early and recent from all over the globe, including: The Wizard of Oz, Kill Bill,  Blue, Raise the Red Lantern, Sombre, Vertigo, Red Desert,  Fantasia, Written on the Wind, Schindler’s List, The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover, Blue is the Warmest Color, Contempt, Don’t Look Now, Three Colors Trilogy, and In the Mood for Love. In addition to the lecture, there will be an optional weekly four hour film screening.

Prerequisite: 21L.011, one subject in Literature or Comparative Media Studies; or permission of instructor.

21L.707 Problems in Cultural Interpretation: The Written Kitchen - Reading Women's Cookbooks and Food Blogs Ina Lipkowitz TR 11:30 - 1:00 4-144

Prereq: Two subjects in Literature or permission of instructor
3-0-9 HASS-H, CI-M; Can be repeated for credit

Cookbooks can tell us how to bake a really good chocolate cake, but what is it we find when we read between the lines? Not only sources of recipes, cookbooks are also windows into the worlds that produced them, revealing what foods were available (and to whom), what technologies were used, who cooked (and for whom), and what food meant to the people who produced, transported, processed, cooked, and ate it. In this class we will give the same care and attention to American cookbooks and food blogs that are often given more traditional forms of writing. We will focus on women’s contributions because historically it was through domestic manuals, recipes, and cookery books that women expressed themselves. Even today, with so many avenues open to them, women continue to dominate both cookbook publishing and the culinary blogosphere.