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: Authors Write in the Margins—CANCELLED
Same subject as 21W.041[J]
Wyn Kelley MW 3:30 - 5:00 4-253

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

Do you like to mark up your books (even if your teachers tell you not to)? Then you are already writing about literature. This class will explore what writing about literature is like for authors themselves. Through the ways they borrow stories and genres, writers reflect surprisingly on the creative process itself. Examples include:

  • William Shakespeare lifting from Arthur Brooke’s verse narrative in writing Romeo and Juliet;
  • Mary Shelley reshaping epic, scripture, science nonfiction, and her husband’s poems to make Frankenstein;
  • Herman Melville adapting an entertaining travel book into a Gothic novella in Benito Cereno;
  • Alison Bechdel rewriting Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in her graphic novel Fun Home.

Assignments and group projects will allow students to explore the writing process using Annotation Studio, a digital annotation tool developed in MIT’s HyperStudio. Writing in margins strongly encouraged.

21L.002 Foundations of Western Literature: From Shakespeare to Now: Cancelled James Buzard MW 3:30 - 5:00 56-167

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

This class studies selected major works of literature from Europe and the Americas between the Early Modern (i.e.Renaissance) and contemporary periods. Texts usually include (among other things) a Shakespeare play, selections from Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, one or two 19th-century English novels, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, and a modern film. As a CI-H class, this one will involve substantial practice in writing and speaking.

21L.003 Reading Fiction
Section 1 Wyn Kelley MW 1:00 - 2:30 56-180
Section 2 Ina Lipkowitz TR 11:30 - 1:00 4-144

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

How do authors read, absorb, and write about their times? And how do we understand times long gone? In this introduction to reading fiction, we will look at pairs of writers whose concerns overlap and whose works can help us understand their histories and our own. Such pairings include authors: testing their national and ethnic boundaries (Junot Diaz’s Drown and James Joyce’s Dubliners); feeling at the mercy of unsettling historical change (Toni Morrison’s A Mercy and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway); and journeying across great empires of the past (Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies and E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India). Discussion and assignments will focus on how novels and short stories negotiate crucial events as they shape ordinary human experience.

21L.004 Reading Poetry Janet Sylvester MW 2:30 - 4:00 5-231

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

An introduction to poetry in English, chiefly by British and American poets. We will explore the Renaissance, Romanticism, and Modernism 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. 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 special events are scheduled.

21L.005 Introduction to Drama Anne Fleche MW 2:30 - 4:00 1-135

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

Drama might be described as a game played with something sacred. It tells stories that go right to the heart of what people believe about themselves. And it is enacted in the moment, which means it has an added layer of interpretive mystery and playfulness, or “theatricality.” This introductory course will explore theater and theatricality across periods and cultures, through intensive engagement with performance texts. We will study and discuss plays that exemplify different kinds of dramatic structure, and class members will also attend and review dramatic performances and have a chance to perform scenes on their own. In addition to modern and contemporary plays, readings will range from ancient Greece to Medieval England, Renaissance Spain, and Classical Japan.

21L.006 American Literature Wyn Kelley TR 11:30 - 1:00 2-103

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

Studies the national literature of the United States since the early 19th century. Considers a range of texts including, novels, essays, films, and electronic media –and their efforts to define the notion of American identity. Readings usually include works by such authors as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, Emily Dickinson, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, Sherman Alexie, and Toni Morrison. Enrollment limited.

21L.009 Shakespeare
Section 1 Cancelled Peter S. Donaldson TR 3:30 - 5:00 16-676
Section 2 Shankar Raman TR 2:30 - 4:00 1-134

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

We will focus on three or four plays by Shakespeare, drawn from different genres. Close reading of the texts will be accompanied by examining how they have been adapted and performed around the world, on film and in theatre. Students will watch different versions of the plays chosen, reflecting upon how staging them in different ways and contexts changes our understanding of the texts and their cultural impact. We may also attend one or more theatrical performances, depending on what is available in the Boston area in the Spring semester. Plays selected will probably include: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, The Tempest, King Lear, and Hamlet.

21L.011 Introduction to Film Studies
Lecture David Thorburn T 4:00 - 5:00 3-270
Lecture T 7:00 - 8:00 4-270
Screening T 8:00 - 10:00pm 4-270
Recitation 1 R 3:00 - 4:00 66-156
Recitation 2 R 3:00 - 4:00 56-191
Recitation 3 R 4:00 - 5:00 66-156
Recitation 4 R 4:00 - 5:00 56-191

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

This subject will examine a series of classic films by American and European directors, with emphasis on the historical evolution of the film medium and on the cultural and artistic importance of individual films. The course will be organized in three segments: 1. The Silent Era (films by Griffith, Chaplin, Keaton, Murnau); 2. Hollywood Genres (Hitchcock, Ford, Kelly, Fosse, Altman); and 3. International Masters (Renoir, De Sica, Truffaut, Kurosawa). All films will be shown on Tuesday evenings and will be available on demand via computer for registered students. Two lectures, one recitation meeting per week. Lectures are held on Tuesdays, 4-5 pm and 7-8 pm. Both are required. The week’s screening follows the evening lecture.

21L.014 Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Studies
Stephanie Frampton, William Broadhead, Eric J. Goldberg
MW 1:00 - 2:00 4-261
T 10:00 - 11:00 56-191
T 11:00 - 12:00 56-191
R 1:00 - 2:00 56-162

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

Interdisciplinary and comparative investigation of the Roman empire of Augustus, the Frankish empire of Charlemagne, and the English empire in the age of the Hundred Years’ War. Focuses on how large, multi-ethnic empires were created, sustained, legitimated, and contested through conquest, government, literature, art, and economic organization. Students examine different types of evidence, read across a variety of disciplines, and develop skills to identify continuities and changes in ancient and medieval societies.

21L.021 Comedy: Film, Drama, Literature Alvin Kibel TR 9:30 - 11:00 4-257

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

This class considers comedy in drama, narrative, and film spanning more than 2000 years, drawing examples from narrative or dramatic works of literature and pairing them as well as we can with examples drawn from film. We will investigate the comedy of manners in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Frank Capra’s film, It Happened One Night; study the comedy of humors in Moliere’s The Misanthrope and Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day; try to understand the uneasy relationships between farce and romantic love in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and Billy Wilder’s film Some Like It Hot; analyze the comedy of the grotesque in Rabelais’s Gargantua and Carl Reiner’s film All of Me; look into the workings of satire in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove; consider the anarchy of screwball comedy in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, part I and Howard Hawks’ Bringing up Baby. We will touch upon the connections between violence and redemptive humor, satire and festivity, while noting certain fundamentals: an interest in the body as object and source of rebellious pleasure; a pattern of transgression against social norms corrected and reordered through laughter; a fascination with the possibilities and limits of verbal play; a concern with real and mistaken identity; an opportunity for political protest and social reform. As the class develops, we will note the ways writers appropriate and reshape comic plots and structures from the past for new uses, and we will read and discuss philosophic investigations of the sources of comic effect in works by Aristotle, Freud, Northrop Frye, and others.

This is a H, CI-H class. As in other communications-intensive classes, students to produce 20 pages of writing in three assignments, plus a required revision. They also have substantial opportunities for oral expression, through student-led discussion and in-class reports. The class has a low enrollment to ensure maximum attention to student writing and oral expression, and a writing advisor is available for consultation on drafts and revisions.


21L.320 Big Books: Reading Paradise Lost Mary C. Fuller T 7:00 - 8:30pm Virtual

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

Overturn the government. Invent your own belief system. Go blind. Then rewrite “Genesis,” and reimagine the origins of everything: culture, knowledge, gender, human beings, and the universe. That’s the story behind John Milton’s Paradise Lost: the greatest epic poem written in English.

The focus of the class will be on reading and discussion of Milton’s text. We will also use and interact with supporting materials generated by students in the concurrent subject, Literature from Anywhere: an Engineer’s Guide to “Paradise Lost” (21L.518). Work will include frequent, informal writing, leading discussions, one or two short quizzes, and user feedback on the Engineer’s Guide materials.

21L.338 Reading in the Original: Ovid’s Metamorphoses Stephanie Frampton MW 3:30 - 5:00 (Ends March 27) 1-273

Prereq: Permission of instructor
2-0-4 Can be repeated for credit; first half of term

An introduction to reading Latin literature in the original language. Topic for 2015 will be selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. This course provides a bridge for students with one semester or more of formal Latin training (Latin 1/2, high school Latin, AP Latin, or equivalent) between the study of Latin grammar and the reading of Latin authors.

21L.345 On The Screen: Kubrick Eugenie Brinkema T 11:00 - 2:00 (Ends March 27) 1-277

Prereq: Permission of instructor
2-0-4 Can be repeated for credit

This Sampling explores the films of the great and extremely influential American director Stanley Kubrick. The course will closely study films from across his career, ranging from 1956 to 1987, and spanning genres including noir, the war film, satire, science fiction and horror. Our focus will be on Kubrick’s extraordinary formal language—his use of color, staging, editing, choreographed camerawork, and his extraordinary manipulations of sound and music. We will analyze his use of satire, parody, irony, his stylistic deployment of photography, theatricality, and reflexivity, and his complex relationship to war, violence, gender, and sexuality.

Films will include:

Full Metal Jacket (1987)
The Shining (1980)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Lolita (1962)
The Killing (1956)

* Weekly screening, weekly seminar meeting; meets for the first half of the semester.

21L.350 Science and Literature: On Experiments Shankar Raman TR 7:00 - 8:30 (Begins March 31) 14N-325

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

Scientific experimentation has a long, rich history. In this subject, we will pair literary and scientific texts to explore how experimentation relates to, and sheds light on, human experience. For example, how does Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49 engage Maxwell’s thought experiments in thermodynamics? In what ways does Poe’s short story, “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” build on contemporaneous experiments with hypnosis? Through such comparisons, we will range across historical periods, examining both how scientific experimentation changes and how literature takes up the challenges posed by experimental methods.


21L.430 Popular Culture and Narrative: Children's Culture Blockbusters
Marah Gubar MW 11:30 - 1:00 1-379

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

Who were the Harry Potters of the mid-nineteenth and early-twentieth century? In this course, we will study children’s texts that achieved such huge popular acclaim that many of them continue to be refashioned into new forms—films, musicals, graphic novels—to this day. Focusing on famous characters such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice, Barrie’s Peter Pan, and Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie, we will read, watch, or listen to multiple versions of their adventures, in order to explore how the representation of these intensely appealing children shifts over time and across genres.

21L.431 Shakespeare on Film and Media Peter S. Donaldson T 7:00 - 10:00pm 16-676

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

Filmed Shakespeare began in 1899, with Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree performing the death scene from King John followed by Sarah Bernhardt in the duel scene for the Paris Exposition of 1900. In the era of silent film, several hundred Shakespeare films were made: even without the spoken word, Shakespeare was popular in the new medium. The first half-century of sound included many of the most highly regarded Shakespeare films, among them—Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet and Henry V; Orson Welles’ Othello and Chimes at Midnight; Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood; Polanski’s Macbeth; Kozintsev’s Hamlet and King Lear; and Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. Another extremely rich and varied period for Shakespeare on film began with the release of Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V in 1989 and includes such films as Richard Loncraine’s Richard III, Julie Taymor’s Titus, Zeffirelli and Almereyda’s Hamlet films, Baz Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, and Shakespeare in Love. This period has also seen an extraordinary growth of films as well as theatrical performances of Shakespeare in Asia and other regions of the world, including India (Maqbool, Omkara), East Asia (major work in theater now available by directors such as Ong Keng Sen, Yukio Ninagawa, the Ryutopia Company, Wu Hsing-kuo, and many others.

Shakespeare on film and video raises many questions for literary and media studies about adaptation, authorship, the status of “classic” texts and their variant forms, the role of Shakespeare in popular culture, the transition from manuscript, book, and stage to the modern medium of film and its recent digitally enhanced forms, and the implications of global production and distribution of Shakespeare on film in the digital age.

This term we will emphasize international films and performance videos from Russia, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore, along with British and American works.

21L.434 Science Fiction and Fantasy: Alternative Worlds Alvin Kibel TR 1:00 - 2:30 56-154

Prereq: none
3-0-9 HASS-H

All narrative fiction, even the most realistic, takes place in an alternative reality, a world in which the nature of events and the possibilities of human action are, to some degree or other, different from our own. A realistic work of fiction tries to minimize the difference; a work of fantasy flaunts it. In this subject we will investigate the character of alternative realities in works that do the flaunting, starting with some classics of Western literature (Homer’s Odyssey, Shakespeare’ The Tempest, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland) and then consider a variety of modern kinds, horror fiction, ghost stories, tales of the uncanny, and works of “magic realism” of the sort typified by Kafka, Marquez, Borges, and Pynchon. Ultimately we will lay emphasis upon the most prominent newcomer to the fantastic and possibly its rival, science fiction. We will have two goals: first, to study how the alternative character of a fantastic world leads to these different genres; and second, to study how science fiction differs from other fantastic genres and perhaps from fantasy itself. The subject will also consider developments in film (Metropolis, The Wizard of Oz, Blade Runner, Groundhog Day, Source Code, Inception).

21L.460 Arthurian Literature: Love, Sex, and Marriage in Medieval Literature Emily Griffiths Jones TR 7:00 - 8:30pm 4-257

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

It’s easy to think of love as a “universal language”—but do ideas about love really translate easily across history, culture, and identity? In this course, we will encounter some surprising, even disturbing ideas about love and sex from medieval writers and characters: for instance, that married people can never be in love, that the most satisfying romantic love incorporates pain and violence, and that intense erotic pleasure can be found in celibate service to God. Through Arthurian romances, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, love letters, mystical visions, and more, we will explore medieval attitudes toward marriage, sexuality, and gender roles. What can these perspectives teach us about the uniqueness of the Middle Ages—and how do medieval ideas about love continue to influence the beliefs and fantasies of our own culture?

21L.471 Major Novels: Major English Novels Ina Lipkowitz TR 9:30 - 11:00 4-146

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

“Well behaved women rarely make history,” as they say. Nor do they often make it into the pages of novels where we’re far more likely to find scheming women, defiant women, abandoned women, seduced women, dangerous women—and an occasional good one, too. As we read and discuss important examples of what has become one of, if not the most widely read literary genre today—the novel—we’ll pay particular attention to the role played by women and consider such questions as: Why are they called “novels”? Who wrote them? Who read them? Who narrates them? What are they likely to be about? Do they have distinctive characteristics? What is their relationship to the time and place in which they appeared? And, most of all, why do we like them so much? Authors might include: Daniel Defoe, Frances Burney, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Thomas Hardy, Sylvia Townshend-Warner.

21L.475 Enlightenment and Modernity: Victorian Literature and Culture James Buzard MW 1:00 - 2:30 2-103

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

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”: so wrote Charles Dickens about France during its revolution, but he was also thinking of his own era, the so-called Victorian period marked by the long reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). The Victorians were the first in the world to encounter the seismic shifts and disorienting upheavals of becoming modern, and, as such, they have a lot to teach us, their descendants. They produced a literature of remarkable richness, focused on the conflicts of industrial society, the implications of geological and biological discoveries (Darwin and “deep time”), the corruption of a traditional class system, the urge for democracy, the problematic status of women, the question of race and racial difference – and much else. Major writers include Dickens, George Eliot, the Brontes, Tennyson, Gaskell, Trollope, Thackeray, Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland), Arthur Conan Doyle (the Sherlock Holmes creator), Rudyard Kipling. This class will examine works by a selection of the above, in addition to some important non-fiction works of the period, such as Henry Mayhew’s pioneering social reportage London Labour and the London Poor, Isabella Beeton’s bible for bourgeois housewives, The Book of Household Management, and John Stuart Mill’s influential argument on the necessity of free self-development, On Liberty. Students will give 1-2 brief oral reports and take two exams covering the readings and class discussions.

21L.488 Contemporary Literature David Thorburn TR 1:00 - 2:30 2-103

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

This course is aimed at students who enjoy reading and thinking seriously about the writing of our own era. A modest sampling of significant contemporary English language novelists and poets, the course will center on the ways these writers dramatize personal traumas, moral problems, and the relation of individuals to the social and political order. Other related questions: How do contemporary writers challenge and try to break free of the immense burden of literary tradition? How do they find an authentic personal voice? What is their attitude to questions of form and design? Fiction writers and poets who may be included: Lydia Davis, Louise Gluck, Linda Gregerson, Russell Hoban, Jhumpa Lahiri, Robert Pinksy, Arundhati Roy.

21L.504[J] Race and Identity in American Literature: #StayHuman
Sandy Alexandre TR 11:30 - 1:00 4-146

Prereq: Permission of instructor
3-0-9 HASS-H; Can be repeated for credit

In this course, we will not only consider how writers portray and try to understand what it means to be distinctly human (as opposed to being an animal, a monster, or a robot, for example), but also explore what it means and entails to become a better human being, especially as we enter what many are calling a “second machine age” in which machines will take over jobs formerly occupied by human beings. What does it mean to be humane and to evolve into your own distinct humanity while pursuing your various definitions of success? What aspects of our identity get sacrificed in this pursuit of success, particularly in the context of what standards of success tend to look like in American culture? How is the label “human” wielded to exclude certain groups of people from that category, on the one hand, and to flatten or universalize our claims to belonging to other identities, on the other hand? Students will be able to ponder these questions through essays by Sylvia Wynter, Frantz Fanon, and Peter Cappelli and with assistance from some of the following texts:

1.   Title: Citizen: An American Lyric
Author: Claudia Rankine

2.  Title: David Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World
Author: Peter P. Hinks (Editor, Introduction by, Annotations by)

3.  Title: Lilith’s Brood
Author: Octavia E. Butler

4.  Title: Venus
Author: Suzan-Lori Parks

5.  Title: Monster (Reprint)
Author: Walter Dean Myers; Christopher Myers (Illustrator)

6.  Title: John Henry Days
Author: Colson Whitehead

7.  Title: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author: Rebecca Skloot

21L.522[J] International Women's Voices
21G.022[J], WGS.141[J]
Margery Resnick TR 2:30 - 4:00 14E-310

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

This class introduces students to a variety of works by contemporary women writers from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. Emphasis is placed on determining to what extent each writer’s work and her literary style reflects her distinct cultural heritage and to what extent, if any, we can identify a voice that transcends national cultures. In our discussions, we examine the patterns of socialization of women in patriarchal cultures, how in the imaginary and real world we adapt or rebel, the relationship of the characters to love and work, the search for identity and both the authors’ and the characters’ thoughts on sex roles, marriage, and politics. Films are an integral part of the course. Readings include novels, short stories, essays, and graphic novels.

International Literatures

21L.636[J] Introduction to Contemporary Hispanic Literature and Film
Joaquín Terrones TR 7:00 - 8:30pm 1-390

Prereq: One intermediate subject in Spanish or permission of instructor
3-0-9 HASS-H

This course introduces students to the literature and cinema of contemporary Spain and Latin America. By becoming familiar with the historical, political, and cultural settings that shaped these texts and films, we will consider what, if anything, makes them uniquely Hispanic. What links the Old World with the New? How has Spain envisioned its place within Western Europe? How has Latin America defined itself in relationship to its northern neighbor? Some of the authors and filmmakers we will discuss include Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez, Roberto Bolaño, Luis Buñuel, and Pedro Almodovar. The course is conducted in Spanish, and all reading and writing will be in Spanish.


21L.702 Studies in Fiction: Toni Morrison Sandy Alexandre TR 3:30 - 5:00 26-168

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

This subject provides a comprehensive and critical overview of the literary and scholarly work of the inimitable writer Toni Morrison. Morrison’s novels are well known for being stylistically dense and sometimes emotionally difficult to read and understand. But to borrow Morrison’s own words, from The Bluest Eye, the semester-long exercise of reading, thinking, and writing about her work promises to be “a productive and fructifying pain.” As we allow ourselves the opportunity to meditate on her writings, during the course of the semester, we will open ourselves to the possibility of growing more intellectually conscious not only as readers, writers, and thinkers in the classroom, but also as compassionate citizens out in the world. We will read all ten of her novels, some of her speeches, her short story “Recitatif,” and critical essays about her work.

21L.703 Studies in Drama: "Brave New Worlds: Making Shakespeare (and Marlowe) Modern" Diana Henderson TR 3:30 - 5:00 1-273

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

From Akiri Kurosawa to Tom Stoppard, from Giuseppi Verdi to Julie Taymor, creative artists around the world have remade Shakespeare’s plays in new media and cultural contexts. Why this enduring fascination? How have the stories been transformed by their movement across time and space? And why is Shakespeare’s rival playwright Christopher Marlowe lurking in the background? We will study the texts and remaking of Shakespeare as modes of cultural and artistic collaboration. Working with old and new media, students will gain a deeper understanding of dramatic performance, literary analysis and research methods—as well as the fun of “Shakeshifting.” Source texts to include Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Edward II and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and The Tempest; the modern field defies description.

21L.704 Studies in Poetry: World Poetries: What ever happened to the Modern? Poems from the last 100 years Stephen Tapscott M 7:00 - 10:00pm 2-103

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

To look at the full rich vista of poetry in the last 100 years, we need a wide lens. We’d need to account not only for the accomplishments and influences of canonical Anglo-American Modernism, but also to look at what happened to the Modern/lyrical impulse in other places, other languages, other traditions. Some promising beginnings were cut short [Oscar Wilde and Wilfred Owen in England, Georg Trakl in Austria]. Some movements developed and thrived, though they might have been underappreciated by contemporaries [Gertrude Stein in Paris, Langston Hughes in Mexico City and New York, Aime Cesaire in Martinique]. Some met absolutist obstacles with bravery and joy [Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova in Russia, Nazim Hikmet in Turkey]. Some took the question itself as their theme and their formal determinant (Constantine Cavafy in Greece and north Africa, Wislawa Szymborska and Czeslaw Milosz in Poland).

Readings in English / translation. Class format: seminar, conversations, short papers, and presentations.

Enrollment limited to 12 students.

21L.706 Studies in Film: The Contemporary Horror Film
Eugenie Brinkema
Lecture W 7:00 - 10:00pm 4-231
Screening T 7:00 - 10:00pm 4-231

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

While one popular image of horror is the 1970s American slasher film, the cinema of repugnance and fear is a vibrant transhistorical and transnational mode of filmmaking that has undergone extraordinary shifts in the last twenty to thirty years. This seminar will focus on horror films of the last three decades hailing from over a dozen different countries. Although we will consider the specificity of national horror cinemas in relation to myths, legends, and historical trauma, we will also examine our films comparatively, noting stylistic connections and theorizing the many ways violence, shock, trauma, disgust, anxiety and every manner of the terrible are portrayed. Each week will therefore focus on a different national cinema and on a different conceptual area, including monstrosity, extremity, and the postmodern turn. Films include: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Ringu, Let the Right One In, Shaun of the Dead, Haute Tension, Martyrs, Saw, The Human Centipede, Scream, Rubber, Saw, [REC] and The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Readings from philosophers and film theorists will help us understand the way these horror films negotiate violence, trauma, and pain; how they grapple with ethics, politics, and historical allegory; their representations of gender, sexuality and embodiment; formal questions, including narrative and visual style; and how their relationship to violence intersects with (is influenced by, is in dialogue with) or departs from (even opposes, radically upends), our more ordinary language sense of “horror film.”

Prerequisite: one prior course in film or media analysis.