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Approaches to Comparative Literature

This course will introduce students to central methods and issues in the comparative study of literature. Rather than develop any one single approach, the hope is that students will gain an appreciation of the rich literary opportunities available within the discipline, and master many of the tools necessary for the comparative study of literature. With the help of a Graduate Research Consultant (GRC), students will have the opportunity to develop a topic from the class into a Comparative Literature research project, using methods appropriate to the discipline.

In Part One of this course, readings of Plato, Aristotle and Horace alongside Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex will give the students a chance to understand the foundational role of Classical Poetics in the Western tradition of literary criticism. We will also study the intertwining (and often conflicting) roles of literature and philosophy in Plato’s writing in particular, with an eye toward understanding the difficulty of determining “what is literature.”

Part Two will introduce students to various forms of literary theory, using contemporary theoretical approaches to Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. Students will have the opportunity to study how these approaches differ and to apply these approaches to poetry and film of their own choosing.


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