Course Descriptions


Read the World

Do you know how to read? Faces. Words. Pictures. Bodies. Games. Books. People. What are you really doing when you read the world?  This course teaches comparative methods designed to confront the (mis)understandings and (mis)translations that constitute reading across the world's languages, locations, cultures, historical periods, and expressive forms.  Classwork consists of hands-on exercises that engage ancient and modern myths and materials drawn from various media: text, movies, video games, anime, and digital arts.

Distributive: LIT or INT; WCult: CI


First Year Seminars

Consult special listings

COLT 10.01

Strange Natives, Strange Women: The Uninvited Others of European Literature

How have Europeans colonizers represented differences between themselves and the peoples they have conquered?  How do perceived or imagined differences of ethnicity or gender arise from and help constitute the colonizers' own sense of cultural and national identity?  We will explore these questions in literature and travel writings by authors such as: Bâ, Babel, Césaire, Conrad, Equiano, Euripides, Friel, Rhys, Rider Haggard, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy. 

Distributive: Lit and W

COLT 10.07

Characters on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

The figure of characters in crisis has been the foundation of literary plots since Antiquity. This course examines cinematic, literary, and philosophical representations of people coming undone while working their ways through crises that threaten their lives. Why has this problem always been so prevalent in narratives of all kinds? Works by Plato, Nietzsche, Nabokov, the Coen brothers, Wallace, Almodóvar, Borges, Shakespeare, Dickinson, and others.

Distributives: Lit, W

COLT 10.11

Male Friendship from Aristotle to Almodovar

This course examines representations of male relationships in literature, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and film. Ranging from classical texts such as the Bible and Cicero’s “De Amicitia,” to the cinema of Almodovar and Truffaut, we will study the rhetorical and social construction of male friendship and its relationship to gender, class and cultural politics. Texts will be drawn from the following literary and critical works: Aristotle, Martial, Montaigne, Balzac, Twain, Whitman, Nietzche, Freud, D.H. Lawrence, Waugh, Ben Jalloun, Alan Bennett, and Derrida.

Distributive: LIT; WCult: W

COLT 10.12

Race in the Middle Ages

From canonical English authors (Chaucer) to Arab travelers (Ibn Battuta) to modern American thinkers (W. E. B. DuBois). What are the differences between medieval and modern conceptions of race? How did medieval religious metaphors impact modern anthropology? What do fictional romances tell us about social realities? This course serves as an introduction to comparative literature by asking questions across time periods, genres, languages, and cultural identities.

Distributive: LIT; WCult: CI

COLT 10.16

Flashes of Recognition in Modernist Literature

Modernist literature is full of flashes of recognition and sudden moments of insight. Think, for example, of the flood of memories that overcome the narrator of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past when he bites into a madeleine cake. Such a flash of recognition is not explicitly religious, yet it functions very much like an epiphany that transforms the way a character perceives the world. The course will explore how modernist writers in the 20th century use literary epiphanies to explore the subjective dimensions of consciousness and experiment with new modes of storytelling. We will consider how sudden moments of insight interrupt the flow of narrative and produce fragmentary images that resemble a stream of consciousness. The course will reflect on the difficulties of describing and interpreting a flash of recognition, insofar as one often lacks the words to capture what has happened. Finally, we will explore how the literary epiphany raises a key question of modernism: can our language adequately represent our deepest strivings and yearnings? Readings include short stories (Chekhov, Joyce), novels (Proust, Woolf, Musil), poetry (Yeats), and experimental prose (Rilke, Kafka, Beckett).

Distributive: Lit; WCult: W

COLT 10.19

Global Comic Strip

This course focuses on comic strips from around the globe as a means of studying critical and literary theory, problems in visual translation, and a range of conventions for expressing caricature and visual humor.  Topics will move from classic American comic strips to the Franco-Belgian and Japanese Manga traditions; thereafter, students will examine other traditions both collaboratively and independently. 

Distributive: Lit, W

COLT 19.01

Translation: Theory and Practice

Translation is both a basic and highly complicated aspect of our engagement with literature. We often take it for granted; yet the idea of meanings "lost in translation" is commonplace. In this course we work intensively on the craft of translation while exploring its practical, cultural and philosophical implications through readings in theoretical and literary texts. All students will complete a variety of translation exercises, and a substantial final project, in their chosen language.

Cross Listed Courses: CLST 40 only when Classical material is covered.
Prerequisites:Good reading knowledge of a foreign language (usually equivalent to fulfilling the Dartmouth language requirement). Students unsure of their linguistic preparation should consult the instructor.
Distributive: LIT or INT; WCult: W

COLT 35.01

The Arabian Nights East and West

An introduction to Arabo-Islamic culture through its most accessible and popular exponent, One Thousand and One Nights. The course will take this masterpiece of world literature as the focal point for a multidisciplinary literary study. It will cover the genesis of the text from Indian and Mediterranean antecedents, its Arabic recensions, its reception in the West, and its influence on European literature. The course will be taught in English in its entirety. No prerequisites.

Distributives: INT or LIT/NW

Identical to ARAB 62.02

COLT 35.03

Arab Cultures in the Americas

Arab Cultures in the Americas aims to introduce students to both: the main sociopolitical issues that affect(ed) the Arab diaspora and the principle literary and cultural trends that emerged from them. This interdisciplinary course will draw on historical, anthropological, literary and cinematic sources to explore such literary trends as the Romanticism of Adab al-Mahjar, as well as such sociopolitical issues as “assimilation”. Since this seminar covers an area that traverses five different linguistic spheres (Arabic, English, Spanish, Portuguese and French) and a time period of almost two centuries, it can neither be exhaustive nor comprehensive. The course will, instead, focus on a select number of countries and specific historical moments primarily in the twentieth century.

Distributive: INT and LIT

Identical to ARAB 63.03 

COLT 39.01

Memoirs & the Work They Do

Memoir has been a popular genre in the United States, Latin America, Europe and elsewhere for at least the last twenty if not thirty years. That popularity does not seem to be abating, despite critics’ claims that most recent memoirs are shallow, repetitive and badly written.  In this course we will review some history of life writing forms to parse out misogyny and elitism.  We will also learn how experts today understand life writing subgenres in print and other media, paying particular attention to experimentation and the fuzzy line between fiction and non-fiction.  The focus of the course concerns how life writing is deployed in creating group identities, identities based on everything from addiction to victimhood, sexuality, ethnicity, and nationality.  Texts include Harriet Wilson, Our Nig, Coetzee's Boyhood,  Spiegelman's Maus, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Kacandes's Daddy's War, Modiano's Dora Bruder, Cho’s I’m the One that I Want, and Wen Ho Lee’s My Country Versus Me. Students will develop life story interviewing skills, including transcription skills, practice oral presentation, and do some writing (or create in another art form) about their own lives. Sharing of students’ knowledge of examples that bear on our topics from cultures other than those represented on the syllabus is strongly encouraged. Students are also encouraged to read a memoir in a language in which they are fluent other than English.

Distributive: Lit, W

COLT 39.02

Literary Fairy Tale

This course surveys the development of the fairy tale in Europe and North America, from the first collections in early modern France and Italy (Basile, Perrault) through the Brothers Grimm to the extraordinary regeneration of fairy- tale subjects and motifs in the 20th and 21st centuries (Disney, Sexton, Carter). We will discuss the role of this marvelous genre in interrogating reality and engaging in the “civilizing process,” and put our encounters to dynamic use by writing and performing tales.

Distributives: Lit, W

COLT 40.01

History of the Book

(Identical to ENGL 54.15). This course examines the book as a material and cultural object. We’ll consider various practical and theoretical models for understanding the book form and investigating the materials, technologies, institutions, and practices of its production, dissemination, and reception. We’ll focus primarily on the printed book in Western Europe and North America, but we’ll also discuss the emergence of the codex (book), medieval manuscript books, twentieth and twenty-first century artist’s books and the challenges posed by digitality to the book form. The readings for the course will be balanced by frequent use of exemplars drawn from Rauner Library and practical experience setting type in the Book Arts workshop.

Distributive: LIT; WCult: W

COLT 42.01

Prada, Chanel, Ferrari: History and Literature

In this course students will read history, literature, and film through the lens of fashion and design. We will analyze gender roles and dress codes on the eve of modernity by studying late 19th century etiquette books and works by women writers. Through the study of auto manufacturers Fiat and Ferrari we will learn about the impact of modernism on everyday life.  Students will focus fascism and its attempt to create a fascist fashion.  Although French fashion remained the model to imitate, the success of Schiaparelli in Italy during fascism serves to illustrate how fashion was used as a sign of anti-fascism.

Distributives:Int or Lit; CI

COLT 42.05

Cultures of Surveillance: Globalization and Film Trilogies

Identical to INTS 17.13

Who’s watching whom, and why does it matter?  A number of 21st century popular film trilogies highlight cultures of surveillance within the context of globalization. Is there a relationship between plots based on global surveillance techniques and the fact that these plots are so successfully developed through film per se? What is the implied role of the viewer in such films? In what way does trilogy as a form of fragmented storytelling contribute to our understanding of surveillance across borders? Who identifies with whom in these tripartite visual narratives of globalization? What is the relationship among intertwined plotlines, global/international intrigue, geo-political borders, the role of the hero, and the role of viewers?



The Quest for Utopia

Thomas More's Utopia  was long considered the ultimate paradigm of  the kind of vision that utopian thought can produce. But there is no question that More's narrative of Utopia  is just a particular example of a very dynamic and complex way to think about historical dead-ends and to envision alternative realities. In this course we will deal with the nature of utopian vision and with the particular dynamics that characterize utopian thought. We will also discuss present day utopias as we try to answer questions like: Is the idea of utopia really dying in our modern world? Are there new utopian visions being generated today, different from More's but with a similar function? What is the relationship between utopia and fantasy, utopia and history, utopia and revolution? What are the utopian constructs of our time and how do they shape our perceptions, our political options, and our social and personal actions?

Course materials may include maps and charts, political manifestoes, films,  architecture, travel accounts and literarary works. More's Utopia, Marx's Communist Manifesto  Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Yevgeny Zamiatin's  We, Elon Musk’s Space X Project are some of the materials we will discuss.  The films may include:Woody Allen"s Sleeper, The Matrix, Wall-E, and  Ex-Machina.

Distributive: Int

COLT 49.06

Multilingualism and its Others

“Multilingualism” and “monolingualism” are notions that appear clear-cut, uncontested, and normative. But are they? In this course, we will examine the rise (and fall) of multilingualism and its others—especially monolingualism—to sharpen our understanding of these terms’ use and implications. Where and when did they emerge historically? Whom do they benefit or harm socially? What do they mean theoretically? What challenges to they pose to writing, translation, the global traffic of texts, and language-learning advocacy? Readings will draw on several disciplines, with research projects reflecting each student’s investment in the topic.

Distribute: SOC

COLT 51.01

Masterpieces of African Literature

(Identical to AAAS 51 and ENGL 53.16). This course is designed to provide students with a specific and global view of the diversity of literatures from the African continent. We will read texts written in English or translated from French, Portuguese, Arabic and African languages. Through novels, short stories, poetry, and drama, we will explore such topics as the colonial encounter, the conflict between tradition and modernity, the negotiation of African identities, post-independence disillusion, gender issues, apartheid and post-apartheid. In discussing this variety of literatures from a comparative context, we will assess the similarities and the differences apparent in the cultures and historical contexts from which they emerge. Readings include Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, Naguib Mahfouz's Midaq Alley, Calixthe Beyala's The Sun Hath Looked Upon Me, Camara Laye's The African Child, and Luandino Vieira's Luanda.

Cross Listed Courses: AAAS 51, ENGL 53.16
Distributive: LIT or INT; WCult: NW

COLT 51.03

The African Political Novel

This course examines the relationship between politics and the novel in Africa. I have selected novels from different parts of Africa. We will approach the selected novels as instruments of political interest and products of political contexts. We will then proceed to put these novels in a triangular conversation with political theorists of Africa and the political philosophies of African leaders Topics include democracy and governance, clientelism and patrimonialism, failed states, gender, and grassroots activism.

COLT 52.02

New Latin American Cinema

With the emergence of filmmakers such as Alejandro Iñárritu (Mexico), Lucrecia Martel (Argentina), and José Padilha (Brazil), the last decade has seen a creative boom in Latin American cinema that includes art house cinema, blockbusters, documentary, and experimental film. Beginning with a quick overview of key forerunners, this course will focus on the major directors, genres and aesthetic trends that characterize the new Latin American cinema. We will also pay attention to the role film festivals-such as the Havana Film Festival, BAFICI in Buenos Aires, and the Berlin Film Festival-have played in promoting Latin American films.

Distributive: Int

COLT 57.05

Migration Stories

With over 50 million displaced people today, migration is one of the most compelling problems of our time. Filmic and literary representations of migration focus on borders, different types of migrants, and their border crossing experiences. We will study migration from Latin America to the U.S.; from Africa and Eastern Europe to Western Europe; and internal migration within these countries. We will also analyze how Hollywood cinema itself creates images and values that drive migration.


COLT 57.08

The Humanities and Human Rights

This course will focus on the deep connections between democracy and the role of the arts in the public sphere.  We live in times that do no pay attention to how the arts intervene in the understanding and creation of society for we are governed by an all encompassing economic rationale that cannot explain how unimaginable profits can live side by side with bankrupt social welfare systems.  This course will cross disciplinary boundaries and follow the comparative method scrupulously as we work on a wide array of international texts (artistic and theoretical) and artists who bare witness to our times and make "energy" (intellectual energy) usable in different places and contexts.


COLT 57.09


This class is about fascisms and the plural is not a typo.  We will ask ourselves the question: how did fascism rise to power? Why did people support it? We will focus initially on the orginal model for fascist dictatorships, that is Italian fascism, but we will also have in-class presentations by Dartmouth professors on German, Spanish, French and Japanese forms of fascisim.  This is a course that will concenterate on history, film, literature, and fashion in order to talk about the slippery definitions of fascism. 

Distributive: Int, W

COLT 60.01

Literature and Music

The affinities between literature and music have always held a special fascination for poets, writers, musicians, and critics. By studying the two arts as comparable media of expression, this course will test the legitimacy of interart parallels. An introduction to the major aspects, aesthetic implications, and interpretive methods comparing the two arts. Topics for lectures and discussion will include: musical structures as literary form; verbal music, word music, and program music; word-tone synthesis in the Lied; music and drama in opera; music in fiction; and the writer as music critic. Music-related poetry and prose examples, complemented by musical illustrations and ranging from the German and English Romantics through the French symbolists and the Dadaists to contemporary writing, will be selected from texts by Goethe, Brentano, Hoffmann, DeQuincey, Poe, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Proust, Thomas Mann, Joyce, Eliot, Huxley, Shaw, and Pound. No particular musical background or technical knowledge of music required.

Cross Listed: MUS 13
Distributive: LIT/INT; WCult: W

COLT 61.01

Art Writing and Writers on Art

This course will explore the various modes of writing on or about art and artists from the early modern to the modern period in Europe. Focusing primarily on writers and texts from France, Germany and Italy, we will consider the social and cultural roles of the artist and art works as they were formulated, investigated and reinterpreted throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The classical revival and the beginnings of “modern” art history, the growth of the periodical press and the explosion of art (and literary) criticism, the growing public sphere for art, the biographical tendency in historical writing, and Romantic fantasies of the artist all worked to create a rich body of literary or quasi-literary writings on art and artists at this time.Many of the texts we will read were translated into other languages soon after their initial appearance, testifying to the international readership and scope of these writers and their works. The figure of the artist as developed in the 18th and 19th centuries only became more prominent in our cultural consciousness in the 20th century as Romanticism’s ideas of genius and the vanguard (often mad) artist and the separate sphere of the visual arts became entrenched in discourses of modernism. Exploring writings on art at this critical juncture in the beginnings of modernism can shed light on our continuing notions of what art is and has been, and on how art and artists have been described, understood, and fantasized about for centuries.

Distributives: Art, W

COLT 62.03

Zombies, Cyborgs, and Clones in Dystopian Fiction and Film

From the zombie apocalypse to fears of killer robots and technology run amok, current popular culture is fascinated by end-of-the-world nightmare scenarios. Classic dystopian novels like Orwell's 1984 and Lewis's It Can't Happen Here have recently topped best seller lists, while shows like The Walking Dead dominate the television ratings. Why are we obsessed with apocalyptic and dystopian scenarios? How might this obsession be related to politics, technology, and the media we both use and consume?

Distributive:Lit and Int

COLT 66.01

What is Psychoanalysis?

This course aims to explore the relationship between literature and the theoretical and clinical writings of psychoanalysis. Through readings representing a range of psychoana­lytic and literary traditions, we will examine the connections that can be made between psy­chic structures and literary structures, between the language of the mind and the emotions and the language of the literary, cultural or cinematic text.What is the relationship between “literary” works and the theoretical and clinical writings of psychoanalysis? How do they inform one another? This large question will be examined through readings of essays and case histories by theorists such as Freud, Lacan, Kristeva, Butler,  Phillips, Bersani and Zizek. The course will focus on the theme of the family romance and its relationship to the question of gender in works by authors such as Sophocles, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Kafka, Woolf, Mann, Proust, Duras, and Almadovar.

Distributives: Int or Lit; W

COLT 70.03

European Jewish Intellectuals

(Identical to JWST26). The course will examine the role of the Jewish intellectual in twentieth central Europe. We shall focus on several paradigmat­ic figures (Arendt­, Benjamin, Adorno, Levinas, Derrida) who confront­ t­he redefinit­ion of polit­ics and civil societ­y in modern t­imes. Some at­t­empt­ t­o deal wit­h t­hese changes t­hrough a crit­ical reflect­ion on t­he concept­s of democracy and et­hics and on how justice can be practiced either within or outside of the geographical and spiritual boundaries of the modern nation state. We shall examine how Jewish self­consciousness and a deep attachment to biblical tradition enables these intellectuals to reconcile ethical imperative with political realities. Particular attention will be paid to topics such as the challenges of Eurocentric Christian humanism and universalism to Jewish assimilation; the promises of totalitarianism, Marxism and messianism; the politics of biblical exegesis; hist­ory and Jewish myst­icism; Zionism, ant­i-Zionism and t­he Arab-Israeli conflict­.

Distributive: LIT; WCult: W

COLT 72.01

Global Literary Theory

Comparative Literature entails conscious engagements with theories of literature, language, and culture from throughout the world. This course ranges across some of the ideas that have been influential in shaping scholarly questions in a variety of languages. It also addresses the global dimensions of theory: rhetorics and ethics of comparison, world literature, and indigenous knowledges.
Recommended for Juniors and Seniors in any area of literary and cultural studies; required for majors in Comparative Literature.

Distributive: LIT; CI


Independent Study

A tutorial course designed by the student with the assistance of a member of the Comparative Literature faculty who is willing to supervise it. Offers the student an opportunity to pursue a subject of special interest through a distinctive program of readings and reports. During the term prior to the course, applicants must submit a course outline to the Chair for written approval.



Advanced Seminar: Special Topics


Senior Seminar in Research and Methodology


Thesis Tutorial

Permission of the Chair is required.