COLT 001

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 10.11 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.

COLT 10.21 Coming to America

"Immigrants, we get the job done!" – thus sings the chorus in the Broadway smash-hit Hamilton. Essentially a nation of immigrants, the United States has long been considered a land of opportunity. But what does it take to succeed here? In this course, we study narratives (memoirs, novels, poems, feature and documentary films, a play, a graphic novel, and a musical) about and by those who came to this country during the last 100 years—be it eagerly, reluctantly or clandestinely—to understand processes of assimilation and acculturation. At the same time, we will examine the premises and practices of comparative literature as a discipline that has been largely shaped by immigrant scholars.

COLT 10.27 Border Crossings

This course will examine the experiences of exile and immigration through the art, literature and films of individuals who have left their homelands or who were born in exile and immigration. In addition to such authors as Homer and Eva Hoffman, we will read Caribbean, Asian-American, and Black British writers. We will address questions of identity and alterity (belonging vs. 'unbelonging', home vs. exile, assimilation vs. hybridisation), and we will explore such concepts as diaspora, migrancy, displacement, and home.

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.

Prerequisites:Good reading knowledge of a foreign language. Students unsure of their linguistic preparation should consult the instructor.
Distributive: LIT or INT; WCult: W

COLT 19.03 Translation and Censorship in Eastern Europe

Translation has been a target of censorship and control over several centuries. In this course, we will use Ukraine as a case study to trace and discuss the relationship between translation and censorship, with close references to other countries of Eastern Europe, in particular the Baltic states under Soviet rule and those belonging to soviet bloc, such as Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, etc., as well as new countries appeared in the place of old Soviet entities.   

COLT 19.05 Workshop in Literary Translation

The course will function as a specialized workshop for students who would like to explore the craft of literary translation. In addition to opportunity to hone their translation skill by practicing the craft, students will get the chance to take part in discussions about the merit and quality of works of literary translation by studying and providing feedback on translations prepared by their peers. Occasionally, the instructor will distribute short samples of published translations or selections of texts of translation theory for consideration, to complement questions that emerge from classroom discussion

COLT 19.06 Decolonizing Translation

The course takes a multi-dimensional look at translation as an arena and reflection of (post)colonial situation, with multiple case studies. We will get to know the theories of postcolonial translation, the features and tricks of translation as a "channel of colonization." We'll consider the topics of decolonizing translation from the 18th to the early 21st century based on case studies conducted around the globe, revisit the concept of world literature, and reconsider translational imagination.

COlT 35.06 Sufism as World Literature

In his book, What is World literature?, David Damroch argues that world literature is not a canon of texts but rather a mode of circulation and reading that gains in translation. Sufism, often referred to in English as "Islamic mysticism", has long appealed to many literary traditions and informed multiple aesthetic projects around the globe –evolving in significance as it circulated through translation. This course offers an introduction to Sufism as world literature. It explores its universal appeal (in such languages as Arabic, English, Persian, Spanish, Turkish, Urdu etc.) and its many aesthetic manifestations and transformations around the world. In addition to the thematic, the course offers an extensive and diverse (but not exhaustive) survey of Sufism's impact on literary genres.

Some of the questions we will ask in this course include: what happens to Sufi concepts when they cross linguistic borders? Can we speak of multiple literary Sufisms? What about Sufism appealed to various authors? How did authors incorporate Sufi elements into their craft? What kind of worldview did it help them develop? How did literary adaptations of Sufism map over already-existing local mystical and aesthetic traditions?

Advanced reading ability in a second language is preferred but not required as all class materials are available in English.

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 53.06 Arab Feminisms

This course is an introduction to the history of feminism in the Arab world from the 19th century to the present. It examines some of the most important socioeconomic and political issues as well as aesthetic trends that were or continue to be central to feminist activism and cultural production in the region. Throughout the term students will engage with a wide range of primary sources (newspaper articles and op-eds, memoirs, novels, poems, photographs and films) that will help them develop a nuanced and critical understanding of the diverse and dynamic experiences of women in the Arab world.

COLT 70.07 Environmental Crises & Human Rights

Environmental crises are occurring around the world at a rate never seen before. Lake Chad. Indonesia. The DRC. Martinique. The Niger Delta. These places have become tragically associated with most of the ecological issues threatening our planet. In this course, we will turn to recent texts and media to investigate the extent of rising waters and displacement, drought and exodus, pollution, and deforestation, as such and as linked to human rights, in an attempt to understand the violence of the contemporary crises playing out in locations already plagued with inequalities and human rights violations. In our analysis, we will also consider the rise of climate migration and what it means for the future of these regions, as well as what literature has to offer to represent environmental crises.

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.