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 10.12

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 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 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 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 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.