Miceal F Vaughan
C LIT 300
An introduction to comparative literary study designed for departmental majors. Examines how literary forms and genres shape our reading of texts; how these forms and genres change over time; and how literary forms and genres manifest themselves in different cultural traditions. Includes theoretical readings and substantial writing.
This course offers an introduction to literary and critical study designed for majors (and minors) in Comparative Literature. It focuses on a relatively small number of texts and examines topics such as: how literary forms and genres shape our reading of texts; how their conventions manifest themselves; how these conventions vary within different cultural traditions; how the functions and effects of literary texts change over time, and from place to place; and how such texts (oral, written, visual; canonical or 'popular') provide occasions for revealing and refining their readers' values and for sharpening their critical thinking. We will negotiate the ways in which authors' words and ideas -- presented in common, shared texts -- construct for their readers differing, even contradictory, meanings and carry varied significance for individual readers.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
We will read (in a non-chronological sequence) works from diverse places and times, including ancient Greece (the Oedipus plays of Sophocles); Norman and Elizabethan England (Marie de France's Lais; Shakespeare's Henry IV [parts I and II]); twentieth-century Ireland and India (James Joyce's Dubliners and Arundati Roy's The God of Small Things). Though our main texts for the course exist primarily in words meant to be read, we will also look at the ways in which such texts are performed (and transformed) in the theatre (we'll attend a performance of Shakespeare's Henry IV) and on film (John Huston's The Dead).
Since I expect students to RE-read these texts for class discussion, a preliminary reading ahead of time might prove helpful.
Class assignments and grading
Requirements for the course will include frequent short writing assignments and at least two longer papers. We will read and discuss some other, short texts (biblical parables and lyric poems), as well as some critical and theoretical materials, but the main readings for the course will consist of the following books (read, probably, in this order):
Joyce, James. Dubliners. Ed Margot Norris New York: Norton, 2006. Marie de France. Lais. Ed Glyn S. Burgess and Keith Busby. New York: Penguin Books, 1999. Sophocles. The Complete Greek Tragedies: Sophocles I. Ed. David Grene. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. Shakespeare, William. Henry IV Ed. Ronald Levao. Longman, 2007. Roy, Arundati. The God of Small Things. New York: HarperCollins, 1998.
Grades for the course will be based on your performance in the following four categories, weighted according to the approximate percentages given:
1) attendance, participation in class discussions, and completing in-class essays -- about 30%;
2) SIX response papers: #1 and #5 are required; the other four you will select from the remaining six listed in the syllabus. Response papers should be typed on ONE SHEET of paper, and submitted at class on the days assigned -- about 30 %;
3) A 20-minute group presentation on a filmed performance of one of the plays (or a film related to another course text) we're reading -- about 10 %; and
4) THREE longer essays (3-5 pages each, typed; submitted by the due dates/times noted on the syllabus) -- about 30 %.