Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Miceal F Vaughan
C LIT 300
Seattle Campus

Introduction to Comparative Literature: Forms, Genres, History

Provides an introduction to comparative literary study which 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.

Class description

This course offers an introduction to literary and critical study from a comparatist perspective. 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 examine 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) some major works from diverse places and times, including medieval Iceland (Njal's Saga); Norman and Elizabethan England (Marie de France's Lais; Shakespeare's Richard II); and twentieth-century Ireland and U.S. (James Joyce's Dubliners and Brian Friel's Translations, and Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping). 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 Richard II) and on film (John Huston's The Dead). We will also read and discuss some other, short texts (biblical parables and lyric poems), as well as some critical and theoretical materials.

Recommended preparation

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 a number of short writing assignments and two longer (4-5pp.) papers. 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. Penguin, 1999. Friel, Brian. Translations. Faber and Faber, 1981. Shakespeare, William. Richard II. Ed. Anthony B. Dawson and Paul Yachnin. Oxford World Classics, 2011. Njal's Saga. Trans. Robert Cook. Penguin, 2002. Robinson, Marilynne. Housekeeping. Picador, 2004

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) TWO longer essays (3-5 pages each, typed; submitted by the due dates/times noted on the syllabus) -- about 30 %.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Miceal F Vaughan
Date: 10/30/2013