Introduction to Comparative Literature
Beginning in ancient Greece and concluding with the 21st-century United States, we will read and analyze nine major works of fiction, covering along the way various historical periods, geographical areas, genres, and media. Class discussion and writing assignments will revolve around the kinds of similarities and differences in fictional texts that can be used as criteria for comparative and contrastive analysis. This course is a workshop in reading and writing; the goal is for students to develop into more perceptive and astute readers and more deft analytical essays writers.
The four stages of the class provide a sampling of some of the basic approaches to literary study in general and comparative analysis in particular. The work we do will be grounded in close readings of the texts rather than applying different theoretical frameworks. Each week we will cover two (or so) literary or cinematic works (with occasional brief additional readings to provide context for the topics we cover), about which you will write a short essay for a total of four essays over the duration of the one-month term.
Readings: Greek Myth of Troy and Aeshylus' Agamemnon
Topics: narrative, elements of plot, oral/written/performative, tradition and originality
Readings: William Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" and Elizabeth Bishop's "In the Waiting Room" & "Filling Station"
Topics: metaphor, motif, theme, narrative/lyric, intertextuality
Readings/Viewings: Akutagawa Ryunosuke's "In the Grove" and Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon
Topics: text, genre, adaptation, death of the author
Readings: Medieval Bestiaries and David Sedaris' Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk
Topics: topos, defamiliarization, irony, using secondary sources in writing