Comp Lit 191: What’s New in Theory

What’s new in theory? And how new is it, really? This course brings together some of the major thematic concerns of recent theoretical work in the academic humanities: animals, things, religion, and globalization. Each of these rubrics will be an occasion for considering the relation between the apparent novelty of these theoretical concerns and the current situations of world politics and of comparative literature. Our field of focus will therefore move insistently between the local (what’s happening to comp lit?), the regional (what are the major themes of academic work today?) and the global (how do these things connect to what’s happening in the world?). Our attempt to maintain this trifocal vision should, if we try hard enough, also allow us to place comparative literature in the optic of globalization, and to discuss therefore what it means to study comparative literature today.

Much of our class discussion will be devoted, therefore, not simply to understanding the texts we read but also to placing them in contexts both large and small. But we will also be attending to the more prosaic, more literary side of theory, asking questions about how these texts generate their meanings through choices in cognitive or literary style.

In order to help you reach these goals, you will write weekly responses (1-2 pages), a short midterm paper (5-7 pages) and a final paper that should showcase the things you’ve learned in the course (12-15 pages).

Download the Course Syllabus

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