Print Options

Department of Comparative Literature

Chair

  • Françoise Meltzer, Comparative Literature

Professors

  • Arnold Davidson, Philosophy
  • Frederick de Armas, Romance Languages & Literatures
  • Loren A. Kruger, English Language & Literature
  • Françoise Meltzer, Comparative Literature
  • Thomas Pavel, Romance Languages & Literatures
  • Haun Saussy, Comparative Literature
  • Michael Sells, Divinity School
  • Joshua Scodel, English Language & Literature

Associate Professors

  • Sascha Ebeling, South Asian Languages & Civilizations
  • Boris Maslov, Comparative Literature
  • Lawrence Rothfield, English Language & Literature
  • David Wray, Classics & Comparative Literature

Assistant Professors

  • Leah Feldman, Comparative Literature
  • Olga Solovieva, Comparative Literature
  • Anna Elena Torres, Comparative Literature

Visiting Professors

  • Michael Gluzman, Tel Aviv University, Comparative Literature
  • Nisha Kommattam, German Ministry of Education and Research Fellow

Emeritus Faculty

  • David Bevington, English Language & Literature
  • Walter R. Johnson, Classics
  • Michael Murrin, English Language & Literature
  • Kenneth J. Northcott, Germanic Studies
  • Frantisek Svejkovsky, Slavic Languages & Literatures
  • Robert von Hallberg, Comparative Literature
  • Edward Wasiolek, Slavic Languages & Literatures
  • Anthony C. Yu, Divinity

The Department of Comparative Literature  is organized to facilitate the study of literature unrestricted by national boundaries and the conventional demarcations of subject matter. The department makes every effort to arrange a course of studies fitted to the individual student’s background and interest. Students may choose from courses offered by the department, as well as those offered by relevant departments in the Division of the Humanities and in some cases those offered by other divisions. Students are expected to read relevant texts in the original languages. The time period leading to the master’s  degree may be used to explore areas of interest by the student, as well as to strengthen areas of established interest and competence. Students pursue the Ph.D. in one of two tracks of learning and training:

  1. National literatures
  2. Literature and other disciplines

Track 1 is a program of studies of one national literature (the major) in its historical entirety and of a second national literature (the minor) in a specified area. Track 2 will consist of the study of a literature or some part of that literature and its relationship to another discipline such as sociology, psychoanalysis, philosophy, or religion. It is assumed that whichever option the student chooses, an international perspective on the relevant problem will be sought and maintained. Students will be provided with individual counseling to help them formulate programs of study that will answer to their needs and interests. There are no formal boundaries to the extent and nature of these interests, although the department will require that programs be coherently conceived and responsibly carried out.

The Degree of Master of Arts

The objective of the program is the Ph.D. degree.  Doctoral students in the program are  eligible for the M.A. degree after completing the following requirements:  For students entering the program in the fall 2003 and after, a program of eight graduate level courses (one full academic year), all of which must be taken for a letter grade; the required two quarter sequence;  and demonstrated competence (high proficiency in a graduate literature course or high pass in a University examination) in two foreign languages, one of which must be either French or German. The remaining six quarter courses are normally divided among two literatures, although a student may, with department permission, place greater emphasis on one literature or on some special interest.  Satisfactory completion of the MA requirements will be based on a student’s grade record and performance in the required two quarter sequence.

The Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Programs leading to the doctor’s degree in the department will be organized for students possessing the M.A. who have shown unusual competence and who wish to prepare themselves for teaching and scholarly investigation in comparative literature. Students are required to take six graduate level courses in their second year of Ph.D. study and two in their third year. Students are also required to write a minimum of two substantial papers the second year, and one the third year. Copies of these papers must be submitted to the graduate chair.

In the two years of post-M.A. courses, students may take no more than one of the required courses per year for a Pass/Fail grade (i.e., one of the six required graduate level courses for the first year of post-M.A. doctoral level study, and one of the two required graduate level courses in the second year of doctoral level study).

Before the student is recommended for admission to candidacy for the doctor’s degree he or she must pass satisfactorily an oral examination after completion of eight Ph.D. level courses. This examination will be based on one of the following two options.

Track I requires The National Literature Oral. This is an examination based on no fewer than 60 titles in the major literature and no fewer than 30 titles in the minor literature. The list for the major literature will cover all periods and genres. The list for minor literature will cover the major texts of the approved period or genre.

Track II requires The Field Oral. This is an oral examination on a representative list of approximately 70-90 titles in a given comparative field, such as literature and anthropology, literature and art, literature and film, literature and history, literature and linguistics, literature and music, literature and psychology, literature and sociology, literature and religion, literature and science. Texts chosen for this exam are to be distributed evenly between the two disciplines.

For admission to candidacy the same language requirements hold for BOTH tracks. These are as follows: either high proficiency in one language (=normally one graduate literature course) + two University reading exams in two additional languages (with a high pass on both) OR two high proficiency (graduate literature courses) in two languages. In both tracks one of those languages must be either French or German. All graduate students who wish to fulfill the language requirement through graduate course work must pick up a form in the departmental office to be filled out by the instructor after the course work has been completed. No student will get credit for the language requirement by course work without the instructor’s completion of such a form. The form will rate the student’s general knowledge of the language with almost exclusive emphasis on reading.

Before entering candidacy students will be asked to present and discuss their dissertation proposals at a proposal hearing attended by their dissertation committee and other interested faculty. After entering candidacy students will participate in a colloquium, normally in the fifth quarter after their admission to candidacy, in which they will discuss with their dissertation committee the current state of the dissertation and outline their plans and schedule for further progress. Students are strongly urged to join appropriate workshops and present dissertation chapters on a regular basis to such workshops. After satisfying the above requirements, the candidate is expected to pursue independent research under the direction of a member of the faculty culminating in the writing of a doctoral dissertation. The candidate must conclude his or her studies by defending successfully this dissertation in an oral final examination.

For additional information about the Comparative Literature program, please see http://complit.uchicago.edu/.

Application

The department requires a writing sample of no more than 25 pages, usually a critical essay written during the student’s college years.

The application process for admission and financial aid for all graduate programs in Humanities is administered through the divisional Office of the Dean of Students. The Application for Admission and Financial Aid, with instructions, deadlines and department specific information is available online at: http://humanities.uchicago.edu/students/admissions

Questions pertaining to admissions and aid should be directed to humanitiesadmissions@uchicago.edu or (773) 702-1552. Our application process is now entirely online.  Please do not send any materials in hard copy.  All materials should be submitted through the online application (http://humanities.uchicago.edu/students/admissions/apply-now).

International students must provide evidence of English proficiency by submitting scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). (Current minimum scores, etc., are provided with the application.) For more information, please see the Office of International Affairs website at https://internationalaffairs.uchicago.edu/, or call them at (773) 702-7752.

Comparative Literature Graduate Courses

CMLT 34105. Letters to Zion. 100 Units.

This seminar centers the question: what do we mean when we describe Jewish authors and thinkers from the past as Zionist, anti-Zionist, or non-Zionist? We will approach this question by reading three correspondences: Kafka's letters to Felice Bauer, and the correspondences between Gershom Scholem and Hannah Arendt and between Paul Celan and Ilana Shmueli. In each case, the question of Zionism and of Israel looms in the background of the exchange in some way. Our key question is: can we definitively determine the position of each of these letter-writers on the question of Zionism? And do we want to? Or does the form of the correspondence rather open a possibility for a more flexible, complex account of their positions, allowing us to think of them as changing and evolving, indeed as dialogic? In addition to the letters themselves, we will read other texts by these authors and about them, as well as background reading on the letter as genre and as historical document. We will also take note of the fact that these are all exchanges that cross the gender divide and ask how the question of Zionist ideology intersects with issues of gender in Jewish history.

Instructor(s): Na'ama Rokem     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): JWSC 24105, CMLT 24105

CMLT 50105. Literary Theory: Auerbach's Mimesis. 100 Units.

This seminar will explore Western literary criticism from Plato to the late eighteenth-century conceived of as a prehistory of comparative literature as a discipline. The course will take as its particular lens the critical treatment of epic in some of the following authors: Plato, Aristotle, Longinus, Horace, Montaigne, Tasso, Giraldi, Sidney, Boileau, Le Bossu, St. Evremond, Dryden, Addison, Voltaire, Fielding, and Burke. The course will also examine both twentieth-century comparative approaches to epic (e.g., Auerbach, Curtius, Frye) and more recent debates within comparative literature with an eye to continuities and discontinuities in critical method and goals.

Instructor(s): David Wray     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): ENGL 52502

CMLT 31600. Marxism and Modern Culture. 100 Units.

Designed for graduate students in the humanities, this course begins with fundamental texts on ideology and the critique of capitalist culture by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Gramsci, Althusser, Wilhelm Reich and Raymond Williams, before moving to Marxist aesthetics, from the orthodox Lukács to the Frankfurt School (Adorno, Benjamin) to the heterodox (Brecht), and concludes with contemporary debates around Marxism and imperialism (Lenin, Fanon, and others), and Marxism and media, including the internet. This course will have a particular focus on guiding students through the conventions of academic writing in the Humanities.

Instructor(s): Loren Kruger     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Humanities graduate students and equivalent (eg DIV school; not suitable for MAPSS or Social Science PhDs
Equivalent Course(s): ENGL 32300, MAPH 31600

CMLT 50201. Seminar: Contemporary Critical Theory. 100 Units.

This course will examine some of the salient texts of postmodernism. Part of the question of the course will be the status and meaning of "post"-modern, post-structuralist. The course requires active and informed participation.

Instructor(s): Francoise Meltzer     Terms Offered: Winter
Note(s): Comp Lit core course. 2nd part of sequence.
Equivalent Course(s): DVPR 50201

CMLT 36810. Intellectuals and Power. 100 Units.

Intellectuals may be defined as those who speak truth to power, but how they speak, with what conception of truth, and in relation to what kind of power? In this course, we will try to begin to answer these questions by looking at the works and lives of some exemplary intellectuals, including Machiavelli, Carlyle, Benda, Nietzsche, Sartre, Ellison, Foucault, Sontag, and Said.

Instructor(s): Larry Rothfield     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): CMLT 26810, ENGL 36810

CMLT 46000. How to Think about Literature: the Main Notions. 100 Units.

In literary studies new trends and theories rarely supersede older ones. While in physics and biology Aristotle has long been obsolete, literary scholars still find his Poetics to be a source of important insights. And yet literary studies are not resistant to change. Over time, they have experienced a genuine historical growth in thinking. Perhaps one can best describe the discipline of literature as a stable field of recurring issues that generate innovative thinking. This course will introduce graduate students to the main notion of the field. Its aim is to identify an object of study that is integral, yet flexible enough to allow for comparisons between its manifestations in various national traditions.

Equivalent Course(s): SCTH 34601

CMLT 38110. Queer Jewish Literature. 100 Units.

Spanning medieval Hebrew to contemporary Yiddish, this course will explore the intersections of Jewish literature and queer theory, homophobia and antisemitism. While centered on literary studies, the syllabus will also include film, visual art, and music. Literary authors will include Bashevis Singer, Qalonymus ben Qalonymus, Irena Klepfisz, and others. Theorists will include Eve Sedgwick, Zohar Weiman-Kelman, Sander Gilman, and others. Readings will be in English translation.

Instructor(s): Anna Elena Torres     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): CMLT 28110, GNSE 38110, GNSE 28110, JWSC 28110

CMLT 36660. The Rise of the Global New Right. 100 Units.

This course traces the intellectual genealogies of the rise of a Global New Right in relation to the contexts of late capitalist neoliberalism, the fall of the Soviet Union, as well as the rise of social media. The course will explore the intertwining political and intellectual histories of the Russian Eurasianist movement, Hungarian Jobbik, the American Traditional Workers Party, the French GRECE, Greek Golden Dawn, and others through their published essays, blogs, vlogs and social media. Perhaps most importantly, the course asks: can we use f-word (fascism) to describe this problem? In order to pose this question we will explore the aesthetic concerns of the New Right in relation to postmodern theory, and the affective politics of nationalism. This course thus frames the rise of a global new right interdisciplinary and comparatively as a historical, geopolitical and aesthetic problem.

Instructor(s): Leah Feldman     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): ENGL 26660, SIGN 26050, CMLT 26660, REES 36660, REES 26660, ENGL 36660

CMLT 33212. Art, Ekphrasis, and Myth in Early Modern Spanish Theater. 100 Units.

In the early modern age, the verbal had a strong visual component. Poets and playwrights utilized the sense of sight since it was the highest of the Platonic senses and a mnemonic key to lead spectators to remember vividly what they had read or heard, long before spectacle plays were in fashion. One important technique for visualization was ekphrasis, the description of an art work within a text. Often, to perform was to imitate the affects, sentiments and poses of a painting. For this purpose, playwrights such as Cervantes, Lope de Vega and Calderón often turned to the mythological canvases of the Italian Renaissance along with the portraits of great rulers and images of battle. The class will examine the uses of art onstage: mnemonic, mimetic, political, religious comic, tragic, lyric and licentious. It will also delve into different forms of ekphrasis from the notional to the dramatic and from the fragmented to the reversed. Although the course will focus on Spanish plays of the early modern period, it will also include ancient treatises by Cicero, and Pliny as well as Renaissance mnemonic treatises by Della Porta. The course will be in English. Reading knowledge of Spanish is required since plays will be read in the original. Those taking the class for credit in Spanish must write their final paper in Spanish.

Instructor(s): Frederick de Armas     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): CMLT 23212, SPAN 33201, SPAN 23201

CMLT 33700. How to do Things with South Asian Texts? Literary Theories and South Asian Literatures. 100 Units.

This course provides an overview of different methods, approaches and themes currently prevalent in the study of South Asian texts from various periods. Topics covered will include translation (theory and practice), book history, literary history, textual criticism, genre theory (the novel in South Asia), literature and colonialism, cultural mobility studies (Greenblatt) and comparative literature/new philologies (Spivak, Ette). Readings will include work by George Steiner, Sheldon Pollock, Meenakshi Mukherjee, Terry Eagleton, Stephen Greenblatt, Gayatri Spivak, Ottmar Ette, and others. We will discuss these different approaches with particular reference to the texts with which participating students are working for their various projects. Students interested in both pre-modern and modern/contemporary texts are welcome. While the course is organized primarily from a literary studies perspective, it will also be of interest to students of history, anthropology and other disciplines dealing with "texts". The course is open to both undergraduate and graduate students (no prior knowledge of literary theory or South Asian writing is assumed).

Instructor(s): Sascha Ebeling     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): CMLT 23700, SALC 33700

CMLT 36210. Oedipus in Zion: The Oedipal Figure in Modern Hebrew Literature. 100 Units.

Historians often refer to the emergence of Zionism as an "Oedipal Revolution. Hence, the secular son's rebellion against his orthodox father is understood as the thrust that triggered the modern Jewish revolution. Alan Mintz aptly described the inter-generational rift between fathers and sons at the turn of the 20th century as a tragic yet inevitable consequence of modernity, underscoring the psychological difficulties and political dilemmas that haunted the sons who were "banished form their father's table. This seminar will focus on the (highly androcentric) oedipal figure in literary theory and explore its prominence in modern Hebrew literature. Freud's preoccupation with the Oedipus complex at the turn of the century coincided with the emergence of a powerful oedipal narrative in modern Hebrew culture. This confluence provides a fascinating backdrop to the "invention" of the Oedipus complex. We will read a variety of literary texts which rework the oedipal figure from the late 19th century to the 1980s and beyond.

Instructor(s): Michael Gluzman
Equivalent Course(s): CMLT 26210, JWSC 26210