Comparison, Cosmopolitanism, and the Global Novel
This course has three broad aims: first, it will introduce students to a selection of compelling and engaging contemporary narratives; second, it will provide prospective students of literature and film, as well as interested students headed for other majors, with fundamental skills in literary, visual, and cultural analysis; and, finally, it will encourage a collective meditate on the function of literature and culture in our world, where commodities, people, and ideas are constantly in motion. Abiding questions for discussion will therefore include: the meaning of terms like “globalization,” “translation,” and “world literature”; the transnational reach and circulation of texts; migration and engagement with “others”; environmentalism and sustainability; and the ethic of cosmopolitanism. Our collective endeavor will be to think about narrative forms as modes of mediating and engaging with the vast and complex world we inhabit today. In the course of the semester we will read six novels and six films, as well as a selection of pertinent critical essaysthat will provide the terminology and theoretical framework for our conversations. Novels that may be included are: Alejo Carpentier’s The Lost Steps, Pat Barker’s The Ghost Road, Lily King’s Euphoria, David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten, Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Gift, Teju Cole’s Open City, Alexandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project, Chris Abani’s Graceland, Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives, Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, and Chimanda Adichie Ngozi’s Americanah. Films that may be included are: Babel, Lost in Translation, The Constant Gardener, Children of Men, District 9, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Written requirements: a 7-9 page mid-term and an 8-10 page final paper (topics will be provided). Students should feel free to ask for a precise prospectus and syllabus by December. Note that this course will count as one of the core requirements for the Comparative Literature major.