This course is designed to introduce students to the study of literature in an increasingly global cultural marketplace. We will discuss a selection of masterpieces by contemporary fiction writers from all parts of the world: Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Caribbean. The reading list is extensive and wide-ranging: Perec, Things; Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day; Greene, The Quiet American; Ngugi, Petals of Blood; Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions; Cliff, No Telephone To Heaven; Chamoisau, Texaco; Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude; Puig, The Kiss of the Spider Woman; Rushdie, East-West; Oe, The Silent Cry; Ugresic, The Museum of Unconditional Surrender; and Calvino, Invisible Cities.
Students will be trained in the basics of literary analysis, but will also be encouraged to reflect on the possibilities and problems that arise when we try to compare and connect literary texts across national boundaries (e.g., questions of translation and reception; the appeal of exoticism; the dangers of homogenization and commodification; the tension between modernity and tradition, between the local and the global, between the postcolonial and the postmodern; and so forth). To this end we will wrap up the course with a discussion of Charles Bernheimer's Comparative Literature in an Age of Multiculturalism, a work that, while intended for academics, will also give beginners and prospective majors a sense of the exciting challenges and new developments in the field. Requirements: attendance, keeping up with all the readings, two short papers (6-8 pp). The instructor is the director of the Comparative Literature Program and a former recipient of the Undergraduate English Association's Professor of the Year Award. (Please note that English translations of all texts have been ordered and that all class discussions will be in English. However, native or near- native speakers should feel free to read the French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and Serbo-Croatian novels on our list in the original.)