This course has three broad aims: first, it will introduce students to a selection of compelling 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, third, it will encourage a collective meditation on the function of literature and culture in our world, where commodities, people, and ideas are constantly in motion. 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”; violence, trauma, and memory; terrorism and the state; 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 study about eight works of fiction and three films, as well as a selection of pertinent critical essays that will provide the terminology and theoretical framework for our conversations. The following works of fiction are likely to be included: Salman Rushdie, East, West; Ivan Vladislavic, selected stories and The Restless Supermarket; Dinaw Mengesthu, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, Michael Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost; Junot Diaz, The Short Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Juan Gabriel Vasquez, The Sound of Things Falling; Moshin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist; Aminatta Forna, The Hired Man, David Mitchell, Ghostwritten. Films: Babel, Even the Rain, and Syriana. Written requirements: a 7-9 page mid-term and an 8-10 page final paper (topics will be provided). Note that this course will count as one of the core requirements for the Comparative Literature major.