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World Literature

ENGL 277.401
crosslisted as: COML 191, CLST 191
instructor(s):
TR 10:30-12pm

How do we conceptualize “the world?” In this course, whose alternate title might be “Literature at the End(s) of the World” (or even, “It’s the End of the World As We Know It—and I Feel Various Feelings”), we will approach the idea of “world literature” through the lens of social, political and ecospheric collapse, interrogating along the way the various claims to universality a text can make. "World literature" here refers not merely to the usual definition of "books written in places other than the US and Europe," but to any form of cultural production that explores and pushes at the limits of a particular world, that steps between and beyond worlds, or that heralds the coming of new worlds, waiting to be born. Some of our guiding questions will include: what is a world? Can a text create, depict, or contain a world? How many worlds are there? And most importantly, what happens when a world—or our world—is threatened with extinction? To explore these topics, we will read, view, and discuss selected canonical texts in the tradition of “World Literature” as well as more recent work from writers and creators outside of Europe and the Anglosphere, spanning the generic categories of poetry, fiction, and film. In approaching these texts, we will try to push beyond both a view of “world” as predicted on us vs. them distinctions as well as one in which local difference has been homogenized or erased by the rise of global capitalism. We will also attempt to defamiliarize—or, perhaps, decolonize—our generic categories by looking at texts which are often placed outside the rarified categories of “literature.” Potential authors/filmmakers may include: Arthur Rimbaud, Jorge Luis Borges, Amos Tutuola, Clarice Lispector, Leslie Marmon Silko, Roberto Bolaño, Fernanda Melchor, Bong Joon-Ho, Abbas Kiarostami and others. Theoretical readings will supplement our discussion of the primary texts, and may include work from Theodor Adorno, Fredric Jameson, David Damrosch, Emily Apter, and others. Assignments will include weekly preparation, occasional discussion board posts, an in-class presentation, a mid-semester creative assignment, and a final paper (6-8 pp).