Comparative Literature Courses

Previously Offered Courses


For a list of Folklore courses, please visit the Folklore Courses page.

Courses in Comparative Literature

Fall 2019


CL 203: “Law and Literature (FIG)”

MoWe, 11:00-12:15 am      Sterling 1335        Professor Ralph Grunewald

This course introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of Law and Literature. The first part of the class deals with the depiction of law and legal questions in works of literature. This part of the law and literature movement is driven by the notion that law can be understood more appropriately by considering its social, philosophical, and cultural context as they are represented in works of fiction. In the second half of the course, we turn to law as literature. We will examine legal texts and the legal discourse in general through the lens of literary methodology. What are the similarities between law and literature as text-based disciplines, and how can, for example, the analysis of narratives in criminal cases contribute to the understanding of law in general? A “literary” analysis might introduce a different perspective and by that can reveal insights about the law that are not immediately obvious to the eyes of a lawyer.


CL 203: “Early Black Feminisms”

Tu-Thu 1-2:15 pm                  Sterling 1313           Professor Brigitte Fielder

African American women have been articulating their perspectives on race and gender since the onset of African American literature. This didn’t begin with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s or even with the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. The nineteenth century produced a plethora of black women’s voices that spoke to experiences of their intersectional identities. In this course, we’ll read texts by some women you may have heard of, like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Jacobs, but also by important, though less popularly known Black women, such as Harriet Wilson, Ida B. Wells, Pauline Hopkins, and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. We’ll also discuss the relevance of nineteenth-century Black feminisms to Black women in the present.


CL 203: “Yoga in Poetry and Pose”

Tu-Th, 8:00-9:15 am, Fr, 11:00-11:50 am      Sterling 1335    Professor Christopher Livanos

We will study yoga as it is taught and represented in the classic literary texts of several South Asian Cultures. In discussing poems and songs from traditions as diverse as Tibetan Buddhism, Kashmiri Shaivism, and Hindu Epic, we will examine how these expressions of yoga have impacted the lives of practitioners in different cultures and how they relate to yoga as it continues to be practiced in various forms today. Our readings will also look into connections between yoga and spiritual practices such as Sufi mysticism and Zen meditation. Students also will have the opportunity to practice the physical postures and breathing techniques of yoga each week during our Friday morning yoga practice sessions.


CL 203: “Calling Planet Earth: Our Planetary Environment”

MoWe 11:00AM – 11:50AM                  Van Vleck B239                 Professor Frederic Neyrat

We live on Earth, but do we know exactly what the Earth is? Is it a mere planet wandering in a cold universe? The quasi-living ecosphere some thinkers call “Gaia”? Or a sort of “spaceship” that geoengineers can enhance and pilot?

The goal of this course is to reveal that planet Earth is both a global ecosystem in which nature and technologies are entangled and a cosmological entity belonging to our solar system. Planetary Humanities will enable students to think together these two aspects of Earth: a/the global feature that is at the core of crucial phenomena like climate change, financial crisis, and transnational migrations, and b/the cosmological aspect that has been at play since the Copernican revolution and its displacement of the Earth from the center of the cosmos.


CL 350: “The Modern Middle Eastern Novel”

TuTh, 9:30-10:45am                 Sterling 1335            Professor Christopher Livanos

We will study novels from a variety of Middle Eastern cultures, written in different languages, as well as texts that make us question the conventional definitions and boundaries of the Middle East. Readings and class discussions will focus on the cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity of the region. Our course will discuss the development of the novel as a literary form with roots in the West and the contributions Middle Eastern novelists have made by engaging with international literary traditions while bringing the unique narrative styles of their own cultures into their work. Themes will include the impact of colonialism on different Middle Eastern cultures, the emergence of modern social and political systems in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and the complex forces shaping personal and communal identities.

Our discussions of Naguib Mahfouz’s Midaq Alley will explore the notion of a working-class Cairo neighborhood as a microcosm of the world in the 1940’s. In Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North, we will examine the author’s portrayal of the impact of colonial rule on a Sudanese village. The Blind Owl by Iranian author Sadegh Hedayat is a major work of twentieth-century modernism, in which an anti-hero gradually comes to understand the meaning of dreams through a complex, non-linear narrative. Etel Adnan’s Sitt Marie Rose, written in French, is a classic depiction of the Lebanese civil war. Emile Habiby’s The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist tells the story of the conflicting notions of communal identity faced by a Palestinian/Israeli character inspired both by European fiction and Arab folklore. Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad shows, set during the height of conflict in the Second Gulf War, centers on a monster whose fragmented body represents the dissolution of a war-torn society.

Reading List:

Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz

Sitt Marie Rose by Etel Adnan

The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat

Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih

The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist by Emile Habiby

Granada  by Radwa Ashour

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi


CL 466: “Gender, Art and Psychoanalysis in Latin America”

Tu-Th 11:00am to 12:15pm          Sterling 1313                    Dr. Beatriz L. Botero

“Gender, Art and Psychoanalysis in Latin America” explores art and literature from a wide range of Latin American countries – Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Puerto Rico to name a few – through feminist and psychoanalytic approaches. Student will also become familiar with diverse avant-garde approaches, from Stridentism in Mexico to Brazilian Anthropofagism. We will focus on the work of artists such as Frida Khalo, Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington, Tarsila do Amaral and Doris Salcedo, finding connections between art and literature as a way of speaking from the margins of culture.


CL 500: Creating Race & Species in the Transatlantic World

Wednesdays, 2:30-5 pm         Sterling 3425            Professor Brigitte Fielder

The categories “race” and “species” have been closely intertwined in transatlantic discourse. Scientific writing on human and nonhuman taxonomies and natural histories often conflated race and species categories in their arguments and overwhelmingly sought to justify global white supremacist endeavors of imperialism, enslavement, and oppression. Throughout the nineteenth century, questions of humans’ relation to and separation from nonhuman animals were intensely debated. The “dehumanization” of nonwhite people was fed by these discourses and further complicated by the racialization of human-animal interactions. The heterogeneity of animal-human relations and the importance of race to these relations is evident in phenomena such as Euro-American naturalizations of white supremacy in scientific taxonomies, myths about Native American and African people’s relationship to animals in shared geographical spaces, and the collection of animals and nonwhite people in museum and zoo exhibitions.

Human-Animal studies therefore necessitates a discussion of race and how this category has been constructed alongside and in connection with categories of species. This course will ask students to examine commonalities between how race and species have been discussed in American and transatlantic literatures throughout the “long” nineteenth century. Readings will introduce students to the similar rhetorics for discussing race and species in places like scientific essays attempting to define these categories, stories in which ideas of race and species uncomfortably overlap or which interrogate these categories, and literatures in which animals are racialized and humans are animalized. We will read texts in which race and species come together in various genres, including European and American scientific writing, nineteenth-century novels, children’s literature, and Native American and Afro-Caribbean folklore. We will consider how race and species have been historically constructed through a shared lineage and how this history matters for how we discuss these categories in the present.


CL 500: “Angels of History: Walter Benjamin and Political Messianism”

MoWe 2:30PM – 3:45PM                    Sterling 1335                  Professor Frederic Neyrat

My course aims at analyzing Walter Benjamin’s conception of time and space. 1/ Concerning time, Benjamin developed a messianism of the past, that is to say the idea that the past is not fixed, unalterable, but incomplete. The dreams of the past – dreams of happiness and emancipation – have still to be realized and it’s our task to realize them: it’s the task of those who, today, did not give up with revolutionary hopes, to realize the potentialities of the past. What Benjamin calls the “dialectical image” is the encounter between the present – a sign in the present – and the unfulfilled dreams of the past. 2/ Concerning space, Benjamin’s philosophy is an unceasing examination of the (non)relation between distance and proximity. In his famous “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Benjamin analyzes the disappearance of the “aura,” understood as the manifestation of a certain kind of distance.

Drawing out these two theoretical threads, in this seminar we will address the following: Is there a relation between the manifestation of distance and the possibility of completing the past, that is to say of realizing the emancipatory potential of the distant past in the present? What sort of aesthetics are at play in the relation between the past and distance, presence and proximity? What kind of future is thinkable in Benjamin’s philosophy?

Relating Benjamin to Hegel and Marx, we will interpret the “Angel of History” that Benjamin introduced in his famous “Thesis on History” both as a figure of revolutionary hopes and as a cosmic figure able to produce mediations between past and present, now and tomorrow, the Earth and the cosmos, politics and theology, our situations and its outsides. We will explore how Benjamin’s conception of spacetime can help us to find a way out of the Anthropocene, understood as the will to master the Earth thanks to geo-technology. “Men as a species completed their development thousands of years ago,” Benjamin wrote in the middle of the 1920’s, “but mankind as a species is just beginning his. In technology, a physis is being organized through which mankind’s contact with the cosmos takes a new and different form from that which it had in nations and families.” (“To the Planetarium”) We will consider if the “new contact with the cosmos” that Benjamin called for might give rise to a new mode of revolution.

Authors studied: Walter Benjamin, Judith Butler, G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Marx, Kristin Ross, Gershom Scholem.




Courses in Comparative Literature

Spring 2019


CL 202: “Monstrosity in Modern Literature”

MW, 9:55-10:45 am                 1111 Mosse Humanities Bldg.            Professor Christopher Livanos

 By learning about the monsters people create, we gain insight into human fears, notions of evil, and how we define humanity itself in contrast to inhuman beings. We will start a guided tour of hell as Dante Alighieri meets an array of monsters in the Inferno. The Saga of the Volsungs will provide us with a sound sense of Tolkien’s background in Medieval Literature as we read the The Children of Hurin. In addition to preparing us to read Tolkien, The Saga of The Volsungs will show us examples of transgressors whose crimes cause them to forfeit their humanity and become monsters or animals. Here we will discuss how portrayal of the animal differs from portrayal of the monster, and how humanity relates to each. Mary Shelley provides a modern twist on the monster story by sympathizing with the monster as a well-meaning but misunderstood social outcast. We will examine H.P. Lovecraft’s construction of extraterrestrial, malign, and superhuman monsters as the embodiment of the modern fear that man is not the center of the universe, the measure of all things, or really very significant at all.

CL 203, Lec. 001: “Calling Planet Earth: An Introduction to Planetary Humanities  

MW, 12:05-12:55 pm               5208 Social Sciences Bldg.                  Professor Frederic Neyrat

We live on Earth, but do we know exactly what the Earth is? Is it a mere planet wandering in a cold universe? The quasi-living ecosphere some thinkers call “Gaia”? Or a sort of “spaceship” that geoengineers can enhance and pilot? Drawing on literature (J.G Ballard, U. Le Guin, Sun Ra, M. Shelley), cinema (Into the Wild, Promised Land), philosophy (H. Jonas), science (P. Crutzen, L. Margulis, J. von Neumann), anthropology (T. Ingold), and theorists who shaped the environmental thought (R. Carson, W. Cronon, B. Latour, R. Nixon), this class investigates the crucial issues of our terrestrial condition.

CL 203, Lec. 002: “American Girls & American Girlhood”               

MW, 11-11:50 am                    6102 Social Sciences Bldg.                  Professor Brigitte Fielder

The popular American Girl franchise of dolls, accessories, and books introduces many young people to different periods of American history. In its stories, stores, and catalog, American Girl also constructs the categories “American” and “girl” in interesting and complex ways that demand a closer examination of how “American girlhood” has been represented in other literature. In this course we will put American Girl’s historical fiction stories into conversation with literary texts written for both children and adults, by authors such as Louisa May Alcott, Louise Erdrich, Harriet Jacobs, and Toni Morrison. Our comparisons will give insight into how “American girlhood” is constructed.

CL 350, Lec. 001: “Magical Realism, Cultural Disruption”

TR, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm          1335 Sterling Hall                              Dr. Beatriz L. Botero

The term Magical Realism has its own history that dates to 1924 when applied by Frantz Roh to expressionist paintings. Later, in 1949, Alejo Carpentier re-defined the term as the Marvelous Real. In this class, we will study the different meanings of the concept of magical realism and will discover its cultural implications, by examining a series of texts, movies and music produced during the end of the XX century and beginning of the XXI. According to Wendy Faris, the essential difference, between realism and magical realism involves the intentionality implicit in the conventions of the two modes with a contradiction: realism and a magic world. We will read Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges and Isabel Allende among others.

CL 350, Lec. 002 (meets with German 275, LitTran 277): “Kafka and the Kafkaesque”

TR, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm          115 Van Hise Hall                              Professor Hans Adler

In this course, we will read a wide selection of texts by Franz Kafka in order to approach an understanding of his universe and prepare ourselves to view this universe in comparison with other contemporary authors as well as authors from other cultures and eras (N. Gogol, W.G. Sebald, T. Pynchon, H. Mulisch, P. Roth). Lectures will also highlight literature, film, and art works in the tradition of the Kafkaesque. There will be a midterm and a final exam. A small number of short writing and drawing assignments may be required. This course is open to freshmen. Please note that this specific “German 275” course does not count for the German Certificate since it is taught in English. German majors may count it as a cognate course for the major.

CL 350, Lec. 003: “Modern Indian Literatures”

TR, 1:00-2:15 pm                     486 Van Hise Hall                              Professor Vinay Dharwadker

CL 358: “Shakespeare, Cervantes, and the Origins of Modernity”

MW, 2:30-3:45 pm                      2335 Sterling Hall                                 Professor Christopher Livanos

Cervantes’ Don Quijote has been called the funniest as well as the saddest book in the world. Written at a time when the Spanish Empire was in decline and blaming its problems on alleged enemies such as Jews and Muslims supposedly hiding in their midst, Don Quijote forces us to examine the lies we tell ourselves in order to survive. Our conversations on a broad range of Shakespeare’s plays will address issues including the complex gender dynamics of Twelfth Night, Europe’s expansion into new territories and encounters with their inhabitants in The Tempest, and a powerful man’s attempt to force a woman to suppress her truth in Measure for Measure. Our discussions of both authors will examine the radical questioning of religious and political authority that characterized the early modern period.

CL 475: “The Poetics of Cruelty”
MW, 2:30 – 3:45 pm                 1407 Sterling Hall                              Professor Max Statkiewicz

Culture and cruelty are dependent on each other; they condition and limit each other. Cruelty in the ordinary sense of the term marks the outer limit of culture, the barbarism, violence toward the weak. And yet, in another sense, cruelty can be also a remedy against the indifference of passive or suicidal nihilism, which is also the negation of the high culture, in the figure of the last man, philistine of culture. All creation, in particular artistic creation, begins with some sort of cruelty, especially the self-cruelty of the artist. In this seminar, we’ll study various poetics, centered on the notion of cruelty, from Marquis de Sade’s to Antonin Artaud’s.

CL 500, Lec. 001: “Guilt”

TR, 1:00-2:15 pm                     1335 Sterling Hall                              Professor Ralph Grunewald

CL 500, Lec. 002: “Race and Children’s Literature”
T 1:00-3:30 pm                         3425 Sterling Hall                              Professor Brigitte Fielder

According to the Cooperative Children’s Books Center at UW Madison, twenty-five percent of children’s books published in the United States in 2017 featured first nations and people of color characters and only about fifteen percent were written by racially underrepresented authors. Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately half of school-aged children in the United States today are not white. Parents, educators, librarians, activists, and children’s literature scholars have noted the underrepresentation of African American, Latinx, Native American, and Asian American characters and authors the children’s literature industry, arguing that #WeNeedDiverse books in the twenty-first century. Meanwhile, representations of indigenous people and people of color in children’s books have been mired not only in underrepresentation but also in a long history of racism and literary segregation.

This course will examine the significance of race in children’s literature. We will read literature for children from the nineteenth-century to the present, examining how race and racism appear in subtle and not-so-subtle ways in these texts. We will examine current trends in interdisciplinary research in children’s literature, in which the study of race has now become essential to scholars and practitioners in a wide variety of fields. We will also examine popular conversations regarding race and racism in children’s literature in our current moment, reading this conversation from the perspective of historical consciousness and conscientiousness about race. Students will work to acquire a historically and theoretically informed understanding of race and its implications for children’s literature from a variety of perspectives and to develop antiracist practices for scholarship in children’s literature within their respective fields of study.

CL 500: “Alien Studies: E.T., Illegal Aliens, and Invasive Species”  

MW, 4:00-5:15 pm                   1335 Sterling Hall                              Professor Frederic Neyrat

Alien is a term that can refer either to a terrestrial being – a strange person, a foreigner, an exotic plant – or to an extraterrestrial creature. The goal of this class is to question this ambiguity in political philosophy (Dean, Fanon, Marx, Levinas, Rancière, Sexton), literature (Butler, Calvino, Miéville, Morrison), and cinema (Baker’s Alien Nation, Scott’s Alien, Spielberg’s E.T., Villeneuve’s Arrival). If an alien first raises a question – “Who is she?” “From with country does he come from?” – this class will show that to really answer this question is always to acknowledge that the aliens are us.

CL 771, Lec. 001: “Contemporary Theory across Disciplines”

R, 4:00-6:30 pm                        1407 Sterling Hall                              Professor Vinay Dharwadker

CL 771, Lec. 002: “In the Beginning”                                                             

W, 5:30 – 8 pm                        2329 Sterling Hall                              Professor Max Statkiewicz

“As you began [anfiengst], so will you remain,” writes the poet. “Beginning [ἀρχή] is everything,” writes the philosopher. If we believe Hölderlin and Plato, a return to the origins of Western culture would be crucial to understanding its later development. Paradoxically, this would require a dialogue with the “archaic” poets/thinkers/tragedians that this very development rendered difficult, if not impossible. Such a dialogue has been proposed by some German poets/thinkers, the forerunners of postmodern thought: Hölderlin, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. In this seminar we shall read the Homeric, “archaic,” and “classical” Greek texts of the tragic age, not in themselves – there might be no texts “in themselves” – but in a dialogue with those German poets/thinkers.





Comparative Literature Courses

Fall 2018



CL 202, Lecture 002: “Before Harlem:  Early African-American Literature”

Professor Brigitte Fielder                   MWF, 9:55 – 10:45 am

African American literature has a long and rich history that extends long before the establishment of university African American Studies departments in the 1960s and 1970s and even before the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. In this course, we will read African American literature written before 1900. Tackling important national topics such as slavery, women’s rights, the temperance movement, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and racial uplift, early African-American literature responds to political, legal, and social changes during times of national turmoil. We’ll read texts by well-known figures such as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Jacobs, but also by writers you may not have heard of, such as Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, William Wells Brown, and Harriet Wilson . . . . Our texts will span the broad array of genres in which African American people wrote, including personal narratives, poetry, novels, speeches, short stories, essays, and drama. We’ll also talk about the field of African American literature, the incorporation of African American authors into the predominantly white field of American literary study, and the creation of an African American literary canon. We’ll look at texts that are important “firsts” in this body of literature, we’ll discuss the recovery of texts that were once lost to us but which have been rediscovered, and we’ll do some archival research of our own as we discuss early African American print culture. Lastly, but not least importantly, we’ll talk about the relevance of early African American literature for understanding race and racism in the present.


CL 202, Lecture 003: “Weird Lit: Humans, Cyborgs, and Animals,”

Professor Frederic Neyrat                  MW, 11:00 – 11:50 am               5106 Social Science Bldg.

This class will focus on the singular forms of being that people literature: humans and also non-humans, a vast category including animals, insects, plants, cyborgs, and robots. We will pay attention to the weird characters that we encounter in novels: Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote), Bartleby (Herman Melville’s “Bartleby”), and a “blind but wise” old woman (Toni Morrison’s “Nobel Lecture”). We will meet a famous monster (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein), and neurotic superheroes (Alan Moore’s Watchmen). We will also try to understand why robots can become more human than humans (Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot). These readings will lead us to reconsider the representations we have of humans, animals, and technological beings.


CL 203, Lecture 001: “Law and Literature”

Professor Ralph Grunewald              MW, 11:00 – 12:15

This course explores the two major branches of the law and literature movement: Part 1 (Law in Literature) examines how legal themes are depicted in fiction and what can be gained from applying a legal lens to literature. For instance, what does To Kill a Mockingbird tell us about the law that a law journal article cannot? In Part 2 (Law as Literature), we look at the similarities between law and literature as text-based disciplines. We will focus on legal storytelling and learn how narrative theory provides insights into the power dynamics of a trial or law in general.


CL 203, Lecture 003: “Global Science Fiction”

Professor Sarah Wells                        MW, 12:05 – 12:55                   5106 Social Science Bldg.



 Science fiction (“SF”) has become an important means of interpreting contemporary problems on a global scale. This course explores the relationship of SF literature and film to the problem of the global in two ways: first, by exploring multiple examples of SF around the world; secondly, by considering SF as a lens for investigating urgent global problems — including environmental destruction, surveillance, artificial intelligence, and genetic experimentation — that probe the limits of what it means to be human and otherwise in the world. We will read short stories and novels and watch films by artists from the U.S., Argentina, Kenya, Japan, and more. Lecture + discussion section.


CL 203, Lecture 004: “Yoga in Poetry and Pose”         **FIG**

Professor Chris Livanos                     TR, 8:00 – 9:15                         1339 Sterling Hall

Please note the required Friday 11 – 11:50 yoga practicum, place TBA

In Comparative Literature 203, Yoga in Poetry and Pose, we will study yoga as it is taught and represented in the classic literary texts of several South Asian Cultures. In discussing poems and songs from traditions as diverse as Tibetan Buddhism, Kashmiri Shaivism, and Hindu Epic, we will examine how these expressions of yoga have impacted the lives of practitioners in different cultures and how they relate to yoga as it continues to be practiced in various forms today. Our readings will also look into connections between yoga and spiritual practices such as Sufi mysticism and Zen meditation. Students also will have the have the opportunity to practice the physical postures and breathing techniques of yoga each week during our Friday morning yoga practice sessions. The other courses in this FIG will enhance our understanding of these topics.


CL 350, Lecture 001: “Modern Indian Literatures”                                         (meets with LCA 311)

Professor Vinay Dharwadker            TR, 1:00 – 2:15


CL 350, Lecture 003: “Women, Art, and Psychoanalysis in Latin America,”

Dr. Beatriz L. Botero                           TR. 11:00 – 12:15                      3425 Sterling Hall 

An introduction to the avant-gardes of the early twentieth century in Latin America, our focus will be on literary works, and critical theories of the avant-garde, but we will also consider the visual arts. We will examine the work of artists such as Frida Kahlo, Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington, Tarsila do Amaral, and Doris Salcedo.


CL 350, Lecture 004: “The Vampire in Literature and Film”        (meets with Lit in Trans 329)

Professor Tomislav Longinović       TR, 11:00 – 12:15                     272 Bascom Hall

This course explores the historical development of the vampire legend, from its roots in Slavic and East European folklore to the literary and cinematic variations on the legend from the 18th century until today.  Since the complex image of the vampire vacillates between imagination and reality, this will be a truly interdisciplinary course, spanning analyses drawn from medical anthropology to the discussions on literary and cinematic representations of the ancient creature of horror.


CL 358: “Heroic Epic: India and Greece”

Professor Chris Livanos                    TR, 9:30 – 10:45                      1335 Sterling Hall

We will study the ancient epic poetry of Greece and India, cultures with two of the earliest literary traditions in the language family known as Indo-European. In the early weeks of the course we will discuss the religion, mythology and culture of the ancient Greek and Indian peoples. We will also study different theories about the origins of the Indo-European speakers and their migration into regions as far apart as South Asia and Western Europe.  We will discuss the origins of heroic epic in the oral story-telling traditions of pre-literate societies, and we will study theories on how the ancient epics came to be written down as writing systems developed. In our readings of these epics, we will study how different communities define heroism and use epic poetry to promote social and personal ideals. Discussion topics will include thematic and linguistic links between the Greek and Indian traditions. In our reading of Ashvaghosha’s Life of the Buddha, we will examine how the poet alters earlier heroic epic traditions to recast the holy man as a new type of epic hero. We will then study how the Bhagavad Gita, the most famous section of the Mahabharata, responds to Buddhist claims by incorporating saintly as well as heroic qualities in the poem’s protagonist, Arjuna.


 CL 370: “The Postmodern Novel”

Professor Max Statkiewicz               TR, 2:30 – 3:45                        1339 Sterling Hall    

The definition of the postmodern is part of the problem. Indeed, the very notion of definition of the concept, fundamental to the project of Enlightenment, is questioned be the postmodern. Historically, the postmodern might be taken as following (post-) the modern, but the Hegelian/Marxian/ view of the periods as dialectically following each other is also questioned by the postmodern. In fact, we might consider Jean-François Lyotard’s view, which always places the postmodern before the modern. Identifying, basically, the postmodern with the Avant-guard movement in arts, Lyotard writes: “Postmodernism thus understood is not mode of moderrnism at its end, but in the nascent state, and this state is constant.” Thus, postmodern novel would precede modern novel as a genre confirming the reality and the rationality of the world (realism). Postmodern novel would, on the contrary question this reality and this rationality. It would be in the beginning of the process of disintegration (dissemination, Derrida) that would later lead to a consolidation of narrative. We shall examine this questioning of the dominate narrative in the works that are commonly ranged in the “postmodern genre,” such as Italo Calvino’s If on a Wither Night a Traveler, Thomas Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49, Kurt Vonngut’s Slaughterhouse Five, Jorge Luis Borges’ Labirynths, William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, and we shall try to elaborate a minimal characteristic of the postmodern novel as an anti-genre.


CL 371: “What is Theory? Literature, Realism, & Materialism”
Professor Frederic Neyrat                 MW, 2:30 – 3:45                     3425 Sterling Hall

What is theory? Why does theory scare us? And why do we urgently need theory? To investigate these questions, this class will deal with the relation of theory to metaphysics, abstraction, ideology, and critique. We will work on basic philosophical texts (Plato, Whitehead, Marx, Althusser, Arendt, Deleuze, Lévinas), contemporary theory (Spivak, Rancière), psychoanalysis (Freud), literary theory (Woolf, Bataille, Breton, Williams, Hall, Jameson, Morrison, Cixous) and films (Godard, Lars von Trier). We will explore the materialist dimension of theory, that is to say the necessity for theory to recognize an exteriority – praxis, nature, the unconscious, the real, history, etc. – that escapes the empire of pure speculation. We will identify the uses of theory as the necessary detour without which it’s impossible to inhabit – and transform – the world.


CL 466: “Gender and Technology: Literature and Visual Culture”

Professor Sarah Wells                       MW, 4:00 – 5:15

This course explores the political, ethical, and artistic dimensions of the intersection between technology and gender through literature, film, and theory from across the globe. We will explore the following questions: Why are new media, often depicted as both terrifying and seductive, frequently feminized? How do these depictions shift according to media (eg., the telephone, cinema, computer)? How do understandings of masculinity shape our understanding of technologies? Finally, can there be a depiction of technology that does not center on gender? The course will culminate in final projects of students’ own design, drawing on course materials to open up new lines of inquiry.


CL 500: “Space is the Place: From Copernicus to Elon Musk”

Professor Frederic Neyrat                 T, 1 – 3:30                              

This class is an inquiry into our relation with outer space. What historical, social, and scientific developments gave rise to the Space Age, a period that began with Sputnik’s launch in 1957 and that was aiming to explore, and conquer, Space? Why would a famous entrepreneur Elon Musk like to “die on Mars”? Generally, why do we want to go “out there”? Is not the Earth already “out there,” already a planet amongst other planets wandering in the infinite universe? We will study Sun Ra and Afro-Futurism, Octavia Butler, Nolan’s Interstellar, Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Thomas Kuhn, Alexandre Koyré, and Lisa Messeri.


CL 750: “Race in Cultural and Literary Theory”

Professor Brigitte Fielder                 W, 2:30 – 5                              2425 Sterling Hall

This graduate seminar will explore the question of what we talk about when we talk about race in the study of literature and literary culture. The significance of race for understanding literature has been taken up by various interdisciplinary fields, including Ethnic Studies, Postcolonial Studies, and Cultural Studies. As the intersectionality of identity and embodiment complicates structures of power and oppression, fields such as Gender and Feminist Studies and Queer Studies have taken up race, broadening theoretical avenues further. Our texts will include writing by some foundational theorists, such as Aimé Césaire, Paul Gilroy, Toni Morrison, Edward Said, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, as well as more recent scholarship. We will also discuss strategies for incorporating antiracist practices into our own scholarship, writing, colleagueship, and pedagogy.


CL 770: “The Question of the Subject”

Professor Max Statkiewicz                           R, 4:30 – 7:00

The question of the subject is the question of modernity: the question of the passage from its exaltation at the beginning (Descartes, but also, in a different mode, Pascal) to the consciousness of its demise towards the end – “this era’s shadow: cancer of the subject, whether in the ego or in the masses” (Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe). In this seminar – after a brief survey of the triumphant position of the subject in Descartes, Kant, and Husserl – we shall discus some of the most striking challenges to her/his/its exalted position in Bakhtin, Heidegger, Foucault, Althusser, Derrida, and Agamben; as well as their chosen interlocutors: Hölderlin, Marx, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Rilke, Freud, Lacan, Mandelstam, and Celan.


CL 822: “Translation Seminar”

Professor Vinay Dharwadker                      R, 2:30 – 5:00             

This seminar will focus on both the theory and practice of scholarly and literary translation. Translation Studies has expanded enormously as a field of study in the past two decades, and has become one of the primary areas of theoretical exploration and interdisciplinary practice across the humanities and social sciences today. In comparative studies generally, and especially in comparative literary and cultural studies, translation remains an essential practical discipline and skill. This seminar will review major elements and recent developments in Translation Studies (including theories of translation), and will explore the actual practice of textual and literary translation in a variety of contexts. This seminar is required for Ph.D. students in CLFS, but will also be very useful for advanced graduate students in other humanistic disciplines, ranging from Classics and Communication Arts to modern European and Asian languages and literatures. 


This page includes information about current courses. Descriptions of past courses are available on the Comparative Literature and Folklore course pages.


Comparative Literature Courses 

Summer 2018


May 29- Jun 14
Enviromental Studies/Philosophy 441: “Environmental Ethics: Ethics for a Damaged Planet,”
Professor Frederic Neyrat
Meeting days: Mo, Wed, and Th: 1pm-5:10pm. Room: 2261 Humanities Bldg.

“Anthropocene,” “Capitalocene,” “Necrocene,” “Anthrobscene,” even “Chthulucene:” new words abound to describe a global situation in which developed human societies are recognized as a major geomorphological force. But what are the ethical consequences of such power? Since Descartes, human beings have been cast as “masters” (and “possessors”) of nature. The problem, as philosopher Hans Jonas has argued, is that it’s difficult for human beings to “master their mastery,” that is to say to control their technological and industrial power. Yes, human beings have the power to do wonderful things, they can improve health, they can preserve what has to be protected, but they can also destroy biodiversity, turn climate into a global danger, and deeply damage the planet.

This course focuses on key concepts in philosophy in order to consider what models of ethical responsibility might allow for the just and wise treatment of human beings, nonhuman life, the planet, and the weather. We will also consider how affect crosses with philosophy: how might the wonder and horror we feel in response to cascading environmental problems impact – in good or bad ways – efforts toward just and/or wise environmental philosophy? From Kant to Singer to Nietzsche, we will study basic philosophical and ecophilosophical texts on ethics and morals to question our responsibility vis-à-vis the Blue Marble, human beings, and non-human forms of life. Drawing on the concepts introduced during each session, we will explore films and documentaries to reveal their ethical – or unethical – signification. More information here.


June 18 – July 12
Comparative Literature 203: Literature and Film: Words to Images
Dr. Janelle Pulczinski
Class meetings: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays: 9:00-11:30 am
Room: 6116 Social Sciences Bldg.

Everyone loves a good story, and in this class we’ll explore intriguing stories told through words and images. Film has often used literature and its stories as a starting point to (re)create that story using images. And literature often borrows techniques from film to help develop its own way of telling a story. One of the fascinating aspects of both genres – film and literature – is the relationship between the two: how does one create, translate, or adapt a story using images or words? How can a story written hundreds of years ago be relevant to a modern audience? What techniques can be used to convey a story in a way that’s not been done before? How does reading or viewing a story help us better understand the complex relationships of people in the world today, especially if we are hearing that story from a particular point of view? These questions are a few of the ones we’ll attempt to answer as we discuss and analyze the stories selected for this course. The course syllabus lives at this link. And you can find a flyer for your office wall or refrigerator door here!

 Spring 2018 Courses


CL 202: “Magical Realism: Cultural Disruption” MW, 11 – 11:50 Beatriz L. Botero

6203 Social Science Bldg.

           The notion of Magical Realism has to be understood under the light of Realism. According to Wendy Faris, “the difference, between realism and magical realism; where realism intends its version of the world as a singular version, as an objective representation of natural and social realities (.) in magical realism texts, ontological disruption serves the purpose of political and cultural disruption: magic is often given as a cultural corrective causality, materiality, motivation” (3). This quote foreshadows the importance of order and disorder, the place where myth and reality make waves into each other, blurring the boundaries of what is real and what is magical.
CL 203: “Calling Planet Earth: An Introduction to Environmental Humanities” MW, 9:55 – 10:45 Frederic Neyrat

5206 Social Science Bldg. 

We live on Earth, but do we know exactly what the Earth is? Is it a mere planet wandering in a cold universe? The quasi-living ecosphere some thinkers call “Gaia”? Or a sort of “spaceship” that geo-engineers can enhance and pilot? Drawing on literature (J.G Ballard, U. Le Guin, Sun Ra, M. Shelley), cinema (Into the Wild, Promised Land), philosophy (H. Jonas), science (P. Crutzen, L. Margulis, J. von Neumann), anthropology (T. Ingold), and theorists who shaped the environmental thought (R. Carson, W. Cronon, B. Latour, R. Nixon), this class investigates the crucial issues of our terrestrial condition.
CL 203: “Global Detectives: Fiction & Film” MW, 1:20 – 2:10 Thomas Massnick

19 Ingraham Hall        

CL 203: “Introduction to Comics and Graphic Novels: Theory, Method, Praxis” TR 1:00-2:15 Adam Kern

1221 Humanities Bldg.

Introduction to the theory, history, and practice of “comix”—broadly defined to include one-off comics, cartoon strips, comic books, graphic novels—in a comparative, transnational, global context. Special attention is paid to how comix by its very definition transcends the borders between art and life, different cultures, as well as words and images.
CL 350: “In Search of the Real: Realism and Anti-Realism”  MW, 2:30-3:45              Frederic Neyrat

2335 Sterling Hall

Back to reality! This might be the motto of several contemporary thinkers: Graham Harman’s “speculative realism” and Karen Barad’s “agential realism” strive to reinvent a more material relation to reality, things, objects, and meaning. Yet what kind of reality is shaped through these theoretical frames? Is realism the disguise of an unmentionable fiction? Through the analysis of novels and short stories (Lovecraft, Steinbeck), poems (Pound, Oppen), films (Carpenter, Lynch), literary theory (Barthes, Lukács), and other contemporary theoretical texts (Arendt, Barad), we will consider if works of art represent reality or confront the impossibility of exhausting its description.
CL 350: “Kafka” (meets with German, Lit in Translation) TR 11:00-12:15           


Hans Adler

1227 Engineering Hall

In this course, we will read a wide selection of texts by Franz Kafka in order to approach an understanding of his universe and prepare ourselves to view this universe in comparison with other contemporary authors as well as authors from other cultures and eras (N. Gogol, W.G. Sebald, T.Pynchon, H. Mulisch, P. Roth). Lectures will also highlight literature, film, and art works in the tradition of the Kafkaesque. There will be a midterm and a final exam. A small number of short writing and drawing assignments may be required. This course is open to freshmen. More information here.
CL 358: “The Modern Short Story” TR, 11 -12:15 Vinay Dharwadker

1156 Mechanical Engineering

How should we define the short story, what are its important features, and how has it changed over the past 150 years? Combining a lecture and discussion format, we will explore short stories in English and from several languages in translation from different parts of the world—France, India, China, Japan, the United States, Canada, Antigua, and Chile. We will also examine the lives and cultural backgrounds of short-story writers, from William Faulkner, Rabindranath Tagore, and Haruki Murakami to Toni Morrison, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Isabelle Allende.
CL 370: “Comparative Readings in Medieval & Early Modern Poetry” (meets with CL 770) TR  11:00 – 12:15 Chris Livanos

223 Ingraham Hall

We will study works from several literary traditions and languages written by major poets from different regions of India in approximately the period from 1300-1800.  Many of our readings will come from the Bhakti movement, which emphasized loving devotion to God and God’s accessibility to all people.  As well as the works of important Hindu mystics and saints, the class will study Sikh sacred poetry and Muslim Sufi poetry.  The class will discuss the contexts out of which our texts arose and the impact they have had on the cultures of South Asia and the world.
FL 428: “Gender and Expressive Cultures”  TR, 9:30-12:15            Christine Garlough

1333 Sterling

Social media, graffiti, film, music, television shows, comics, folklore, dance, literature, and theater performances: how are gender and sexuality expressed and explored through cultural forms? What can we learn from studying representations of gender and sexuality in expressive cultures across the globe? This course will help students explore the values, traditions, and norms in their own cultural practices, as well as help them to understand and appreciate the expressive cultures of others.
CL 475: “The Problem of Metaphor”  W, 4:30 – 7 Max Statkiewicz

2319 Sterling

Metaphor – a major poetical and rhetorical figure – has become recently an object of intensive research and philosophical questioning. Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, and de Man, for example, associate metaphor with the representational mode of metaphysical thinking. Lakoff, Johnson, Turner, and other so-called “cognitive scientists” see metaphor as a chief manifestation of the basic cognitive function of human mind. Ricœur’s work and his hermeneutic theory of “live metaphor” might be read as an attempt to save metaphor from both the criticism of the “deconstructors” and the reduction of the “cognitivists.” In this course we shall survey some traditional theories of metaphor in order to be able to enter the current debate over its metaphysical, poetical, rhetorical, etc., status. We shall also read and question some famous examples of poetic metaphor.
CL 475: “Poetics and Literary Theory: Mind and Matter” TR, 8:00-9:15 Chris Livanos

1407 Sterling Hall

We will study how the connection of mind, body, and spirit has been understood in several of the most important philosophical schools of thought from the Greek and Indian traditions.  Readings will include major works by Plato, Aristotle, Patanjali, as well as the Bhagavad Gita and other texts that have had an enduring impact on how we understand what it means to be human.
CL 500: “Guilt” TR, 1-2:15 Ralph Grunewald

1339 Sterling

Guilt is a central concept in law, psychology, literature, religion, and many other disciplines. It raises fundamental questions of human agency and accountability. In this seminar, we will take a comparative approach toward guilt. How does an individual or a collective become guilty? What is the nature of guilt, what are its limits? Although we will mainly focus on legal guilt, we will include many outside perspectives and discuss what the nature of guilt is and how it is culturally constructed. The reading list will include texts from Camus, Kafka, Schlink and also court cases and more theoretical pieces.
CL 770: “Comparative Readings in Medieval & Early Modern Poetry” (meets with CL 370)

* (Please see note below.)

TR  11:00 – 12:15 Chris Livanos

223 Ingraham Hall

See course description above for CL 370.
CL 771: “The World According to Marx: An Introduction to Marxisms & Post-Marxisms” T, 1 – 3:30 Frederic Neyrat

2335 Sterling

Marxism is a magnet for love and hate. This class moves below these passionate responses to explore how Marx’s philosophy can help us to understand the world we live in: a globalized world, in which the financial economy seems to reign, in which nation-states doubt their real sovereignty, in which environments suffer from the impacts of human development. From the Romantic young Marx to the mature Marx of Capital, we will explore founding Marxist texts and also those who have critiqued them. The authors studied during the term will include: Arendt, Badiou, Hardt and Negri, Hegel, Marx, Laclau and Mouffe.
CL 958: “Theory of the Novel” R 2:30-5:00 Vinay Dharwadker

1335 Sterling

This seminar, mainly for advanced graduate students, will focus on the theory of the novel as it has developed over the past century. In the first half of the semester we will thoroughly review the fundamentals of narrative theory (terms, concepts, arguments), and survey the main developments in the theory of the novel (from about 1900 to the present). In the second half of the semester, we will study four theoretical areas intensively: realism and magical realism; modernism (European and postcolonial); Russian formalism and Bakhtin; and distant reading (Franco Moretti).
CL 975: “Tragedy and the Tragic” ** (Please see note below.) M 4:30-7:00 Max Statkiewicz

2319 Sterling

Tragedy, a common word referring in modern English to any kind of disaster, is also – and was originally – a literary form, a genre. The philosopher Aristotle considered tragedy a perfect art form and placed it at the center of his Poetics, which marked the whole Western tradition of literary theory and criticism. But tragedy has always been seen as more than just a literary form: a political institution, a metaphysical, cosmological, and anthropological reflection. We shall find such a view in another passionate reader of Greek tragedies, Nietzsche. It was his thought of the tragic that most vigorously opposed the (Aristotelian, but also Hegelian) notion of an aesthetic system able to integrate (purge, clarify, sublate, etc.) the tragic dimension of human being. A true tragedy expresses the experience of being at a loss in face of the uncanniness of human being (Greek deinon), at the same time wonderful and terrible.

We shall begin by reading Greek tragedies with and against both Aristotle and Nietzsche, and then reflect on cases of modern, e.g., Shakespearian or Racinian, tragedy, before considering the possibility of tragedy’s revival in our own times.

 *          CL 770 satisfies the CL Ph.D. degree requirement for a CL course in Comparative Medieval and Early Modern Literatures.

**         CL 975 satisfies the CL Ph.D. degree requirement for a CL course in Comparative Ancient & Classical Literatures.


CL976 Polyseminar
T 4:00 – 6:00
All Faculty


Fall 2017


“Introduction to Folklore” (FL 100)
Tom DuBois
MW 9:55 – 10:45

Poised at the productive intersection of the humanities and the social sciences, the field of folklore studies is a dynamic and exciting area of inquiry that looks at the culture of everyday life, past and present.  With a focus on American ethnic, religious, occupational, and interest-based communities, this course introduces the methods and materials of contemporary folklore studies. Students will learn how to conduct fieldwork and analyze cultural products as diverse as folktales, Thanksgiving dinners, Internet memes, and handmade tools. The course explores the complexities, diversities, and historical experiences of American communities as reflected in expressive culture.


“Comics & History: Visions of the Present” (CL 203Lecture 002)
Mary Layoun
MW 1:20 – 2:10

Comics or comix – the “co-mix” of image (pictures) and text (words) – and the relations between pictures and words will be our focus this semester. We will selectively read modern international “above” and “under” ground comics as they narrate history – social, political, cultural, personal – in words and images. What do these comics tell us not just about a past but about a present?

We’ll begin by briefly considering the various historical origins of comics and cartoons with, for example, ancient Egyptian art, pre-Columbian picture manuscripts, and 17th century Japanese woodblock comic strips (No, comics didn’t begin with Marvel or with U.S super hero comics.)


“Law & Literature” (CL 203, Lecture 003)
Ralph Grunewald
MW 12:05 – 12:55

“Law & Literature” explores two major branches of the law and literature movement: Law in Literature (Part 1) and Law as Literature (Part 2). In Part 1, we discuss how legal themes are depicted in fiction and what can be gained from applying a legal lens to literature. For example, what can Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird tell us about the law that a law journal article cannot? In Part 2, we address the similarities between law and literature as text-based sciences. How does legal interpretation work and how can narrative theory help us to get a better understanding of the power dynamics in, for instance, a criminal trial?


“Culture and Practice of Yoga” (CL 203, Lecture 004)
Chris Livanos
TR 8:00 – 9:15

We will read classic Indian yogic texts and study expressions of yoga as a living tradition that has always spanned different cultures and faiths. We will learn how yoga spread to different parts of Asia, being adapted by new cultures, and how it has come to be practiced in the modern world.


“Introduction to Literary Criticism and Theory” (CL 310)
Max Statkiewicz
TR 2:30 – 3:45

In this introduction to literary criticism and theory we shall try to combine it with “practice” and thus we shall read the theoretical texts along with the literary texts that support them; for example Sophocles’ Oedipus the King along with Aristotle’s Poetics and Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams (extract); selections from Homer with Longinus (on the aesthetics of the sublime, with references to Burke and Kant); Sophocles’ Antigone with Hegel, Lacan, Butler, and Jacobs; Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound with Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy; Tolstoy’s Kholstomer with Shklovsky’s  formalist theory; Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground with Bakhtin’s dialogical theory of the novel; Celan’s poetry with Derrida’s The Poetics of Paul Celan, etc.


Modern Indian Literatures” (CL 350, Lecture 001- AS311)
Vinay Dharwadker
TR 1 – 2:15


“Mystical, Tantric & Yoga Traditions” (CL 350, Lecture 002 – CL 750)
Chris Livanos
TR 9:30 -10:45

We will read the poetry of several great traditions from India, including the origins of the Bhakti movement in early medieval Southern India, the later flourishing of Bhakti poetry in the works of great poet saints of Northern India, the Sufi poems of Amir Khusrau, and yogic and tantric concepts in the works of the Kashmiri poet Lal Ded. We will study poetic traditions from different forms of Hinduism, Sikhism, and Islam.


“Myth: From Gods to Machines” (CL 350 Lecture 003)
Beatriz Botero
TR 11:00 – 12:15 

In this course, we initially introduce a framework in which myths can be understood and then for the bulk of the semester consider four types of myths. We start with Myths of Creation and Foundation, considering different explanations of our origin, in which gods and religions explain the creation of earth and human beings. Then we move our attention to Myths of Progress and Modernity; we advance from Christopher Columbus’ arrival to America, to the eras of renaissance, enlightenment and industrialization and their popularization of progress and rationality. In the third segment of the course we tackle the Myths of Postmodernity, and the explosion of relativism and art as the expression of individuality. Finally, we shift our attention to Futuristic Myths, considering dystopian and utopian visions of our future envisioned by different art forms and cinema in particular.


“Literary Criticism: Narratives of the Comparative: Worlds, Globes, Planets and “Imaginal” Locations”
Mary N. Layoun (CL 371 section 002- CL 771)
R 1:30 – 4pm

CL 771 will explore the visual, linguistic, and material comparative, not as components of a disciplinary category but rather as ways of making narrative (or non-narrative) sense of the contemporary world, its pasts, its presents, and its possible futures.

Coinciding with the symposium and events in observation of `100 years of Comparative Literature at UW Madison,’ “Narratives of the Comparative” will also engage the guests and speakers for that series of events, reading their scholarly work and meeting in conversation with them. Those speakers include Mary Louise Pratt, Karen Tei Yamashita, and Michael Allen and others.


“Slavic and East European Folklore: The Magic of Slavic Folktale” (FL 444 – SL 444)
Tomislav Longinović (Toma)
TR 11:00 – 12:15

This class will focus on the folktale as a narrative genre within Slavic and East European Folklore, drawing on stories from Russian, Hungarian, Polish, Serbian, Romanian and other national traditions of the region. Theoretical approaches will draw on theories of Vladimir Propp on narratology, Walter Ong on oral culture, Lutz Röhrich on the relationship between written and spoken word, Albert Lord and Milman Pery on their theory of epic formula and Bruno Betleheim for psychological aspects of the folktale. Besides gaining insights into the narrative construction of the folktale, students will be invited to draw analogies between folklore, mythology, literature and psychology by connecting these theories to tales recorded by Afanasiev (Russia), Karadžić (Serbia), Glinski (Poland), etc. In addition to learning about particular Slavic and East European folktales and narrative theories, students will participate in the creation of a “Slavic folktale” through a group process guided by the instructor, so that they can closely relate to the structural and narrative patterns of oral storytelling.


“In and Beyond Comparative Literature: Existentialism in Philosophy and Literature” (CL 500)
Max Statkiewicz
R 4:30 – 7:00


“Folklore Goes to the Movies: Scandinavian and Celtic Folklore in Film” (FL530- Scand St 520)
Tom DuBois
R 4:00-6:30

“Folktales are what people had before Netflix.”  Technology changes constantly, but the need for, and enjoyment of, good stories endures from age to age—in Scandinavia, the Celtic world, and wherever else those cultures are valued. In this seminar, we look at how traditional narratives and other elements of Nordic and Celtic folklore become transformed in modern media like film and television. What elements of such stories become adapted, and how? How does a change in medium affect stories and an audience’s experience of them? What new kinds of folklore develop out of mediated experiences of folklore, e.g. through fandom and spinoff activities? This seminar explores the intersections of traditional culture and mass media, and the ongoing fascination of audiences with the folktales, legends, and other traditions of Europe’s northern and northwestern peripheries.


“Local Culture and Identity in the Upper Midwest” (FL 540)
Ruth Olson

This on-line course uses the materials and methods of the discipline of folklore to describe the peoples, community traditions, narrative, music and material culture of the Upper Midwest.  Each week, we will address a different aspect of community life and culture in the Upper Midwest.  Most course readings are available on our course web site.


“Literary Criticism: Narratives of the Comparative: Worlds, Globes, Planets and “Imaginal” Locations” (CL771)
Mary Layoun
R 1:30-4:00

CL 771 will explore the visual, linguistic, and material comparative, not as components of a disciplinary category but rather as ways of making narrative (or non-narrative) sense of the contemporary world, its pasts, its presents, and its possible futures.

Coinciding with the symposium and events in observation of `100 years of Comparative Literature at UW Madison,’ “Narratives of the Comparative” will also engage the guests and speakers for that series of events, reading their scholarly work and meeting in conversation with them. Those speakers include Mary Louise Pratt, Karen Tei Yamashita, and Michael Allen and others.


“Issues and Movements” (CL 958)
Vinay Dharwadker
T 1:00 – 3:30


CL976 Polyseminar
T 4:00 – 6:30
All Faculty