Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies

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Comparative Literature & Folklore Studies Courses


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


Comparative Literature & Folklore Studies

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


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 205: “Introduction to Comparative Study of Race & Ethnicity-In & Beyond the U.S.

MW 12:05-12:55

Mary Layoun





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 466: Visual Literacy: Landscapes & Signposts in Times of War

MW 2:30-3:45

Mary Layoun

1335 Sterling




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