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.

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 203, Lecture 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 Theory & Criticism” (CL 310) 

Max Statkiewicz 

TR 2:30 – 3:45



Modern Indian Literatures” (CL 350, Lecture 001) 

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 370 – FL 359)

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.


“In Search of the Real. Realism and Anti-Realism” (CL 371)

Frederic Neyrat

MW 2:30 – 3:45

            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.


“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.


“The World According to Marx: An Introduction to Marxisms and Post-Marxisms (CL 475)

Frederic Neyrat

M 4:30 – 7:00

            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, Marx and Engels, Laclau and Mouffe.


“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” (CL771)

Mary Layoun

R 1:30-4:00


“Issues and Theories Now” (CL 958) 

Vinay Dharwadker

T 4:00 – 6:30


CL976 Polyseminar

All Faculty



“Introduction to Folklore” (FL 100)

Sallie Anna Steiner 

Monday- Thursday, 9:00- 11:30 (june 19-July 16)

           Introduction to Folklore—the art and expression of everyday life—examines a wide range of oral and material genres, including folk narrative, belief, custom, foodways, folk art, music, and ritual. Studying folklore offers the opportunity to hone important skills like information-gathering, critical reading, and critical thinking. Folklore students take these skills beyond the classroom, library, and printed text as we venture out in the world as ethnographers, engaging folkloric "texts" such as objects, landscapes, and performances through observation, documentation, and interviewing.


"I Love Livin in the City: Punk, Comix, Avant-Gardes" (CL 203)

Max Woods

Monday-Thursday, 9:00-11:30 (June 19-July 16)

This course will investigate how global urbanization has interacted with three modern art and literary forms: the avant-gardes, punk, and comix. Through analyzing these three forms, we will trace the development of modern cities. Our reading and discussions will focus on:

  • How was the modern city created, and how is it represented and imagined in literature, art, and music?
  • How does punk respond to the city, and why has punk often thrived in urban environments throughout the world?
  • How have comics represented cities in the wake of disasters?
  • What is the avant-garde and what does it have to do with the city?


 For more information click here