LIT/CMP232: World Literature Since 1700
Prof. Harriet Hustis, Office: Bliss 201
Phone: x2632 Email: hustis @ tcnj.edu
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 2:00-5:00 p.m. or by appointment
Course Description: The course will put readings into literary and historical context by focusing on a pivotal literary moment or text, selected by the instructor and analogous in function to the stationary foot of a geometric compass. Around this stationary foot or pivotal moment, the course will explore literary and historical relations—the textual “ancestors” and “progeny” that influenced or rewrote the pivotal text of the course, as well as the surrounding philological, social, and political contexts of the selected literary moment. The course will draw upon at least two distinct cultures or traditions, at least one of which must be non-English speaking.
In this class, our pivotal literary text will be Gaston Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons. In particular, we will use this text as a starting point—and, subsequently, as a point of comparison and contrast—from which to analyze the intersecting relationships of the themes of gender, identity, the body, danger, loyalty, betrayal, and trauma in the selected course texts.
Purpose: Designed for students who have little or no familiarity with literary study or analysis, this course introduces students to selected literary traditions from Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas, since 1700. Although the selected course materials and assignments may vary from semester to semester, depending on the interest and/or focus of the course instructor, as a literary history course, each offering of this course will focus on the issues, contexts and representations that have shaped and influenced texts of world literature over a period of at least 50 years, specifically literary works that have appeared since 1700. All offerings of this course will address the role that social constructions of gender and sexuality have played in the respective literature traditions studied.
Learning Goals: The objectives of this course are threefold: 1) to familiarize students with significant texts and contexts that have shaped the selected traditions of world literature since 1700; 2) to explore how and why questions of identity (involving issues of class, race, gender, sexuality and ethnicity) have featured so prominently in the shaping of the literary traditions studied, with a specific focus on how gender has intersected with other constructed patterns of privilege and oppression in society; and 3) to analyze questions of aesthetic value and issues of “universality” within the framework of the specific literary traditions and histories studied. (Please see pgs. 6-7 for a list of the Comparative Literature and English Department Learning Goals and HSS Learning Outcomes.)
All texts are available at TCNJ’s Bookstore, unless otherwise indicated. Selected essays will be made available in Canvas. You may use either print or electronic editions.
Varlam Shalamov, Kolyma Tales
Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After
Anna Akhmatova, Requiem
Gaston Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons
The Generals of the Yang Family
Lieve Joris, The Rebels’ Hour
M.G. Vassanji, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall
There are no prerequisites for this class. Your grade for the course will be based on your performance on the following assignments (Please note the additional requirements for students taking the course as an Honors class who have registered under the HON prefix):
3 Comparative Essays (5 pgs.) (worth 20% each, 60% total): Three comparative papers will be assigned in the course of the semester: although suggested topics will be made available, you are encouraged to focus on the particular aspects of the course materials that interest you. Papers are due in Canvas at the start of class on the due dates indicated: no late papers will be accepted. (Please scroll to the end of the syllabus for my Grading Rubric for Writing Assignments.)
** Students taking this course as an Honors class (registered under the HON prefix) must submit 7-pg. papers for each of the Comparative Essay assignments in order to receive Honors credit. (Paper topics remain the same for all students.
Class Participation (worth 20%): Class participation is extremely important: if you must miss a class, you will nevertheless be expected to find out what you missed and to keep up with the reading and with any additional assigned materials. If you wish to obtain credit for a missed class session, you must contact me and arrange to complete an assignment equivalent to the class which you have missed. Class participation grades are determined in the following way: I divide 100 points by the number of class sessions for the semester (usually 14 for a once-a-week class meeting, barring any unforeseen cancellations). This means, each class is typically worth about 7 points. It is not hard to earn 7 points in a 3-hour class session: the quality of your contributions matters more than the quantity–they should be relevant, on-topic, and coherent. Click here for TCNJ’s Attendance Policy.
** Students taking this course as an Honors class (registered under the HON prefix) must arrange to serve as a “class discussion leader” on one of the assigned readings in order to receive Honors credit. The session as discussion leader will be graded and will count for 10% of the overall 20% Class Participation grade.
Final Exam (worth 20%): A 5-page take-home final exam will be due by the end-time of the officially scheduled final exam during finals week. Click here for TCNJ’s Final Examination Policy.
** Students taking this course as an Honors class (registered under the HON prefix) must submit 7-pg. final exam essay in order to receive Honors credit. (Final Exam topic remains the same for all students.)
Except in cases of documented medical or family emergencies, no late assignments will be accepted without PRIOR approval of the instructor.
Course Expectations: This course will require students to present cogent, comparative literary analyses in both oral and written form. You will be expected to arrive for class on time, awake, alert and aware; you will be expected to engage with your peers and with the course readings in a thoughtful, sensitive and intellectually informed manner.
Turn off your cellphones, please, and only use portable electronic devices (laptops, iPads, etc.) to access the assigned course materials in class. Anyone caught texting, IM-ing, Facebooking, Tweeting or using other forms of social media to socialize during class will receive a zero for that day’s class participation.
Although more specific guidelines will be distributed in the weeks before a paper is due (and I strongly encourage you to schedule a conference with me if you have specific questions or would like my feedback on a rough draft), in general, you should keep in mind the following:
- You should not simply “answer” the paper topic questions. Any paper submitted for this course must have its own thesis and support its argument with detailed textual analysis. Focus on one or two specific scenes or descriptions, and analyze the language, imagery, symbolism, etc. Do not summarize the plot! Focus on questions of “how” effects are created in each text, and, more importantly, “why.” Pay attention to details and nuances: don’t generalize.
- You will not be able to “cover” an entire work in the space of a 5-page paper: it is up to you to choose the specific examples and passages that best support your interpretation. Don’t “ignore” points that you don’t “like” or that don’t “interest” you, especially if they are points that might call your thesis into question. Consider any relevant objections that someone might pose to your argument, and be sure to address them.
- Your paper must be comparative: be sure to balance your treatment of each text equally and try not to focus more on one than on the other. Also, avoid playing analytical “ping-pong”: don’t just hop back and forth between texts and then conclude, “Hong Kingston does X and Chin does Y, therefore their works are different.”
- Remember: characters aren’t people!!! They are textual constructions: you need to move beyond simply identifying whether you “like” a particular character or text and why. Do not speculate about how they could be different if they did different things or made different choices: although this may make for an interesting conversation, it is not the purpose of an analytical essay.
- Spelling, grammar, style, and vocabulary always count: a poorly-written paper with great ideas is still a poorly-written paper!
Academic Integrity: Academic dishonesty is any attempt by the student to gain academic advantage through dishonest means, to submit, as his or her own, work which has not been done by him/her or to give improper aid to another student in the completion of an assignment. Such dishonesty would include, but is not limited to: submitting as his/her own a project, paper, report, test, or speech copied from, partially copied, or paraphrased from the work of another (whether the source is printed, under copyright, or in manuscript form). Credit must be given for words quoted or paraphrased. The rules apply to any academic dishonesty, whether the work is graded or ungraded, group or individual, written or oral. Click here for TCNJ’s Academic Integrity Policy.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Policy: This course complies with TCNJ’s Policy on Disability. Any student who has a documented disability and is in need of academic accommodations should notify the professor of this course and contact the Office of Differing Abilities Services (609-771-2571). Accommodations are individualized and in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1992.
4th Hour Statement: All 4-credit courses in the English Department require students to attend a regularly scheduled 4th hour of class meeting time (as indicated in PAWS) OR to complete additional work outside of class that meets the equivalent of a 4th hour of class meeting time (in the form of group work, attendance at campus events, rigorous reading assignments and/or research, field trips, community-engaged learning, and/or other academic work as stipulated by the individual instructor). This course adheres to the latter requirement; please see below for specific course requirements, assignments and due-dates.
Comparative Literature Learning Goals
- read, analyze, and synthesize literary texts and traditions from a critical, theoretical, multinational and interdisciplinary perspective,
- demonstrate the ability to look beyond their own linguistic, national, social and/or cultural horizons
- engage in the practice of comparative literary analysis by writing about literary texts and traditions from within a comparative framework and drawing conclusions about the significance of literary and cultural intersections and divergences/differences,
- pursue a sustained investigation of the idea of literature itself by examining what literature is and how it is culturally, politically, philosophically and/or sociologically defined and influenced, and by exploring, from a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspective, how and why literary texts are categorized (in terms of traditions, periods, genres and movements).
- demonstrate familiarity with a significant body of texts within – and on the margins of – at least two literary traditions,
- demontrate awareness of the politics and pragmatics of literary translation,
- demonstrate a nuanced understanding of the problematics of cultural diversity,
- demonstrate sensitivity to the concrete historicity and cultural specificity of texts and to the development of literary traditions, cultural values, modes of thought, and uses of language over time and across national boundaries,
- explore and critique the cultural and historical frameworks that structure and influence literary texts and their contexts.
English Department Learning Goals:
- demonstrate familiarity with a range of critical, generic, and literary traditions (including recent theoretical approaches) that shape – and are shaped by – literary discourses and texts of particular periods or movements
- describe the effects of social constructions of identity on a particular literary text and on current debates over aesthetic value, universality, and canonicity
- identify historically specific elements relevant to a particular text
- read a literary work and characterize its main aesthetic, structural, and rhetorical strategies in an argumentative, thesis-driven essay or in a writing workshop
HSS Learning Objectives:
- Written Communication: Writing is a focus of instruction.
- Oral communication.
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning: Ability to critique the arguments of others in the discipline and the construction of one’s own arguments in the discipline, using evidence is a focus of instruction and/or the ability to analyze linguistic and cultural patterns.
- Interpret Language and Symbol: The interpretation of language or symbol is an important focus of instruction in the course.
- Intercultural Competence: The development of understanding of other cultures and/or subcultures (practices, perspectives, behavior patterns, etc.) is an important focus of instruction in the course.
- An understanding of multiculturalism in US society is an important focus of instruction.
- An understanding power of words.
59 and below F
**unless otherwise indicated, students will be expected to have read the entire assigned text(s) prior to our class meeting
Monday, Jan. 27th Course Introduction: Goals and Expectations
Reading Assignment: selection on “gender performativity” (from Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter), selection from Judith Fetterley’s The Resisting Reader (all readings available in Canvas)
Monday, Feb. 3rd
Reading Assignment: Gaston Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons (first third)
Monday, Feb. 10th
Reading Assignment: Gaston Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons (second third)
Monday, Feb. 17th
Reading Assignment: Gaston Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons (finish)
Monday, Feb. 24th
Reading Assignment: Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After
Paper #1 Due in Canvas by Friday, 5:00 p.m.
Monday, March 3rd
Reading Assignment: Varlam Shalamov, Kolyma Tales
Monday, March 17th
Reading Assignment: Anna Akhmatova, Requiem
Monday, March 24th
Reading Assignment: The Generals of the Yang Family
Monday, March 31st
Reading Assignment: Lieve Joris, The Rebels’ Hour
Monday, April 7th
Reading Assignment: Lieve Joris, The Rebels’ Hour
Paper #2 Due in Canvas by Friday, 5:00 p.m.
Monday, April 14th
Reading Assignment: M.G. Vassanji, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall
Monday, April 21st
Reading Assignment: M.G. Vassanji, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall
Monday, April 28th Conclusions:
Paper #3 Due in Canvas by Friday, 5:00 p.m.
Take-home final exam essay to be submitted during finals week, no later than the end-time of the officially scheduled course final exam.
TOPICS for Paper #1 (due in Canvas no later than Friday, 5:00 p.m.)
The Body: Although Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons uses an epistolary format to capture the mindset of his characters, much of the novel is focused around the body—specifically, the sexualized body. Choose two passages from Laclos’ novel and analyze how the body is represented and why: your essay should be a “close reading” and a comparative analysis of the two passages that you’ve selected. Your essay should incorporate Judith Butler’s concept of “gender performativity” and specifically address how gender norms and expectations shape the representations of the body in the passages that you’ve chosen.
Danger: In Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons, danger—whether social or sexual—is obviously a prominent feature of the relationships represented in the text. Choose two passages from Laclos’ novel and analyze how danger is represented and why: your essay should be a “close reading” and a comparative analysis of the two passages that you’ve selected. Your essay should incorporate Judith Butler’s concept of “gender performativity” and specifically address how gender norms and expectations shape the representation of danger in the passages that you’ve chosen.
Writing: Because of its epistolary format, Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons is a novel about the way in which the act of writing forges connections (“liaisons”) among protagonists. Choose two passages from Laclos’ novel and analyze how writing is represented and why it is a significant component of the passages that you’ve selected. Your essay should be a “close reading” and a comparative analysis of the two passages that you’ve chosen. Your essay should incorporate Judith Fetterley concept of “the resisting reader” and specifically address how gender influences the act of writing (and, by extension, reading) in the passages that you’ve chosen.
TOPICS for Paper #2 (due in Canvas no later than Friday, 5:00 p.m.)
Loyalty: Several of the texts we’ve read thus far address the question of what it means to be loyal (or faithful)—whether to a person, a cause, a concept, or an ideal. Choose two texts (you may use Dangerous Liaisons as a backdrop for your analysis, but your focus should be on two different course texts) and select two passages that articulate (or problematize) the concept of loyalty. Then, write a comparative analysis of these two passages’ representation of loyalty: be sure to focus on the way in which gender (male or female) influences the respective conceptions of loyalty you’ve chosen.
Betrayal: Several protagonists of the texts we’ve read thus far reflect on their sense of betrayal—whether by a loved one, or by their own ideals and/or sense of self. Choose two texts (you may use Dangerous Liaisons as a backdrop for your analysis, but your focus should be on two different course texts) and select two passages that articulate (or problematize) the concept of betrayal. Then, write a comparative analysis of these two passages’ representation of betrayal: be sure to focus on the way in which gender (male or female) influences the respective conceptions of loyalty you’ve chosen.
Trauma: Several of the works we’ve read examine what happens to a person’s physical body and mental or intellectual sense of self when exposed to and forced to endure significant trauma. Choose two passages from two different texts and compare and contrast the role and representation of trauma and its effects on the individual. Be sure to focus on the way in which gender (male or female) influences the respective descriptions of trauma that you’ve opted to focus on.
TOPICS for Paper #3 (due in Canvas no later than Friday, 5:00 p.m.
Family: Several of the texts that we’ve read this semester have examined the role and representation of the family (Akhmatova, Delbo, Vassanjo, Joris). Choose two texts and analyze the representation of family or familial relationships: one of the texts must be a work that you have not previously analyzed in an essay. Be sure to address the extent to which the social construction of gender and/or gendered expectations shape the way in which the form and function of family and family relationships play out in the texts that you’ve chosen. (Your analysis should focus on only one or two specific passages from each text.)
Self-Identity: The question of how an individual defines him- or herself—and how gender in particular influences that self-definition—figures prominently in all of the texts that we’ve read this semester. Choose two texts and analyze the representation of self-identity: one of the texts must be a work that you have not previously analyzed in an essay. Be sure to address the extent to which the social construction of gender and/or gendered expectations shape the concepts of self-identity that are articulated in the texts that you’ve chosen. (Your analysis should focus on only one or two specific passages from each text.)
Duality: In Vassanji’s text, Vikram Lall is characterized as occupying an “in-between world.” Based on your understanding of the text, explain what this might mean and then apply the concept to one other text that we’ve read this semester. Be sure to address the function of gender (whether male or female) in your analysis of the “in-between-ness” in the texts you’ve chosen. (Your analysis should focus on only one or two specific passages from each text.)
Grading Rubric for Writing Assignments
Outstanding: (Letter grade = A/A-)
Skillfully argues a clear, well-supported position and demonstrates mastery of the elements of writing.
- Presents a compelling, clear, debatable claim which is focused and specific.
- Provides ample, relevant, concrete evidence and persuasive support (i.e., reasons, examples, data or quotations) for each debatable assertion.
- Synthesizes information and arguments from multiple, reliable sources or perspectives, summarizes them fairly, and assesses them critically.
- Displays a clear and consistent overall organization of interrelated ideas.
- Clearly addresses claim, structure, and evidence to paper’s intended audience.
- Develops cogent, logically organized paragraphs with clear, concise, and effective transitions.
- Demonstrates outstanding control of language, including effective word choice and sentence variety, and superior facility with the conventions of standard written English (i.e., grammar, usage, punctuation, and mechanics).
Strong: (Letter grade = B/B+)
Competently argues a position, provides relevant supporting detail, and demonstrates good control of the elements of writing.
- Presents an interesting, clear, and debatable claim
- Provides relevant, concrete evidence and persuasive support (i.e., reasons, examples, data or quotations) for most debatable assertions.
- Incorporates information and arguments from multiple, reliable sources or perspectives, but does not always assess them critically.
- Displays a clear and consistent overall organization of ideas.
- Claim, structure and evidence chosen with some attention to the paper’s audience.
- Develops unified and coherent paragraphs with clear transitions.
- Demonstrates strong control of language, including appropriate word choice and sentence variety, and facility with the conventions of standard written English (i.e., grammar, usage, punctuation, and mechanics).
Adequate: (Letter grade = B-/C+)
Argues a position, provides supporting detail, and demonstrates a working knowledge of the elements of writing.
- Presents a claim which is not necessarily debatable or specific.
- Provides evidence and support for most assertions (i.e., reasons, examples, data or quotations).
- Incorporates multiple sources or perspectives, some of which may be unreliable or used uncritically.
- Displays an overall organization, but some ideas may seem illogical and/or unrelated.
- Claim, structure or evidence not entirely suited to the paper’s audience.
- Develops unified and coherent paragraphs with generally adequate or apparent transitions.
- Demonstrates control of language, including word choice and sentence variety, and a familiarity with the conventions of standard written English (i.e., grammar, usage, punctuation, and mechanics).
Limited: (Letter grade = C/C-)
Attempts to argue a position that is undeveloped, unfocused, and/or unsupported and demonstrates uneven control of the elements of writing.
- Presents a claim which is vague, limited in scope and/or marginally debatable.
- Provides little support, analysis or persuasive reasoning; may rely heavily on sweeping generalizations, narration, description, or summary.
- Insufficiently incorporates multiple sources and/or inadequately addresses alternative perspectives.
- Displays an uneven, illogical, and/or ineffective organization.
- Claim, structure or evidence not suited to the paper’s audience.
- Generally develops coherent and unified paragraphs, but transitions may be weak or abrupt.
- Displays problems in word choice and/or sentence structure which sometimes interfere with meaning; sentence variety may be inadequate. Occasional major or frequent minor errors in grammar, usage, punctuation, and mechanics.
Seriously Limited: (Letter grade = D+/D or F)
Asserts a position that is largely undeveloped, unfocused, and/or unsupported and demonstrates insufficient control of the elements of writing.
- Presents a claim which is unclear, inconsistent, and/or insufficiently debatable.
- Lacks supporting evidence, analysis, or persuasive reasoning; may rely excessively on narration, description or summary.
- Fails to incorporate multiple sources and/or shows little or no awareness of alternative perspectives.
- Displays no consistent overall organization.
- Little or no attempt to consider audience in its choice of claim, structure or evidence.
- Does not develop coherent and unified paragraphs; transitions are illogical, unclear, or absent.
- Displays problems in word choice and/or sentence structure that frequently interfere with meaning; sentences are unvaried. Consistent errors in grammar, usage, punctuation, and mechanics.