Comparative Literature Graduate Course Descriptions


Spring Quarter

Dept Course No and Title Instructor
In the last two decades, an "infrastructural turn" has taken place in the social sciences, taking up infrastructure for the first time as a critical concept rather than a technical object. Rather than a study of particular electrical grids, sewage systems, roads or trains, this new work proposes to think infrastructure in an expanded sense. As a "theory-machine" infrastructures can help us think in both material and materialist terms — infrastructural systems not only occupy but indeed compose space, bearing weight, establishing connections, and structuring the built environment, the state, and the world-system. They are not only “things” but also about "relations between things." Infrastructures can also be understood to comprise social-material assemblages or "more-than-human" relations and can include things like organizational modalities, religious and family structures, race relations, patterns of affective labor, or cultural forms.

This seminar is driven by the question of what it might mean to develop a thinking of infrastructure in the humanities. For this we will not only read many of the seminal texts specifically associated with this infrastructural turn (Brian Larkin, AbdouMaliq Simone), but also to go back to earlier texts that we might put into conversation with them (such as Henri Lefebre’s Critique of Everyday Life and Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life).
This course surveys the sacred groves of Sigmund Freud, our genius of the incestuous cannibal mind, or is it a dream and there’s an old man coming and a snake is saying something. Then you’re naked and you need to go away but you can’t, you’re in the force field of modernity. We will work through fundamental Freud, like Interpretation, Three Case Studies, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and the essays on mourning and on repetition, without which the world we know (from Sophocles to trauma theory) would not exist. We will study fantasies of social origin—the bad Freud of Totem and Taboo—that connect with political theory today, aided by readings of Freudian paradigms of object relations and exchange. To develop this vision of the political, the course reads literary and visual works, including video, fiction, cartoons, and public architecture. While trying to concentrate on the high minded Freud overlooked by his animated detractors, we will also spend time in the lowlands, bogs, fens, and marshes in order to develop college teaching topics and strategies that exercise Freud. Readings include essays by Georges Bataille (especially Visions of Excess, The Accursed Share), Disney’s Mickey Mouse, Deleuze’s The Logic of Sense (selections), Henry Darger art, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo and other dream art, digital performance art by Stelarc, art and film by Dali and Bunuel, and secondary readings by Derrida, Massumi, Tate, Weber, and others. Presentations, written exercises, short seminar essays.
This course is devoted to a reading of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit (in A.V. Miller's translation) in its integrality over two years. This is the second year. Last year, we read the Preface, the Introduction, Consciousness and Self Consciousness. This year, we will study « Reason », « Spirit », « Religion », « Abolute Knowing ».

The first part of the Phenomenology deals with the constitution of cognitive consciousness and self-consciousness, the second part of the Phenomenology is more specifically devoted to the way in which consciousness, reason, and spirit are confronted with historical events and political scenes, from ancient Greek democracy (Antigone) up to French Revolution (Terror). The last sections of the book analyse the relationships between religion and philosophy, and draw the conclusion that the latter only is able to provide us with a meaningful dialectical understanding  of historical and political violence.

This class has two main objectives. 1) Develop a familiarity with one of the most fundamental and influential texts of the  philosophical tradition, and acquiring a satisfactory command of its main concepts. 2) Bring to light Hegel's anticipations of some central issues in contemporary thinking, including those raised by political resistance. This year's leading thread will be « Historical Awareness ».

New students welcome. Attendance in last year’s class is absolutely not a requirement.

A Male Movement


Lynch, Hollis Ralph. Edward Wilmot Blyden: Pan-Negro Patriot 1832-1912. New York [etc.]: Oxford U.P., 1967, chap. 1 (“The Negro World of the 19th Century and the Making of a Race Champion”).  8 p
Shaw, Flora L. A Tropical Dependency. London: J. Nisbet & Co., Limited, 1905, p. 7, 200-203, 214-217, 274. 7p.
Blyden, Edward W. Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race, Baltimore, MD: Black Classic Press, 1994, pp. i-xv and “Ethiopia Stretching out her Hands unto God or Africa’s Service to the World,” “Africa and the Africans,”
---------. "Report on the Expedition to Falaba, January to March 1872. (With an Appendix Respecting Dr. Livingstone)." Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London 17, no. 2 (1872): 117-33.

Andrain, Charles F., “The Pan-African Movement: The Search for Organization and Community”, Phylon (1960), Vol. 23, No. 1 (1st Qtr., 1962), p. 5-17.?
Shepperson, George, “Pan-Africanism and ‘Pan-Africanism’: Some Historical Notes”, Phylon (1960), Vol. 23, No. 4 (4th Qtr., 1962), p. 346-358.
Makonnen, Ras. Pan-Africanism from Within. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973, chap. 4 (“Washington, Dubois, Garvey and the West Indian Diaspora” 52-65), chap. 9 (“Blacks in Britain”123-149) and chap. 11 (“Pan-Africanism in Practice” 178-195).
Stephens, Michelle Ann. Black Empire?: The Masculine Global Imaginary of Caribbean Intellectuals in the United States, 1914-1962. Durham: Duke University Press, 2005, chap. 1 (pp. 35-55, “The New Wordly Negro: Sovereignty, Revolutionary Masculinity, and American Internationalism”).
Du Bois, W. E. B, “The Negro Mind Reaches Out”, in Locke, Alain, ed. The New Negro?: An Interpretation. New York: A. and C. Boni, 1925, p. 383-414.
Irele, F. Abiola, “Utopia II,” in The African Scholar (forthcoming), photocopy will be provided.


Présence Africaine, Compte Rendu Complet, 355-369, N° Spécial Présence Africaine 8-9-10, 1956, Le Ier Congrès International des Ecrivains et Artistes Noirs/ First International Congress of Black Writers and Artists (Paris - Sorbonne – 19-22 Septembre 1956)
- Wright Richard, 1956, “Tradition and Industrialization. “The Plight of the Tragic Elite in Africa,” (pp. 355-369)
- “Opening remarks,” (pp. 1-28)
- Frantz Fanon, “Racism and Culture,” (pp. 122-131)
- Aimé Cesaire, “Culture and Colonisation,” (pp. 193-229)
- Baldwin, James. “Princes and Power.” Encounter, January 1957, 52–60.
- Leopold Senghor, “The Spirit of Civilisation or the Laws of African Negro Culture,” (pp. 51-64)
Suzanne Senghor (untranslated), 1941 (will be provided)
Relevant chapter from Yohann Ripert’s dissertation (link will be provided)

McKay, Claude,  “Back in Harlem”, 95-115; “Harlem Shadows,”147-150; “When a Negro Goes Native,” 295-305; “The New Negro in Paris,” 306-323; “A Great Celebration,” 207-225; “Regarding Radical Criticism” 226-234, in A Long Way from Home. New York: Harvest Books, 1970.
MacKenzie, Allen J, “Radical Pan Africanism in the 1930-s: A Discussion with C. L. R. James,” Radical History Review, 24, 1980, pp. 68-75.
Boahen, A. Adu. African Perspectives on Colonialism. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987, Introduction and Conclusion.


Rama, Angel. The Lettered City. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996, p. #-s tbd.
Fernández Retamar, Roberto, “Caliban,: in Caliban and Other Essays. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989.
Franco, Jean. The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2002, p. #-s tbd.

An Eye on the Subaltern

Khushwant Singh, Train to Pakistan (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2007).
Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India (New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, distributed by Oxford University Press, 1981), Chapter 6; I will provide some snippets from the rest of the book.
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, “Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis, and Development” (Paper presented at the Graduate Anthropology Seminar at Columbia University, 1916).
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste (New Delhi: Critical Quest, 2007).

3. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, Dark Princess: A Romance (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); Dohra Ahmad, "'More Than Romance': Genre and Geography in Dark Princess," ELH 69.iii (2002), p. 775-803; Lala Lajpat Rai, The United States of America: A Hindu's Impressions, p. 387-end. .
Mahasweta Devi, “Douloti the Bountiful,” in Imaginary Maps: Three Stories, tr. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (New York: Routledge, 1995).

Mariama Bâ, Une si longue lettre (Dakar: Nouvelles éditions africaines du Sénégal, 1980).
__________  So Long a Letter, tr. Modupe? Bode?-Thomas (London: Heinemeann, 1981).
Buchi Emecheta, The Joys of Motherhood (New York: G. Braziller, 1979).
Ifi Amadiume, Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in African Society (London: Zed Books, 1987); pg.s tbd; Assia Djebar, “Overture,” in Women of Algiers in their Apartment, tr. Marjolijn de Jager (Charlottesville: Univ. Of Virginia Press, 1992; Assia Djebar, Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement : nouvelles (Paris: des femmes, 1980).
Ali Mazrui, The African Condition: A Political Diagnosis. (London: Cambridge University Press, 1980) pages tbd.
Kazi Nazrul Islam, “Keno Kande paran . . .” (I will translate in class)

Marta Traba, Conversación al sur (Mexico: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 1981) ;.Mothers and Shadows, tr. Jo Labanyi (London: Readers International, 1986; have asked colleague for good background essay

Public lecture:  “Summing Up With Padmore”
Class Reading: Padmore, George, Pan Africanism or Communism? The Struggle for Africa. New York: Palgrave  Macmillan, 1957.
The absence of time from the visual field has long been a problem for the philosophical tradition. Caught between the seemingly transient world of appearance and the permanent one of ideas, time has vexed philosophers in their attempt to locate it in a present that can only exist in relation to its future and its past. Taking Kant’s engagement with time in the Critique of Pure Reason as its beginning, this reading group will pay close attention to how philosophical investigations of time have called into question the stability of a priori judgement and opened up onto the constitutive power of the negative itself. In reading both of these inexhaustible problems for thought together, this group will trace their ancient, modern and contemporary articulations in philosophy and psychoanalysis.

NB: This is a guided reading course in which students will be expected to lead seminar for the week that they are assigned. Please email Michael Berlin ( or Carlos Colmenares Gil ( for more information.