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More in this section Comparative Literature and Culture (CLC)

CLC core course summaries


First-year core courses

ML1203 Reading Texts: Criticism for Comparative Literature

In this course, students will be introduced to the theory and practice of comparative textual analysis and will begin to think about the history and practice of comparative literature in a transnational context. Using extracts from a variety of historically, geographically, culturally, and stylistically diverse texts, we will ask questions such as: How should we read? Which texts are worth reading? What is an author? How can we compare texts from different time periods and cultures? What are the difficulties raised by reading texts in translation? Critical and literary extracts will be drawn widely from authors such as Homer, Valmiki, Haruki Murakami, Edward Said, and Emily Apter, so that students will develop a capacity for comparative literary appreciation by identifying, reflecting on, comparing and contrasting the strategies used across a range of genres, cultures, and time periods. All passages from non-English-language works will be given in translation. (Assessed by coursework).

ML1204: Tales of the City: Introduction to Thematic Analysis

With its ever-rising towers of steel and glass, its neon lights and the constant motion of crowds, the city has increasingly been considered as a symbol of modern progress and as the centre of human activity. This course introduces you to a range of theoretical, literary and filmic texts that creatively portray fascinating and controversial aspects of the modern city. While studying questions relating to space and identity, public and private spheres, migration and globalization, you will also be able to explore larger questions about modernity and culture in general.(Assessed by coursework.)

ML1205: Introduction to Literary Genre: Tragedy

Murder, passion, ambition, cruelty, suicide, jealousy, anguish… Sophocles, Shakespeare, Racine and Lorca: over the centuries, tragedy has explored the extremes of human experience and emotion. This course introduces you to a range of tragedies from ancient Greece onwards, exploring how dramatists have combined themes, characters, plot, stagecraft and emotion to produce some of the most compelling, enduring and powerful literary works we know. (Assessed by coursework and exam.)

Second-year CLC courses

ML2206: Histories of Representation

Comparing short stories from different periods and geographical areas is a great way of exploring how literature evolves structurally and thematically in response to different ideas and contexts. In this course we read short stories from the eighteenth century to the present day to discover what structural and symbolic elements characterize major movements of Western art including the Enlightenment, Romanticism, Realism, Modernism and Postmodernism.

ML2207: Critical and Comparative Approaches

How do we read texts? This is the simple but profound question underlying this course, which explores the major trends and currents in post-war Western literary and cultural theory. Through references to philosophy, psychoanalysis, and the history of post-colonialism, it will show concretely how the practice of critical reading is always informed by issues of sexuality, race and gender. The primary set text will provide models of different types of theory applied to literary texts, and you will have the chance to develop directly new critical skills through individual and group reading of chosen material.


ML2101: International Film II: Readings and Representations

Is there a correct way to read a film? Following on from your first-year core courses, this module takes a range of innovative, international films since the 1970s to show how film theory can open up new ways of reading films as both 'texts' and forms of representation. Close, critical analysis of aspects of film form and style, genre, the cinematic apparatus, spectatorship, and context (including recent film movements such as 'Dogme') will allow you to engage directly with cinematic articulations of modern history (WW2, the Holocaust, postcolonialism), the politics of language and national identity, globalisation and transmigration, and issues of gender and sexuality. The course will also deepen your understanding of international cinema by exploring the specific notion of 'European' and 'non-European\' film (e.g. Hollywood, Latin American) within a more general discussion of European and American/Latin American history and culture. Films studied include Life is Beautiful, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Hidden, City of God, Biutiful and The Orphanage.

ML2205: A Special Theme in the European Novel: Transgressions

This course studies a selection of iconic twentieth-century texts which are about the experience and impact of overwhelming sexual desire. Desire in these texts is always transgressive. But how is such transgression presented? Is it liberating or destructive? Can it be both? How does the reader relate to the protagonists and their illicit desires? Are we invited to take sides, apportion blame or sit in judgement? These are just some of the questions which will be explored in this revealing and risqué course.

ML2302: Visual Arts II: Genres and Movements

What characterises genres such as Landscape Art, Portraiture, History Painting, Religious Art, Satire and Caricature, or Abstraction? By studying a selection of particular movements ('Portraying rulers in Renaissance Italy', for example, or 'The Art of the Votive Offering: Personal objects of devotion in Early Modern Spain', or 'Expressionism in 20th century Germany'), students explore key phases in the development of the visual culture of Europe and Latin America and analyse the artists' principal stylistic and theoretical concerns, their interaction and development, and their significance within a variety of cultural contexts.

ML2305: Deviance, Defiance and Disorder in Early Modern Spanish and French Literature 

This course introduces students to a range of important texts and authors, both canonical and non-canonical, from early modern Spain and France. Yet it does so through a selection of outsider figures – characters whose aberrant or idiosyncratic identity, outlook, or behaviour sets them at odds with their society. The characters on this course thus challenge some of society’s most deeply entrenched but often unwritten codes – of reason, gender, decorum, sexuality, class, and religion – and can thus offer important insights into the workings and values of the society whose norms they transgress. As we shall see, though, the treatment of such figures can vary widely. Whereas the outsider’s departure from the norm is often apparently ridiculed or censured, it can sometimes be celebrated or rehabilitated. Indeed, the period’s fascination with marginal or transgressive characters and behaviour betrays throughout a deep unease about the validity of its own norms and standards]

ML2403: Gender and Clothing in Twentieth-Century Literature and Culture

How is gender expressed, maintained, or challenged by clothing? What part does fashion play in cultural representations? In this course you will study a variety of texts in which clothing and gender are closely linked. You will be introduced to a range of experimental and challenging twentieth-century texts - including novels, visual artworks, and films - from Anglophone, Francophone and German-language contexts, encouraging you to think critically and comparatively about the place of clothing in culture and society.

Final-year CLC courses 

ML3202: From Aestheticism to the Avant-Garde

This course examines in depth, and in relation to each other, artistic and literary movements prevalent in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Italy and France. You will be introduced to key figures such as Gabriele d’Annunzio, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, French poets Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Apollinaire and Reverdy and study their work as examples of certain approaches to art and literature. We analyze in detail the contribution of the Italian Futurist movement and the French Cubo-Futurist, Dada and Surrealist movements to a variety of artistic disciplines, especially poetry, drama, painting, and cinema, in both Italy and Europe. For ML3302, students will write a guided dissertation from one of a choice of topics arising from ML3202.

ML3204: The Gothic Mode in Spanish and English Fiction

This course is divided into two halves, each devoted to a staple of the Gothic mode. The first term concentrates on vampire fiction in English and Spanish, including Bram Stoker's Dracula among other classics; the second term is devoted to the dual theme of madness and the imprisonment of women, exploring, for example, the presentation of causality and the implications of this for gender studies. Whilst the Gothic is too big and baggy to cover comprehensively in a half-unit, you will have gained an understanding of what it encompasses and how and why it functions and is so endlessly popular by the end of the course. The course is examined by essays and an examination, but an additional half-unit option is available to enable you to extend your study of the mode if you wish to other texts, periods, and thematics. 

ML3205: Trends in Contemporary Theory

What is ‘theory’? How can different theories help us make sense of the world? This course will offer an overview of key trends in contemporary thought, covering, among other topics, structuralism, deconstruction, Marxism, ecocriticism, gender theory, memory studies, and ethics. Throughout the course, you will come into contact with some of the most challenging and exciting ideas of recent times, and develop your ability to think critically and originally.

ML3207: Transnational Cinema

This course explores cinematic representations of the transnational encounter between people, cultures and institutions interconnected by the forces of globalization. The topics covered range from (anti-)colonialism and revolution to postcoloniality and migration. Attention is also paid to the ways in which the films deal with the themes of emancipation, hybridity, displacement, globalism and cosmopolitanism. It involves the study of the counter-hegemonic films of Third Worldism and Third Cinema; West African cinema and the impact of globalization on postcolonial countries such as Senegal and Mali; Turkish-German identities dealt with in diasporic films; and films on migration and explores the life of the Chinese community in Italy and migrants’ journeys over the Mediterranean and into Italy. For ML3307, students will write a guided dissertation from one of a choice of topics arising from ML3207.

ML3209: Colonizers, Creoles and Exiles: Comparative Postcolonial Literature

This course explores the way in which western and non-western cultures and literatures have been shaped by the legacies of colonialism. Topics covered will range from colonial oppression and racism to postcolonial identity and hybridity, as well as dictatorship, slavery, exile and civil war. The course will focus on literary texts different cultural areas, including Central Africa, India, the Carribbean, East Africa and Europe. The course will thus compare, on the one hand, colonial and postcolonial texts and, on the other, different cultural areas. It will bring together and deepen many of the insights that you have gained in previous years, while giving you the opportunity to reflect more rigorously and systematically on issues such as the relationship between literature and politics, or between texts and their contexts.For ML3309, students will write a guided dissertation from one of a choice of topics arising from ML3209.

ML3212 Humans and Other Animals in Twenty-First Century Fiction and Thought

In this course, we will examine contemporary representations of human and animal life. Reading novels and theoretical texts from across the world, we will consider the ways in which the human-animal relation informs ideas of human identity and explore the different literary techniques employed to represent animal life. We will ask questions such as: what does it mean to be human? What is the difference between animals and humans? And how can we understand and represent animal experience? The course will be divided into five key topics: Animal Companions, Representing Animals, Rethinking Life, Anthropomorphism and the Limits of the Human, and Are We Post-Human? Each topic will be addressed through novels and theoretical texts drawn from a range of cultural, theoretical and geographical backgrounds. The novels will include texts by authors such as Jose Saramago, Yann Martel, Han Kang, Margaret Atwood, and Jim Crace. (Assessed by coursework).


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