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Course Offerings

fall 2015

CMLT-C 110: Writing the World: Strange New Worlds
Section times and instructors vary (see course listings online).

This course satisfies IU’s General Education requirements for Foundations in Writing: English Composition.

 An enchanted garden at the edge of the world, a savage land where they kill strangers, the endless labyrinth of uncharted prairies, a nameless island of hybrid monsters, and your hometown overrun by a violent cult—these are some of the strange new worlds we will visit, as we read our way through ancient Mesopotamia and Greece into the South Pacific and the Midwestern U.S. How will the characters navigate their way through these inhospitable and freakish landscapes? What are they searching for, and will they manage to make it out alive? All sections of CMLT-C 110 will read The Epic of Gilgamesh, Euripides’ Bacchae and Iphigenia among the Taurians, H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, and Campbell McGrath’s tale of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Shannon. Each section will read additional works unique to that section that may include short stories, poetry, novels, and drama. Individual sections may also include television, art, music, and film. This course emphasizes critical thinking, clear communication, and effective argumentation. Assignments include 3 analytical essays, short papers to help develop the 3 essays, 3 short quizzes, and an introduction to basic academic research skills.

CMLT-C155 Modern and Culture Experience

Reading Fantasy
When fantasy depicts for us worlds that flatly defy our reason and everyday experience, what elements within theses stories engage us? This course encourages you to articulate this vague sense of "relatability," or the fact that the text speaks to another part of you other than reason: desire, elevated codes of chivalry, battles between good and evil, and spiritual capacities (the powers of love, hope, and courage!). Considering the example of a room that would answer to your most desperate need, what does it mean to have the narrative world operate in terms of human interest rather than of natural law? How does magic function -- why can we intuitively grasp that a magical mirror can show our deepest desires instead of our face? What can we say about a world where human order is answered by matter and materials, and the One Ring endows power according to the bearer's stature? What does it mean, finally, to have human qualities measured “objectively” by a Sorting Hat? Finally, what does it mean to have human qualities measured “objectively” by a Sorting Hat? Taking up the genre of fantasy, we will explore sentiments and principles alternative to reason and everyday experience that compel us to suspend our disbelief. We will read Greek mythology, Arthurian romances, fairy tales, and our contemporary masterpieces Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings.

CMLT-C205 (15333): Comparative Literary Analysis: Human/Nature
MWF 11:15-12:05, BH 140
Professor Paul Losensky

Carries Gen Ed A&H, IW, and CASE A&H credits
Required for Comparative Literature majors
To what extent does civilization set humans apart from or above the natural world? How different are humans from other animals, and how are biological imperatives like sex and death integrated into culture? This course introduces methods of textual analysis and literary interpretation through the close reading and comparison of works from around the world and across time. We will read texts in a wide range of genres—epic and myth, lyric poetry, narrative fiction, and drama—and will examine how writers utilize language, imagery, character, setting, and plot to represent and comment on themselves, their society, and the world around them. To provide a basis of comparison between works from diverse times and cultures, we will focus on the representation of the relationship between human beings and the natural world. To what extent does civilization set humans apart from or above the natural world? How different are humans from other animals, and how are biological imperatives like sex and death integrated into culture? Because of the rich expressive resources of literary form, creative writers are able to answer these questions in ways that defy simple paraphrase, and it will be our task to comprehend these resources in all their manifold complexity. Among the works that we will read are The Epic of Gilgamesh, Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Kalidasa’s Shakuntala, Amos Tutuola’s Palm-Wine Drinkard, William Faulkner’s “The Bear,” and a selection of modern American lyric poetry. Three films will also be included on the syllabus and will be available for viewing online. Course requirements include two short quizzes, informal response papers, and three formal essays.

CMLT-C251 (9995): Lyrics and Popular Song
TR 4:00-5:15pm, BH 347
Professor D. M. Hertz

Carries GenEd A&H, CASE A&H and CASE DUS credits

With figures like Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen as our guides, we will learn how popular song brings together melody, harmony, lyrics, and verse structure to achieve a complete performative art form. The course will explore all sorts of popular songs, from the nineteenth century to now. We will mostly concentrate on the great American songwriters, including such as figures as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen.  We will periodically move abroad to study French, Italian, Argentine, Brazilian and Mexican songs. Our target in all cases is the same: the varied phenomena of how words and music come together in the hybrid art form we call the popular song. At times we will concentrate on the culture that produced the song, and its means of production and distribution. Most of the time, we will focus close attention on the work of the lyricist or the composer. Sometimes we will discover that they are the same person. The great Cole Porter is a case in point, and Irving Berlin is another fine example. At other times, we will focus on a great performer, such as Piaf or Sinatra. Or we will discover that the performer and creator are sometimes the same person, as in the case of Jacques Brel, the Beatles, or Springsteen. Lyrics will be analyzed in relation to the musical structures and as poetry too. Most important will be to study the popular song as a complete art form, using both words and music. Emphasis will be on the 30s through the 50s, but there will be some discussion of the 60s and after and some very recent song material as well. No prerequisites. Varied levels of training in music and poetry are expected from the students in the class.  Independent projects will be designed to fit the level of each student. Classes will be a mixture of lecture and discussion. There will be some live performance, and some recordings. Attendance is required. Assignments: there will be two short papers, or the first paper can be expanded into a final paper (the two written projects can be interrelated). A final project instead of a paper is also possible (by permission of instructor). Two tests (midterm and final). A note on readings and preparing for class: Please prepare the assigned readings for each class, as specified. You are expected to read any assigned readings in the Songbook, to familiarize yourself as much as possible with many of the songs in the Songbook (although you are not required to know how to read music), and to read and study the assigned materials on Oncourse. You must read all of Furia and the assigned chapters of Friedwald. You should review them for the midterm and final. Everyone will be expected to have some familiarity with key concepts and terms. Some extra readings may be added, and your own ability to find fresh scholarly material for your projects will be judged as part of the course work. The Songbook has important songs, lyrics, and articles that will be covered in class in on tests, so bring it to class.

Required Texts:
-Phil Furia, Poets of Tin Pan Alley
-Will Friedwald, Stardust Melodies
-D.M. Hertz, ed., Songbook I (essays, lyrics, scores) available at IU Bookstore
-Hertz Oncourse materials
-other Oncourse materials and related short readings to be assigned during the semester

CMLT-C301 (30632) Special Topics in Comparative Literature: The Agnostic Bible
TR 5:30-6:45, BH 221
Professor Herbert Marks
Meets with H303 and L367

Read against the grain and discover the contradictions and uncertainties of one of the most influential books in history.There is arguably no book of world literature that has been more embroidered, distorted, and misread than the Hebrew Bible. As the basis of Christian theology and the ultimate source of Jewish law, it is commended even today as a moral and metaphysical guide, a treasury of dogmatic truth. But there is a significant strain in the Bible--perhaps the predominant strain--that is impatient with piety and suspicious of dogmatic wisdom, particularly the wisdom of those who presume on their knowledge of the uncanny central figure it calls God or Yahweh. Indeed, if one reads against the grain of tradition, the Bible is a book that revels in contradiction, invites questions but frustrates answers, views human morality, like divine “goodness,” with skepticism, and treats its characters, legendary or historical, with irreverent license. In this course we shall be exploring this skeptical strain in biblical literature, beginning with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job, continuing with parts of the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomistic History, and concluding with the Gospel of Mark. Theoretical questions about the epistemology of reading (how we know what we know) will be a constant focus, but we shall approach them through specific readings and narrowly focused discussion. Secondary texts will include essays on general and special hermeneutics as well as selections from modern biblical scholarship. Students will be asked to write a series of short exercises and two more formal papers.  Interested students should have a good background or active interest in literature or philosophy. A prior course on the Bible would be helpful but is not essential.

CMLT-C 311 (30639): Drama: Staging Atrocities
TR 4:00-5:15, BH 232
Dr. Jeffrey Johnson

Carries CASE Arts and Humanities and Intensive Writing credits

Why stage elaborate acts of violence? Why and how do playwrights use the theatrical stage to depict the worst crimes of human depravity? Dismemberment, self-mutilation, incest, animal cruelty, human sacrifice, sexual violence, ritual murder, political assassination, infanticide, and cannibalism—why and how do playwrights choose to use the theatrical stage to depict the worst crimes of human depravity? What is the point of staging elaborate acts of violence that fall so far outside the real-world experience of most audience members? Is it just a cheap stunt to attract an audience? How do such shocking narratives express the playwright’s views on the principles of dramatic art? We will investigate the diverse ways in which these atrocities reveal the values, fears, and fantasies of their respective cultures and time periods. Texts include: multiple plays by Euripides and Seneca, Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, Pushkin’s Boris Godunov, Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer, and Peter Shaffer’s Equus. Assignments: 4 analytical essays, short papers, theatrical production case study, and class participation.

CMLT-C317 (30647): Epic: Heroes, Gods, and Rebels
TR 11:15-12:30, BH 232
Professor Sarah Van der Laan

Carries CASE A&H Breadth of Inquiry credit.

Why did the architects of the World Trade Center memorial choose a quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid, a two-thousand-year-old Latin poem, for its walls? Epic has lain at the heart of the Western literary tradition for twenty-seven hundred years. Through stories of human heroism, epic explores human nature, promotes and questions political and social principles, examines heroic ideals, and finds meaning in human mortality. Epic endures because it offers its readers tools for living in the real world.
We will read four European epics that have shaped Western literature: Homer’s Odyssey, the story of the Greek hero Odysseus’s ten-year struggle to return home from the Trojan War; Virgil’s Aeneid, which retells the founding of the Roman Empire to celebrate and question imperial values; Dante’s Inferno, an allegorical journey through Hell that marries epic values to Christian ethics; and Milton’s Paradise Lost, an epic retelling of the biblical story of the Fall that finds heroism in the human condition. Assignments will include papers and regular participation in seminar discussion.

CMLT-C322 (32276): Writing and Photography
MW 11:15-12:30, BH 138
Professor Bill Johnston

Carries CASE GCC and CASE A&H credits

What do photographs mean? Though they are usually made in a split second, and apprehended almost as quickly, photographs are deceptively complex. Each one has both an aesthetic and a socio-historical dimension; each picture is taken by a particular person, at a particular time and place, and captures a particular facet of the world from a particular angle. The notion that photographs show us “reality,” because they incorporate an imprint of the real world, conceals their partiality, their  complexity, and their richness. This course is about how to write about photographs, and more broadly, about the relationship between photography and the written word. We’ll analyze photographs, read what others have written about them, and look at texts in which literary language and photographic images are deployed in tandem. By the end of the class, you’ll look at photographs with different eyes, and talk about them with different words.

CMLT-C343 (30665): Literature and Politics: Migrants, Refugees, Cosmopolitans*
Professor Akinwumi Adesokan
TR 11:15-12:30, LI 044B
Meets with MSCH-V334

“Passports…[are] claims for participation in labor markets.”
--Benedict Anderson, Specters of Comparison

This is a course in cultural interpretation for students interested in the study of contemporary society, using literary and cinematic texts. During the course of the semester we will base our comparative readings of literature and film—fiction, nonfiction, drama, films, videos—on the relationships between well-heeled or well-placed intellectuals with opportunities for travel and cultural judgment (cosmopolitans) and economic or political refugees. Through a careful study of these varied texts, including works of literary criticism and social theory, the course will make the claim that today’s refugees are tomorrow’s cosmopolitans, and will encourage students to see connections between citizenship and the ability to work.  Other questions include: Are the relationships simply a matter of social inequality? What are the connections between political solidarity, humanitarian activism and immigration laws? What roles do these issues play in emergence of new communities, new understanding of labor, or the success of a number of carefully selected postcolonial writers? Possible titles include Jeremy Harding’s Border Vigils, Moustefa Djedjam’s Frontieres, David Hare’s A Map of the World, Souleymane Cisse’s Baara/Work, Samuel Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners, Jean-Luc Dardenne’s La Promesse, Flora M’mbugu-Schelling’s These Hands, Roddy Doyle’s The Deportees, and Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy. Critical readings may include essays by Edward Said, Saskia Sassen, Joseph Brodsky, and others.

* Note: This course is also part of the Themester 2015: “@Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet”
CMLT-C 347: Literature and Ideas: Nothing Doing
MW 1:00-2:15, WH 111
Professor Jacob Emery
Meets with HON-H 303 and SLAV S-320

Carries CASE A&H Breadth of Inquiry and CASE GCC credits

Imagine a society in which there is no useful labor; think about what makes artworks distinct from other kinds of work; and discuss how the economy reincorporates waste through processes like commodification and corporate art. This course examines wasted effort, that is, work that represents a diversion of labor from productive ends into decadent spectacles, artistic projects, or simple inefficiency. It lays the ground with a panorama of initial readings from utopian movements that valorize leisure or redefine productive activity as play. Once we have a framework for how waste relates to productive labor, we will move on to a series of literary texts that associate themselves with some important concept of art as nonproductive labor. Each of these texts is allied to a larger genre, for instance the idyll. In the final weeks of the semester, we will discuss how “waste” is reintegrated into economic processes: for example as unpaid labor, as raw material for second-stage production, or as a way of regulating the collective rhythms of social labor. The reading list includes literary works by Nicholson Baker, Bohumil Hrabal, Tom McCarthy, and Andrei Platonov, and philosophical works by and Karl Marx, Charles Fourier, and Georges Bataille.

CMLT-C355 (31295): Culture and Power at the Renaissance Court
TR 2:30-3:45, SY 002
Professor Sarah Van der Laan

Carries COLL (CASE) A&H Breadth of Inquiry credit

Discover how Renaissance rulers used the arts, literature, and music to create their public images and wield power on domestic and foreign stages. We will explore the literature, art, architecture, and music produced by and for Lorenzo de' Medici (Florence), François I (France), and Elizabeth I (England). We will read these products of the court against popular works produced for the broader public. By studying the self-portraits that these courts constructed and the reactions that they drew from citizens outside their circles, we will discover how Renaissance literature and the other arts created, reinforced, and questioned myths of power and authority. Assignments to include papers, readings, and regular participation in class discussion. This course is well suited to students with an interest and/or familiarity with English, French, Italian, European studies, and history of art.

CMLT-C390 (30674): Film and Society: African Cinema and Politics
Professor Akinwumi Adesokan
TR 4:00-5: 15, LI 044B and W 7:15-10:15, BH 246
Meets with MSCH-F398

Carries COLL Intensive Writing credit

What roles do politics and aesthetics play in the creation of contemporary African cinema? This is a course which focuses on politics as a topical issue in contemporary African cinema. Working through the popular assumption that new generation African filmmakers prefer to deal with formal and aesthetic issues at the expense of the kind of political filmmaking which preoccupied their precursors, the course looks at recent films which give equal weight to politics and aesthetics. Readings, screenings and class discussions will focus on a number of issues, including the relationship between art and everyday life, the impact of immigration and professional mobility on contemporary cinema, and the economics of filmmaking. Screenings are part of the requirements for this course and will count toward overall assessment.


Courses from previous semesters

  • Spring 2015
  • Fall 2014
  • Spring 2014
  • Fall 2013
  • Spring 2013
  • Fall 2012
  • Spring 2012
  • Fall 2011
  • Spring 2011
  • Fall 2010
  • Spring 2010
  • Fall 2009
  • Spring 2009
  • Fall 2008