Students should contact the departmental representative with course-related questions.

English and Comparative Literature

Departmental Representative:
Professor Maura Spiegel
613A Philosophy
212-854-6418
mls37@columbia.edu

Director of Undergraduate Writing:
Nicole B. Wallack
310 Philosophy Hall
212-854-2465
nw2108@columbia.edu

To request a syllabus, please contact the course instructor. You can find contact information for an instructor on the university directory.

CLEN S3851D Human Rights in World Literature and Visual Culture . 3 points.

CC/GS/SEAS: Partial Fulfillment of Global Core Requirement

This course explores human rights issues in contemporary novels, films, and short stories from Africa and the Caribbean as well as humanitarian-inspired art, films, television, and music videos circulated around the world. When postcolonial writers and cultural producers decide to represent violence in their countries, they risk reproducing racist stereotypes that permeate international media. And yet, violations of basic human rights tied to civil war, sexual violence, religious fanaticism, and ethnic strife are intimate features of their national histories. How can postcolonial writers undermine the harmful stereotypes and dominant narratives that predetermine their stories in the international public sphere without reproducing stereotypes? To better understand strife abroad, we will take an interdisciplinary feminist approach to the politics of representing human rights. Our readings, paired with options for poetry slams, film screenings, and walking tours in New York City, will prompt us to reflect critically on the ambivalences surrounding human rights in our own U.S. culture. We will engage literary representations of historical events ranging from the Holocaust, the Vietnam War, and the Rwandan genocide, all the way up to Black Lives Matter and Islamophobia in the wake of Trump's election. Final projects invite students to reflect on methods for representing human rights through creative writing and literary zine-making. This course, which fulfills the University Global Core requirement, as well as English major requirements for prose fiction/narrative and comparative/global literature, will appeal to students not only literature but also in human rights, history, political science, African studies, law, and gender and sexuality studies.

Summer 2017: CLEN S3851D
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
CLEN 3851 001/94691 T Th 1:00pm - 4:10pm
309 Hamilton Hall
Nicole Gervasio 3 16/15

CPLT S3541D Contemporary Short Stories from Around the Globe. 3 points.

We will be reading from the best available anthology of international short fiction, The Art of the Story (ed. Daniel Halpern). We will discuss tales by such extraordinary authors as Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, Peter Carey, Vikram Chandra, Eduardo Galeano, James Kelman, Ian McEwan, Mohammed Mrabet, Haruki Murakami, Jeanette Winterson, and Can Xue (besides leading writers of the U.S.) These stories cover the gamut of modern experience in diverse cultures and represent an equally broad range in terms of narrative style and tone. We will zero in on a number of fundamental questions: How do these stories illuminate different dimensions of social life in our complex, globalized world? How do the readings vary depending on the author's home culture or exposure to various cultures? Do certain themes or forms of storytelling emerge as "universal"? How do these tales explore ethical values, and what lessons might we learn from them with respect to our challenging contemporary modes of living? Each student will make a presentation on a work of her/his choosing, and students will also be required to write a substantial research paper on a favorite author.

Summer 2017: CPLT S3541D
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
CPLT 3541 001/98646 T Th 1:00pm - 4:10pm
703 Hamilton Hall
Eric Haralson 3 45/35

ENGL S1010X University Writing. 3 points.


Fee: Course Fee - 5.00

Facilitates students' entry into the intellectual life of the university by helping them to become more capable and independent academic readers and writers. With its small section size and emphases on critical analysis, revision, collaboration, and research, the course leads students to develop specific skills and general habits of mind important to their future academic success. Students read and discuss a range of contemporary essays, complete regular informal reading and writing exercises, and write four longer papers.

Summer 2017: ENGL S1010X
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 1010 001/69564 T Th 11:00am - 12:35pm
201b Philosophy Hall
Taarini Mookherjee 3 13/14
ENGL 1010 002/62547 M W 1:00pm - 2:35pm
201a Philosophy Hall
Jenna Schoen 3 8/14

ENGL S3233Q Shakespearean Character on Stage and Page. 3 points.

This course provides an introduction to Shakespeare through a combination of reading his plays and viewing them in performance.  On the one hand, we approach each play as a written, published text: our in-class conversation consist primarily in close analysis of key passages, and, in one class period, we visit Rare Books to examine the earliest printed versions of the plays in light of English Renaissance print technology.  On the other hand, we view performances of each assigned play, including the attendance as a group of at least one Shakespeare production on an NYC stage.  Our semester’s through line is to trace, from his earliest plays to Hamlet, Shakespeare’s remarkable development of the techniques of characterization that have made generations of both playgoers and readers feel that his dramatis personae are so modern, real, human.  We will also devote attention to exploring the value of each play in our present moment and on our local stages.  We read 8 plays in all, including Titus Andronicus, Midsummer Night's Dream, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Merchant of Venice, and Hamlet.

Summer 2017: ENGL S3233Q
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 3233 001/77646 M W 1:00pm - 4:10pm
413 Hamilton Hall
Douglas Pfeiffer 3 17/20

ENGL S3261D Chaucer’s Sondry Folk: The Canterbury Tales. 3 points.

Geoffrey Chaucer may be constructed as the “Father of English Poetry,” but his works imply a far more radical and unorthodox figure, grounded in a particular historical moment, than the epithet suggests. This course explores the intriguing and often open-ended social, political, and moral questions Chaucer raises in the Canterbury Tales. Complicating the idea of Chaucer as a traditional poet, this course will introduce you to critical trends in medieval literary scholarship, centering on issues of class, gender, sexuality, and nationalism in relation to Chaucer’s tales. We will explore the dynamic tale-telling of the Canterbury pilgrims, with special attention to how the tales they tell on the road to Canterbury Cathedral draw upon the texts Chaucer used to shape the world of his own book. You will read excerpts from source texts and analogues, such as Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy and Boccaccio’s Decameron, to develop a sense of the rich traditions in which Chaucer was writing and innovating. These supplementary works will illuminate the conversations Chaucer was having with other poets and philosophers, and the way in which he used past writings to form his position in late fourteenth-century debates and to shape his literary legacy.

Summer 2017: ENGL S3261D
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 3261 001/86596 T Th 1:00pm - 4:10pm
201b Philosophy Hall
Gillian Adler 3 0/18

ENGL S3273Q American Literature and Culture: Walt Whitman and New York . 3 points.

Walt Whitman was not the first to write about New York.  But he was the first of many to let New York write him.  By age 43, Whitman had composed most of his best poetry, published three editions of Leaves of Grass, and left New York only twice. How did the second son of an unsuccessful farmer, a grammar school dropout and hack writer become America’s greatest poet?  This course offers a response to this perennial mystery of literary scholarship by proposing that “Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son” was indeed a product of his environment.  Coming of age as a writer at the same time the city was emerging as a great metropolis, he received his education and inspiration from New York itself.  Course time is equally divided between discussions of Whitman’s antebellum poetry, journalism, and prose (including the newly recovered Life and Adventures of Jack Engle) in their cultural and geographical contexts, and on-site explorations that retread Whitman’s footsteps through Brooklyn and his beloved Mannahatta.  Experiential learning is further encouraged through assignments based in archives, museums, and at historic sites throughout the city.

Summer 2017: ENGL S3273Q
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 3273 001/68282 T Th 1:00pm - 4:10pm
401 Hamilton Hall
Karen Karbiener 3 19/20

ENGL S3483Q Relationality in Contemporary American Prose Narratives. 3 points.

Much of American culture and literature emerges from a tradition that celebrates individualism and self-determination. Yet identity is a complex product of conscious and unconscious interconnections within the social and biological environment, increasingly dependent on global influences that supplant individual and national autonomy. These forces, especially when intensified by personal loss and tragedy, unsettle ideals of personal independence and generate desire for relation and connection. In this course, we will examine contemporary American fictional and nonfictional texts that embrace vulnerability, dependency, attachment, and solidarity and foster a reorientation towards relational concepts of identity. Siri Hustvedt’s novel What I Loved deconstructs boundaries between self and other on multiple discursive levels, drawing on philosophy, psychoanalysis, neuroscience, art, and medicine. Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Are You My Mother? and Maggie Nelson’s memoir The Argonauts both return to Donald Winnicott’s relational psychoanalysis in their explorations of queer desire and family bonds. Audre Lorde’s foundational The Cancer Journals and Eve Ensler’s In the Body of the World illustrate how the broken and abject body can become a medium of self-actualization and connection. Richard Powers’ Galatea 2.2 takes relationality into the transhuman sphere as it delves into human/non-human relations and questions the boundary between human and artificial intelligence and emotions. 

Summer 2017: ENGL S3483Q
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 3483 001/25504 M W 1:00pm - 4:10pm
408a Philosophy Hall
Christine Marks 3 10/15

ENGL S3714D Major American Authors: Hawthorne, James, Cather.

“What is he?” murmurs one gray shadow of my forefathers to the other. “A writer of story-books! What kind of a business in life,—what mode of glorifying God, or being serviceable to mankind in his day and generation,—may that be? Why, the degenerate fellow might as well have been a fiddler! - Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Custom House” (1850)

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Fiction is one of the fine arts, deserving in its turn of all the honors and emoluments that have hitherto been reserved for the successful profession of music, poetry, painting, architecture. It is impossible to insist too much on so important a truth. - Henry James, “The Art of Fiction” (1884)

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In any discussion of the novel, one must make it clear whether one is talking about the novel as a form of amusement, or as a form of art. […] Amusement is one thing; enjoyment of art is another. - Willa Cather, “The Novel Démeublé” (1922)

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Can fiction be an art? While we may be inclined to say “yes” today, in the nineteenth century the reputation of fiction writing – novels, tales, short stories, and sketches – was by no means so secure. Novelists were more likely to be considered entertainers or “story- tellers” than serious artists, and novels were usually thought of as frivolous at best and immoral at worst, and certainly not worthy of serious scrutiny or consideration. How did the reputation of fiction writing in America develop such that novels could be considered certifiably “artistic?”This course examines the novels, short fiction, and critical writings of three important American writers: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, and Willa Cather. While very different in very many ways, these three authors shared a belief that fiction was a serious business, and every bit as much an art as painting, poetry, sculpture, music, or other “fine” arts. They also all shared an interest in representing these various fine arts and the artists that make them in their novels and stories, often using the figure of the painter, the sculptor, the actor, or the singer in order to explore, develop, and justify their own fictional practice. In other words, this class will examine “the art of fiction” in at least two ways: both by looking at the representation of art and artists in the fiction of these three writers, and also by examining how such representations help these writers to make fiction an art in its own right. This course asks: This course asks: What ideas about the “fine arts” led to the exclusion of novels? Are there reliable criteria that can distinguish “artistic” novels from other novels that are designed only to entertain or amuse? How and why do writers deploy the figures of artists in other media? How might these figures both clarify and test the limits of fictional representation, or of the value of art in general?

Summer 2017: ENGL S3714D
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 3714 001/12896 M W 1:00pm - 4:10pm
408a Philosophy Hall
Zachary Roberts 10/15

ENGL S3802D George Eliot. 3 points.

Author of Middlemarch, widely regarded as “the best English novel,” George Eliot was hailed by her successor Henry James as “one of the noblest, most beautiful minds of our time.”  This course will engage Eliot not only as a consummate author of nineteenth-century realist fiction but also as an ethical philosopher.  Her novels explore the questions, “How should one live?” “What is the right thing to do?” “What is one’s obligation to the other?” while rejecting moral didacticism.  We will read four of Eliot’s masterpieces along with brief excerpts from her essays and from philosophers Spinoza, Feuerbach, J.S. Mill, Spencer, and G.H. Lewes, all of whom critically influenced Eliot’s thinking. For Eliot, the novel serves as a vehicle for ethical inquiry; without “lapsing from the picture to the diagram,” her rich narrative portrayal of character and social intercourse gives “flesh and blood” to philosophical dilemmas, bringing home to readers the real consequences of moral choice and action. The major issues of Victorian debate, including utilitarianism, sympathy, early sociology, faith, and feminism, will inform our study.

Summer 2017: ENGL S3802D
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 3802 001/92246 M W 5:30pm - 8:40pm
401 Alfred Lerner Hall
Aileen Forbes 3 4

ENGL S3848Q Modernism. 3 points.

Just Added

Our critical examination of the aesthetics of literary modernism will seek out history even in those works of high modernism that have traditionally been viewed as ahistorical. We will take up questions of nationalism, empire, and imperialism apparent in a number of the works. Syllabus: Selected Poems of W.B. Yeats, Conrad's Nostromo, Woolf's The Voyage Out, Rebecca West's Return of the Soldier, T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland, Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, Forster's A Passage to India, Kafka's The Castle, Stein's Tender Buttons, Selected Cantos of Ezra Pound. 


Museum Visit- MoMA

Summer 2017: ENGL S3848Q
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 3848 001/63007 T Th 6:15pm - 9:25pm
408a Philosophy Hall
Georgette Fleischer 3 8/12

ENGL S4401Q Eighteenth Century and Romantic Poetry. 3 points.

This course is a study of romantic poetry and poetics but does not approach its subject from the belated perspective of the Victorians or the Moderns. Instead, the famous Romantics of the late 18th and early 19th centuries are viewed proleptically, from the vantage point of early and mid 18th-century poets who established the modern criteria and generated the forms and ideas later ingeniously personalized by the poets we customarily refer to as the Romantics. Indeed, though we shall spend the concluding half of our study with Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats, our study begins with the neoclassical romanticism of Pope, Thomson, Akenside, the Wartons, Gray, and Goldsmith. As such, our reading entails a study of lyric trends bridging 18th - and 19th - century verse and of related discourses in aesthetic psychology, moral philosophy, experimental religion, natural description, and affective criticism. We shall attend closely to rhetorical and prosodic elements, with a view to characteristic genres (ode, epistle, georgic, epitaph), innovative hybrids and new forms (elegy, the "conversational" poem). Recommended and required readings in prose are of the period and include theoretical and critical writings by our poets.

Summer 2017: ENGL S4401Q
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 4401 001/11796 M W 1:00pm - 4:10pm
302 Fayerweather
Marianne Giordani 3 12/25

ENGL S4452Q Comic Theater: From Shakespeare to the New York City Stage. 3 points.


Fee: Course Fee - 150.00

Why do we still laugh at comic works from nearly 2500 years ago, comedies that have outlived their generations? An examination of the different forms of staged comedy throughout the centuries, beginning with foundational texts from Ancient Greece, especially Aristophanes. We consider how today's playwrights are still building on, and making reference to, primary works from the Western canon. Texts we will read range from Shakespeare, Jonson and Restoration comedies, to Wilde, Beckett, Hansberry, Tennessee Williams, Pinter, and Churchill. We will also cover contemporary work seen on the stages of New York, including short comic plays, stand up, and physical comedy. Attention will be given to comic characters, comic pretense, wit, humor, comedy of errors, comic gestures, comic archetypes, farce, cross-dressing, satiric comedy, comic relief, tragicomedy, romantic comedy, and theatre of the absurd. This course will be of special interest to serious students of comedy. When possible, class outings make use of current New York City productions.

Summer 2017: ENGL S4452Q
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 4452 001/21446 T Th 6:15pm - 9:25pm
411 Hamilton Hall
Jonathan Robinson-Appels 3 15/12

ENGL S4526D Comic Books and Graphic Novels as Literature. 3 points.

In his 1924 book, The Seven Lively Arts, cultural critic Gilbert Seldes wrote, "With those who hold that a comic strip cannot be a work of art I shall not traffic." This course will take a prolonged look at this form of art in order to trace the history of comics and graphic novels in America. Focusing on representative texts that define and redefine the medium, we will learn how to approach comics as a distinct literary and visual form, while familiarizing ourselves with the critical vocabulary of "sequential art." By examining the graphic novel with an eye toward the literary, the course will explore a variety of genres and the ways they deploy conventional literary forms such as allegory, epic, character, setting, symbolism, and metaphor. We will consider how comics resist, represent, and entrench dominant cultural ideologies about power, myth, heroism, humor, adolescence, gender, sexuality, family, poverty, religion, censorship, and the immigrant experience. The course will provide students with the critical tools to read this key vehicle of contemporary creative expression. Readings will include seminal works and newer classics, by Gaiman, Bell, Miller, Moore, Crumb, Bell, Spiegelman, Ware, Derf, and shorter pieces by many others. In addition, we will read selections from texts on graphic narrative theory and comics history, beginning with Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. Students must attend the first lecture. Instructor permission is required for registration after 5/18.

Summer 2017: ENGL S4526D
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 4526 001/63296 T Th 5:30pm - 8:40pm
201a Philosophy Hall
Karen Green 3 18/22

ENGL S4920Q The Bible as Literature. 3 points.

The course focuses on the literary artistry and principal thematic concerns of the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures), Apocrypha, and New Testament in the King James Version. In addition to close literary study of individual biblical books, from Genesis to Revelation, other topics to be studied include: canon formation (How does a book become 'essential reading'?); gender relations (What does the Bible say about marriage, same-sex, and hetero-sexual relations?); the influence of the Bible on various writers in different countries; and the Bible as a source of popular cultural forms of expression (films, songs, cartoons, etc.).

Summer 2017: ENGL S4920Q
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 4920 001/72046 T Th 9:00am - 12:10pm
507 Philosophy Hall
Ryan Higgins 3 13

ENGL S4930D Made in America: Mafia in the Cinema of Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and David Chases The Sopranos. 3 points.

In this course (whose title is taken from the name of the final episode of The Sopranos) we focus on America's three greatest practitioners of the so-called "Mafia Movie." In the first half of the course we examine representations of Mafia in the films of Coppola and Scorsese; in the second half, we perform a comprehensive reading of The Sopranos, a serial that redefined not only the gangster genre, but the aesthetic possibilities of television itself. In addition to our close-readings of the primary cinematic texts, we will pay attention to literary, historical, and anthropological sources on Mafia, both in America and in Italy. In the unit on The Sopranos, we will also consider connections to other contemporary representations of American gangsterism, particularly in the medium of television. Critical avenues privileged will include gender, sexuality, criminal and political economy, poetics of place, internationalism, dialect, plurilingualism and the politics of language, ethnicity and race, diaspora, philosophies of violence, philosophies of power.

Summer 2017: ENGL S4930D
Course Number Section/Call Number Times/Location Instructor Points Enrollment
ENGL 4930 001/78496 M W 1:00pm - 4:10pm
602 Northwest Corner
Stefan Pedatella 3 14/25

The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.