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Comparative Literature- CO 100: Introduction to Comparative Literature: Literary Metamorphoses

Blocks 1 and 2: Corinne Scheiner

Hendrik van Loon. The Story of Mankind. Boni & Liveright (USA), 1921

This two-block course satisfies the Critical Perspectives: The West in Time requirement (2 units).

What is literature?  What are genres?  How should they be read, interpreted and evaluated?  What social and personal functions does writing have?  How is writing related to oral tradition?  How do writers compare themselves to others (admiration and imitation, rejection, transformation)?  Why are so many authors obsessed with the morphic qualities of the human and of language?  An exploration of literature as a venue for experiences of transformation and recognition such as Odysseus’ return in Homer’s Odyssey, Gregor Samsa’s awakening as a bug in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and Borges’ erosion of the boundary between fiction and “reality” in his Ficciones.  In addition, an examination of the transformation and rewriting of texts themselves, as in Lowell’s Imitations, as well as intertextuality, as in Ben Jelloun’s The Sand Child.  Texts include those originally composed in Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Russian, and English.  As the course texts suggest, we will also look at the morphic capacity of genre itself, by examining the history of the genres of epic, lyric, drama and novel as they have been understood in the “West” and the changes within and across genres over time, in particular the way that genres morph from one to another and their different modes of expression.  Emphasis on close reading of literary texts as well as critical research, analysis, and writing. 

A two-block course with one instructor; one grade will be given for the course as a whole.


  • This course serves as a gateway to the Comparative Literature major.
  • Both blocks, taken together, fulfill the major prerequisite Comparative Literature; CO100