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Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies (CLCS) Minor

Not open to majors in CLCS

Minor Requirements (18 Credits)

Foundation courses (3 Credits)

One of the following:

CLCS 100 The Stories We Live By

Stories are everywhere. We use them, consciously or unconsciously, to make sense of identities, experiences, and desires. And, at the same time, we are shaped by the stories that we absorb and interpret. This course explores how storytelling both reflects and shapes our lives. It introduces students to keywords and terms for reading and reflecting upon stories, both in the pages of books and in everyday life. The course considers a variety of narrative forms, including short stories, novels, fairy tales, self-help manuals, comics, films, podcasts, and political discourse. The course introduces students to fundamental questions about the nature of storytelling, while developing the vocabulary and critical skills for analysing and discussing stories. This is a writing intensive course in which students read as they learn to write. Students practice applying a critical vocabulary to textual forms as well as becoming familiar with the skills of drafting and editing. The course also introduces students to some of the professional pathways open to writers and storytellers.(This writing-intensive course counts towards the Academic Writing requirements).

CLCS 110 Reading Cultures: Approaches to Cultural Studies

This course has two primary goals: to introduce students to the history and theoretical writings of various strands of cultural studies, and to acquaint them with some of the intersecting axes - race, class and gender - that energize the field. Close attention will be paid to issues such as the shaping of identity, forms of representation, the production, consumption and distribution of cultural goods, and the construction of knowledge and power in a host of cultural practices and cultural institutions.

CLCS 120 Introduction to Creative Writing

This course presents an introduction to creative writing through a variety of genres, including poetry, prose, fiction and non-fiction. By paying close attention both to literary models and original student writing, this class asks that participants reflect on the relationship between reading and writing, and voice and context. Students will compose short pieces in a variety of genres and present them for critique in weekly workshops.  A final portfolio of all work during the semester will act as a springboard for more advanced courses in creative writing.

CLCS 150 Reading Film

This course introduces students to the language of cinema through close studies of and foundational readings on film theory, narrative/documentary structure, camera technique, lighting, sound, casting, and location. Students will be expected to demonstrate their understanding of film language through scholarly analysis of both canonical and contemporary cinema texts and two practical applications of film. Students will move beyond the passive reception of an image-based world by working towards increased intellectual adaptablity in terms of engaged film reading skills that will call into question philosophical and culture-specific notions and norms. The learning outcomes will be developed through a number of concentrated modules lasting approximately three weeks each, including analysis, contemporary criticism, audience reception, and practical applications.

Minor Requirements (15 Credits)

Five of the following (at least one must be at the 300-level):

CLCS 200 Gender and Sexuality in a Global Context

This course presents an interdisciplinary introduction to key concepts in gender studies. Focusing on the way in which gender operates in different cultural domains, this class investigates the manner in which race, culture, ethnicity, and class intersect with gender. (This writing-intensive course counts towards the Academic Writing requirements).

CLCS 210 Deception

Deception, in all its forms, including eavesdropping, adultery, cheating, and trickery, functions as a narrative motor in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century novel and film. This class examines this notion of deception in literary and visual cultures. In particular, this class will focus on the strategies of narrative structures in the European novel and film from 1840s through the late twentieth century. We will consider eavesdropping, lying, adultery, cheating, gender switching, and their narrative consequences relating to gender and class through the course of the semester. European Realism, with its focus on the every-day and the darker side, signals a shift away from the Romantic and will introduce our study of deception in a cross-cultural context.

CLCS 220T Inventing the Past: The Uses of Memory in a Changing World

The construction of memory is one of the fundamental processes by which the workings of culture can be studied. Every country, every culture and every community has a specific memory culture that finds expression in a congruence of texts: of literature and film, of law and politics, of memorial rituals, and historiography. The aim of this course is to enable students to recognize different forms of the construction, representation and archiving of memory; to analyze processes of individual and collective identity formation through memory; and to understand the power differentials operant in the negotiations and performance of a national memory. The travel component of this course will focus in particular on Berlin and representations of the Holocaust.

CLCS 225 Music and Popular Culture from the 1950s to the 1990s

This course covers popular music genres, generally defined as music produced for commercial purposes and transmitted through mass media to a wide audience, and their relationship with popular culture. Drawing on sociology, media studies and cultural studies, it will examine the cultural significance of popular music genres such as rock’n’roll, punk, heavy metal, hip hop, rap, techno, industrial etc., with reference to issues such as space, ethnicity, class and gender. It will further explore how and to what end the creation, circulation and consumption of popular music tend to be shaped by record companies and corporate business styles. Finally, reflecting upon how popular music is, in many ways, a direct reflection of its times, it will show how it is mediated by historical, geographical, political, economical and technological factors.

CLCS 230 Science / Fiction: Envisioning the Possible

Science fiction narratives may be defined as speculative fictions, ideal allegorical vehicles eliciting theoretical reflection on the state of contemporary culture and society and motivating social reform. As such, the main objective of this course is to consider several major contemporary socio-cultural issues through the unique lens provided by writers and filmmakers of the science-fiction tradition. The issues, allowing for variances from year to year, will include questions regarding gender and Otherness, the hypothesized deterioration of a human-world bond, modern apocalyptic anxieties, genetic engineering, intersections of ideology and communication technologies. Authors and filmmakers may include: Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Ursula Le Guinn, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, William Gibson; Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick, Andrew Niccol, Jean-Luc Godard, Lana and Andy Wachowski

CLCS 235T Greek Civilizations and Their Discontents

This travel course will focus on the co-existence and forced movement of populations between present-day Turkey and Greece while grappling with notions of human rights as inscribed in the ancient ideas of citizenship and polis. The travel will trace a parallel trajectory in the ancient and modern worlds: moving from Athens to Thessaloniki, students will study the histories of cultural co-existence and the moments of violent dissolution in the modern world; the class will also visit ancient sites such as Corinth and Mycenae on the Peloponnese; Delphi; the ancient city of Vergina, whose modern instantiation became the home of Greeks who were expelled from Turkey during the population exchange in 1922; and Philippi, abandoned to the Ottoman empire in the 14th century. Throughout this course, students will study notions of human rights, forced migration, and the tensions inherent in encounters between East and West. Students will read a broad array of texts, ranging from historical accounts to human rights treatises and philosophical texts, novels and plays.

CLCS 236T Prague on the Page

The literature of Prague lies in the city's complex web of identities, a web created by social upheaval through the ages. Beginning with sixteenth-century tales of the Golem, the clay figure animated by Rabbi Loew to protect the city's Jewish community, students will investigate how Prague's writers have responded to the politics of their times by embracing the surreal and the ambiguous. In particular, this class will look at how these authors have found inspiration in the city itself. Reading includes Franz Kafka's evocation of the early twentieth-century city and a selection of works by more recent writers such as Weil, Kundera, and Hakl. Studying the way these writers repeatedly draw on each other through the idea of the city as a text, students will visit their haunts in Prague and its surroundings, and map their works onto the city's landscape and onto its history, with the surreal Kafka museum as a starting point.

CLCS 238T Reading the Postcolonial City: Berlin and Hamburg

Colonialism has left its traces not only very obviously on the former colonies themselves but also on the face of the cities of the colonisers. Host of the ''Congo Conference'' that carved up the continent in 1885, Germany was late into the ''scramble for Africa.'' However, it has long been implicated in colonialism through trade, scientific exploration, and Hamburg’s position as a ''hinterland'' of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Seeking to explore colonial echoes in less obvious places, namely in contemporary Berlin and Hamburg, the course asks how we can remember colonialism in the modern world, become conscious of its traces, and encourage critical thinking about the connections between colonialism, migration and globalization. As an Academic Travel, this course will include an on-site component where the class will team up with postcolonial focus groups in Berlin and Hamburg, going onto the street and into the museum to retrace the cities’ colonial connections, and to experience and engage with the colonial past through performance-based activities.

CLCS 241 Forbidden Acts: Queer Studies and Performance

In this course, queer solo performance and theater are playfully considered ''forbidden acts'' because they commonly enact a special kind of transgression. These acts give voice to and, at once, subvert a wide range of political identities conventionally defined by race, ethnicity, HIV status, class, gender, and sexual practice. Often autobiographical at their point of departure, queer performance and theater seem intent on troubling the comfort of community even as they invest in it. This rich, albeit problematic, ambivalence stems from the fact that the term queer, itself, connotes primarily a locus of refusal, an unbinding and destabilizing term of defiance, of provocation via polysemy. As such, queer performance and theater seek to open up new vistas of multiple, shifting, polymorphous identities. What political implications might these queer texts dramatize? What may be the ramifications of instilling the notion of personal identity with collective utopian aspirations? How would the students enrolled in this class spin the term queer to encompass their own sense of individual difference and empower their own vision of creative defiance? In attempting to respond to these questions, students taking this course will be invited to share their own forbidden acts: to approach theoretical refection through performative exercises, to merge the analytical realm with the autobiographical monologue, to test the limits (if there are any) between theatrical play and ideological engagement.

CLCS 242 Representations of Poverty in Literature

This course looks at poverty as it is portrayed in contemporary literature, film, television, painting, music and street magazines. Students will explore how these representations compare to economic and social indices such as income, Living Standards Measurement surveys, welfare statistics, poverty indexes and poverty determinants. For these latter determinants the class will take Switzerland, a country in which the extremes of poverty and riches are quite subtle, as our case study. The overall goals of this course are 1) to compare different forms of representation and to recognize and be able to distinguish among the many faces and facets of poverty in a wealthy nation and 2) to critically explore the ideologies underlying mainstream representations of ''the poor'' or ''the marginalized'' and to ask how effective such representations are in triggering social change.

CLCS 243 The Cultural Politics of Sports

This course looks at sports as a cultural, social and political phenomenon and explores some of the major concepts pertinent to the cultural studies discipline through the lens of sports such as nationalism, social class, race/ethnicity, gender, celebrity culture and its fans, ethics, and concepts of power. Students will also consider the very ideas of 'sportsmanship,' 'playing the game' and the global 'mega-events' that many professional sports competitions have become. This course will involve reading theoretical essays related to sports, class discussion of the readings, regular reading responses, and presentations. Students will be encouraged to pursue their own research interests based on a particular sport, major sports event (Olympics, European Soccer Championship, World Series) or sports infrastructure (Little-League, college sports, sports clubs) and to reflect culturally on an activity that cuts across many disciplines (e.g. business, communications, ethics, health) as well as one that they themselves may be passionately involved in, either as actors and/or as spectators.

CLCS 247T French Cultural Institutions: Power and Representation

Nineteenth- and early twentieth-century French authors and artists were instrumental in shaping the imaginary of the ''Orient'', with a myriad of paintings and texts housed for public consumption in national cultural institutions. Students will use the French case to explore the politics of representation: the creation and objectification of an Oriental ''Other''. On-the-ground field study in museums, archives and galleries of Paris (the former colonial capital) and Marseille (the ''Gateway to North Africa'') will help students to investigate the ties that bind the visual arts and literature with the exercising of knowledge and power, and to read literary and artistic works as shaped by their cultural and historical circumstances. The strong Arab and Berber presence in both cities today, in particular from France's former colonies in North Africa, will provide the impetus to question how contemporary writers and artists explicitly and implicitly engage with and renegotiate these ''cultural artifacts'', and what broader significance this might have for questions of representation and identity, Self and Other, in the (not only French) present. Students will read contemporary texts by authors such as Leïla Sebbar and Assia Djébar and explore work by visual artists including Zineb Sedira and Zoulikha Bouabdellah, using their, and our own, ''encounters'' in the Louvre, the Pompidou Center, the Arab World Institute, MuCEM and smaller galleries to consider the significance of reappropriating the gaze and of the relationship between visual pleasure and politics, while questioning who art is ''for'' and where the ''representation business'' takes us. (The course may count toward the French Studies major in consultation with the coordinator of the French Studies program.)

CLCS 248T European Food Systems: You Are Where You Eat

In this course, students will explore the cultures that produce and are reproduced by our current food systems in Europe, touching upon the local, national and global dimensions. This course will examine the cultural, ecological, political, and geographic forces at work influencing the chain of production from farm to table. In particular, students will consider the contemporary food systems in Italy and Switzerland as well as their cultural and historical roots. Students will learn more about what it takes to become an active food citizen as the class considers where food comes from here in Europe and how the food we eat shapes who we are, both literally and figuratively. This course includes a travel component to Italy and Switzerland where students will study first hand some of the concepts discussed, including terroir, slow food, and local farm to table movements.

CLCS 250 Ecocritical Approaches to Film

This course approaches film from an ecocritical perspective to explore how the medium of film articulates relations between the environment and human rights. In recent decades, scholars have increasingly examined how film represents ecological issues and humans' involvement with those issues, particularly with regards to environmental disaster and climate change. The course aims to make students familiar with those debates by examining a variety of film genres -- blockbuster, documentary, animation, among others -- to offer a survey in reading film ecocritically, from a human rights’ perspective. Students will gain experience in analyzing films as texts and in applying ecocritical theory to those films and the ethical issues surrounding them, from production to narrative, and distribution to reception. Screenings, theoretical readings, class discussion, video-making and writing assignments will help students develop a critical awareness of how film tells the story of our complex relation with the environment against the backdrop of contemporary human rights regimes.

CLCS 251T Reading Moroccan Culture

This course examines gender, ethnic, class, family, age, religious relationships within contemporary Morocco. It first provides students with a historical overview of Morocco since its independence in 1956, focusing on the monarchies of Hassan II and Mohammed VI the current king. It explores the power dynamics that exist in a society that is predominantly patrilinear and where gender roles are mostly divided along a binary system; it studies the place of the individual in a society where the collective ego prevails; it considers the place of Berber identity within Moroccan society and finally it explores Sufism as a counter-power to any form of Islamic rigorism. All the themes studied are substantiated with presentations by Moroccan scholars working in the fields of sociology, gender, ethnic, religious, and music studies. (Knowledge of French recommended.)

CLCS 253T On Refugees: Representations, Politics and Realities of Forced Migration: Greece

This travel course will focus on forced migration and refugees, with a travel component that takes the class to Greece, one of the major European nodes of the current refugees crisis. The course offers an interdisciplinary approach to the political, social and cultural contexts of forced migration and is coupled with the study of a number of imaginative responses that help to shape attitudes and positions towards refugees. Throughout this course, students will study ideas of human rights as they relate to refugees, political and theoretical concepts that help to think through notions of belonging, sovereignty, welcome, and a range of cultural narratives, including films, public art, theater and literature, that bring their own critical interventions to bear on the emergent discourses surrounding refugees.

CLCS 254 Introduction to Postcolonial Literatures and Theories

This course is designed as an introduction to the field of postcolonial studies. Readings will familiarise students with a diversity of ''world literature'' and grant an understanding of key debates in postcolonial studies. As postcolonialism is not a unified field of study, the course engages with different theoretical understandings of the term and queries what it even means to be ''postcolonial.'' When exactly does the postcolonial begin? What are the implications of using such a broad umbrella term to designate writings from around the world? Students will explore depictions of the colonial encounter and decolonisation, question the links between colonialism and globalisation, and examine constructions of East and West, Global North and Global South. Central to the course will be the themes of: power and violence; economics and class; land and nation; authenticity and development; gender and sexuality; history and memory; the politics of literature; and the politics of print culture. Students will read a diverse and broad historical selection of texts from a variety of geographical locations including, India, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Jamaica. Literary texts will be paired with theoretical readings from such critics as Kwame Anthony Appiah, Ann McLintock, Benita Parry, Franz Fanon, and Edward Said. Although the main focus of study is literature, the course will adopt an interdisciplinary approach, understanding literary works as products of cultural, historical, social, and political circumstances. Throughout the course, students will explore how colonial power has shaped—and continues to shape—the world in which we live.

CLCS 300 Masculinities in Literature and Film

This course offers an overview of different masculinities as they have been represented in literature and film for the past couple decades. Students will first explore the recent developments in masculinity studies, particularly focusing on masculinity along intersectional lines. They will reflect upon the intricate ways of defining, theorizing and conceptualizing masculinity in an age that Zygmunt Bauman has defined as liquid. They will read novels such as Tomboy by French writer Nina Bouraoui, Salvation Army by Moroccan writer Abdellah Taïa and watch films such as Death Proof by American film director Quentin Tarentino, Facing Mirrors by Iranian film director Negar Azarbayjani, Boys Don't Cry by American film director Kimberly Peirce.

CLCS 310T The Culture of Cities: From Roman Garrisons to Industrial Chic

Ever since its formation in the nineteenth century the metropolis has functioned as a multivalent metaphor for the experiences of ''modern'' life. Portrayed at once as a space of disruption and of stability, of danger and of creativity, the city has as found a place in the modernist and postmodernist imagination that reflects how a people's surroundings influence thought pattern and social practices. At the same time of course the needs of ever-evolving groups of inhabitants form the shape cities take. Taking Zurich as the case study, students will ask how overlapping and interacting slices of urban culture, ranging from the material (buildings, squares, streets and bridges), to the symbolic (narratives, myths and legends), and the performative (music, theater and film) shape our urban experience.

CLCS 315 Slavery and Its Cultural Legacies

In 1619 the first slaves reached the new colonies in what is now the United States of America, founding a history of pervasive, discriminatory, racialist ideology that reaches all the way into our present. In a first part, this course will trace the history and culture of slavery from the slave trade to the civil war and emancipation and into the era of Jim Crow, the civil rights movement and beyond. Students will read a range of historical texts, policies and legal text that shaped slavery as well as responses to slavery in the form of slave narratives. In a second part, the course investigates through films and documentaries, music, memorials, literature and economic texts how the legacy of slavery continues to shape the culture of the United States in all areas of cultural and political life. In this part, students will grapple with questions of memory and memorializations, cultural appropriations, systemic economic inequalities, cross-cultural conceptions of enslavement and the question of reparations.

CLCS 320 Culture, Class, Cuisine: Questions of Taste

Food carries social, symbolic, and political-economic meaning that differs across cultures, and hence cuisine represents a focal point for studying divergent cultural practices. In that sense, this class examines the sociological, anthropological, literary, and cultural dimensions of food. The class will explore people's relationship to food with regard to the environment, gender roles, and social hierarchy, from French haute cuisine to the fast food phenomenon.

CLCS 325 Advanced Creative Writing Workshop

A writing workshop that allows students to explore different forms of prose writing including the traditional novel, the epistolary novel, and the graphic novel. This course will emphasize central techniques such as character, setting, beginnings and endings. Each week students will present sketches for critique in the writing workshop, and will compose a short piece of fiction for publication in the final class journal.

CLCS 330 The Politics of Mobility: Exile and Immigration

Beginning with the post-colonial theory of Edward Said, this class will examine the ideas of exile and immigration in a colonial and post-colonial context. This course will explore exile vs. expatriatism, language and power, movement across cultures, narrative agency and authority, and voices in the new immigrant narrative. By approaching the topic from a comparative perspective, students will be exposed to a polyphony of voices and the variety of experiences associated with exile and the construction of identity. Students will examine, in particular, contemporary fiction as a window to the context of this experience.

CLCS 335 Hauntings

This creative writing/cultural theory course focuses on the concept of haunting and related phenomena such as possession or exorcism. The course draws from recent scholarly work in hauntology, a term coined by Jacques Derrida in his SpectresdeMarx (1993). What emerges from this area of research is an unusual theoretical space in which to consider literature and culture, both philosophically (as critical thinkers) and creatively (as authors and performance artists). The class explores and creatively experiments with texts that function primarily as a medium for giving voice to those realms of human experience that are generally considered unreasonable and extrasensory; otherworldly perceptions of parallel dimensions that transcend the laws and rational orderings of the knowable physical world. Students will reflect on ghostly metaphors and manifestations as they are summoned, in various forms and to different ends, by fiction writers, performers, and filmmakers who tend to link stories of haunting to social-psychic-emotional disturbances: expressions of diasporic sensibilities and hyphenated ethnicities, stigmas of invisibility related to shadows of class and gender, spectral polyvalence and the paranormal activity emerging from recent theoretical discourse around taboo conceptual couplings such as the queer child and/or the ''unruly/child''.

CLCS 350 Culture and Human Rights

''Human Rights'' has become a key selling point for organizations, political parties and social movements. And yet what is actually meant by the term often remains vague, and it is difficult to take the critical stance necessary to judge its significance. In this class we interrogate the term with a series of questions: what counts as ''human'' in the discourses surrounding Human Rights? What sorts of rights do individuals in fact have simply by virtue of being human? Do all humans have the same rights? Who gets to decide this? How has the definition changed over the last 200 years? To what extent is the term gendered, determined by class and racialized? And finally: how do different national settings change how we think about and act on ideas of Human Rights? This course will examine these questions by tracing ideas surrounding Human Rights in treatises, literary texts, films, debates and case studies from the Enlightenment to the present. Against the backdrop of foundational texts such as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Vindication of the Rights of Woman, declarations by the European Court of Human Rights, the African Court on Human and People's Rights, the Geneva convention and the United Nations Human Rights Commission students will consider literary and filmic works that grapple critically with the terms they lay out. Students will also consider how NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch translate the political rhetoric to apply their own interpretations of Human Rights to their field work.

CLCS 360 Critical Race Studies in a Global Context

In this course, the class will work to create a more critical understanding of what race is, what race does, and how contemporary racial meanings are constructed and disseminated. In order to do so, students will explore Critical Race Theory (CRT) and critical theories of race in several contexts. CRT refers to a theory that emerged among legal educators in the US in the 1980s and 1990s. In the last twenty years, a growing number of scholars in fields such as cultural studies, gender studies, history, media studies, politics, postcolonial studies and sociology have integrated and developed the work done by critical race theorists. This course will focus in particular on this interdisciplinary approach to critical race studies. The practice of race will be examined as well as the policies and institutions that shape race in a global context in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Finally, students will consider the intersection of race and other social hierarchies, including gender, sexuality and social class.

CLCS 371 Law and Culture

This course aims to investigate law's place in culture and culture's place in law. This focus proceeds from the realization that law does not function in a vacuum but exerts a powerful influence on all manner of cultural practice and production, even as its own operation is influenced in turn by various forms of culture. Given this increasing porosity and interpermeability of Law and different forms of culture, the focus of this course is on the mutual influence between law and other discursive practices, such as literature, TV sit-coms and film. In studying a number of prominent legal cases such as Brown v the Board of Education, we will explore the following questions: What are the mechanisms by which popular representations and cultural practices find their way into legal processes and decisions? How does law in turn bleed into and influence cultural processes? Does law act as a buffer against societal assumptions about, and constructions of, gender, age, ability, sexuality and ethnicity, or does it re-enforce and re-inscribe existing social norms?

CLCS 372 Tales of Catastrophe

The cultural debris that results from political and natural catastrophes is made up of narratives that contain both implosion and creation, wreckage and renewal. In that sense disasters mark pivotal turning points in the way we conceptualize and understand human phenomena and cultural processes in a number of disciplinary perspectives from psychoanalysis to literature, from environmental science to religion and from ethics to aesthetics. Students will read the narrative fallout in fiction, science, and film that emanate from distinct disaster zones ranging from the petrified texture of Pompeii to the generative force field of ground zero.