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C LIT 502 A: The Theory Of Literature III: Special Topics

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
MGH 085
Joint Sections: 
ENGL 544 A
Monika Kaup

Syllabus Description:

ENGL 544  w/ CLCM 502

Professor Monika Kaup

sq 2017


Neobaroque Designs in 20th-century World Literature

Originating in 17th-century Europe as the official style of Absolutism and the Counter-Reformation and born as an interartistic expression, the baroque traveled around the world in the wake of empire. In the New World as well as other overseas colonies of Catholic nations such as Spain and Portugal, it was gradually transculturated by indigenous and mestizo artisans whose labor produced the monuments of the colonial baroque in the Americas (known as the New World baroque). The 20th and 21st centuries have seen multiple series of cycles of baroque revivals (the so-called neobaroque) in Europe, across Latin and North America and beyond, which extend across forms usually considered separately, such as modernism and postmodernism. From today’s vantage point, the baroque is no longer European or an early modern historical period, but rather a distributed transhistorical, transnational, and interartistic expression that has been profoundly transformed and refracted as it circulated farther from home and further through time. Even as it is claimed under identitarian paradigms (the baroque as a uniquely Spanish or Latin American sensibility), it remains at the same time resolutely non-identitarian and cosmopolitan, closely linked to the problem of modernity, in other words, globalization. 

The concept of world literature is an attempt to move beyond the dichotomy between old Eurocentric canons of comparative literature and new postcolonial ones. This seminar assesses its usefulness as a hermeneutic for the neobaroque, an expression that straddles the divide between the European and the postcolonial, extending across global hierarchies between first-world centers and (semi)peripheries. We will focus on neobaroque fiction from Cuba (Alejo Carpentier), Germany/England (W.G. Sebald), the U.S. (Djuna Barnes), and Chile (José Donoso), but students are welcome to explore neobaroques from other national or ethnic contexts or other genres (poetry). We will consider baroque theories by Walter Benjamin, Carpentier, José Lezama Lima, Irlemar Chiampi, Bolívar Echeverría, and world literature theories by Franco Moretti, David Damrosch, Pheng Cheah, Mariano Siskind, and Francoise Lionnet and Shu-Mei Shih. The (neo)baroque is an aesthetic of excess (not minimalism--“less is more”--but “more is more”), a capacious form that allows for the inclusion of the different and the strange, one reason why few styles have lent themselves to bending so many ways as the (neo)baroque.


Required texts:

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood New Directions ISBN 0-8112-0005-1

 Alejo Carpentier, Baroque Concerto, trans. Asa Zatz (Andre Deutsch; out of print, please await further notice on copies)

 W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn (New Directions, 1999) ISBN 978-0-8112-1413-1

 José Donoso, The House in the Country, trans. Susan Jill Levine (Random House) out of print, but used copies are available online: please order on your own

 Lois Zamora and Monika Kaup, eds. Baroque New Worlds: Representation, Transculturation, Counterconquest (Duke, 2010)


Writing Assignments: 10-12 page research paper

Catalog Description: 
Offerings vary to cover topics such as individual theorists, theoretical movements, or the intersection of literary theory with other disciplines or arts (psychoanalysis, structuralism, ethics, aesthetics).
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:24pm