Archived Graduate Courses

Fall 2023

French (FRE) 214: The Marriage Plot in Early Modern France

The marriage plot, ubiquitous in Western literature since the Greeks, may seem absurdly formulaic. It centers on the courtship rituals of a young heterosexual couple and achieves fictional closure only by removing all obstacles to marriage. The typical “happily ever after” ending is ideological in the extreme, construing happiness as compulsory heterosexuality, submissive femininity, reproductive futurity, and class determinism. And yet as we will discover in this seminar, early modern French authors working in genres like comedy and fairy tale often manage to adhere to the marriage plot while challenging its ideological underpinnings. Some texts arrive at their happy ending in the expected way, by establishing a conventional household formation; yet they leave us to wonder whether happiness will be truly enduring and shared or whether domestic bliss will be threatened from within. Other texts embrace an oppositional politics, whether by establishing an unconventional (femdom, queer, trans) household and happiness or by embracing an anti-matrimonial polemic (happiness as the avoidance of marriage). The syllabus includes works by Corneille, Molière, Mme. de Villedieu, Mme. d’Aulnoy, Perrault, l’Abbé de Choisy, and la Duchesse de Montpensier. All texts will be available as PDFs in both French and English, and seminar sessions will be conducted in English; however, students in French must do all assignments (reading and writing) in the target language. There will be no research paper, rather a set of weekly two-page reaction papers and a final five-page essay that expands on one of the reaction papers. No screens will be allowed in the seminar room, and students should bring paper and pen with them, along with a printout of the assigned text.

Spring 2023

History (HIS) 202D: Major Issues in Historical Interpretation: India

History of Mughal India

This course will examine approaches to the history of the Mughal Empire of India (sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries), the second greatest economic power, and home to perhaps the greatest court culture of the early modern period. The reading for each week will organized by methodology or theme. Please read each week’s assignment before class and come prepared to present the text and critique it. You are not expected to master the all the information covered in this course. Rather, the goal is to begin to be able to identify the problématique and also to summarize and evaluate arguments and methodologies. There are no pre-requisites. Comparative perspectives are most welcome.

Study of Religion (REL) 230C: Modernity, Science and Secularism

Medicine, Alchemy, Science

This graduate seminar examines the widespread pre-modern science of alchemy in various periods across three major civilizations: Indian, Islamic, and European. Alchemy, currently labeled a pseudo-science or precursor to modern chemistry, involved a range of ideas and practices that went beyond transmuting base metals into gold. We will examine a range of alchemical texts that demonstrate a marked interest in medicine and other medieval sciences and will explore the views of self and the material world present in these readings. Towards the end of the course, we will situate our study within the larger context of the history of science and religion and changing theories of knowledge.

Spanish (SPA) 274: Studies of a Major Writer, Period, or Genre in Latin American Literature

Food in the Early Modern Hispanic World

The gastronomic globalization of the late 20th century, along with the recent boom of the so-called foodie culture, has catapulted the academic interest in food in the past few decades, resulting in the growing field of Food Studies. In the context of Latin American and Iberian studies, food has proved to be a productive and refreshing lens to re-examine historical narratives, national discourses, and the literary canon. In this seminar, we will study Spanish and Latin American cultural artifacts ranging from the 16th to the 18th centuries, focusing on issues of class and social distinction; identity, race, and religion; imperialism and colonization; and sexuality and gender. Students will engage with major theoretical approaches to Food Studies, explore the scholarly literature that has shaped the study of food in Spain and Latin America, and learn about innovative approaches like cooking as a research method. Among the artifacts examined will be natural histories by Bernardino de Sahagún and José de Acosta, Sor Juana’s reflections on kitchen work, baroque theater and poetry, and best-selling 17th-century cookbooks.

Winter 2024

Comparative Literature (COM) 210: Creation and Creativity

In this seminar, we will investigate how writers and poets explore ideas about creation and creativity before the modern concept of literature. We will examine how discourses of religion, historiography, literary criticism, philosophy, erotic desire, politics, law, trade, fantasy, and folklore overlap with and contradict one another to produce new ideas about creativity in genres of prose and poetry. Readings in English translation from Arabic and Persian from West Asia, Central Asia, North Africa, and the Iberian Peninsula will be placed in the context of their connections to earlier or later genres of writing in Sanskrit, Greek, Middle Persian, Latin, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, French, German, English, Ottoman Turkish, Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi.

  1. al-Suli, The Life and Times of Abu Tammam, NYU Library of Arabic Literature, selections; dedicated lyric poetry in Arabic and Persian
  2. Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ, Kalilah and Dimnah: Fables of Virtue and Vice NYU LAL
  3. al-Tanukhi, Stories of Piety and Prayer: Deliverance follows Adversity NYU LAL
  4. al-Tawhidi and Miskawayh, The Philosopher Responds: An Intellectual Correspondence from the 10th Century and al-Hariri, Impostures, selections
  5. Ibn Hazm, The Dove’s Neck Ring Martino Fine Books and al-Shabushti, The Book of Monasteries NYU LAL, selections; undedicated lyric poetry in Arabic and Persian
  6. al-Sirafi, Accounts of India and China and Ibn Fadlan, Mission to the Volga NYU LAL, selections
  7. The Arabian Nights and Sindbad and Other Stories from the Arabian Nights ed. Mushin Mahdi tr. Hussain Haddawy Norton, selections
  8. Nizami, Majnun Layla Penguin Classics
  9. Rumi, Masnavi Oxford World Classics

Shahab Ahmed, What is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic Princeton
Lara Harb, Arabic Poetics: Aesthetic Experience in Classical Arabic Literature Cambridge
Thomas Bauer, A Culture of Ambiguity: An Alternative History of Islam tr. from German Columbia
Shahzad Bashir, Sufi Bodies: Religion and Society in Medieval Islam Columbia

German (GER) 285: Middle High German Literature

Middle High German Literature is a survey of the writings of the High Middle Ages.  We will cover topics such as courtly love and chivalry, by reading an epic poem.  We will also look at other genres of the time that reflect the culture of the time.  These might include the poems and the lives of the traveling entertainers who wrote them or letters that show the life of a family.  The poems and epics are meant to entertain but they also have a larger function in society that we can explore.  No knowledge of German or Middle High German is required.

Philosophy (PHI) 290: History of Philosophy

  • (CRN: 36794); R 3:10-6:00; Social Science & Humanities 2275
  • Jan Szaif

Study of Religion (REL) 210C: Religion in Ruins: Religious Texts and Literary Creativity in Times of Catastrophe 

This seminar begins with biblical texts that engage themes of catastrophe and disaster, and traces their later reception from ancient biblical interpretation and liturgical texts through modern and contemporary responses. We will focus especially on responses to displacement: the loss of home and the destruction or inaccessibility of religiously significant places. How do writers draw on scriptural and other foundational religious texts to respond to loss and displacement in their own times? How are older texts expanded, rewritten, echoed, and subverted in the face of new disasters, from conquest through genocide to climate change?  What does this say about the uniqueness or repeatability of catastrophe? How does the experience of facing disaster affect the ability to read, write, and find meaning in literary and religious traditions? We will center our initial discussions on the Bible and its literary and liturgical heirs, but we will also read theoretical work relevant across linguistic and chronological corpora. Students will have the opportunity to engage sources from their own fields alongside the themes of the class, and do their final project on a topic in their area. 

Readers of Classical Hebrew will have a chance to work with texts in the original, but this is not required. All materials will be available in English, but students who work in other languages will be encouraged to do so.