Graduate Courses

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.