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World Literatures

The Program in World Literatures (formerly comparative literature) enables students to learn languages and engage with at least two literary and cultural traditions studied in their original languages or in translation. World literatures majors explore images, ideas and aesthetic forms that travel the world. They also come to recognize deep cultural contrasts: to see that birth, love, community, happiness and death are all experienced and represented differently from region to region and era to era. In these ways, they start to see their own culture differently in the light of the new ones they encounter.

Requirements & Courses

Goals for Majors in World Literatures

Students will become sophisticated readers of texts whether literary or not. As such they will be able to: 

  • Identify rhetorical devices from the highly ornate to the “dormant” metaphor
  • Identify the tone of a work—satiric, epic, tragic, etc.
  • Distinguish levels of meaning within a work

Students will be able to think comparatively and express their thoughts in cogent prose. As such they will be able to:

  • Compare literary passages by identifying their formal features
  • Situate a given text in its historical and comparative context
  • Build a coherent argument
  • Use theoretical writings to underpin their readings of a text
  • Reflect on what literature is and compare it to other type of discourses
  • Correctly cite sources
Foreign Language Literacy

All world literatures students are expected to achieve a level of literacy in their second language commensurate with the resources available in the Five Colleges. Their ability in a non-English language will prepare them to:

  • Engage with a variety of texts in the original language
  • Develop a sensitivity to issues of translation in working with works in translation
  • Have a practical familiarity with appropriate language resources in their second language
  • Develop their awareness of and sensitivity to different cultural contexts
Research

As dedicated readers, students will be able to:

  • Formulate a research question
  • Identify authoritative editions of primary texts and know how to cite them
  • Be able to locate and evaluate print and digital scholarly resources

World Literatures Major

Comparative World Literatures Track

This track enables students to learn languages and engage with at least two literary and cultural traditions studied in their original language. Students pursuing this track are encouraged to take advantage of the various opportunities that study abroad provides for them to study languages and cultures.

Requirements

Ten semester courses plus WLT 150 (42 credits)

  1. Basis (10 credits)
    1. WLT 150
    2. Two courses from the following options: WLT 100 (topics), WLT 177 (topics), WLT 202/ ENG 202WLT 203/ ENG 203
  2. Electives (24 credits)
    1. Three courses in non-English-language literature. For literatures in which Smith offers few or no courses taught in the original language, majors may fulfill this requirement by taking courses in English translation while reading some course texts in the original language.
    2. Three related courses in either an additional literature, which may be in translation, or a common literary theme or genre chosen with the adviser’s approval.
  3. Capstone (8 credits)
    1. WLT 300
    2.  WLT 330/ TSX 330 or WLT 340 (topics)

Students who graduate with a major track of comparative world literatures should have studied both modern and/or pre-modern literatures written in more than one genre. They should also have taken courses in literatures from geographically or ethnically distinct cultures from across the globe and from beyond the European/American mainstream.

World Literatures in Translation Track

The major in world literatures in translation is intended for students who love to read and think about literature. It focuses on literatures from around the world read in translation. We encourage students pursuing this track to take a broad range of courses in different literatures from across the globe.

Requirements

Ten semester courses plus WLT 150 (42 credits)

  1. Basis (10 credits)
    1. WLT 150
    2. Two courses from the following options: WLT 100 (topics), WLT 177 (topics), WLT 202/ ENG 202WLT 203/ ENG 203
  2. Electives (24 credits)
    1. Three WLT literature courses
    2. Three literature courses selected from other offerings with a primary listing in or crosslisted in WLT. Students pursuing this track may also take courses in other language and literature departments with approval of the major adviser.
  3. Capstone (8 credits)
    1. WLT 300
    2. WLT 330/ TSX 330 or WLT 340 (topic)

Students who graduate with a major track in world literatures in translation should be conversant with a variety of literary and cultural traditions. They should also have taken courses in literatures in from geographically or ethnically distinct cultures from across the world and from beyond the European/American mainstream.

Honors

Requirements are the same as those for the major, with the addition of a thesis WLT 430D, to be written in both semesters of the senior year. Please consult the director of honors or the program website for specific requirements, application procedures and deadlines.

World Literatures Minor

Requirements

Five courses

  1. Basis. Two courses from the following options: WLT 100 (topics), WLT 177 (topics), WLT 202/ ENG 202, WLT 203/ ENG 203
  2. Literature electives. Two courses (eight credits) from: courses in WLT, courses crosslisted in WLT or related courses chosen with minor adviser's approval
  3. Capstone: WLT 300 or WLT 340 (topics)

Courses

WLT 100cw Introduction to World Literatures-Cannibals, Witches, Virgins (4 Credits)

An examination of the rewritings and adaptations of the three iconic figures of Shakespeare’s The Tempest—Caliban the demi-devil savage other, Sycorax the devil-whore, and Miranda the virgin-goddess—by writers from different geographies, time periods and ideological persuasions. Using texts such as Aimé Césaire’s A Tempest, Rachel Ingalls’ Mrs. Caliban, Lemuel Johnson’s Highlife for Caliban, Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day and Michelle Cliff’s No Telephone to Heaven, we seek to understand how postcolonial, feminist and postmodern rewritings of The Tempest transpose its language and characters into critiques of colonialism, nationhood, race, gender and difference. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 150 The Art of Translation: Poetics, Politics, Practice (2 Credits)

Translations are everywhere: on television news, in radio interviews, in movie subtitles, in international bestsellers. But translations don’t shift texts transparently from one language to another. Rather, they revise, censor and rewrite original works, to challenge the past and to speak to new readers. The course explores translation in a range of contexts by hearing lectures by experts in the history, theory and practice of translation. Knowledge of a foreign language is useful but not required. S/U only. Can be taken concurrently with FRN 295. {L}

Spring

WLT 177dp Colloquium: Topics in World Literatures-Dwelling Poetically (4 Credits)

To introduce the pleasures of poetry, this course travels through poems on themes of journeying and dwelling, voyage and return, travel and home, wandering, war and immigration. Reading ancient Chinese songs and Greek epic to contemporary docupoetry and rap, we explore key elements of poetic art (voice, metre, tropes, image and suggestion). Students encounter less concrete effects too as they confront ambiguity, develop interpretive imagination, and surmise poetry’s powers and stakes. What is a poem? How and when does poetry affect our worlds? We also consider the art, ethics and politics of translation, and students compose and translate short poems. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 177gs Colloquium: Topics in World Literatures- The Global Short Story (4 Credits)

This course focuses on the short story as a genre in a number of texts from around the globe, analyzing the function of literary elements through close reading, and critical and creative writing. The course cultivates skills in textual analysis through engagement with students’ own critical and creative writing processes. Students have opportunities to rewrite a short story and write their own. Attention is given to the ways in which cultural context influences the representation of human experience and the effects that cultural, historical, gendered, racial, socio-political and economic factors have on a text and its interpretation(s). (E) {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 178/ SPN 178 Naughty Fictional Translators (4 Credits)

Offered as WLT 178 and SPN 178. This course focuses on fictional portraits of iconoclastic translators and/or interpreters. The first two months are devoted to a (relatively) "slow reading" of Don Quijote as a pioneer text in terms of attributing a central role to a fictional translator. The third month is devoted to international films and short stories--largely, but not exclusively, from the Spanish-speaking world, which has experienced a remarkable upsurge of "transfictions" (i.e., fictions about translators) since the ‘90s. Taught in English. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

WLT 202/ ENG 202 Western Classics in Translation I: Homer to Dante (4 Credits)

Offered as ENG 202 and WLT 202. Considers works of literature, mostly from the ancient world, that have had a significant influence over time. May include: epics by Homer and Virgil; tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides; Plato’s Symposium; Dante’s Divine Comedy." Enrollment limited to 20. WI {L}

Fall

WLT 203/ ENG 203 Western Classics in Translation II: Renaissance to Modern (4 Credits)

Offered as WLT 203 and ENG 203. Considers works of literature from different linguistic and cultural traditions that have had a significant influence over time. May include Shakespeare, Cervantes, Goethe, Balzac, Tolstoy, Ibsen and others. Enrollment limited to 20. WI {L}

Spring

WLT 204fl Topics: Writings and Rewritings-Running with the Devil: The Faust Legend (4 Credits)

What is a soul and what is it worth? Why are humans fascinated by the forbidden? What would a person be willing to sacrifice to unlock the secrets of the universe? For over five hundred years writers have returned to the story of Faust, the scholar-magician-charlatan who sold his soul to the devil, to explore such questions. Each retelling provides a window into the struggles and ambitions of its age, revealing what it means to be human in turbulent times. This course examines the Faust legend in a variety of forms (novels, short stories, poetry, dramas, films) from a variety of periods, ranging from 1587 to 2020. Works from Marlowe, Calderón, Goethe, Berlioz, Turgenev, Alcott and more. Not open to students who have taken FYS 187. Enrollment limited to 30. (E) {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 204qq Topics: Writings and Rewritings-Queering Don Quixote (4 Credits)

Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605–15) is allegedly the first and most influential modern novel. We approach this hilarious masterpiece by Cervantes through a “queering” focus, i.e., as a text that exposes binary oppositions (literary, sexual, social, religious and ethnic) such as: high-low, tradition vs. individual creativity, historical vs. literary truth, man vs. woman, authenticity vs. performance, Moor vs. Christian, humorous vs. tragic. The course also covers the crucial role of Don Quixote in the development of modern and postmodern novelistic concepts (multiple narrators, fictional authors, palimpsest, dialogism). SPN 356 optional corequisite. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 205 Contemporary African Literature and Film (4 Credits)

A study of the major writers and diverse literary traditions of Africa, with emphasis on the historical, political, social and cultural contexts of the emergence of writing, reception and consumption. We pay particular attention to several questions: in what contexts did modern African literature emerge? Is the term "African literature" a useful category? How do African writers challenge Western representations of Africa? How do they articulate the crisis of postcoloniality? How do women writers reshape our understanding of gender and the politics of resistance? Writers include Achebe, Ngugi, Dangarembga, Bâ, Ndebele and Aidoo. Films: Tsotsi , Softie and Blood Diamond. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 212/ POR 212 Author, Authority, Authoritarianism: Writing and Resistance in the Portuguese-Speaking World (4 Credits)

Introducing translated works by celebrated Portuguese-language writers, this course explores themes of resistance, including resistance to dictatorship, patriarchy, slavery, racism and colonialism, but also more ambivalent postures of resistance toward authority assumed within particular forms of expertise and knowledge production and deployment. Discussing fiction by Machado de Assis and Clarice Lispector (Brazil), Mia Couto and Paulina Chiziane (Mozambique), Grada Kilomba (Portugal/Germany), and Nobel laureate José Saramago (Portugal), students consider historical contexts, how their work resonates with our contemporary world, literature and fictionality as sites of resistance and the sometimes fraught dynamics they reveal between authorship and authority. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 218 Holocaust Literature (4 Credits)

What is a Holocaust story? How does literature written in extremis in ghettos, death camps or in hiding differ from the vast post-war literature about the Holocaust? How to balance competing claims of individual and collective experience, the rights of the imagination and the pressures for historical accuracy? Selections from a variety of genres (diary, reportage, poetry, novel, graphic novel, memoir, film, monuments, museums) and critical theories of representation. All readings in translation. No prerequisites. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

WLT 230 “Unnatural” Women: Mothers Who Kill their Children (4 Credits)

Some cultures give the murdering mother a central place in myth and literature while others treat the subject as taboo. How is such a woman depicted--As monster, lunatic, victim, savior? What do the motives attributed to her reveal about a society’s assumptions and values? What difference does it make if the author is a woman? We focus on literary texts but also consider representations in other media, especially cinema. Authors to be studied include Euripides, Seneca, Ovid, Anouilh, Christa Wolff, Christopher Durang, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and others. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 232/ EAL 232 Modern Chinese Literature (4 Credits)

Offered as WLT 232 and EAL 232. Can literature inspire personal and social transformation? How have modern Chinese writers pursued freedom, fulfillment, memory and social justice? From short stories and novels to drama and film, we explore class, gender and the cultures of China, Taiwan, Tibet and the Chinese diaspora. Readings are in English translation and no background in China or Chinese is required. Open to students at all levels. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

WLT 239/ EAL 239 Intimacy in Contemporary Chinese Women’s Fiction (4 Credits)

Offered as EAL 239 and WLT 239. How do stories about love, romance and desire (including extramarital affairs, serial relationships and love between women) challenge our assumptions about identity? How do pursuits, successes and failures of intimacy lead to personal and social change? An exploration of major themes through close readings of contemporary fiction by women from China, Taiwan and Chinese diasporas. Readings are in English translation and no background in China or Chinese is required. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 240 Imagining Black Freedom: African, Caribbean and African American Literature (4 Credits)

An examination of race, identity, and resistance in African, Caribbean, and African American literatures through the lens of coming-of-age novels. This course will enable students to critically engage the political and aesthetic imperatives of black writing by interrogating the thematics and legacies of slavery, colonialism, and racism. How do writers of Africa and the African diaspora appropriate the Bildungsroman as a literary form in their constructions of identity, freedom, and citizenship? What makes this genre particularly useful for the liberatory project of black imagination? Writers include Ngugi, Dangarembga, Wicomb, Cliff, Kincaid, Morrison and Wright. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 260/ CLS 260 Colloquium: Transformations of a Text: Shape-Shifting and the Role of Translation (4 Credits)

Offered as CLS 260 and WLT 260. Whose work are you reading when you encounter a text in translation? How is the author’s voice modulated through the translator’s? What constitutes a "faithful" or a "good" translation? How do the translator’s language and culture, the expectations of the target audience, and the marketplace determine what gets translated and how? We consider different translations of the same text, including rogue translations, adaptations and translations into other forms (opera, musicals, film). Students produce their own translations or adaptations. WLT 150 recommended. Enrollment limited to 20.

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

WLT 264/ RES 264 Dostoevsky (4 Credits)

Offered as RES 264 and WLT 264. Focuses on close reading of the major novels, short fiction, and journalism of Dostoevsky, one of the greatest writers in modern literature. Combining penetrating psychological insight with the excitement of crime fiction, Dostoevsky’s works explore profound political, philosophical, and religious issues, in a Russia populated by students and civil servants, saints and revolutionaries, writers and madmen. In our close reading of his fiction and nonfiction, we’ll trace the development of Dostoevsky’s style and ideas, considering how these texts engage with issues specific to nineteenth-century Russia, as well as the broader traditions of European literature and intellectual history. In translation. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 266md Colloquium: Topics in South African Literature and Film (4 Credits)

A study of South African literature and film with a focus on adaptation of literary texts to the screen. The course pays particular attention to the ways in which the political, economic and cultural forces of colonialism and apartheid have shaped contemporary South African literature and film: for what purposes do South African filmmakers adapt novels, biographies and memoirs to the screen? How do these adaptations help us visualize the relationship between power and violence in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa? How do race, class, gender, sexuality and ethnicity complicate our understanding racial, political and gender-based violence in South Africa? Enrollment limited to 18. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 266ss Colloquium: Topics in South African Literature and Film-Saints, Saviors and Traitors: The Private and Public Lives of Nelson and Winnie Mandela (4 Credits)

The private and public lives of Winnie and Nelson Mandela as icons the struggle against apartheid transformed them into symbols of the dreams and aspirations of an entire nation. Adored as beloved father/mother of a nation, they were/are revered and reviled, loved and hated, adored and vilified, in  equal measure. This course looks at the enduring, shifting, and often contradictory (self) representations of the Mandelas in memoirs, (auto)biographies,  films and documentaries. We focus on how their lives became emblematic of the black South African experience during the apartheid and post-apartheid years and the ways in which gender complicated the legacies of both. Enrollment limited to 18. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 270 Colloquium: Health and Illness: Literary Explorations (4 Credits)

From medieval Chinese tales to memoirs about SARS and COVID-19, this cross-cultural literary inquiry explores how conceptions of selfhood and belonging inform ideas about well-being, disease, intervention and healing. How do languages, social norms and economic contexts shape experiences of health and illness? From depression and plague to aging, disability and death, how do sufferers and their caregivers adapt in the face of infirmity or trauma? Our study will also consider how stories and other genres can help develop resilience, compassion and hope. Enrollment limited to 20. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 271 Writing in Translation: Bilingualism in the Postcolonial Novel (4 Credits)

A study of bilingualism as a legacy of colonialism, as an expression of exile, and as a means of political and artistic transformation in recent texts from Africa and the Americas. We consider how such writers as Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Kenya), Assia Djebar (Algeria), Patrick Chamoiseau (Martinique) and Edwidge Danticat (Haiti/U.S.) assess the personal and political consequences of writing in the language of a former colonial power, and how they attempt to capture the esthetic and cultural tensions of bilingualism in their work. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 272/ ENG 171 Composing a Self: Chinese and English Voices (4 Credits)

Offered as ENG 171 and WLT 272. Is the self a story? How do we translate ourselves into multiple personas in different locations and contexts? How do we speak to others with diverse beliefs or ourselves at new times? To learn, students read and compose short texts in Chinese, translate them into English, and consider the art and politics of translation. Working in public-facing genres (memoir, narrative nonfiction, journalism, short stories, social media and multimedia projects), students develop their creative writing in both Chinese and English, as well as understandings of Chinese cultures and of literary and cultural translation. Discussion in Chinese and English. Chinese fluency required. One WI course highly recommended. Enrollment limited to 16. {F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

WLT 273/ RES 273 Cosmic Cold War: Russian and Western Science Fiction in Political Context (4 Credits)

Offered as RES 273 and WLT 273. How did the "final frontier" of space become a "front" in the Cold War? As the US and USSR competed in the Space Race, science fiction reflected political discourses in literature, film, visual art and popular culture. This course explores Russian and Western science fiction in the contexts of twentieth-century geopolitics and artistic modernism (and postmodernism), examining works by Bogdanov, Kubrick, Tarkovsky, Butler, Haraway, Pelevin and others. The survey considers science fiction’s utopian content and political function, as well as critical and dystopian modes of the genre. No prerequisites or knowledge of Russian required; first-year students are welcome to enroll. Enrollment limited to 40. {A}{H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 276 #MeToo: Sex, Gender and Power Across Cultures (4 Credits)

When it comes to sex and gender, how do power dynamics promote or thwart freedom, belonging and love? As #MeToo and other movements challenge cultures of oppression, how do such struggles relate to the ecological, capitalist, and humanitarian crises that threaten life as we know it? Learning from feminisms, this course questions persistent structural binaries: mind/body, human/animal, man/woman, culture/nature. Drawing on literature, philosophy and journalism, we examine how social constructions of gender, class, race, and disability coalesce with material bodies, spaces, and conditions to form habits of subjectivity and patterns of life. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

WLT 280/ ENG 280 Historical Memory and the Global Novel (4 Credits)

Offered as ENG 280 and WLT 280. This course explores the relationship between history and memory in a series of post-WW2 “global” novels, texts that somehow straddle or transcend national traditions and marketplaces. This course interrogates how art might ethically engage with—or seek refuge from—historical “events” such as colonial and post-colonial violence, total/nuclear war, authoritarian military coups, global terrorism, trans-Atlantic slavery and the Holocaust. Major course themes include the relationship between the personal and the historical, the national and the global, the generational transfer of trauma, feelings of guilt and complicity, and the idea of historical memory itself. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

WLT 300 Foundations in Contemporary Literature Theory (4 Credits)

This course presents a variety of practices and positions within the field of literary theory. Approaches include structuralism, poststructuralism, psychoanalysis, Marxism, gender and queer studies, cultural studies and postcolonial studies. Emphasis on the theory as well as the practice of these methods: their assumptions about writing and reading and about literature as a cultural formation. Readings include Freud, Lacan, Levi-Strauss, Barthes, Derrida, Foucault, Bakhtin, Gramsci, Bhabba, Butler, Said, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Zizek. The class is of interest to all students who wish to explore a range of approaches and methodologies within the humanities as well to students who plan to go to graduate school in literature programs. Enrollment limited to 25. {L}

Fall

WLT 330/ TSX 330 Capstone Seminar in Translation Studies (4 Credits)

Offered as WLT 330 and TSX 330. The capstone seminar brings together a cohort of concentrators to discuss a final translation project that each student undertakes with the guidance of their adviser in the concentration and to situate the project within the framework of larger questions that the work of translation elicits. The readings focus on renowned practitioners’ reflections on the challenges, beauties and discoveries of translating. Students compare how translations transform the original novel and question the concept of original text as it interacts with the culture and the language into which it is translated. Open to students in the Concentration in Translation Studies and World Literatures. Prerequisite: WLT 150. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {L}

Spring

WLT 340md Seminar in World Literatures: Media of Dissent (4 Credits)

What is the art of dissent? How have dissident writers, musicians, artists and activists pursued justice and repair? How do social movements use artistic media to voice resistance and make demands? To confront violence, exploitation and existential risks, the class looks at art, fiction, poetry, film, music and social media. Students practice visual analysis, close reading, historicization, scholarly research and debate, public writing and making their own media of dissent. Works from China and France, Russia, the United States and beyond. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 400 Special Studies (1-4 Credits)

Readings in the original language (or in certain cases translations) of literary texts read in or closely related to a course taken with a faculty member appointed in comparative literature. Admission by permission of the instructor and the program director. Students are encouraged to contact the instructor during the prior semester, and proposals must be submitted in writing to the director by the end of the first week of classes.

Fall, Spring

WLT 430D Honors Project (4-8 Credits)

Requirements: The same as those for the major, with the addition of a thesis to be written in both semesters of the senior year. A full draft of the thesis is due the first Friday of March. The final draft is due mid-April, to be followed by an oral presentation and discussion of the thesis. For more detailed requirements, see the WLT website, at the end of the list of courses.

Fall, Spring, Annually

Crosslisted Courses

CLS 233 Gender and Sexuality in Greco-Roman Culture (4 Credits)

The construction of gender, sexuality, and erotic experience is one of the major sites of difference between Greco-Roman culture and our own. What constituted a proper man and a proper woman in these ancient societies? Which sexual practices and objects of desire were socially sanctioned and which considered deviant? What ancient modes of thinking about these issues have persisted into the modern world? Attention to the status of women; the role of social class; the ways in which genre and convention shaped representation; the relationship between representation and reality. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

CLS 260/ WLT 260 Colloquium: Transformations of a Text: Shape-Shifting and the Role of Translation (4 Credits)

Offered as CLS 260 and WLT 260. Whose work are you reading when you encounter a text in translation? How is the author’s voice modulated through the translator’s? What constitutes a "faithful" or a "good" translation? How do the translator’s language and culture, the expectations of the target audience, and the marketplace determine what gets translated and how? We consider different translations of the same text, including rogue translations, adaptations and translations into other forms (opera, musicals, film). Students produce their own translations or adaptations. WLT 150 recommended. Enrollment limited to 20.

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

EAL 232/ WLT 232 Modern Chinese Literature (4 Credits)

Offered as WLT 232 and EAL 232. Can literature inspire personal and social transformation? How have modern Chinese writers pursued freedom, fulfillment, memory and social justice? From short stories and novels to drama and film, we explore class, gender and the cultures of China, Taiwan, Tibet and the Chinese diaspora. Readings are in English translation and no background in China or Chinese is required. Open to students at all levels. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

EAL 239/ WLT 239 Intimacy in Contemporary Chinese Women’s Fiction (4 Credits)

Offered as EAL 239 and WLT 239. How do stories about love, romance and desire (including extramarital affairs, serial relationships and love between women) challenge our assumptions about identity? How do pursuits, successes and failures of intimacy lead to personal and social change? An exploration of major themes through close readings of contemporary fiction by women from China, Taiwan and Chinese diasporas. Readings are in English translation and no background in China or Chinese is required. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ENG 171/ WLT 272 Composing a Self: Chinese and English Voices (4 Credits)

Offered as ENG 171 and WLT 272. Is the self a story? How do we translate ourselves into multiple personas in different locations and contexts? How do we speak to others with diverse beliefs or ourselves at new times? To learn, students read and compose short texts in Chinese, translate them into English, and consider the art and politics of translation. Working in public-facing genres (memoir, narrative nonfiction, journalism, short stories, social media and multimedia projects), students develop their creative writing in both Chinese and English, as well as understandings of Chinese cultures and of literary and cultural translation. Discussion in Chinese and English. Chinese fluency required. One WI course highly recommended. Enrollment limited to 16. {F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ENG 202/ WLT 202 Western Classics in Translation I: Homer to Dante (4 Credits)

Offered as ENG 202 and WLT 202. Considers works of literature, mostly from the ancient world, that have had a significant influence over time. May include: epics by Homer and Virgil; tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides; Plato’s Symposium; Dante’s Divine Comedy." Enrollment limited to 20. WI {L}

Fall

ENG 203/ WLT 203 Western Classics in Translation II: Renaissance to Modern (4 Credits)

Offered as WLT 203 and ENG 203. Considers works of literature from different linguistic and cultural traditions that have had a significant influence over time. May include Shakespeare, Cervantes, Goethe, Balzac, Tolstoy, Ibsen and others. Enrollment limited to 20. WI {L}

Spring

ENG 207/ HSC 207 The Technology of Reading and Writing (4 Credits)

Offered as ENG 207 and HSC 207. An introductory exploration of the physical forms that knowledge and communication have taken in the West, from ancient oral cultures to modern print-literate culture. The main interest is in discovering how what is said and thought in a culture reflects its available kinds of literacy and media of communication. Discussions to include poetry and memory in oral cultures; the invention of writing; the invention of prose; literature and science in a script culture; the coming of printing; changing concepts of publication, authorship and originality; movements toward standardization in language; and the fundamentally transformative effects of electronic communication. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ENG 225 Hybrid Genres: Experiments in Literary Form (4 Credits)

This literature course explores texts that experiment with the boundaries of genre and form, or with combining different genres, from documentary poetics to the essay film to the graphic novel memoir. Upsetting the conventional distinctions between word and image, fact and fiction, and poetry and history, these hybrid texts ask us to rethink how form and genre work, and what students might learn from their undoing. Students will respond to the readings with their own hybrid essays. Readings will include texts by Alison Bechdel, William Blake, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Jamaica Kincaid, Maggie Nelson, M. NourbeSe Philip, and Claudia Rankine. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ENG 230/ JUD 230 American Jewish Literature (4 Credits)

Offered as JUD 230 and ENG 230. Explores the significant contributions and challenges of Jewish writers and critics to American literature, broadly defined. Topics include the American dream and its discontents; immigrant fiction; literary multilingualism; ethnic satire and humor; crises of the left involving 60s radicalism and Black-Jewish relations; after-effects of the Holocaust. Must Jewish writing remain on the margins, too ethnic for the mainstream yet insufficient for contemporary gatekeepers of diversity? No prerequisites. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ENG 237 Colloquium: Environmental Poetry and Ecological Thought (4 Credits)

This course considers how literature represents environmental change and crisis, and shapes our understanding of the natural world. How can poetry provide new ways for thinking through extinction, conservation, and environmental justice? We explore these issues by reading a selection of environmental poetry in conversation with key texts from the environmental humanities. Central to the discussions: the sublime and the aesthetics of landscape and wilderness; garbage and the poetics of waste; the ethics of representing animal and plant life; the relation between landscape, labor, and power; and how eco-poetry intervenes in debates about climate change. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ENG 241 The Empire Writes Back: Postcolonial Literature (4 Credits)

Introduction to Anglophone fiction, poetry, drama and memoir from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia in the aftermath of the British empire. Concerns include the cultural and political work of literature in response to histories of colonial and racial dominance; writers' ambivalence towards English linguistic, literary and cultural legacies; ways literature can (re)construct national identities and histories and address dominant notions of race, class, gender and sexuality; women writers' distinctiveness and modes of contesting patriarchal and colonial ideologies; and global diasporas, migration, globalization and U.S. imperialism. Readings include Achebe, Adichie, Aidoo, Dangarembga, Walcott, Cliff, Rushdie, Ghosh, Lahiri, Hamid and others. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ENG 271/ GER 271 Imagining Evil (4 Credits)

Offered as GER 271 and ENG 271. This course explores how artists and thinkers over the centuries have grappled with the presence of evil--how to account for its perpetual recurrence, its ominous power, its mysterious allure. Standing at the junction of literature, philosophy, and religion, the notion of evil reveals much about the development of the autonomous individual, the intersection of morality, freedom and identity, and the confrontation of literary and historical evil. Readings include literary works from Milton, Goethe, Blake, Kleist, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Tolkien, Le Guin; theoretical texts from Augustine, Luther, Nietzsche, Freud, Arendt. Conducted in English. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ENG 274 The Pleasures of Not Thinking: Romanticism and the Irrational (4 Credits)

Romantic writers were obsessed with uncertainty, ignorance and the irrational, unthinking mind. Concerned with the unusual ideas that surface when one is sleeping or spaced out, absorbed or intoxicated, Romanticism embraced reason’s alternatives: forgetting, fragmentation, stupidity and spontaneous, uncontrollable emotion. From Wordsworth’s suggestion that children are wiser than adults, to Keats’s claim that great writers are capable of remaining uncertain without reaching for fact or reason, Romantic poets and novelists suggested that one has something to learn from not thinking. Students read texts by Austen, Blake, Burke, Coleridge, Cowper, De Quincey, Freud, Kant, Keats, Locke and Rousseau. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ENG 280/ WLT 280 Historical Memory and the Global Novel (4 Credits)

Offered as ENG 280 and WLT 280. This course explores the relationship between history and memory in a series of post-WW2 “global” novels, texts that somehow straddle or transcend national traditions and marketplaces. This course interrogates how art might ethically engage with—or seek refuge from—historical “events” such as colonial and post-colonial violence, total/nuclear war, authoritarian military coups, global terrorism, trans-Atlantic slavery and the Holocaust. Major course themes include the relationship between the personal and the historical, the national and the global, the generational transfer of trauma, feelings of guilt and complicity, and the idea of historical memory itself. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

FYS 107 Women of the Odyssey (4 Credits)

Homer’s Odyssey presents a gallery of memorable women: Penelope above all, but also Nausicaa, Calypso and Circe. Helen plays a cameo role, while Clytemnestra is regularly invoked as a negative example. Together these women define a spectrum of female roles and possibilities: the faithful wife, the bride-to-be, the temptress, the adulteress, the murderer. The course begins with a careful reading of the Odyssey, then studies the afterlife of its female characters in the Western literary tradition. Readings are drawn from authors both ancient (Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Ovid) and modern (H.D., Robert Graves, Louise Glück, Margaret Drabble). This course counts toward the classics, classical studies and study of women and gender majors. Enrollment limited to 16 first-years. WI

Fall, Spring, Variable

FYS 165 Childhood in African Literature (4 Credits)

A study of childhood as an experience in the present and as a transition into adulthood, and of the ways in which it is intimately tied to social, political and cultural histories, and to questions of self and national identity. How does the violence of colonialism and decolonization reframe our understanding of childhood innocence? How do African childhood narratives represent such crises as cultural alienation, loss of language, exile and memory? How do competing national and cultural ideologies shape narratives of childhood? Texts include Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, Zoë Wicomb’s You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town, Ngugi wa Thiongo’s Weep Not Child and Tahar Ben Jelloun’s The Sand Child. Enrollment limited to 16 first-years. WI {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

FYS 167 Viking Diaspora (4 Credits)

The Norse colonies of Iceland and Greenland and the attempted settlement of Vinland in North America were the first European societies of the New World, revealing patterns of cultural conflict and adaptation that anticipated British colonization of the mid-Atlantic seaboard seven centuries later. This course compares the strengths and weaknesses of the medieval Icelandic Commonwealth, founded in 930, with the 1787 Constitution of the United States, both political systems facing serious crises within two generations. Sources for these experimental communities are the oral memories of founding families preserved in the later Íslendingasögur (Sagas of Icelanders) of the 13th century. This course counts toward the world literatures, English and medieval studies majors. Enrollment limited to 16 first-years. WI

Fall, Spring, Variable

GER 231wc Topics in German Cinema-Weimar Cinema (4 Credits)

During the brief period between the fall of the Kaiser and the rise of the Nazis, Germany was a hotbed of artistic and intellectual innovation, giving rise to an internationally celebrated film industry.  With an eye to industrial, political, and cultural forces, this course explores the aesthetic experience of modernity and modernization through formal, narrative, and stylistic analyses of feature films from the "Golden Age" of German cinema. Films by Wiene, Lange, Murnau, Pabst, Ruttmann, Sternberg, Sagan and Riefenstahl. Conducted in English. {A}{H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GER 269tr Colloquium: Topics in Transnational German Studies-Transatlantic Romantic (4 Credits)

This course explores cultural exchange between German and the US in the nineteenth century. The class reads Margaret Fuller on Bettina von Arnim, explores the under-examined influence of Emerson on Nietzsche, follows in the footsteps of Thoreau and Goethe. Discussions are driven by student readings and research projects. As the class follows the Romantics’ explorations of nature, the environment, identity, death, gender and the unconscious, students delve into what it means to be human in the modern age and discover why the Romantic moment is still their own. In English, with readings in German available for students of German. Enrollment limited to 18. (E) {H}{L}

Spring, Annually

JUD 260 Colloquium: Yiddish Literature and Culture (4 Credits)

Why did Yiddish, the everyday language of Jews in east Europe and beyond, so often find itself at the bloody crossroads of art and politics? From dybbuks and shlemiels to radicals and revolutionaries, the course explores Yiddish stories, drama, and film as sites for social activism, ethnic and gender performance, and artistic experimentation in Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Americas. How did post-Holocaust engagements with Yiddish memorialize a lost civilization and forge an imagined homeland defined by language and culture rather than borders? All texts in translation. No prerequisites. Enrollment limited to 18. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

JUD 263 Colloquium: The Jewish Graphic Novel (4 Credits)

Traces the history of major antecedents to the graphic novel and related works, including illustrated books, journalistic cartoons, and comics and sequential art. Topics include Jewish secularism; Yiddish theatre and literature; comic strips; comic books; editorial and magazine cartoons; book, magazine, and other forms of illustration; and a range of Jewish graphic novels, primarily from the United States, Canada, and Israel, with some consideration of creators and publications from Europe and the Middle East. {A}{L}

Spring

JUD 362yl Seminar: Topics in Jewish Studies-Yiddishland (4 Credits)

Explores the relationship between East European Jewish history and post-Holocaust and post-Communist memory through the prism of Yiddishland, the dream of a transnational homeland defined by language and culture rather than borders. The seminar includes a course field trip to Poland over March break. Enrollment limited to 15. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {H}{L}

Spring, Variable

POR 233 Borderlands of Portuguese: Multilingualism, Language Policy and Identity (4 Credits)

This course considers the shifting borders of Portuguese as a local, national and global language. The course explores language diversity within and across Lusophone countries and communities, noting differences in pronunciation and vocabulary and ways in which some varieties are esteemed and others stigmatized. Th course examines how different institutions have promoted and shaped Portuguese within and beyond officially Portuguese-speaking nations, and addresses multilingualism and ways in which Portuguese interacts with English, Spanish, Cape Verdean Creole and Indigenous languages in Brazil and Africa. Throughout, students consider views of writers and musicians as they reflect upon the language of their creative expression and what it means to be Lusophone in the world today. Course taught in Portuguese. Prerequisite: POR 125 or POR 200, or equivalent. {F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

POR 381di Seminar: Topics in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies- Decolonial Imaginaries and Aesthetics (4 Credits)

In this seminar we will explore some of the entangled and contested colonial and postcolonial histories of diverse Portuguese-language communities, through the work of writers, visual artists, filmmakers, and musicians from Africa, Europe, and the Americas. We will discuss colonialism and its legacies, migratory and diasporic flows, contemporary contours of a Portuguese-language transnationalism, and decolonization as a concept encompassing a range of social activism and as expressed or envisioned in different forms of cultural production. Course conducted in Portuguese. Prerequisite: 200-level course in Brazilian or comparative Lusophone culture and society taught in Portuguese. Enrollment limited to 14. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {A}{F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

RES 126 Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature: Madmen, Conmen and Government Clerks (4 Credits)

Populated with many unique and eccentric characters--from revolutionary socialists to runaway human noses--nineteenth-century Russian literature displays a startling experimentation and innovation that advanced Russia to the vanguard of Western literature. Encompassing poetry, fiction and journalism, this survey explores how authors such as Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov positioned literature at the center of public discourse, as a venue for addressing important philosophical, political, religious and social issues, including gender and class relations; personal and national identity; and the role of the writer in public life. Conducted in English. No previous knowledge of Russian is required. {L}

Fall, Spring, Annually

RES 127 Manuscripts Don't Burn: Literature and Dissent Under Stalin (4 Credits)

Explores how Russian literary culture responded to the tumult and upheaval of the twentieth century, an epoch encompassing the Bolshevik Revolution, two World Wars, the ascent of Stalin, and the decline and collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as unprecedented aesthetic innovations. While spanning key artistic movements of the period (including the avant-garde and other modernist tendencies, Socialist Realism, conceptualism, and postmodernism), the survey focuses on Stalinism and its aftermath, considering how Soviet writers developed strategies of dissent and protest in literature. Conducted in English, no previous knowledge of Russian required.

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

RES 264/ WLT 264 Dostoevsky (4 Credits)

Offered as RES 264 and WLT 264. Focuses on close reading of the major novels, short fiction, and journalism of Dostoevsky, one of the greatest writers in modern literature. Combining penetrating psychological insight with the excitement of crime fiction, Dostoevsky’s works explore profound political, philosophical, and religious issues, in a Russia populated by students and civil servants, saints and revolutionaries, writers and madmen. In our close reading of his fiction and nonfiction, we’ll trace the development of Dostoevsky’s style and ideas, considering how these texts engage with issues specific to nineteenth-century Russia, as well as the broader traditions of European literature and intellectual history. In translation. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

RES 273/ WLT 273 Cosmic Cold War: Russian and Western Science Fiction in Political Context (4 Credits)

Offered as RES 273 and WLT 273. How did the "final frontier" of space become a "front" in the Cold War? As the US and USSR competed in the Space Race, science fiction reflected political discourses in literature, film, visual art and popular culture. This course explores Russian and Western science fiction in the contexts of twentieth-century geopolitics and artistic modernism (and postmodernism), examining works by Bogdanov, Kubrick, Tarkovsky, Butler, Haraway, Pelevin and others. The survey considers science fiction’s utopian content and political function, as well as critical and dystopian modes of the genre. No prerequisites or knowledge of Russian required; first-year students are welcome to enroll. Enrollment limited to 40. {A}{H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

RES 275 Avant-Garde as Lifestyle: Cinema and Socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (4 Credits)

Explores the avant-garde film traditions of Eastern and Central Europe, including works from the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The course focuses on how avant-garde filmmakers engaged with the socialist project in the USSR and Eastern Bloc, and its call for new forms, sites and life practices. The course investigates how avant-garde cinema represents everyday life amidst the public and private spaces of socialism. In approaching the relationship between cinema and space, students consider examples of architecture (Constructivist, Functionalist, Brutalist), as well as theoretical writings by and about the avant-garde. Conducted in English, no prerequisites. {A}{H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

SPN 178/ WLT 178 Naughty Fictional Translators (4 Credits)

Offered as WLT 178 and SPN 178. This course focuses on fictional portraits of iconoclastic translators and/or interpreters. The first two months are devoted to a (relatively) "slow reading" of Don Quijote as a pioneer text in terms of attributing a central role to a fictional translator. The third month is devoted to international films and short stories--largely, but not exclusively, from the Spanish-speaking world, which has experienced a remarkable upsurge of "transfictions" (i.e., fictions about translators) since the ‘90s. Taught in English. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

SPN 260dl Topics in Latin American Cultural History-Decolonizing Latin American Literature (4 Credits)

This course offers critical perspectives on colonialism, literatures of conquest and narratives of cultural resistance in the Americas and the Caribbean. Decolonial theories of violence, writing and representation in the colonial context inform the study of literary and cultural production of this period. Readings explore several themes including indigenous knowledge, land and the natural world; orality, literacy and visual cultures; race, rebellion and liberation; slavery, piracy and power; and the coloniality of gender.  Prerequisite:  SPN 220 or equivalent.  Enrollment limited to 19. {F}{H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

SPN 372sb Seminar:Topics in Latin American and Iberian Studies-Blackness in Spain (4 Credits)

We investigate the lives of Spaniards of African origin or individuals who lived in Spain such as: painter Juan de Pareja (Velazquez’s slave) in the 17th century, whose unique portrait by Velazquez hangs at the New York Metropolitan Museum; volunteers of the Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, for example poet Langston Hughes, and nurse Salaria Kea; migrant workers; Smith alumna Lori L. Tharp, author of a travel memoir of her Junior Year Abroad, Kinky Gazpacho (2008), which she describes as a “racial coming of age.” The ultimate goal is to gain understanding of racial relations in Spain and to explore the geology of Western racism. Enrollment limited to 14. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {A}{F}

Fall, Spring, Variable

TSX 330/ WLT 330 Capstone Seminar in Translation Studies (4 Credits)

Offered as WLT 330 and TSX 330. The capstone seminar brings together a cohort of concentrators to discuss a final translation project that each student undertakes with the guidance of their adviser in the concentration and to situate the project within the framework of larger questions that the work of translation elicits. The readings focus on renowned practitioners’ reflections on the challenges, beauties and discoveries of translating. Students compare how translations transform the original novel and question the concept of original text as it interacts with the culture and the language into which it is translated. Open to students in the Concentration in Translation Studies and World Literatures. Prerequisite: WLT 150. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {L}

Spring

Additional Programmatic Information

Director of Honors for 2023–24

Thomas Roberts

Who qualifies for honors?

To qualify for honors, you need a GPA of 3.5 in the World literatures major by your junior year. Only Smith College (including Picker and Smithsonian), Five College and Smith College Junior Year Abroad courses are counted. You must also have a strong academic background in general and be able to work independently. In March or April, the director of honors verifies grades of all juniors and invites qualified students to apply for honors.

What does an honors student do?

Honors students write a thesis over the course of two semesters and meet regularly with their thesis advisers to discuss progress and read drafts. 

A first draft of at least one substantial section of the thesis (20-30 pp.) is due by the last day of the fall semester. A student who is unable to meet this deadline should meet with the senior class dean to convert the thesis to a special studies.

A full draft of the thesis is due on the first Friday of March. This deadline ensures adequate time for comments and revisions in conjunction with the adviser and the second reader before the college deadline for the final draft, due by the second week of April. (The date for uploading a PDF of the thesis on the library web page allows only for copy editing of the draft submitted in April.)

At the end of the spring semester, each honors student makes an informal presentation of her thesis to a group of other honors students, faculty and friends.

Who should write a thesis?

If you wish to write a thesis, the program expects that you will have thought long and hard about your topic, normally in the context of prior coursework about that author, genre, or general area. Proposals for theses must already be clearly, fully and specifically developed by the due date for applications to the honors program (early each fall). If you are interested in applying to the honors program, you should spend part of the summer reading, thinking and clarifying your topic.

The 8 credits for the thesis are taken in addition to the regular requirements of the major, so in thinking about whether or not to apply for honors, consider how you will finish the major itself. In fact, this is one reason why many good students choose not to do honors; they find they just have too many other things they want to learn. The worst reason to do a thesis is simply for the honors of it; the best is that you want strongly to do extensive independent work on a sharply defined topic.

When can I apply for honors?

You may apply to enter the program at the earliest during the second semester of your junior year. Your application will then be discussed at the last board meeting of the spring semester, usually before May 1. At the latest, you may apply by the beginning of the first semester of your senior year. Your application will then be discussed at the first board meeting of the fall semester, usually before September 10.

What is a World Literatures thesis?

A World Literatures thesis is a comparative study of literary texts from two or more different cultures. Some theses have concentrated on theory; others have been a translation. Reading proficiency in all languages involved is a requirement, even if you work with or write about texts translated into English. Theses range from 60 to 100 pages in length and usually employ a clearly defined theoretical framework.

How do I apply for honors?

In March or early April, you should request an initial interview with the program's director of honors to explain your interest and discuss procedures. If you are on a junior year abroad, you should email the director. It is your responsibility to interest a faculty member in your project so that he or she can volunteer to become your thesis adviser. Once your project is approved, the World Literatures Board will appoint a second reader specialized in one of the literatures of your study.

The guidelines for departmental honors and the preliminary application form may be obtained from the World Literatures director of honors or the Office of the Class Deans, College Hall 23. You must submit a signed pink "Request for a Calculation of GPA Requirements Form" to the Senior Class Dean's administrative assistant in College Hall 23 to obtain the blue "Application to Enter Departmental Honors" form. You must complete both sides of the application, starting with the calculation of your GPA, which you should do with your major adviser. A two-page description of your purposes and the texts you plan to study is required as part of the application process. For more information, see the Academic Resources and Forms on the Class Dean's website.

After obtaining your thesis adviser's signature, you present the application to the director of honors for consideration by the program. Applications are discussed by the World Literatures Board at their last meeting in the spring semester and again at the first meeting of the fall semester. In some cases, the board may request clarification or require certain changes before accepting the proposal.

The director of honors will forward the application, with the program's recommendation, to the chair of the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs, College Hall 23. The final decision regarding admission to the honors program rests with the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs.

How do I register for honors?

A prospective honors student need not register for the fall semester of the honors course. If she is admitted to the honors program, the honors course will be added automatically to her registration. However, students do need to register for the second half of the year-long course when submitting registration for the second semester. The student is responsible for making all other changes (i.e., drops and adds) to her program before the appropriate deadlines.

Honors candidates must carry a minimum course load (12 credits) in each semester of the senior year. (An Ada Comstock Scholar must see the director of the Ada Comstock Program regarding credit load).

What kind of financial help is available?

The Tomlinson Memorial Fund offers up to $500 in financial assistance, but only a limited number of these grants are available. Your request for Tomlinson funds should accompany your honors applications.

For more information on the entire process, please see the information on the Class Dean's website. https://www.smith.edu/about-smith/class-deans/honors

What should I write in my application?

In two to three pages, summarize all the information that will allow the World Literatures Board to decide on the feasibility of your project.

Essential information provides answers to three key questions: what? why? how?

  1. What do I want to write about? (Topic)
  2. Why do I want to write about this topic? (Relevance, previous preparation)
  3. How do I want to write about it? (Method, tentative outline of chapters)

The board is willing to examine a limited amount of additional material—for instance, a select bibliography of primary and secondary sources, or a paper you have already written on one of the texts in your proposal. The Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs (SHIP), however, will look only at your thesis application, so it should be complete in itself.

An example of an application

"Readings of fiction written in and about modern South Africa and China remain incomplete without taking into account the overpowering legacies of colonialism and domestic political traumas. During and following the long period of apartheid (1948–1994) in South Africa and, in China, the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) and the 1989 Tiananmen Incident, what roles could the writer take in (re)defining these modern nations? Specifically, what does the presence of Euro-North American thought and art in narratives about the quest for identity suggest about the possibilities for an autonomous national literature within these nations?

"To address this question, I intend to examine how two authors, Nadine Gordimer (b.1923) and Hong Ying (b.1962), appropriate Euro-North American influences to serve specific socio-political functions in narrating their countries' respective political traumas. The thesis will be grounded in close readings of allusions to Western culture in four novels: Gordimer's Burger's Daughter (1979), a novel of apartheid, and her first post-apartheid novel, The House Gun (1998), Hong's autobiographical Daughter of the River (1997) and her earlier Summer of Betrayal(1992), a novel on the Tiananmen Massacre and its aftermath.

A further paragraph relating relevant history to the texts to be studied, another summarizing contrasts between them and a preliminary list of historical and theoretical sources would conclude this proposal.

Titles of recent theses

  • "Subverting Mother/Lands: How Black Women of the 1970s reclaimed the New Negro, Négritude, and Negrismo"
  • Tentacular Thinking: Medusa in and of the Anthropocene"
  • "Visiones en el Horizonte: La  Liminalidad y su Expresión en Tres Novelas Cubano/Americanas" (Visions on the Horizon: Liminality and its Expression in Three Cuban/American Novels)
  • "A translation of Part I of Vincent Ravalec's Wendy"

What is the second reader's role?

Because a World Literatures thesis involves at least two different fields of competence, you should seek advice and feedback from both your advisor and your second reader. For the same reason, the director of honors should be sure that the adviser and second reader consult with each other early in the process to make sure they agree on procedures and method.

Are there any other requirements once my application has been approved?

A student accepted into the honors program must make an appointment for "bibliographic assistance" with a reference librarian at the libraries relevant to the project, for a personalized session geared specifically to her thesis project. This meeting must take place before mid-October at the latest. It will take about an hour and will be scheduled at the mutual convenience of the reference librarian and the student. After the library meeting, the appropriate librarian should sign and date the yellow "Required Library Instruction Form" and forward it to the chair of the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs, College Hall 101.

How do I withdraw from the program?

To withdraw from writing a thesis, you need permission from the director of honors, who, after consultation with your thesis adviser, relays your request to the chair of the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs. If you've made good progress and produced some revised writing, the thesis project may be converted into a Special Studies of one or two semesters. After receiving approval from the chair of the subcommittee, you must submit a Special Studies form to the registrar.

How do I prepare the manuscript?

Guidelines for preparing an honors thesis are available in the Office of the Class Deans, College Hall 101. Support staff in the Technology Commons in the basement of Seelye and the Center for Foreign Languages and Culture (CFLAC) in Wright Hall are available for consultation and can provide equipment, some materials and guided assistance for the mounting of visual materials. You must submit two copies of your thesis to the college. One copy is given to the program's director of honors. The other copy (on acid-free paper) is turned in to the Senior Class Dean, College Hall 101, for later submission to the library.

Can I get an extension?

An extension of up to five days from the initial due date may be granted at the discretion of the program's director of honors. A further extension of no longer than two weeks from the initial due date may be granted only by the chair of the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs, upon written application from the program's director of honors.

What happens during the thesis presentation?

At the thesis presentation, you will have ten minutes to explain your project to an audience that includes your thesis adviser and readers, World Literatures faculty members and students; you may also invite family and friends. (Ten minutes is time enough to read, at the most, five double-spaced typed pages.) The idea is to communicate some of what you've found out, give some useful advice to future thesis-writers, and receive public recognition for the honors work you've done. Somewhere in the presentation, give a summary of your purpose and your conclusions. You may want to read a paragraph from your introduction or ending. Handing out a page or two from the texts you studied may also be a good idea. Before the presentation, schedule a practice session for your presentation with your thesis adviser, to be sure you're observing the time limit and explaining not only what you did in the thesis but why your work is significant.

Your presentation will be followed by ten minutes of questions from the audience. This is a friendly audience; no one is out to make you look bad. Remember, too, that this oral presentation counts for only 10% of your overall thesis grade. Your thesis counts for 60% and your grades in the World Literatures major count for 30%.

Who will evaluate my thesis?

Your thesis adviser and second reader each provide an honors designation (highest honors, high honors, honors, pass, or fail). If they substantially disagree, the program board will name a third reader. The final honors designation, submitted for recommendation to the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs, is based on your thesis, your presentation and your grades in the major.

Study Abroad

Students pursuing the study of world literatures are encouraged to take advantage of the various opportunities that study abroad provides for them to study languages and cultures.

SEARCH STUDY ABROAD PROGRAMS
Aerial view of Rio de Janeiro at dusk

Faculty

Justin Cammy

Jewish Studies

Professor of Jewish Studies and of World Literatures

Justin Cammy

Craig Davis

English Language & Literature

Professor of English Language & Literature

Professor Craig Davis

Reyes Lazaro

Spanish & Portuguese

Associate Professor of Spanish, Director of the Translation Studies Concentration

Placeholder Image

Malcolm McNee

Spanish & Portuguese

Associate Professor of Spanish & Portuguese

Malcolm McNee

Torleif Persson

English Language & Literature

Lecturer in English Language & Literature

Tom Roberts

Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies

Assistant Professor of Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies

Tom Roberts

Emeriti & Retired Faculty

David Ball
Professor Emeritus of French Studies and Comparative Literature

Margaret Bruzelius
Lecturer in World Literatures

Gertraud Gutzmann
Professor Emerita of German Studies

Ann R. Jones
Esther Cloudman Dunn Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature

Hans Vaget
Helen and Laura Shedd Professor Emerita of German Studies and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature

Resources & Opportunities

Academic Programs and Professional Associations

 

UMass Comparative Literature
Comparative literature at UMass Amherst is actively engaged in defining new paradigms and problems within the discipline. The relationship between translation and transnationalism, theory and media, the future of national literatures in the era of globalization, gender and cultural formation across time, literary history and psychoanalysis, "East"-"West" cultural encounters, human rights and global censorship, postcolonial and diaspora studies, the aesthetics of late modernity and studies in the moving image.

Modern Language Association
Founded in 1883, the Modern Language Association of America provides opportunities for its members to share their scholarly findings and teaching experiences with colleagues and to discuss trends in the academy.

American Literary Translators Association
The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), founded in 1978 at The University of Texas at Dallas, bridges cultural communication among countries and languages through the art and craft of literary translation.

UMass Translation Center
The Translation Center provides a full range of services, including translation and interpretation services, Web page translation, software localization, video voice–overs, creative translations of marketing materials and multi–lingual word processing and design.

Five College Center for the Study of World Languages (FCCSWL)
This center coordinates the study of the least commonly taught languages for the Five College consortium. The center also developes materials and curricula for language learning with an emphasis on the least commonly studied languages spoken in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe.

European Network for Comparative Literary Studies
REELC/ENCLS aims to provide a European space for interdisciplinary dialogues about culture, literature and literary studies and to facilitate exchanges of ideas and information among scholars and organiszations committed to the study of general and comparative literature, promoting international collaborative research and teaching, generating relevant debates through publications and international conferences, enabling the circulation of students and staff, and generally supporting and internationalising the work of regional, national, cross-national associations.

MESEA: The Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies: Europe and the Americas
MESEA promotes the study of the ethnic cultures of Europe, Africa and the Americas in their circumatlantic relations from a transdisciplinary literary, historical and cultural studies perspective.

Journals

Metamorphoses
The journal of the Five College Faculty Seminar on Literary Translation. Published in the spring and fall, the journal provides a forum for literary translation out of (and into) all languages, and for papers on the theory and practice of literary translation.

World Literature Today
World Literature Today is the University of Oklahoma's bimonthly magazine of literature and culture.

Comparative Literature and Culture
CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture is a peer-reviewed quarterly of scholarship in the humanities and social sciences published by Purdue University Press.

Words Without Borders
Words without Borders translates, publishes and promotes the contemporary international literature. It seeks to connect international writers to the general public, to students and educators, and to print and other media and to serve as a primary online location for a global literary conversation.

Online Archival and Bibliographic Resources and Research Guides

Columbia University Libraries: African Literature on the Internet
Columbia University's African studies resource list.

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC) Resource Center
The MCLC Resource Center is maintained by the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the Ohio State University in conjunction with the journal Modern Chinese Literature and Culture.

Latin American Network Information Center - Literature
A list of Latin American resources maintained by the University of Texas at Austin.

Smith College Comparative Literature Research Skills Guide
What all Smith comparative literature students should know.

The World Literatures Program awards the Chinua Achebe prize for distinction in the major to a graduating student majoring in WLT.

Previous winners:

2023

Emma Solis and Pengxi Yuan

2022

Rosie Poku

2021

Kerry Walker

2020

Kelly Lincoln and Ember Plummer

Contact The Program in World Literatures

Pierce Hall 105
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3302 Email: jroberts@smith.edu

Department chair: 
Craig Davis 

Administrative assistant: 
Jennifer Roberts