Naomi Gilad - Comparative Literature
Cross the boundaries between literature and film, visual arts and popular culture, and explore civilizations through their own artistic traditions. Study in the vibrant and inspiring city of Canterbury with an extraordinary literary history and links to some of the world’s greatest writers.
Discover works ranging from the ancient classics of Greece and Rome to the modern age. Develop an understanding of historical and cross-cultural literary traditions and the ways in which they interact, and explore what literature can tell us about different social, cultural and historical periods.
You do not need to be able to read in a foreign language to study Comparative Literature. The global texts studied will be provided in full translation, alongside literature originally written in English.
Throughout your course you will explore questions such as: What can a book say that a film cannot? What makes a tragedy by Sophocles so different from one written by Shakespeare? How have writers such as James Joyce engaged with Greek mythology? What is the evolution of the fairy tale from Charles Perrault to Walt Disney? In what ways might an English nineteenth-century novel of female adultery relate to a French, German, or Russian one?
Themes and areas you may explore include politics, testimony and power; the fairy tale; crime fiction; Latin American fiction, postcolonial literature; literature and seduction and creative writing.
In addition to lectures and seminars, you can take part in events including literary readings, guest lectures and seminars. We offer workshops that provide a range of valuable skills that will enable you to apply your knowledge in the wider world and make you attractive to employers in a range of professions. At the end of your course, you could even add a year in Computing, Data Analytics, Journalism or a Language to your degree to increase your employability.
“(Doing Comparative Literature at Kent) I was exposed to literature I never would have picked up, ideas that shape the modern world we now live in and new ways of looking at things I thought I already knew a lot about.”
– Kuba Shand-Baptiste, graduate and commissioning editor at The Independent.
“The variety on my course has made me adaptable and I think I’ve gained a lot of transferable skills. I visited other universities but none stuck in my mind as much as Kent. I think it was the atmosphere and the attitude towards learning that people have here.”
– Naomi Gilad, graduate and Academic Instructor.
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Duration: 3 years full-time, 6 years part-time
The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.
On most programmes, you study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also be able to take ‘elective’ modules from other programmes so you can customise your programme and explore other subjects that interest you.
This literary-critical module deals with a wide range of selected international tales ranging from antiquity to the present day. The module addresses issues such as the development of oral folktales and fairy tales into written forms, and discusses various short prose genres including Aesopian fables, myths, folktales and fairy tales, as well as tales of the fantastic, nineteenth-century literary fairy tales, and the modern short story.
The framework of discussion comprises a general survey of the issues that face the comparatist. In the course of the module students practise different methods of literary analysis, including close reading and comparative analysis by examining story-motifs and story-structures, and by considering symbolic meanings in the light of psychoanalytic concepts. Students also explore questions of transmission and transformation (e.g. how stories and motifs travel from one culture to another and alter in shape and emphasis) and questions of genre (for example the fantastic). A selection of critical texts on narrative devices and patterns, on psychoanalytical, structuralist and feminist approaches to the fairy tale and on genre theories are studied in conjunction with the primary texts.
This module will introduce students to some of the most influential theories of world literature, which are studied alongside a selection of literary examples. The theories range from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's reflections on world literature (Weltliteratur) to describe the international circulation and reception of literary works in Europe to Rabindranath Tagore's renaming of world literature (visva-sahitya) in his native Bengali as a model for global interconnectedness that would help foster peaceful worldwide alliances.
Throughout the module students will reflect on the relationship between national literatures and world literature, and on the ways in which the literary market facilitates and complicates transnational exchanges of ideas. In addition, students will be given the opportunity to hone their close reading skills by studying a selection of ancient and modern world creation myths. These include texts from the Near East, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe. The module offers students the unique opportunity to analyse in detail different ways in which cultural backgrounds can shape literary productions, and how stories, motifs and themes travel across national boundaries. In the course of the module, we discuss key literary terms and concepts, including fictionality, literariness, translation, the canon, and the various modes of reception and circulation that shape our understanding of world literature.
This module offers students a wide-ranging grounding in classical literature as a basis for the further study of Western literature within a comparative framework. Major works of ancient Greek and Roman literature are studied in order to enable students to appreciate literary engagement with the classical world: for example, myth; the relationship between human beings and the gods, between the sexes, and between the human and the animal; and the journey motif. Themes explored may include sexuality, violence, conceptions of justice, and metamorphosis.
The module introduces students to some of the major genres of Western literature (tragedy, comedy, the epic), and considers how these were theorised in antiquity. It also encourages students to reflect on questions of cultural transmission, and on why the myths represented in classical literature have proved to be such a rich source for the literature of the West.
The twentieth-century imagination was marked by a spirit of doubt, especially of the Enlightenment faith in reason's capacity to advance humankind to happiness and freedom. In this module will be discussed some classic fictional explorations of freedom and social, political, religious and racial oppression which have had an international impact. These texts will be read as works of literature in their own right as well as contextualised with the ideas they question and propagate: universal happiness, human liberation, and morality without God, personal and political freedom, the self and its responsibility.
The 'knowledge of good and evil' is unique to human beings. It informs the individual’s conscience and determines the moral systems on which societies are based. The violation of moral codes is expected to induce the experience of guilt, while the lack of any sense of guilt is considered psychopathic. As the manifestation of an internal, and sometimes also external, struggle of varying intensity, guilt is an almost universal concern of literary texts; as is the quest for redemption, the alleviation of guilt and despair – through atonement, forgiveness or denial. In this module, we will analyse and discuss literary texts, which explore the frequently fuzzy edges of the experiences of guilt and redemption as a human quandary and as perceived against changing conceptions of morality. Texts included in the reading list engage with questions of personal and collective guilt incurred with hubris, cruelty, the violation of animal rights, and genocide, etc.
Who and what is 'a child', and what is adolescence? This module examines the representation of childhood and adolescence in a cross-section of texts from modern literature within the context of World Literature studies. Students will pay close attention to the rhetoric and techniques of storytelling woven around these themes, as well as to relevant socio-political debates, while also examining how these specific texts function across cultures.
The module encourages students to find innovative approaches to the topic, and at the same time invites them to explore the relationship between literature and childhood and the joy of reading often associated with childhood and adolescence.
This module introduces students to a selection of famous femmes fatales in literary works from biblical times to the present day, as well as in film noir. We will closely analyse representations of women who bring about the downfall of men, with a particular emphasis on the gender-political and wider ideological implications of specific representational choices. Students will critically analyse the functions and features of specific fatal female figures by looking closely at the socio-cultural backgrounds from which these representations emerge.
The module commences with an introduction to some archetypal fatal women in the Bible (including Eve, Judith and Delilah) and in classical Greek mythology (including Helen, Circe and the Sirens). We then proceed to study representations of femmes fatales in various historical periods and movements, including the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, Romanticism, Decadence and the twentieth century. By drawing on relevant concepts from feminist and queer theory, as well as historical and psychoanalytical approaches, the module aims to foster an awareness of the ideological and psychological issues that are at stake in all representations of gendered conflicts.
You have the opportunity to select elective modules in this stage.
This module is designed to give a theoretically-grounded understanding of Comparative Literature and its methods. Students will have an overview of the brief history, fundamental debates, theories and different areas of focus of the discipline of Comparative Literature, as well as learning about the important schools of literary theory that are relevant to Comparative Literature.
This course introduces students to the fiction (novels, novellas, and short stories) of some of the most influential twentieth- and twenty-first- century Latin American writers. The module ranges from Borges to the extraordinary literary phenomenon or explosion of the 'Boom generation', the post-Boom novel, and the recently acclaimed Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño (all studied in English translation). The course offers students the unique opportunity to study a fascinating corpus of literature celebrated for its creative innovation, fictional games, puzzles, labyrinths, fabulous and supernatural events, multiple storytellers, and magical realist writing. The course also addresses questions of gender, class, and social, cultural, and technological changes, as well as representations of identity, subjectivity, time, space, and landscape.
This module investigates representations of gender and identity in a selection of texts by women writers from different temporal, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds. In particular, it seeks to explore the way in which representations of "self" and "other", love and desire, madness and motherhood reflect the respective socio-cultural contexts and the situation of women therein. Corporeal aesthetics, patterns of behaviour labelled as feminine or masculine, representations of transgressive conduct, and relations of power will be investigated, drawing on classic feminist theory and historiography (Wollstonecraft, Beauvoir, Irigaray, Butler, Moi, Badinter), psychoanalytical thought (Freud), narratology (Genette), genre-theory (Bakhtin) subject-theory (Sartre, Levinas, Derrida) and studies in visual culture (Barthes, Sontag, Mulvey).
Students will be asked to engage with the significance of images and representations of women and men proliferated through literature. These representations provide or question role models and perpetuate or problematise stereotypical versions of female/male goals and aspirations. Furthermore, emphasis will be placed on close readings of the selected literary works, on cultural differences and variations, and on how conceptions of sex and gender are changing in the course of time.
This module introduces students to a range of nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first century literary and cinematic representations of vampires from different cultural backgrounds. It explores the reasons for the abiding allure of the figure of the vampire both in popular culture and in literary fiction.
The module will examine the ways in which vampires function as polyvalent symbols of specifically modern preoccupations, for the emergence and popularity of vampire tales is intricately bound up with the advent and wider cultural ramifications of modernity. What do vampires represent in each of the works discussed? What hidden desires and anxieties do they allow authors and filmmakers to express? The vampire is an allegorically highly potent figure that is suspended between life and death and between animal and human existence. Vampires frequently serve as foils to discuss more contentious matters, in particular questions relating to sexuality, gender roles, class, immortality and the desire for everlasting youth, being an outsider, and addiction.
The award of literary prizes is a highly potent tool of cultural policy that frequently determines the wider national and international impact of a literary work. As such it is of crucial relevance to the study of comparative literature in a number of ways: the award of literary prizes reflects the beginnings of the successful or, as the case may be, the (ultimately) abortive formation of literary canons; moreover, it affords insights into processes of cultural production and marketing and reveals in which ways political and economic agendas are tied up with these processes; it also offers a perspective on transnational and transcultural aspects of the production and reception of literature and indicates shifting notions of the social function of literature and the writer; literature is thus understood as a cultural product in ever changing contexts which is frequently subject to external forces of which literary prizes become indicators or even 'enforcers'.
This module will investigate with the methods of literary and cultural studies the development of a number of major literary awards which have achieved global significance, among them the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Man Booker Prize, the Pulitzer Prize (for Fiction), the Prix Goncourt, and the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels. (This list may be modified according to precedent to accommodate the topical relevance of individual award winners in the future.) Seminars will develop a historical perspective by scrutinising and analysing award winners of the past and their most recent counterparts in their different production and marketing contexts as well as in changing reception contexts: seminars will include the close reading of individual works as well as their critical reception, and the analysis of marketing strategies in various media (e.g. reports in culture magazines, reviews, displays in book shops, translations, etc.); final winners will be interpreted in the context of the respective long and short lists from which they emerged; historical developments will be taken into account, for instance by investigating 'forgotten' prize winners in comparison with those who, largely through the agency of academic intervention, ‘made it’ into the canon; the module thus also offers an insight into the history of the discipline of literary studies.
This module gives students the opportunity to examine literature and film that is politically and ideologically orientated. The central focus will be on the ways in which literature represents, reflects on, and participates in structures of power.
Examples will be taken from around the world. Over the course of the module, we may read accounts of slavery in America, the rise and fall of Fascism in Europe, the postcolonial politics of Nigeria, the subsumption of Tibet, and the fall out of Russian Communism.
This approach will allow us to think about dynamics of power from a global perspective and will give us the chance to think about the role of literature and film in a world framed by competing ideologies and seemingly endless political tensions.
You have the opportunity to select elective modules in this stage.
The module is predicated on independent research activity. It will build on the skills and experiences acquired through Stages 1 and 2. Students will write a dissertation on a topic of their own choice. The topic must be on a literary or related subject and must have a comparative element. The dissertation gives students the opportunity to satisfy their intellectual curiosity by individually and independently researching a large-scale project of their own choice. Throughout autumn and spring terms students will be given guidance by a chosen supervisor, but the rhythm of research, the writing and frequency of meetings between supervisor and student is left to the individual student to determine. The SWIPE undergraduate conference will give students a chance to present their own work, discuss their and their fellow students' work and to test some of their ideas in a larger context.
The module seeks to explore how novels and plays are adapted and interpreted for the screen. We will analyse how certain texts lend themselves to multiple reshaping, such as Laclos' Dangerous Liaisons. We will also analyse lesser-known works that have gone on to become feature films, such as Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Story, filmed as Eyes Wide Shut. Adaptations directed by internationally recognized filmmakers such as Roman Polanski, Vittorio De Sica, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, and Pier Paolo Pasolini will be examined with a view to eliciting and understanding their particular approach to, and filmic vision of, written texts.
This is a module about the intersection of colonial power relations, anti-colonialism, postcolonialism, feminism, and identity politics in literature that interrogates the influence of imperialism on a sense of self. It considers the writing of a number of authors from Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Cuba and India. In light of the complex relationship between coloniser and colonised, we consider the ideology of many of these writers, as well as the ways in which their politics are articulated in their writing, whether fiction or non-fiction. We also examine to what extent this literature is representative of other postcolonial concerns such as nationhood and national consciousness, hybridity and assimilation, and exile and alienation within the larger context of cultural theory. Particularly significant is our interrogation of the violence inscribed in both the colonial system and the colonised's fight for independence as seen from the perspective of Frantz Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks (1952), A Dying Colonialism (1959), and The Wretched of the Earth (1961).
Studying the primary and secondary texts in English, we bring awareness to the reading scene of the translation process as an important development in the transnational study of comparative literature in a globalised world. In so doing, we acknowledge the significance of indigenous languages and dialects as signifiers of subject-hood in conflict with the coloniser's language. By exploring a variety of anti-colonial resistance and liberation discourses in relation to the development of current postcolonial thinking, the module also offers an insight into the history of the discipline of Postcolonial studies.
Don Juan and Casanova are archetypes of the male seducer who, in the Western European tradition, stand for different interpretations of excessive passion. Don Juan hunts for virgins, nuns, and other women who are difficult to get (in that they belong to other men). Casanova, in turn, was attracted to the easy accessibility of moments of intense pleasure, which, although within potential reach to all, only few knew how to enjoy.
In this module we shall chart the metamorphoses of these two almost mythical figures since their emergence in seventeenth-century Spain and eighteenth-century Italy to explore the relationship between literature, music, film, and the erotic within different cultural and historical contexts. In our close analyses of plays, novellas, opera, and film, we will engage with the works of Freud and Jung, and we will consider gender as both a structure of power and, for Casanova, as a potentially fluid construct. More broadly, we will consider the historical, social and political contexts that frame various incarnations of Don Juan and Casanova, and we will use these central figures to answer important questions about the depiction of society, religion, sexuality, and morality.
How have twentieth-century writers across the world negotiated and appropriated Shakespeare's omnipresent cultural influence? How have they revised, reinvented, and reimagined his legacy in Europe, Asia, and the Americas (North, Central, and South)? This module focuses on a selection of Shakespeare’s most influential plays (Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, and The Tempest) in order to examine how their thematic, historical, and cultural concerns have been transplanted to a wide range of global locations including the Caribbean, Germany, Japan, a farm in the USA, and the Argentine Pampas. The module also engages with theoretical notions related to the act of appropriating Shakespeare, including the theory of intertextuality, the Benjaminian concept of the 'afterlife’ of a text, and Genette’s study of the ‘palimpsest’ as a text derived from a pre-existent text. In addition, the module will reflect on issues of race, gender, and cultural identity embedded in the adaptations of the bard in the various world contexts in which his work has been complexly modernized and redeployed.
From the time of the Bible, the figure of the devil has haunted the Western cultural landscape. Understood as the embodiment of evil, a figure of temptation, and a potential foil to God, the Devil works as a complex ethical symbol. Far from being limited to their biblical origins, Satanic characters are often used as symbolic currency, employed as a means of critiquing existing social structures and, often, challenging the status quo.
The fascination sparked by the notion of pure evil and unbridled malevolence has resulted in an abundance of literary and artistic accounts. Maximilian Rudwin goes so far as to claim that 'Lacking the devil, there would simply be no literature.' (1931) This module will explore the religious, moral and political meanings behind the appearance of the Devil across a range of literary texts and films; the aim is to trace the ways in which the figure has evolved over time and across cultures. Come and join us on a journey into hell!
You have the opportunity to select elective modules in this stage.
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