Comparative literature: history and theory (2019/2020)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Simone Rebora
Simone Rebora
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
II semestre (Lingue e letterature straniere) dal Feb 17, 2020 al May 30, 2020.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes of the course “Comparative Literature: History and Theory” LM37 lead students to acquire a deep knowledge of the historical, cultural, and literary context in comparison and contrast as related to the subject imparted. By allowing students to master comparative methodological tools, the course aims to provide useful information to comment, interpret, contextualize, historicize texts belonging to different literary genres and to develop hermeneutic-critical analysis skills. The acquired tools will address long-lasting themes and topoi belonging to chronologically and topographically different literatures. At the end of the course, the student will be able to demonstrate that s/he has acquired knowledge and skills that are in-depth and adequate to perfect critical judgment (knowledge and understanding); to have gained the ability to learn and understand different methodologies necessary to argue, as well as skills to develop personal ideas (learning skills); to know how to convey information, new topics and problems related to the subject imparted (making judgments); finally, having the ability to integrate knowledge and manage complexity with a high degree of autonomy in broader (or interdisciplinary) contexts (communication skills).


Computational and Empirical Methods in Literary Studies

The course will present and discuss some of the most recent theoretical and methodological developments in literary studies, favored by interdisciplinary interactions with the fields of Digital Humanities and empirical aesthetics.
These theoretical-methodological frameworks will be compared with critical traditions such as structuralism, narratology, and reception theory. The analysis will focus on risks and opportunities in the combination of traditional research methods with quantitative and experimental approaches.
Each analysis will be developed starting from a case study, in a distinctly comparative perspective. Through close reading of selected passages and comparison with multiple critical interpretations, the course will touch upon genres and phenomena such as combinatory literature, encyclopedic novel, women’s writing, fantasy, and the fantastic.


1. Italo Calvino, Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore (1979)
2. Marcel Proust, Sur la lecture (1906)
3. Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)
4. James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939) [selected passages]
5. E.T.A. Hoffmann, Der Sandmann (1815)
6. John R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy Stories (1939)
7. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
8. Claudio Magris, Microcosmi (1998)


1. Salgaro, Massimo. 2018. “The Digital Humanities as a Toolkit for Literary Theory: Three Case Studies of the Operationalization of the Concepts of ‘Late Style,’ ‘Authorship Attribution,’ and ‘Literary Movement.’” Iperstoria 12: 50–60.
2. Kuijpers, Moniek M., Frank Hakemulder, Katalin Bálint, Miruna M. Doicaru, and Ed S. Tan. 2017. “Towards a New Understanding of Absorbing Reading Experiences.” In Narrative Absorption, edited by Frank Hakemulder, Moniek M. Kuijpers, Ed S. Tan, Katalin Bálint, and Miruna M. Doicaru, pp. 29–47. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
3. Herrmann, J. Berenike. 2018. “In a Test Bed with Kafka. Introducing a Mixed-Method Approach to Digital Stylistics.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 011 (4).
4. Van Ewijk, Petrus 2011. “Encyclopedia, Network, Hypertext, Database: The Continuing Relevance of Encyclopedic Narrative and Encyclopedic Novel as Generic Designations.” Genre 44 (2): 205–22.
5. Rebora, Simone. 2016. “On Fantasy’s Transmediality: A Cognitive Approach.” Comparatismi 1: 217–32.
6. Pianzola, Federico, Simone Rebora, and Gerhard Lauer. 2020. “Wattpad as a Resource for Literary Studies. Quantitative and Qualitative Examples of the Importance of Digital Social Reading and Readers’ Comments in the Margins.” PLoS ONE 15 (1): 46. pone.0226708.


7. Ted Underwood. 2019. Distant Horizons: Digital Evidence and Literary Change. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
8. Willie van Peer, Jèmeljan Hakemulder, and Sonia Zyngier. 2012. Scientific Methods for the Humanities. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub. [Chapter 1, Interlude, Chapters 2-4]

Assessment methods and criteria

The teaching method will involve frontal lessons to be held on three weekly days for a total load of 54 hours (9 CFU). During the lessons, students will be encouraged to participate actively, via presentations to the class and seminar-like discussions. Non-attending students will have to agree a program with some variation to facilitate independent study.
During the final oral exam, students will have to show that they have gained critical skills during the course, by means of analytical and argumentative ability to link the various theoretical and methodological frameworks in the interpretation of literary texts. Students must also speak with appropriate language.