Comparative literature: history and theory (2020/2021)

Course code
Name of lecturers
Simone Rebora, Armando Rotondi
Simone Rebora
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
II semestre (Lingue e letterature straniere) dal Feb 15, 2021 al May 29, 2021.

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).


Who is the reader? Pathways between theory and fiction
Teacher: Simone Rebora

This part of the course will focus on the figure of the reader, intended both as a character in literary texts and as a study subject in literary theory.
After a brief introduction, a series of case studies will be presented, following a tripartite structure: (1) close analysis of a narrative; (2) theoretical reflections on a related study subject; (3) discussion of critical and methodological issues.
Main study subjects will be interpretation, emotions, and empathy in literary reading, with a specific focus on issues like style and morality. Analyses will be extended to an intermedial perspective (the reader vs. the spectator) and will be supported by comparisons with 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.

1. Henry James, The Figure in the Carpet (1896)
2. Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones (1944)
3. Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (1927)
4. Arthur Schnitzler, Traumnovelle (1925)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Fleabag (2016-2019)

1. Miall, David S. 2018. “Reader-Response Theory.” In A Companion to Literary Theory, edited by David H. Richter, 114–25. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
2. Underwood, Ted. 2017. “A Genealogy of Distant Reading.” DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly 11 (2).
3. Hogan, Patrick Colm. 2016. “Affect Studies and Literary Criticism.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature.
4. Herrmann, J. Berenike, Christof Schöch, and Karina van Dalen-Oskam. 2015. “Revisiting Style, a Key Concept in Literary Studies.” Journal of Literary Theory 9 (1): 25–52.
5. Pinotti, Andrea, and Massimo Salgaro. 2019. “Empathy or Empathies? Uncertainties in the Interdisciplinary Discussion.” Gestalt Theory 41 (2): 141–58.


Transmedia storytelling
Teacher: Armando Rotondi

The second part of the “Comparative Literature” module will specifically focus on aspects of the contemporaneity and, particularly, on the interactions between literature, literary theory, and digital, online and transmedia story-telling. A particular importance will be given to those interactions and relations between European and non-European languages and literature. Specifically, the module will investigate the concepts of “narrative/fictional worlds” and expanded narrative/fictional universes, emerging technologies, and the relation with the reader and the audience. Additionally, i twill taken into account concepts such as “trans-”, “inter-”, “cross-”, and “multimedia”, as well as aspects like the use of multiple platforms in literature, media mixed, and the development of franchises. The module will be taught in English.

Main source of reference will eb selected material by Henry Jenkins. Additional reference material and bibliography will be communicated during the classes (e.g., Hutcheon).
The module will consider literary and transmedia texts from a diversity of cultural, historical and geographical environment (including some examples of best-selling literature such as Rowling’s books or Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, American and Japanese para-literature, the role of fan fictions)

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.