The Literature BA Program | Academic Requirements | Student Learning Outcomes | Minor in Literature | Courses Sequences for the Major and Minor | Courses: 1000–2999 | Courses: 3000–3999 | Courses: 4000–4999 | Faculty

The Literature Program: Lower-Level Courses (1000–2999)

1000–1999 (lower level, freshman)
2000–2999 (lower level, sophomore)


The Common Era Begins
LIT 1090
/ 4 credits / Spring
A study of the eastern Mediterranean during New Testament times—the conflict of Jewish and Roman cultures that mark the beginning of the Common Era. While the primary focus is on literary texts, visual arts as well as historical documents and accounts are also included.

College Writing
WRI 1110
Refer to College Writing Courses for description.

The West and Its Others
LIT 1140
/ 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Explores some of the history, institutions, economy, society, and culture of Britain as a dominant European cultural power and also as an imperial power influencing its colonial possessions. Race and gender are examined, as are the shifting hierarchies between and within cultures. Included are Aphra Behn, E.M. Foster, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, Rudyard Kipling, John Stewart Mill, William Shakespeare, and Mary Shelley.

Border Crossings
LIT 1150
/ 4 credits / Spring
Social borders are examined through literature that explores immigration, assimilation, and the experience of those who exist “between” cultures. A major focus is on the “hybridizing” of cultures and the way that literature expresses the blending of cultures through language and narrative structure.

Reading Our Past From the Present
LIT 1170
/ 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
A selection of literary and philosophical texts from the Western cultural tradition during the past 2,000 years, with special emphasis on the lenses through which later ages select, read, and construct the past from the present. Texts include works by St. Augustine, Shakespeare, Freud, Marx, Joyce, Brecht, and a selection of contemporary works of film and stage. Where available, texts from the Western tradition being staged on campus are used.

Modernism: The 20th Century
LIT 1190
/ 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly) / Sequence III
The beginning of the 20th century witnessed an extraordinary ferment and experimental attitude in the arts. This course examines the rise of abstraction and experimentalism in literature, painting, music, and dance in Europe and America from 1899 to the 1950s. The course also considers the artistic breakthroughs of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Graham, Cézanne, Picasso, Mallarmé, Eliot, Pound, and de Kooning, among others.

Introduction to Literature
LIT 1520
/ 4 credits / Every semester
An introduction to the principles and practice of close reading and literary criticism. Readings include a variety of literary modes, including fiction, poetry, and drama.

Introduction to the Novel
LIT 1540
/ 4 credits / Alternate years (Fall)
The rise of the novel and its continued relevance today. In addition to close readings of novels from a variety of time periods and countries, students read about the conditions that gave rise to the novel as a genre and various theoretical interpretations of the form and its functions.

Introduction to Lyric Poetry
LIT 1550
/ 4 credits / Every year
An examination of a wide array of poems from classical antiquity to the 21st century. In this course, students consider the multiple ways that poetry works to create meaning and emotion and investigate techniques of close analysis. Particularly recommended for students interested in the study of literature, creative writing, and language.

Introduction to Modern Literature
LIT 1600
/ 4 credits / Alternate years (Spring)
An introduction to the idea of modernity and its expression and practice in verse, drama, and fiction.

LIT 1650
/ 4 credits / Alternate years
The object of study is that ongoing experiment, “America.” The approach is through literature and other arts, history, national mythology, American nature, the particular version of the experiment called “the United States,” other Americas north and south, and more. The intention is to be suggestive rather than comprehensive.


American History Through Literature
LIT 2055
/ 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
Literature inhabits, reflects, creates, and ironically examines the “history” that is its context. This course observes the central narrative of American history, American institutions and anti-institutions, and the American international situation through the peculiar lens of American poetry, fiction, cinema, and other literary arts.

The Ancient Epic
LIT 2080
/ 4 credits / Alternate years / Sequence I
A reading of texts embodying the oldest myths of Western culture: the Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, and Metamorphosis. Works are considered both in their historical context and from the perspective of recent thought.

Introduction to African American Literature
LIT 2100
/ 3 credits / Alternate years / Sequence III
A survey course with emphasis on the major 20th-century works by black American writers (Countee Cullen, Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Paule Marshall, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison). The major periods of black literature (folk materials, post-slavery, Harlem Renaissance, realism and naturalism, assimilation, and the Black Arts Movement) are discussed.

Princes, Priests, and Peasants
HIS 2120
/ Sequence I
Refer to History Courses for description.

Italian American Literature and Popular Culture
LIT 2195
/ 4 credits / Sequence III
Special topic (offered irregularly)
Using the lens of the politics of whiteness, this course juxtaposes popular stereotypes with more complex views. Authors include Mario Puzo, Tina DeRosa, John Fante, and Kym Ragusa, among others. The investigation of popular culture encompasses early film classics, the iconic Godfather, and experimental films; music from the crooners to rap and hip-hop; and performance art. Attendance at two or three off-campus events is required.

Shakespeare Then and Now
THP 2205
/ Sequence I
Refer to Theatre and Performance Courses (Conservatory of Theatre Arts) for description.

Introduction to Contemporary Global Literature
LIT 2305
/ 4 credits / Alternate years
Examines how literature is shaped by intersections of the local and the global in examples drawn from five regions: North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

U.S. Short Story
LIT 2361
/ 3 credits / Alternate years
Short stories by important U.S. writers of fiction, from the beginnings of the literary tradition in the earlier 19th century (Poe, Hawthorne, Melville) to current authors. As the sequence of stories unfolds, the development of American issues unfolds as well.

Classics of European Fiction
LIT 2375
/ 4 credits / Alternate years
Short works of French, Russian, and German fiction, beginning with 18th-century quarrels between classicism and romanticism and ending with multicultural influences on the creation of 20th-century “classics.”

Literature of the South Asian Diaspora
LIT 2387
/ 4 credits / Alternate years
Students read about South Asians dislocated from their homeland, focusing on issues of cultural displacement, alienation, assimilation, and construction as they follow narratives of South Asians who attempt to preserve the traces of their ethnic, cultural, and religious identities. Authors include Jhumpa Lahiri, Bharati Mukherjee, V.S. Naipaul, and Amitav Ghosh, among others.

Colloquium I: Studies in Literature
LIT 2450
/ 4 credits / Every semester
An introduction to literary study for current and prospective literature majors. Readings are divided among three areas: primary texts, secondary texts that offer contexts for the primary texts, and works that define the study of literature. Each course section addresses its own topic.
Prerequisite: For qualified first-year students, permission of the Literature Board of Study coordinator
Note: The course is generally taken in the sophomore year; transfer students wishing to major in literature must complete LIT 2450 during their first semester at Purchase.

The Bible
LIT 2530
/ 4 credits / Alternate years / Sequence I
Readings illustrate the range of issues, styles, and contexts in the Bible, including Genesis and Exodus, Deuteronomic Histories, prophets major and minor, Job and Ecclesiastes, the Gospels, and Apocalypse. This is not a course in religion, but in a literary and cultural tradition deeply concerned with human action in relation to divinity.

Survey of U.S. Literature I
LIT 2560
/ 4 credits / Every year / Sequence II
Spans the literature of the European invasion of North America, from the 16th century through the first decades of a national publishing industry of “American” letters following the Revolutionary War. Students consider the connections between writing and colonialism, nation building, and the resistance of these powerful narratives in, for example, the few written words of the indigenous populations and the enslaved.

Survey of U.S. Literature II
LIT 2570
/ 4 credits / Every year / Sequence II
An examination of literature written in the U.S. between the 1830s and the beginning of the 20th century. Careful attention is paid to the context of western expansion, slavery and its legacy, industrialization, immigration, and other historical developments. While much of the course is devoted to the “American Renaissance,” students also consider several contemporaneous literary traditions and their interrelationships.

American Drama: From O’Neill to Albee
THP 2600
/ Sequence III
Refer to Theatre and Performance Courses (Conservatory of Theatre Arts) for description.

Literature and the City
LIT 2675
/ 4 credits / Alternate years / Sequence III
An examination of the relationship between urban life and literary creation. How have writers dealt with the changes brought on by urbanization in different places? In what ways has the city changed how writers write and people read? These and other questions are explored through the study of modern writers and cities in the Americas and Europe.

The Art of the Essay
WRI 2770
Refer to Expository Writing Courses for description.

Modernism and the Metropolis
LIT 2825
/ 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly) / Sequence III
The relationship between the developments of urban modernity and aesthetic modernism is charted through the first half of the 20th century in three major metropolitan centers: Paris, London, and New York. The focus is on British and American modernist poetry and novels.

Happiness: Philosophy, Film, Literature
PHI 2835
Refer to Philosophy Courses for description.

Birds: Literature, Ornithology
LIT 2850
/ 4 credits / Special topic (offered irregularly)
A study of the cultural, literary, and natural history of birds. Students read poems and essays, study ornithology texts and field guides, and occasionally go into the field to look at birds. Owning a pair of binoculars would be helpful.

Israeli Literature
LIT 2855
/ 4 credits / Alternate years / Sequence III
In this literature-in-translation course, literary texts are used to explore concerns that have been prevalent in Israeli culture and society from the inception of the state to the present. Themes may include Zionism, conflict between generations, religious and secular impulses, and the complex relationships between Jews and Arabs.

The Golden Land: American Jewish Literature and Film
LIT 2872
/ 4 credits / Alternate years / Sequence III
Beginning as a response to the immigrant experience, writing by American Jews emerged as a central literary presence and the inspiration for important films. This course traces the evolution from early writers such as Abraham Cahan and Anzia Yezierska, through major figures such as Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, and I.B. Singer, to their contemporaries and heirs, including Stanley Elkin, Joseph Heller, Cynthia Ozick, and Grace Paley.

Theatre Histories I
THP 2885
/ Sequence I
Refer to Theatre and Performance Courses (Conservatory of Theatre Arts) for description.

Updated Mar. 16, 2016

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