Program in Comparative Literature

Barbara Harlow

ProfessorPh.D., 1977, SUNY- Buffalo

Professor of English
Barbara Harlow



College: Liberal Arts

Home Department: English

Additional department affiliations: Middle Eastern Studies

Education: Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo

Research interests:
Third world studies; critical theory; prison and resistance writings and postcolonial studies (particularly Anglophone African and modern Arabic literatures and cultures)


C L 382 • Lit Wrnts: Palestn/Chile/Libya

34390 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm CAL 200
(also listed as E 397N, MES 386)

“Universal Jurisdiction”:  Literary Warrants from Palestine, Chile, and Libya

Once upon a time (or “imagine,” if you will) there were three worlds, or at least since 1952 when French pundit Alfred Sauvy allegedly coined the term “third world” to designate, after the fashion of the 1789 French revolutionary “third estate,” those geopolitical spaces that were then neither “capitalist“ (first world) nor “communist” (second world). Representatives of the “third world” convened in Bandung in 1955 to chart a working agenda for the prospects of their decolonizing, eventually national, agendas. According to Roland Burke (2010), the Bandung Conference provided a “revolutionary influence of decolonization” on “human rights history.” That same “human rights history,” however, remains ever more contested today – at once challenged and revered from whatever is left of the erstwhile “three worlds.” I plan to examine those continued critical challenges and their attendant contemporary obeisances by way of three continuing cases represented in literary and documentary narrative and located in three geopolitical contexts: Palestine, Chile, and Libya: 1. the question of Palestine – from the “right of return” as narrated in Ghassan Kanafani’s Palestinian novellas Men in the Sun (1962) and Returning to Haifa (1969) to the human rights violations documented in the Goldstone Report on Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” (2009); 2. the Pinochet extradition, with reference to Latin America’s “dirty wars” and the age of truth commissions, as painfully and painstakingly depicted in Chilean Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden (1990-91) and Exorcising Terror (2002); and 3. the controversy over the International Criminal Court and Africa, with special focus on the controversial ICC indictments in 2011 of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and their historical background as described by South African Ruth First in Libya: The Elusive Revolution (1974) and Libyan Hisham Matar’s novels In the Country of Men (2006) and Anatomy of a Disappearance (2011). How, in other words, might the once upon a time imagined Bandung agenda of non-alignment find popular renewal – or neoliberal obstruction – in the lexicon and storytelling of universal jurisdiction and the litigiously literary narratives of international adjudication?


Ghassan Kanafani. Men in the Sun and Returning to Haifa

Ariel Dorfman. Death and the Maiden and Exorcising Terror

Ruth First. Libya: The Elusive Revolution

Hisham Matar. In the Country of Men and Anatomy of a Disappearance

+ “paraliterary” readings from legal studies, history, cultural studies, etc

C L 382 • Orientalism And Imperialism

33755 • Fall 2012
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm CAL 221
(also listed as E 397N)

This course in "orientalism and imperialism" will be organized around a set of paradigmatic narratives grounded in canonical literary texts and a selection of primary and historical documents that contributed to the ideological, political and archival grounds for the European colonial project in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with particular reference to Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Since the publication of Edward Said's Orientalism in 1979, the controversial issues of orientalism and the practices of imperialism have figured critically in determining the contemporary redefinitions of the fields of literary studies and the liberal arts. In our reading of a selection of canonical texts that underwrote the orientalist-imperialist endeavor, we will attempt to examine both the literary and documentary parameters of that epochal project.

Readings, which include multiple layers of these assorted documents (bureaucratic/official, popular, personal, and literary, as well as illustrative), will be organized around strategic moments. These moments, attached to geographical loci and central to the redrawing of the map of empire, are further designated to counter standard historical models of colonialism, with their emphases on teleology and progress.

Organizing Texts/Topics:

Jules Verne. Around the World in 80 Days (the Imperial Wager)

Henry M. Stanley. Autobiography  (the Scramble for Africa)

Rudyard Kipling. Kim (the Great Game)

H. Rider Haggard. King Solomon’s Mines (Raw Materials/Literary Gems)

+ Barbara Harlow and Mia Carter (eds). Archives of Empire (vols 1 and 2)

Each section, according to the specificities of the issues posed by the particular historical circumstances and geographical conditions, will include such documents as official policy statements, political speeches and government papers, journalistic accounts and editorial opinions, as well as personal narratives, private memoirs, and literary texts. Such diversity of materials should give evidence of the various ways in which imperialism was prosecuted as well as of the multiple means and media through which it was packaged and publicized.


1 class presentation (to be submitted in written form – 1200-1500 wds)

1 review essay (1200-1500 wds)

final project: paper proposal (300-500 wds) in response to a CFP, that would include an extended and annotated working research bibliography (10-15pp)

C L 323 • The European Novel-W

33285 • Spring 2010
Meets TTH 930-1100 PAR 204
(also listed as E 356, EUS 347)

E356/EUS347/CL323 The European Novel

Barbara Harlow, Spring 2010
Parlin 26  /  471-8716  /
office hours: T/Th 11-12.30 (and by appointment)

“European novel”: is the formula a redundancy, or the description of but one historical, continental subset of a modern genre of world literature? This course will examine both the “roots” of the novel in European literary history and the changing parameters of “Europe” over the last several centuries. Colonialism, social upheaval and political revolution, the formation of modern states in the 19th century, world wars, and the controversial consolidation of the European Union in the last decades of the 20th century will provide the background and the premises for our readings of a selection of classic European novels and their contemporary currency.


  • Victor Hugo. Notre-Dame of Paris
  • Jules Verne. Around the World in 80 Days
  • Joseph Conrad. The Secret Agent
  • Thomas Mann. Death in Venice
  • Albert Camus. The Plague
  • Hannah Arendt. Rahel Varnhagen
  • + critical articles


The class will be conducted as much as possible as a seminar and participation (you need to do the assigned reading beforehand) and attendance are required (that is, attendance will be taken and absences penalized). In addition to the readings (and occasional quizzes – as/if required), writing assignments will include two research assignments, one written panel presentation, a final paper prospectus, and the final paper itself. All writing assignments are due on the date indicated on the syllabus and late submissions will be penalized.

writing assignments

  • 2 research assignments (750 wds each = 1500 wds) = 30%
  • 1 panel presentation (750 wds) = 15%
  • 1 paper proposal (750 wds) = 15%
  • final paper (1800-2400 wds) = 30%
  • = 90% of the final grade (grading on a plus/minus basis)

For the research/writing papers, specific assignment sheets will be distributed two weeks before the paper is due. For the final paper proposal, the assignment sheet will be distributed before spring break. The papers are due in class on the date indicated on the syllabus.

NB: For all writing assignments, students should be aware – and observant – of UT’s policy on plagiarism. There are negative and positive reasons for this admonition: negative – you get in trouble if you don’t observe the policy; positive – by citing your sources, you join a community of scholars who share their work.

Other Notices:

Undergraduate Writing Center, FAC 211, 471-6222: The Undergraduate Writing Center offers free, individualized, expert help with writing for any UT undergraduate, by appointment or on a drop-in basis. Any undergraduate enrolled in a course at UT can visit the UWC for assistance with any writing project. They work with students from every department on campus, for both academic and non-academic writing. Whether you are writing a lab report, a resume, a term paper, a statement for an application, or your own poetry, UWC consultants will be happy to work with you. Their services are not just for writing with "problems." Getting feedback from an informed audience is a normal part of a successful writing project. Consultants help students develop strategies to improve their writing. The assistance they provide is intended to foster independence. Each student determines how to use the consultant's advice. The consultants are trained to help you work on your writing in ways that preserve the integrity of your work.

University policy is to respect religious holidays – and we will respect them as well. If, however, you will be absent for reason of religious observance and would like to share information about your respective traditions, these contributions will be welcome.

Students with disabilities may request appropriate academic accommodations from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities, 471-6259.

Finally, no cell-phones or computers are allowed in class – turn them off and put them away.

For more information, please download the full syllabus.

UGS 302 • Humanitarian Aid Workers-W

64620 • Fall 2009
Meets TTH 1100-1230pm MAI 220C


Barbara Harlow  /  Fall 2009  /  T/Th 11-12.30
Office Hours: M 1-3 (Rapoport Center, Law School), T 12.30-2/Th 12.30-1.30 (Parlin 26) and by appointment


“Responsibility to protect” (or R2P) is yet another formulation for “humanitarian interventionism.” What difference does it make? Our readings of the personal accounts of aid workers and advocates will attempt to address some of the challenges, crises, contradictions, recriminations – and rewards – entailed by the “responsibility to protect.”

Selected readings include:

  • Another Day in Paradise: Front Line Stories from International Aid Workers
  • Mahvish Rukhsana Khan. My Guantanamo Diary: The Detainees and the Stories They Told Me (translator)
  • Jonny Steinberg. Sizwe’s Test: A Young Man’s Journey Through Africa’s AIDS Epidemic (journalist)
  • Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures (UN aid workers)
  • David Kennedy. The Dark Sides of Virtue: Reassessing International Humanitarianism (law professor)
  • Clea Koff. The Bone Woman (forensic anthropologist)

For more information, please download the full syllabus.

Curriculum Vitae

Profile Pages

External Links