The question of what literature is and how one ought to define it is one of the major challenges students of literature have to face. This proseminar proposes to address this topic by creating a conversation between literature and other forms of art. Can an author write a novel using elements that are idiomatic to music? Can one write a picture? Can one paint a novel?

Students will explore the relationship between literature and other forms of art through the lens of intermediality. Participants will learn the difference between media and artforms, they will be taught about the field of intermediality, and they will apply this theoretical knowledge to the works we will analyze in class. After a nod to Lessing’s pivotal Laocoön, the class will focus on ekphrastic American poetry, Toni Morrison’s tuneful novel Jazz, Alice Walker’s (and Steven Spielberg’s) The Color Purple, and Tracy Chevalier’s (and Johannes Vermeer’s) Girl with a Pearl Earring.