Comparative Literature R1A:03  A Portrait of the Artist

Paul De Morais (pdemorais@berkeley.edu) Spring 2016

CCN:  17209

Office Hours: Fridays 11 AM – 1 PM, 4326 Dwinelle Hall

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist,
will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”

—Émile Zola
While literature classes often touch on the relationship between the artist and his or her literary work of art, this class will focus especially on how artists reflect upon themselves as artists through their art. What happens when the subject of a literary work becomes the artist him or herself? This course consists of an exploration of this primary question, which will lead us to interrogate several other more specific aspects about the relationship between the artist and his or her art. How do artists conceive of their relationship to the
societies in which they live and create? How do artists perceive the role of art in society, and how has that understanding influenced the form of their own art?  How does the gender or sexuality of the artist affect the production and reception of his or her art? How
is an artist affected by fame once they achieve the status of celebrity? What kinds of tensions arise as an artist strives to be committed to sociopolitical causes? We will explore all of these questions, along with others that arise, as we make our way through the reading and viewing of various novels, stories, poems, films, and philosophical texts that take up the figure of the artist as their primary subject matter. Along the way, we will learn how to engage closely with these texts in order to develop, refine, and defend solid literary arguments.

This course is designed to help students develop critical thinking, writing, and oral expression skills that are applicable beyond the domain of literary studies. Students will learn how to develop interesting analytical arguments, incorporate research into their
writing, and refine their ideas through the drafting and revision of two essays. Short bCourses posts will also be required in order to help facilitate thinking about the course’s material. Since this is a discussion-based course, a strong emphasis will be placed on active student participation in class.

Required Texts:

de Staël, Corinne (Oxford)
James, Daisy Miller (Broadview)
Colette, The Vagabond (Dover)

A Course Reader will contain a selection of stories, poems, and philosophical texts by: Plato, Shelley, Balzac, Hoffmann, Mishima, and Mann.

Films:

Mankiewicz, All About Eve

Schrader, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters