Reading and Composition (R&C)

R1A.001: It’s Only Natural

Instructor: Ashley Brock

Comp Lit R1A:1
T/Th 9:30-11:00
109 Dwinelle
CCN 17203
Ashley Brock and Jordan Bulger

Contemporary debates about social matters often turn to nature to decide them.  Parties debating a common issue will attempt a familiar gesture: each will claim that its position is natural and therefore true. Why would an appeal to nature decide a social issue and what relationship between society and nature does this appeal assume?

This course will consider what literature can contribute to an understanding of nature and society and their relationship.  While mining the literatures of disparate times and places, we will explore the implications of different modes of seeing the relationship between the natural and the human: as one of opposition, continuity, determinacy, etc. We will also consider the multiplicity of “natures” that have been generated in different cultural contexts, historical moments, and individual situations.

As we consider nature from the various vantage points offered by our literary texts, you will be encouraged to think about the argumentative appropriation of nature in contemporary debates: gender, race, class, sexual orientation; development versus conservation; local versus global; old versus new; science versus religion; man versus animal; and individual versus collective.

In addition to focusing on the ways in which nature and society appear within the texts, we will also examine the role of fiction in shaping our cultural values and public policies with regards to nature. Why would one choose the written word as an approach to the natural world in the first place? What can literature do that other ways of thinking about nature cannot? Most urgently, what kind of solutions or insights can literature offer to those of us trying to address problems and tensions in the world beyond the written page?

Throughout the semester, we will ask how reading about fictional worlds can be a means of better understanding our lived world: how do the situations and characters we encounter in the texts invite us to reflect upon our own lives, experiences, and decisions? In addition to emphasizing critical reading skills, we will hone our written and oral communication skills by striving to express our ideas and observations with ever-increasing clarity and ever-sounder argument.

Reading List may include:

Alejo Carpentier, The Lost Steps
Mario Vargas Llosa, The Storyteller
Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
Federico Garcia Lorca, Blood Wedding
Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
Aristophanes, The Birds
Short Stories by Cervantes, Borges, Faulkner, Melville, Ovid
Selections from Walt Whitman and Thoreau
Poetry by Auden, Clare, Aimée, Walcott,
Shakespeare, Stevens, Wordsworth, Neruda

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.002: Unreliability in Fiction and Film

Instructor: Adeline Tran

Comp Lit R1A:2
MWF 11-12:00
211 Dwinelle
CCN 17209
A. Tran

Wayne Booth has argued that “the history of unreliable narrators from Gargantua to Lolita is in fact full of traps for the unsuspecting reader.”  In this course, we will investigate these “traps” of narration and discuss whether an objective, “reliable” representation of reality is possible. » read more »

Course Catalog Number:


Tu/Th 11:00-12:30 109 Dwinelle Instructor: Kfir Cohen Paul Haacke

Comparative Literature R1A:2
T/Th 11-12:30
109 Dwinelle
CCN 17206
Paul Haacke and Kfir Cohen

In this course we will study personal, critical and philosophical works from a variety of periods and countries, including early forms of essay writing, the establishment of the essay as a modern literary genre, and more experimental or hybrid forms of essayistic fiction, film and video. » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 17206

R1A.004: Seeing is Creating: Madness, Imagination, and Fiction

Comp Lit R1A:4
T/Th 8-9:30
243 Dwinelle
CCN 17212
S. Cochran


Every day in Berkeley we pass individuals who are so eccentric, so strange, so “out there,” that we often call them (without reflection) “crazy.”  But how do we decide between “crazy” and “unique”—between  those who might be considered genuinely “mad” and those who are simply “marching to the beat of their own drum”?  » read more »

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R1A.005: The Art of Decay

Instructor: Gregory Bonetti

Comp Lit R1A:5
MWF 11-12:00
89 Dwinelle
CCN 17214
Gregory Bonetti

History takes on meaning only in the stations of its agony and decay.” –Walter Benjamin

When we think of decay, we might imagine a natural process of decomposition, in which complex organisms break down into simpler forms of matter.  Biologists would have us believe that this is Nature’s divine law, which not only forces man, plant, and beast to return to the dust from which they came, but also to ensure a vital reinvigoration of new life forms.  » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.006: What is World Literature?

Comp Lit R1A:6
MWF 10-11:00
123 Wheeler
CCN 17494
L. Ramos

What is world literature? In this reading and writing intensive course, we will examine works of literature not simply as products of their local environment, but rather, as windows into global cultural relations.   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1A.007: What is World Literature?

Instructor: Laura Wagner

Comp Lit R1A:7
MWF 11-12:00
122 Wheeler
CCN 17497
L. Ramos & L. Wagner

What is world literature? In this reading and writing intensive course, we will examine works of literature not simply as products of their local environment, but rather, as windows into global cultural relations. In other words, we will uncover how writers imagine a world beyond their immediate circumstances by situating their work in an international context. Beginning with the concept’s origins in Goethe and Marx, we will read works that reveal an understanding of the world as a planetary order in concert and in conflict and as a geopolitical space of antagonisms and alliances. By closely examining texts that dramatize the relation between the local and the global in its manifold manifestations (center versus periphery, metropole versus colony, north versus south and private versus public), our aim will be to unsettle common assumptions about the nation as the primary locus of literary enunciation. However, rather than subscribe to a cosmopolitan view divorced from history or politics, we will strive precisely to reveal both the perils and the promise, both the pitfalls and possibilities inherent in the exchange between cultures across national boundaries.


The Tempest, William Shakespeare

The Kingdom of this World, Alejo Carpentier

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih

Autobiography of My Mother, Jamaica Kincaid


Happy Together, Wong Kar Wai

Babel, Alejandro González Iñarritu

Course Reader:

A course reader that includes short stories, poetry, essays and criticism by Goethe, Marx, Borges, Dereck Walcott, Alejo Carpentier, George Lamming, Gayatri Spivak and David Damrosch will be available to be purchased the first day of class at Metro Publishers, 2440 Bancroft Way, (510) 644-1999.


Course Catalog Number:

R1B.001: Versions and Re-Visions

Tu/Th 08:00-09:30 109 Dwinelle Instructor: Bonnie Ruberg

Comp Lit R1B:1
T/Th 8-9:30
109 Dwinelle
CCN 17215
J. DeAngelis & B. Ruberg

In this class, we will consider texts that present ‘re-visions’ of earlier texts through adaptation and intertextuality.  What new critical perspectives emerge when all or part of a narrative is redistributed in a different context?  How do factors such as a change in genre, a change in historical or cultural context, or even a change in the gender of the author create a unique dialogue between earlier texts and later re-visions of them, and what critical purpose does this dialogue serve in each case?  For example, we will consider the relationship between Charles Perrault’s seventeenth-century fairy tales and Angela Carter’s postmodern feminist versions of them.  We will also consider Carter’s intertextual use of the violent pornography of the Marquis de Sade.  What do the genres of fairy tale and pornography have in common?  How do Carter’s re-visions develop interesting arguments about both?

All of the main texts on the syllabus were written by female authors, and a majority of the pre-texts were written by male authors.  Questions concerning gender will therefore guide part of our inquiry into literary re-vision.  Women spent ages on the margins of the authorial literary landscape, though they were frequently the subjects of men’s stories.  In some traditions, the female body itself has been associated with rhetorical artifice, both frequently considered in need of regulation and control by men, as the male-authored texts on this syllabus will demonstrate.  How have female authors re-treated women through literary revision?  Specifically how have they re-treated the female body?  In what ways might revising texts written by males be seen as an assertion of women’s intellectual authority? (‘Author’ comes from the Latin auctor, a person who was once considered to possess auctoritas, or ‘authority.’)  What limits on such an assertion are posed by speaking from within the confines of previously written texts?

With respect to the medieval and early modern texts on the syllabus, we will also consider how issues pertaining to textual criticism relate to the main questions guiding this class.  How is our modern conception of a ‘text’ altered by considering the fact that numerous medieval manuscripts and early modern printed editions offer different versions of the same story?  How did the simultaneous circulation of multiple versions of the same story inform medieval and early modern reading practices, and how do modern editors grapple with the ‘problem’ of multiple versions?  We will consider how these questions, seemingly unique to medieval and early modern textual matters, actually provide a basis upon which to formulate interesting questions about modern adaptation and intertextuality.

We will explore the topics above through active class discussion, critical research, and intensive writing and essay revision.

Main texts, with pre-texts in parentheses, include:

  • Poetry by Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Alexander, Sylvia Plath, and others
  • Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale (the Bible)
  • Angela Carter: The Bloody Chamber (Charles Perrault’s fairy tales, Marquis de Sade’s Justine and Juliette)
  • Caryl Churchill: Top Girls (various texts and artwork depicting the historical and fictional lives of the guests at the opening dinner party)
  • Marguerite de Navarre: Heptaméron (Boccaccio’s Decameron, Jean de Meung’s part of the Romance of the Rose, troubadour and trouvère poetry)
  • Jeanette Winterson: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (the Bible, Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur)

Course Catalog Number: 17215

R1B.002: Literatures of Race across Latin America

Instructor: Paco Brito

Comp Lit R1B:2
T/Th 9:30-11:00
229 Dwinelle
CCN 17218
J. Caballero & P. Brito

Title: TBA

This class is, first and foremost, a writing workshop that teaches expository writing through pre-writing and editing, also known as “process writing.”  But to give its students a limited scope and a bonus of cultural education, it is also simultaneously a geographically and historically broad survey meant to introduce its students to Latin American literature and culture, assuming less than a basic working knowledge of Latin American history and culture.  It is focused on literary interpretations of, and interventions in, discourses about race relations and racial identity.  Studying race comparatively across vastly different histories and historical moments will help students engage these different histories as well as allowing a focus on writing, since topics of discussion will structured by a shared conceptual toolkit that we’ll be refining together over the course of the semester.

Central Texts

–          Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao ( 1594483299 )

–          José María Argüedas, The Deep Rivers (tr. Frances Horning Barraclough, 157766244X )

–          Juan Rulfo, The Burning Plain: Stories (tr. George D Schade, 0292701322 )

–          Lucio Mansilla, A Visit to the Ranquel Indians (tr. Eva Gillies, 0803282354 )

–          A substantial course reader, including but not limited to:

o   Essays by José Vasconcelos, José Carlos Mariátegui, and others

o   Short stories by J. L. Borges, and others

o   The journals of Christopher Columbus

o   “Poetry by Nicol’as Guill’en, Elizabeth Bishop, and others”

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.003: Fictionality

Comp Lit R1B:3
MW 4-5:30
175 Dwinelle
CCN 17221
B. Clancy

What do we mean when we use the word fiction? How does this term help us to understand the relationship between language and the world, as well as the role that literature might play in our lives? Beginning with texts in antiquity and the medieval period, this course will examine in depth the concept of fiction itself, and in particular the relationship between fictionality and the novel form, with an emphasis on novels written in the 20th-century. Here we will also consider the relationship between narrative and the representation of time, the relationship between fiction and truth, while examining historical shifts in the way in which the reader approaches narrative art epistemologically.


Aristotle, Poetics

Sophocles, Oedipus the King

Virgil, The Aeneid

Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

James Joyce, Ulysses

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.004: Urban Interiors

T/Th 8-9:30
224 Wheeler
CCN 17224
S. Scala


Often when we think of urban fiction, we think of the relationship of the text to the outside, to the cityscape. In this course, we will move indoors and concentrate on the ways authors depict urban interiors and how these interior spaces interact with the outside cityscape. We will ask: What kinds of stories tend to take place in such interiors? Is there a specific literature of apartments? How can we articulate the relationship between interior and exterior in the urban text? Ultimately, we will consider what models of reading such a consideration of interior space affords us. In addition to our reading of texts that take place in cities, we will read Pride and Prejudice as an example of a text that takes place outside of the urban setting. The readings for this course will be either in the original French or in English translation.

Austen: Pride and Prejudice

La Fayette: La Princesse de Clèves

Laclos: Liaisons dangereuses

Balzac: Le Cousin Pons

Rodoreda: The Time of the Doves

Duras: La douleur

Ionesco: Rhinocéros

Perec: La Vie: mode d’emploi

A reader with relevant theoretical and critical works including exerpts from Marcus’ Apartment Stories and Erich Auerbach’s “La Cour et la ville”

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.005: Magic, Metamorphosis, and the Artistic Imagination

Comp Lit R1B:5
MWF 11-12:00
130 Wheeler
CCN 17227
P. Dimova & J. Raisch

The magical power of transforming the self and the world has held a compelling sway over the literary imagination throughout the centuries.  In this course, we will look at the ways in which literature has reflected man’s fascination with magic as supernatural capacity to transfigure reality, as superstition, as verbal magic, as carnivalesque playfulness, and as Romantic imagination. We will read texts that take magic and divinities for granted, explain the world by means of metamorphosis and magic, read metamorphoses as historical allegories, and posit the human capacity for imagining as the ultimate magic. We will discuss novels, plays, poems, fairy tales, and essays across cultures and time that lend storytelling, love and death, art and history, words and ritual, dreams and nature the magic power of transformation. Finally, the literal or figurative metamorphoses that we will encounter in our readings will provoke us to inquire into notions such as identity, corporeality, power, censorship, and resistance.

Since writing will be the main focus and concern of this course, we will address how our conceptions of magical narrative can play a role in our own critical writing, and we will try to introduce magic into our own narratives. Students will be encouraged to explore and combine different possibilities in analytical, comparative, and personal responses to the texts. We will focus on the process of academic writing through research, paper revision, editing, and class workshops to reconsider and build up student arguments.

Tentative Reading List:

  • Bulgakov, Mikhail, The Master and Margarita
  • García Márquez, Gabriel, One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Kundera, Milan, Book of Laughter and Forgetting
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses (selections)
  • Shakespeare, Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Kafka, Metamorphoses


  • Tom Tykwer, “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”
  • Alfonso Arau, “Like Water for Chocolate”

Course Reader: Poems by Charles Baudelaire, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Konstantin Pavlov. Stories by Gabriel García Márquez, Nikolai Gogol, and Iordan Radichkov, and essays by Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Wendy Faris, and Salman Rushdie. All readings not originally written in English are in English translation.

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.006: Alternative Humanities

Comp Lit R1B:6
T/Th 11-12:30
223 Dwinelle
CCN 17230
Jennifer Lillie & Lynn Xu

This course includes a wide-ranging selection of texts and films that each involve deconstructing what it means—and reconstructing what it doesn’t mean—to be a human being. We will consider how experimenting with different ideas of alternative humanities, whether by human integration with the decidedly (or not so decidedly) nonhuman or by exposure to extreme circumstances, serves to highlight and/or question prevailing values. Such speculation and experimentation allows these texts to demonstrate their political and philosophical relevance, in addition to giving us the opportunity to analyze how fiction functions as an expository mode of writing. Likewise, a heavy load of writing assignments will emphasize how to assume a critical (as opposed to a moral or purely aesthetic/affective) stance and how make a logically coherent literary argument. Readings include fantastic, science fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction and film, in addition to several articles of literary criticism and relevant non-fiction essays that will act as models for your own analysis and research.

Readings: Stanislaw Lem, Solaris, Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness, Kobo Abe, Woman in the Dunes, Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Zamyatin, We, in addition to shorter texts by Isaac Asimov, Alan Turing, Donna Haraway, Komatsu Sakyo, and J. G. Ballard



“The Face of Another,” dir. Teshigahara Hiroshi

“2001, a space odyssey,” dir. Stanley Kubrick

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.007: Literary and Philosophical Representations of Music

Comp Lit R1B:7
T/Th 9:30-11:00
223 Dwinelle
CCN 17233
P. Dimova & K. Dickinson


Considered a non-representational art medium, music poses a challenge for artistic representation: how can music be expressed in literature or explained by philosophy? How can music depict or narrate, and how can we make sense of music if it does not convey precise images or does not tell articulate stories? And, finally, how can literature render the subtle nuanced affects that music delineates? Music has captured the literary imagination over the centuries, and writers, poets, and philosophers have tried to recreate its essence in words. Enchanting, transfiguring, transcending death, destructive, dangerously contagious, moving to tears, or unveiling the deepest recesses of the soul, music has reigned supreme among the arts with its unconquerable, uncontrollable power. In this course, we will read lyric poetry, novels, and philosophical texts informed by music thematically and structurally. Furthermore, we will listen to Romantic songs and operas and examine literature and music, as they attempt to capture and evoke the expressive modes of the other art. We will discuss literary music in its capacity to affect, infect, or transform the characters or the poetic subjects; to transport them to the world beyond, from life to death, and form death to life; and to create a psychological space where emotions, desires, and affects proliferate in their non-verbal precarious or sensuous ambiguity.

While writing, presenting, and actively participating in discussions on various aspects of the literary-musical interface, students will improve their analytical reading skills, conceptual and critical thinking, and expository writing and style. Students will be required to submit a diagnostic essay and several essays of progressive length. Two of the essays will be extensively revised; the final paper will have a substantial research component.

Tentative Reading List:

Mann, Thomas, Doctor Faustus

Pushkin, Alexander, Eugene Onegin

Rilke, Rainer Maria, Sonnets to Orpheus

Shakespeare, William, Midsummer Night’s Dream

Tolstoy, Leo, The Kreutzer Sonata

Wilde, Oscar, Salomé

Course Reader: selections from Homer’s Odyssey and Ovid’s Metamorphosis; philosophical texts by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Adorno; lyric poetry by Celan, Goethe, Keats, Mandelshtam, Pushkin, and Rilke; shorter prose works by E.T.A. Hoffmann and Evgenii Zamiatin. The course reader will include various rewritings of the myths of Orpheus, as well as libretti for the operas we will study. All readings not originally written in English are in English translation.

Operas: Richard Strauss, “Salome”; Tchaikovsky, “Eugene Onegin”; Richard Wagner, “The Master Singers.”

Music by Arnold Schoenberg, Dmitri Shostakovich, Franz Schubert, and Alexander Scriabin.

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.008: We Are But Older Children

Comp Lit R1B:8
MWF 12-1:00
175 Barrows
CCN 17236
M. Cohen

And, though the shadow of a sigh

May tremble through the story,

For ‘happy summer days’ gone by,

And vanish’d summer glory—

It shall not touch, with breath of bale,

The pleasance of our fairy-tale.

-Lewis Carroll

Where the Wild Things Are, The Giver, Alice in Wonderland à la Disney or Tim Burton—works of children’s literature are amidst the foundations of our identities. » read more »

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R1B.009: Super Heroine—Ultra Ladies in Literature and Popular Culture

Comp Lit R1B:9
T/Th 3:30-5:00
89 Dwinelle
CCN 17239
T. Singleton

This course explores super women in literature and pop culture from Homer’s Athena to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We will look at what allowances and compromises are made in the artistic pursuit of the superhuman heroine.  Do super-heroines really differ that much from superheroes? Do they suffer from an idealism that outweighs that of their
male counterparts? When women become superheroes, what remains of their femininity? To what extent is superpower masculinized?  Deified? Do super-heroines break through the stereotypical virgin/whore dichotomy? How do superpowers affect traditional roles of motherhood and marriage? We will ask all these questions and more as we look at super-heroines cross many media including film, television, comics and literary theory.

The Odyssey- Homer
Salome –Oscar Wilde
Promethea (Book 1& 2) Alan Moore
Minion LA Banks
Wonder Women: Feminisms and Superheroes –Lillian Robinson
Super Bitches and Action Babes: The Female Hero in Popular Cinema,
1970-2006  –Rikke Schubart
Wonder Woman: The Complete History –Les Daniels
The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book
Heroines –Mike Madrid
Ways of Seeing –John Berger

Foxy Brown(1974)
Kill Bill (2003)
Jackie Brown(1997)
Ultra Violet (2006)
Aeon Flux (2005)
Underworld (2003)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Xena Warrior Princess
Dark Angel
Wonder Woman

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.012: Autobiography and Fiction

Instructor: Nina Estreich

Comp Lit R1B:12
T/Th 3:30-5:00
263 Dwinelle
CCN #17248
N. Estreich

In this course we will be reading literary narratives which adopt the forms of autobiography.  Through readings and discussion, we will think about representations of self in fiction and memoir, the relationship between memory and identity, and some of the ways in which the genres of autobiography and narrative fiction are related.  Over the semester, we will also explore interpretive approaches to different forms and styles of written prose.  Course requirements will include midterm and final papers, as well as regularly scheduled writing assignments emphasizing close reading skills.

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.013: The Literature of Anticipation

Comp Lit R1B:13
MWF 12-1:00
47 Evans
CCN 17251
L. Gurton-Wachter

We tend to think of waiting in terms of time to “kill,” as an experience that is either frustrating, full of dread, or, at its best, just boring. This course will introduce students to methods of close reading, critical thinking, argumentative writing, and research through an exploration of a selection of texts that make the experience of waiting their main action or event, rather than what precedes the event, texts that suggest that something important  /happens/ while we wait for something else to happen, or that anticipation might allow experiences, perceptions, or thoughts that are otherwise unexpected, inaccessible, or at least overlooked.   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.014: On the Waterfront

Comp Lit R1B:14
T/Th 2-3:30
247 Dwinelle
CCN 17254
T. McEnaney


In this class we will examine representations of leaving, entering, and working at ports, harbors, and docks, those especially dense waterfront sites of cultural, financial, and epidemiological encounter and exchange. Authors, filmmakers, and photographers have often taken the waterfront as their subject, and literary critics have recognized it as a privileged place in the history of storytelling.   » read more »

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R1B.015: Marvelous Texts

Comp Lit R1B:15
T/Th 9:30-11:00
155 Barrows
CCN 17257
J. Jimenez & V. Alcazar

History is rife with texts, images, and films that position themselves as speaking about or from the “place” of the marvelous.  From miracles to travel narratives to science fiction, many writers and artists in wildly different historical contexts sing their stories by imagining what is, or appears to be, impossible in daily living or by imagining what is yet to be.  » read more »

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R1B.016: Little Secrets: A History of the Literary Representations of Consciousness

T/Th 9:30-11:00
200 Wheeler
CCN 17260
Alvin Henry

He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore.

Sigmund Freud, Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria

“Nothing exists outside us except a state of mind . . . a desire for solace, for relief, for something outside these miserable pigmies, these feeble, these ugly, these craven men and women.”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

In this reading and research writing composition course, we will examine the questions of “how and why have literary artists transformed representations of consciousness across time and place” and “what critiques do these artists make by shifting the forms of their art?” We will begin our conversation in Renaissance England where everyone worried over who would succeed Queen Elizabeth—and if a bloody war would be required to instate the new monarch. William Shakespeare captures this social anxiety in his comedy Measure for Measure. Our task includes interpreting why Shakespeare would write about fear and confusion in a comedy rather than another form, say the seemingly more obvious choice of tragedy. Hopefully by digging into the dirty little secrets of the play, we can come up with some fun ideas. As our tools, we will explore these questions and the larger course questions by performing close readings: paying attention to grammar, parts of speech, word choice, and a host of literary devices. We will continue our readings by covering more literary genres include poetry, the novel, the short story, and an encounter with psychoanalysis.

In addition to answering and challenging the course themes, we will foster your academic reading and writing skills. We will learn how to perform a critical analysis and close reading of a text along with mastering a variety of rhetorical strategies in order for you to craft a research essay. You will leave this course as a confident reader and a strong writer. The major assignments include one short five-page literary analysis and a longer ten-page research essay.


Tentative Book List and the editions we will be using:

William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, ISBN 0743484908

Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales, ISBN 0451530314

Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin, ISBN 0199538646

Sigmund Freud, The Psychology of Love, ISBN 0142437468

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, ISBN 1853261912

Toni Morrison, Beloved, ISBN 1400033411

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.016: What is Iraq?

Comp Lit R1B:16
T/Th 9:30-11:00
200 Wheeler
CCN #17260
S. England & S Schneider

Iraq’s history is often told as a series of endings. After the Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258 C.E., survivors reported that the Tigris River ran ‘red with blood and black with ink.’ Arab historians extolled the grandeur of Baghdad’s architecture, as well as the city’s royal and private libraries, largely destroyed during the siege. The Mongol invasion put an end to five centuries of the Abbasid empire, during which time Iraq had become the economic and intellectual capital of the Middle East.

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent looting of the Baghdad Museum and national archives, was another ending of sorts. Although Baghdad had long ago lost its lofty architectural distinction, its reserves of artifacts and manuscripts made up perhaps the world’s longest-running local archive of ancient, medieval, and modern civilization. What is—or was—that space, in particular from a literary standpoint?


The object of this course is a critical and historical discussion of literature in Iraq. Our readings will include Iraqi Arabic poetry and prose (in English translation), literature about Iraq by visitors, as well as films. A key premise of this course is that the literature we will read is inseparable from its social and political environment. For that reason, much of the fiction and poetry we read will accompany historical texts and commentaries. Throughout the course, we will probe ideas of nationality, nationalism, and cosmopolitanism as they pertain to modern Iraq.


Strunk and White, The Elements of Style

Shakir Mustafa, ed., Contemporary Iraqi Fiction: An Anthology

Sinan Antoon, I’jaam

Anthony Swofford, Jarhead

Hugh Kennedy, When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World

Charles Tripp, A History of Iraq

Salma Jayyusi, ed., Modern Arabic Poetry

Course Catalog Number:

R1B.018: Archiving The Past

CompLit R1B:18
MWF 10-11:00
89 Dwinelle
CCN 17503
Mary Lee


This course begins by asking the question: is history what it used to be? We humans cannot help but remember or want to remember the past, and often device all manner of technologies and apparatuses to ensure the proper archivization of our limited time on earth.   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:


20: Episodes in Literary Cultures

Shakespeare and the World

Instructor: Timothy Hampton

T/Th 9:30-11:00
155 Kroeber
CCN #17263
T. Hampton

Discussion Sections:

Mon 1-2:00, 103 Wheeler, D. Simon
Tues 2-3:00, 101 Wheeler, J. Hock
Wed 12-1:00, 87 Dwinelle, J. Hock
Th 11-12:00 111 Kroeber, D. Simon

In many ways Shakespeare is the literary inventor of modernity. His plays depict the psychological, political, economic, and social upheavals that mark the transition from the pre-modern world to a world that is recognizably our own. But he is also the most international of all writers. This course will explore Shakespeare’s extraordinary literary originality by studying his most influential plays in an international context. We will locate Shakespeare in the culture of his period by reading his plays in dialogue with masterworks from across Renaissance Europe. We will consider how he and his contemporaries engage with issues of international scope at a time (like our own) of extraordinary political, religious, and economic turmoil. We will read eight major plays by Shakespeare, as well as works by Machiavelli, Montaigne, Rabelais, Cervantes, Erasmus, and Petrarch. This course thus offers an introduction to early modern Europe, an exercise in reading literature in an international context, and an in-depth study of a major author.

Reading List:

Machiavelli, The Prince
Calderón, Life is a Dream
Cervantes, Exemplary Stories

Course Catalog Number:

24: Freshman Seminar

Reading and Reciting Great Poems in English

Tu 04:00-05:00 225 Dwinelle Instructor: Steve Tollefson

Tu 4-5:00
225 Dwinelle
CCCN 17287
S. Tollefson

People today don’t have enough poetry in their heads, and everyone should be able to recite one or two of their favorite poems. In addition to its purely personal benefits, knowing some poetry by heart has practical applications: in a tough job interview, you can impress the prospective boss by reciting just the right line, say, from Dylan Thomas: “do not go gentle into that good night/rage rage against the dying of the light.” Or at a party sometime, you’ll be able to show off with a bit of T.S. Eliot: “in the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo.”

In this class we will read a number of “classic” poems as well as a number of other (perhaps lesser, but still memorable) poems, and discuss them. The poems cut across centuries and types, and students will encouraged to find other poems for the group to read.

Students will be required to memorize and recite between 50 and 75 lines of poetry throughout the semester. In addition, students will prepare a short anthology of their favorite poems, with an explanatory introduction for each poem.

Course Catalog Number: 17287

41A: Introduction to Literary Forms: Forms of the Epic

What’s in an Epic?

Com Lit 41A
T/Th 11-12:30
24 Wheeler
CCN 17283
N. Cleaver

We tend to think of epic as long and serious, full of noble characters at war with vengeful gods and impossible monsters. It takes place in a “masculine” world, glorifying great men engaged in lofty battles. The subject matter is weighty, following the fate of a single hero who ensures the triumph of a chosen people by destroying all obstacles, human, divine, or monstrous, that stand in the way of that nationalistic destiny.

In this course we will question this conventional view of epic. What makes an epic an epic? Can this genre be defined coherently? What do we do with epics that do not fit all or even part of this description? After a brief historical overview of the epic tradition of western Europe, we will read four major epics from four different national traditions in their entirety: Lucan’s Pharsalia, Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, Rabelais’s Gargantua, and Milton’s Paradise Lost.

While these are major texts of the epic tradition, in many ways they violate the rules of the genre. What do we make of Lucan’s mutilated bodies as a metaphor for a state ripped apart by its own desire for empire? Where do we place Rabelais’s obscene, extravagant giants and parodies of noble genealogies? What of Ariosto’s women warriors and Satan as the epic hero of Paradise Lost? Do we still consider them epics? How do these disparities affect our ability to define genre?


Required Texts:

Lucan, The Pharsalia

Ariosto, The Orlando Furioso

Rabelais, Gargantua

Milton, Paradise Lost

Aristotle, The Poetics

Critical and Secondary Readings

(Selections from these texts will be available in a reader and on the course bSpace site.)

Durling, The Figure of the Poet in the Renaissance Epic

Giamatti, Earthly Paradise and the Renaissance Epic

Greene, The Light in Troy

Lukács, The Theory of the Novel

Quint, Epic and Empire

Zatti, The Quest for Epic

Course Catalog Number:

60AC: Topics in the Literature of American Cultures

America’s Peripheries: Globalization and its Discontents

T/Th 9:30-11:00
24 Wheeler
CCN 17262
M. Bhaumik


This class examines the particularity of literature at the margins of the American culture, globalization and governance.  Through a reading of novels, poems, films, short stories and music, we will attempt to unravel a specific condition of disenchantment with the world emerging from the space of the periphery both within and external to the territorial United States.  » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

100: Introduction to Comparative Literature

American Poetry's Ethical-Political Dilemmas Since 1950: Some Comparatist Perspectives

Tu/Th 02:00-03:30 179 Dwinelle Instructor: Robert Kaufman

Tu/Th 2:00-3:30
179 Dwinelle
CCN 17299
R. Kaufman

[PLEASE NOTE: This “introduction or gateway to the advanced study at the core of the comparative literature major” is expressly designed for students in, entering, or intending to enter the Comparative Literature Department’s major and/or students majoring in other literature departments, or in closely related areas within the humanities. This seminar is UNSUITABLE FOR STUDENTS OUTSIDE THE COMPARATIVE LITERATURE MAJOR AND/OR CLOSELY RELATED LITERARY/HUMANITIES MAJORS, due to the seminar’s intense literary and literary-critical specificity; it is NOT designed to meet the needs of students seeking to satisfy either general or area requirements of the University or of the College of Letters and Science.] » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 17299

100: Introduction to Comparative Literature

Crises of Patrilinearity and the Generation of Narrative

M/W/F 01:00-02:00 156 Dwinelle Instructor: Leslie Kurke

MWF 1:00-2:00
156 Dwinelle
CCN 17302
L. Kurke

Comp. Lit. 100 is designed to present students with texts from various genres and historicial periods, to introduce them to the methods of comparative study. Students are expected to have some competence in at least one foreign language and to be acquainted with the rudiments of literary analysis. The thematic focus of this course will be crises of patrilinearity—family romances gone sour. » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 17302

112A: Modern Greek Language

M/W/F 12:00-01:00 125 Dwinelle Instructor: Maria Kotzamanidou

Open to all students, no prerequisites

MWF 12-1:00
125 Dwinelle
CCN #17305
M. Kotzamanidou

Modern Greek is unique among languages in that it is the only modern language directly descended from Ancient Greek. In this course, the student studies reading, writing, pronunciation and use of contemporary spoken idiom, all within the historical and cultural context of the language. By the end of the course, the student should have a strong grammatical and linguistic foundation in Greek as it is spoken today. (No Prerequisite)

Course Catalog Number: 17305

152: The Middle Ages

Medieval Literature

Tu/Th 09:30-11:00 78 Barrows Instructor: Annalee Rejhon

TuTh 9:30-11:00
78 Barrows
CCN 17308
A. Rejhon

The course will present a survey of major works of medieval literature from some of the principal literary traditions of the Middle Ages, with an emphasis on epic and on Arthurian romance.  » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 17308

155: The Modern Period

Literary Experiments in the 20th Century

T/Th 2-3:30
83 Dwinelle
CCN 17313
H. Freed-Thall

In this course, we will read some of the most experimental and adventurous literature of the 20th century. Instead of understanding texts as mirrors of social reality, we will consider them as laboratories—spaces for testing out, working through, or mixing up new ideas, categories, and ways of seeing and feeling. We will pay special attention to 20th-century international avant-garde movements, including Futurism, Dadaism, and Surrealism, and we will explore the relation of the literary avant-garde to the avant-garde in painting, cinema, and music. Some of the experimental texts we will read engage specific scientific and philosophical theories, including Freud’s theory of the unconscious, Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception, and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Throughout the semester, we will be particularly attentive to the politics of literary form, the intimate relation between mass culture and the avant-garde, and the ways in which aesthetic experimentation manipulates perceptions of time and space.

A course reader will include theoretical writings, short fiction, poetry, and manifestos by a variety of authors, including Marinetti, Apollinaire, Breton, Bataille, Leiris, Césaire, Proust, Kafka, Beckett, Borges, Ellison, Perec, Saussure, Freud, Benjamin, Shklovsky, Merleau-Ponty, Scarry, and Bürger.

We will also read 5 or 6 novels. Please do not buy them until the first day of class, as the list is subject to revision. Students with a command of Spanish and/or French are encouraged to read in the original language.

Aragon, Paris Peasant

Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman

Toussaint, Monsieur

Chamoiseau, School Days

Course Catalog Number:

171: Topics in Modern Greek Literature

Families in Crisis: Family and History in Modern Greek Fiction

Instructor: Maria Kotzamanidou

Friday 2-5
125 Dwinelle
CCN 17314
M. Kotzamanidou

Open to all students.

Greek materials are available in the original as well as in English translation.

“….Here was a sight! Six hundred persons, mostly widows and orphans, driven from their homes, hunted into the mountains like wild beasts, and living upon the herbs, grass and what they could pick up about the rocks….. I spent the day giving billets to the poor who came in from the surrounding mountains, where they lodge in holes and caverns, and who hearing of the distribution had come down for their share, and to eat bread the first time perhaps for months….” (Letters and Journals of Samuel Gridley Howe, Edited

by Laura E. Richards, v.1, The Greek Revolution, p.242). » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

190: Senior Seminar in Comparative Literature

Queer Ecologies

Instructor: Anne-Lise Francois

MW 4-5:30
223 Wheeler
CCN 17320
A-L. François
Also listed as Comp Lit 265:1

A comparative course exploring the intersections between psychoanalysis, literature and environmental studies.

(Graduate Students interested in enrolling in this course should enroll in Comp Lit 265:1, CCN 17379)

Popular environmentalist discourse is often portrayed as the province of misanthropes, lonely-hearts and “kill-joys,” whose “downer” ethics can only be articulated in the negative—as the demand to curb and curtail hedonistic consumption.   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

190: Senior Seminar

The Modernist Masterpiece

Tu/Th 12:30-02:00 106 Wheeler Instructor: Michael Bernstein

Tu/Th 12:30-2:00
106 Wheeler
M. A. Bernstein


Although we will be focusing primarily on James Joyce’s Ulysses, the archetypal modernist prose masterpiece, our real subject could be named more aptly, Modernism’s Epic Ambitions.  By reading Ulysses together as our proof-text, we will be able to explore a set of issues, both historical and theoretical, that are constituitive of high modernism, but whose specific family resemblance will only emerge as our discussion itself unfolds. Close attention will be paid to the ways in which other modernist artists, alongside Joyce, experimented with technical issues of form and structure, as well as with innovative uses of new thematic materials.

Regular and active in class participation and a willingness to engage in copious reading are the principal prerequisites for the course.

Course Catalog Number: 17317


202B: Approaches to Genre: Lyric Poetry

Three Marxian Poets? Germany And The Americas? Brecht, Vallejo, Zukofsky

M 02:00-05:00 210 Dwinelle Instructor: Robert Kaufman

M 2-5:00
210 Dwinelle
CCN: 17359
R. Kaufman

(This course also serves as an elective for the Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory)

The German Bertolt Brecht, the Peruvian César Vallejo, and the American Louis Zukofsky exert–within their lifetimes, and in their posthumous reception to this day–special influence on experimental-modernist and Marxian (as well as broader Left) traditions of poetry, poetics, and criticism. » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 17359

212: Studies in Medieval Literature

The Subjects of Love in the Middle Ages: Abelard, Heloise and beyond

Instructor: Frank Bezner

Comp Lit 212:1
Tu 2-5:00
210 Dwinelle
CCN 17362
Frank Bezner


This course is meant as an exploration of Latin and vernacular medieval literary texts dealing with love and desire. » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

240: Studies in the Relations Between Literature and the Other Arts

Post-Holocaust Cinema: Inheriting Cultural Disaster

Instructor: Miryam Sas

Comparative Literature 240/Film 240
Th 1-4:00 & 4-6:00 (film screenings)
226 Dwinelle
Miryam Sas
CCN 17317/17374


What does it mean to be born into the legacy of a cultural disaster that one did not experience oneself, but came to know only through the lives of others? How do major historical upheavals impact the generations that follow? What is a “second generation” survivor? » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

258: Studies in Philosophy and Literature

Kafka and his Commentators: Genres of Critical Theory

Instructor: Judith Butler

CL 258:1
Tu 3-6:00,
7415 Dwinelle
CCN: 17376
J. Butler

Several fundamental concepts for critical theory are introduced and provoked through Kafka’s writing: the problem of time and history, the human animal, objects and objectification, authority and law, language, theology and progress and their scattered remnants.   » read more »

Course Catalog Number:

260: Problems in Literary Translation

W 03:00-06:00 210 Dwinelle Instructor: Robert Alter

W 3-6:00
210 Dwinelle
CCN: 17377
R. Alter

Each student must have a translation project to work on during the course of the semester.  This could be anything from a selection of poems or of short stories by one writer or by a few closely related writers to a section of a novel or of an autobiography or a journal.  There is no limitation on the literatures from which students may translate or on the historical period from which the texts to be translated are drawn.  Each week two members of the group will circulate specimens of their work in progress before the class meeting, which will then be devoted to a discussion by the group of the specimens, conducted more or less in the spirit of collaborative work on translation drafts.  The class will also seek to highlight common issues of translation–pitfalls to avoid, strategies for coping with various  challenges, goals to aim for.

Course Catalog Number: 17377

266: Nationalism, Colonialism, and Culture

The Senses of Democracy

W 12:00-03:00 4104 Dwinelle Instructor: Francine Masiello

W 12-3:00
4104 Dwinelle (The Comp Lit Conference Room)
CCN: 17380
F. Masiello

In this course, we will address the ways in which 19th century writers of the Americas engaged in discussion of liberal democracy by evoking the world of the senses. The underlying paradigm here is the “civilization versus barbarism” antinomy in which civilization is equated with the realm of reason and barbarism with the realm of the senses. » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 17380