Comparative Literature R1A: 1 Fall 2015
Class: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8-9:30
B1 Hearst Annex
Instructor Info: Paco Brito; Office: 4414 Dwinelle; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily Drumsta; Office 4321 Dwinelle; Email: email@example.com
Deserts are both real landscapes and powerful, pliable metaphors, imagined spaces of ascetic deprivation and actual homes to many nomadic and settled peoples. There is both a vast and various literature written from and about desert ecosystems and a literature that uses the figure of the desert to explore cultural barrenness, human mortality, and catastrophe. In this course we will read texts from these diverse traditions, including poems, tracts, essays, novels, and films about life in the Sahara and the Sonora, about mystical and secular experiences of the non-human world, celebrations of sublime nature, and portentous visions of a post-human future.
Though the idea of the desert is relevant to a host of contemporary concerns, from droughts and other forms of ecological threats and transformations to the wars, migrations, and varied humanitarian crises taking place in deserts around the world today, this course will also look back to history and prehistory, to forms of culture and expression that developed and flourished in what we tend to think of as the least generative of landscapes. While global in scope, our course will place a particular emphasis on the literatures of the Arab world and the Americas.
In the same way that the works examined here explore the delicate and complex systems that underlie the idea or symbol of the desert that we often take for granted, so too will we explore the many choices, simple and sophisticated, that go into communicating an interpretation of a literary text to a reader, focusing in particular on the process, as well as the product, of writing.
(1) Gold Dust by Ibrahim al-Koni
(2) Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo
(3) The Tent by Miral al-Tahawy
Class Format: This is a discussion-based seminar rather than a lecture course. Most of our class time will be spent talking about the assigned reading but we’ll also hold regular writing workshops. Some of these workshops will be devoted to specific writing skills, others will involve peer editing. During the latter we expect you to engage with the work of your peers with the same rigor and
intensity that you bring to the class readings. Every paper that you turn in will first receive the attention of at least one of your fellow students.
Assignments: The bulk of the writing you’ll do in this class will go into the three major papers due at roughly equal intervals over the course of the semester. We expect you to come up with your own topic for each of these papers—you’ll see little in the way of prompts in this class—and to then run the idea by one of us before diving in. Before receiving your final draft of each paper we’ll also expect you to hand in (1) an outline or some other substantial form of writing preparation and (2) a polished draft. Please note that this draft should not be rough work filled with grammatical errors–though we’ll spend some time going over some of the trickier issues in writing mechanics, this class is more about putting together an essay than putting together a sentence. If you’re nervous about a grammatical point, a question of usage, or another mechanical issue, please feel free to shoot us an email and ask about it.
These three papers will account for a full 60% of your grade in the course (the first two will be worth 15% apiece and the last one 30%). If you receive a C+ or below on either of your first two papers, we’ll give you one chance to improve that grade through a substantive rewrite. Come talk to us before you start rewriting so that we can hash out exactly what would constitute a “substantive” revision of the paper.
Another 25% of your grade will come from shorter writing assignments and presentations. The final 15% will come from your overall class participation. Though we expect you to contribute to our class discussions, we’re also aware that everyone has a different level of comfort with this specific kind of participation. Thus, in grading your participation we’ll also be taking into account the amount of care and attention that you pay to your bCourses posts, to your short writing assignments, and to the comments you make on your fellow students’ drafts. Office hour visits are another meaningful form of class participation.
Rules and Procedures: Timely attendance is mandatory. You will get two fully excused, no-questions-asked absences from the class. For every absence after the first two that you don’t negotiate with us beforehand or later demonstrate to me was prompted by an emergency, medical or otherwise, we’ll drop your participation grade by a third (from an A- to a B+, for example). We’ll also count every two instances of your coming to class late as an unexcused absence. We’re similarly strict about deadlines. For every calendar day that your paper is late, it will be marked one-third of a grade lower (again, an A- becomes a B+). If you face an emergency that
forces you to miss a deadline, please let us know at least 24 hours before said deadline.
Outlines and prewritings can be single-spaced but every paper you turn in must be in a regular font, double-spaced, and feature one-inch margins all around. We’d rather you be honest and turn in work slightly under the expected page count rather than try to trick us by changing your page formatting.
Please get yourself a good-sized folder that you can devote exclusively to this class. You’ll be turning your work in in this folder and every time you turn in a new assignment, all of your previous assignments should be in it as well.
Finally, all plagiarized work will receive a failing grade. Plagiarism isn’t just copying or buying an entire paper or writing exercise from another student; plagiarism is also copying paragraphs, sentences, or ideas without credit, “quoting without quotation marks,” cutting and pasting (whether from another essay, from a reference work like Wikipedia, or from sites like Shmoop or SparkNotes), or otherwise passing off the thoughts, words, and/or ideas of others as your own, consciously or unconsciously. Having seen your papers through from conception to outlining to the draft stage, we’ll notice any attempts at plagiarism. So don’t waste your time—it’d be faster and easier to do your own work. For further information, please see:http://catalog.berkeley.edu/policies /conduct.html#cheating http://students.berkeley.edu/uga/conduct.asp
Additional Help: If you’d like some extra help on your writing, especially with the mechanics of composition, please head over to the Student Learning Center at the César Chávez Student Center for free tutoring. They’ll either hook you up with a tutor you can meet regularly throughout the semester or help you on a drop-in basis, depending on what you need. You can find their website here:
Note: If you require any disability-related accommodations or other special arrangements for this class, please inform us immediately by either speaking with us privately after class or in office hours.
SCHEDULE OF READINGS AND ASSIGNMENTS
We’ll be discussing readings on the day in which they’re listed. Don’t fall behind, as reading in this class will move at a fairly fast clip.
Unit 1: Desert Imaginaries Across Cultures
Thursday, August 27th
Tuesday, September 1st
Stevens, “Anecdote of the Jar”
Yeats, “The Second Coming”
In class: Disney’s Aladdin
Workshop: “Reading” Film
Thursday, September 3rd
Lean, Lawrence of Arabia
Labid, “Hanging Ode”
Workshop: What is a college-level paper?
Tuesday, September 8th DIAGNOSTIC PAPER DUE (2-3 pages)
Labid, “Hanging Ode” (finish)
Thursday, September 10th
Selections from the 1001 Nights
Workshop: What is a thesis statement?
Unit 2: Desert Ecosystems and Economies
Tuesday, September 15th
Selections from the The One Thousand and One Nights
Thursday, September 17th
Abbey, Desert Solitaire (“The First Morning,” “Solitaire”)
Workshop: Close and Critical Reading
Tuesday, September 22nd
Abbey, Desert Solitaire (“Episodes and Visions,” “Bedrock and Paradox”)
Thursday, September 24th
al-Koni, Gold Dust (Introduction by Elliott Colla; opening chapters)
Tuesday, September 29th CLOSE READING PAPER DUE (3 PAGES)
al-Koni, Gold Dust
Thursday, October 1st
al-Koni, Gold Dust (finish novel)
Unit 3: The Desert as Metaphor
Tuesday, October 6th
Baudelaire, “Le Voyage” (excerpts)
Karr, “How to Read The Waste Land…”
Workshop: Building an argument through citation
Thursday, October 8th PAPER 1 DRAFT DUE (3 PAGES)
Eliot, The Waste Land
Tuesday, October 15th
Eliot, The Waste Land
Beckett, Act Without Words I
Thursday, October 17th
Jabra, “In the Deserts of Exile”
Workshop: Thinking through the structure of an interpretive essay
Tuesday, October 20th PAPER 1 FINAL DRAFT DUE (4-5 PAGES)
Darwish, “Poetic Arrangements”
Thursday, October 22nd
The Wachowski Brothers, The Matrix
Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation (excerpts)
Zizek, Welcome to the Desert of the Real (excerpts)
Tuesday, October 27th
Ballard, “The Cage of Sand”
Ballard, The Drought (excerpts)
Thursday, October 29th PAPER 2 DRAFT DUE (4-5 PAGES)
Miller, “A Canticle for Leibowitz”
Tuesday, November 3rd
Miller, “A Canticle for Leibowitz” (finish)
Workshop: Revising and incorporating feedback
Thursday, November 5th
Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Tuesday, November 10th
Bolaño, “Gómez Palacio”
Herrera, Signs Preceding the End of the World (excerpts)
Unit 4: Deserts of/as the Future
Unit 5: The Desert as a Space of Memory
Thursday, November 12th PAPER 2 FINAL DRAFT DUE (5-6 PAGES)
Rulfo, Pedro Páramo
Tuesday, November 17th
Rulfo, Pedro Páramo
Thursday, November 19th FINAL PAPER OUTLINE DUE
Rulfo, Pedro Páramo
Workshop: The virtues of a good paper conclusion
Tuesday, November 24th
Rulfo, Pedro Páramo (complete novel)
al-Tahawy, The Tent
Thursday, November 26th – Thanksgiving: No Class
Tuesday, December 2nd
al-Tahawy, The Tent
Thursday, December 4th FINAL PAPER DRAFT DUE (6-7 PAGES)
al-Tahawy, The Tent
Tuesday, December 8th
al-Tahawy, The Tent (complete novel)
Thursday, December 10th
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15th FINAL DRAFT PAPER 2 DUE
4:00 PM, XXXX DWINELLE (7-8 pages)
Course Catalog Number: 12983