Reading and Composition (R&C)

R1A.001: Wherever You Go, There You Are: Travel Writing / Writing Travel

Tu/Th 8:00-9:30 204 Dwinelle Instructor: Tara Phillips

“It is one of life’s greatest ironies that, no matter how much we want to be different, wherever we go, there we are. There’s just no getting away from ourselves”

-Ed and Deb Shapiro

One of the great promises of travel is the opportunity for self-discovery. We often feel we have to get away in order to become who we truly are. Whether it’s moving away from home for the first time, a backpacking trip through the wilderness, or a vacation on a tropical island, travel promises escape, freedom, adventure, and personal growth. But is this always true? How does the journey of the immigrant or exile fit in? Or that of the explorer or conqueror? What’s the difference between travel and tourism? What do we make of the environmental, economic, and cultural impact of travel? And what do we do with the terrible irony that wherever we go, there we are? » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 21941

R1A.002: (Dis)Locating the Political in Art and Literature

Tu/Th 12:30-2:00 155 Barrows Instructor: Matthew Gonzales Kevin Stone

An East LA-based Chicanx art collective spray-paints the exterior of an art museum in protest of the museum’s exclusionary practices. A Peruvian poet writes difficult and estranging poetry about poverty and suffering. A leftist studio releases a film in Germany the year before Hitler’s rise to power about the trials of a working-class family unable to afford rent. A cultural theorist claims that absurdist plays have more political force than those depicting human unfreedom. Where is the political in art and literature? » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 21942

R1A.003: “And Now for Something Completely Different”: Absurdity Through the Ages

Tu/Th 11:00-12:30 175 Barrows Instructor: Wendi Bootes Mary Vitali

“The absurd is born of the confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.”

—Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus”

“No, no. It’s spelt Raymond Luxury-Yacht but it’s pronounced Throat-Wobbler Mangrove!”

—Monty Python’s Flying Circus

What do we mean when we call something absurd, and what does it mean to take the absurd seriously? What can absurdist literature teach us about human experience, and our (in)ability to comprehend it rationally? » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 21943

R1A.004: Love Plots: “Natural’s Not In It”

Tu/Th 9:30-11:00 189 Dwinelle Instructor: Paul De Morais

This will be a class that focuses on the construction of the love story and on the “natural” feelings that serve as its basis; we will examine and analyze the correlations between the forms love may take and the shapes of their narratives by surveying a wide variety of love plots from various historical time periods and national literatures. Beginning with prototypical love stories, » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 21944

R1A.007: Feminist Gestures

MWF 11-12 204 Dwinelle Instructor: Marlena Gittleman

This class will consider gestures in both their figurative and literal senses: gesture as in to “gesture towards” an idea, practice, or community; and gesture as in a physical gesture, one that comes from the body and speaks when words are not an option, at the limits of words, or alongside them. Taken together, “Feminist Gestures” will consider feminisms as both an embodied practice and a set of ever-continuous processes. In doing so, we will look at issues of re-writing, intertextuality, and translation. We’ll think about the ways that bodies might gesture toward critiques and new feminist practices. » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 21947

R1A.008: Home and Away

MWF 12-1 233 Dwinelle Instructor: Marianne Kaletzky

This class aims to reconsider our assumptions about the family home. Contemporary popular culture celebrates the home as a refuge from the world, finding in its separation from public life and association with the nuclear family the promise of a nurturing, comfortable space where we can simply be ourselves. Yet literature and film are replete with another sort of home: isolated but never totally private, familiar but never completely safe.

Over the course of the semester, we’ll explore a number of unconventional homes.  In our first unit, we’ll visit some houses that, while familial, are anything but warm: haunted by secrets, suffocated by unhappy marriages, or petrified by the threat of their own destruction. Then we’ll turn to a set of non-domestic living spaces, including the boarding school, the convent, and the hotel. As we move from familial homes to institutional ones, we’ll rethink the oppositions that supposedly distinguish them: between private and public, between what seems natural and what’s obviously artificial, and between home and everything that isn’t.

Since this is an R and C course, its major goals are to improve students’ skills in close reading, critical thinking, and analytical writing, and to explore the relationships between the three skills. In addition to discussing the texts in class, students will write responses to them in a variety of forms, from literary analysis essays to creative projects.

Required texts:

Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Required viewing:

Robert Bresson, The Angels of Sin

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Stanley Kubrick, The Shining

Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster

Paweł Pawlikowski, Ida

Shorter readings, including short stories and poetry, will be distributed in class.

Course Catalog Number: 21948

R1A.009: Black on White/White on White

Tu/Th 02:00-03:30 225 Dwinelle Instructor: Taylor Johnston

The questions that we’ll take up in this R1A course are: what do we gain from learning about white privilege and experience from the perspective of both ethnic-minority and white writers and thinkers? What do these different perspectives reveal about racial privilege in the contemporary United States, as simultaneously lived and structural, explicit and implicit? Scholars consider these questions from many different disciplinary perspectives: history, sociology, ethnic studies, and education, to name just a few. We will spend a lot of time reading about whiteness in these different fields, and considering the questions they attempt to answer. How did the idea of a white race even come to exist, when “whites” are a group of people from many different ethnicities and social classes? » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 21949

R1B.001: Who Remembers the Sea? Waves of Memory and Mourning

Tu/Th 12:30-2 234 Dwinelle Instructor: Donna Honarpisheh Max Kaisler

Taking its title from the surreal-science-fiction novella Qui se souvient de la mer (1962, Mohammed Dib), this course will explore questions of loss, memory, and violence. As a guiding motif, we will look towards the sea from a multiplicity of positions (the shore, the port, the voyaging ship, the island, and the underwater depths) as well as various linguistic traditions (Francophone, Anglophone, and Persian) to reflect on notions of non-linear time, non-territorial visions of the world, and deep histories of violence and mourning. » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 21950

R1B.002: Elements of Island Literatures

MWF 11-12 225 Dwinelle Instructor: Pedro Javier Rolón

The island is a territory of the imagination that cuts across linguistic and cultural boundaries: at once a fantasy land of conquest, domination, and punishment, and the site of new beginnings outside all that we know. In this course we will think together about what makes the island such a rich territory and a site of multiple (and often times contradictory!) imaginations.  » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 21951

R1B.003: The Pathological Text: Madness and Melancholy in Literature and Film

Tu/Th 9:30-11 243 Dwinelle Instructor: Mary Mussman Laila Riazi

This course focuses on the aesthetics of madness and melancholia in literature and film. After situating these twin “pathologies” in medical and psychiatric history, we will begin to ask how empirical perspectives square with their treatment by literary and filmic texts. Throughout the course, we will explore both madness and melancholia as psychic and affective states; as modes of aesthetic production and experience; and as forms of social dissent and disruption– in short, as categories for our analysis as literary critics. » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 21952

R1B.004: Accented literature: immigrant voices in America

Tu/Th 02:00-03:30 204 Dwinelle Instructor: Aurelia Cojocaru

“America! I put the word on a page, it is my keyhole,” writes Russian-Jewish-American poet Ilya Kaminsky in a poem that describes his journey from the Soviet Union to America. In this class, we will read literature that explores the multifaceted perspectives immigrants have on America. How do immigrant writers see, learn about, stumble upon the particulars of American life— personally, culturally, socially, politically? » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 21953

R1B.006: Arts of Memory

MWF 1-2 204 Dwinelle Instructor: Simone Stirner

In this course, we will think about the relation between art and memory. By what means does art remember the past? How does it re-present past historical or personal events? How can a literary text allow for the resurfacing of the past, letting something that is absent speak to the present of the reader? What are the limits of art and language in this endeavor? Can literature remember a past that was never recorded and written? » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 21955

R1B.007: Ghost Stories: Literary Hauntings and Specters of the Past

MWF 10-11 242 Dwinelle Instructor: Dinah Lensing-Sharp Kyle Ralston

“124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children.”

These lines open Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a novel defined by its characters’ fraught relationship to the past. The house at 124 Bluestone Road is suffused with the echoes of a painful past: the angry ghost of a dead child haunts the house as the memories of living under slavery haunt its residents. In this spiteful, venomous house, Morrison’s characters live alongside unwelcome and unnatural reminders of past crimes and past suffering, which bind them at once to the space and to their shared history. » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 25951

R1B.009: Death, Mourning, Haunting

MWF 1-2 234 Dwinelle Instructor: Layla Hazemi-Jebelli Thomas Sliwowski

Consciousness of our own mortality is a key part of what makes us human, giving rise to manifold cultural responses, including practices of commemoration, rituals of mourning, and built monuments. In this class, we will explore a wide range of these responses as expressed in literature, film, and visual art from antiquity to the present day. How do rituals of mourning and commemoration serve the needs of the living? How do these rituals, practices, and traditions surrounding death and dying vary between cultures and across history? » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 25953

R1B.010: Excavating Babel

Tu/Th 11:00-12:30 204 Dwinelle Instructor: Amanda Siegel

The Tower of Babel in Genesis is a brief and dramatic story about how human languages and habitats become multiple and scattered. The end of the story is one way of conceptualizing the differences and divisions among peoples in the world. The story is tightly constructed, and its ambiguity yields profuse interpretations, retellings, allusions, and echoes throughout literature. In this course, we examine the way literature returns to and rewrites Babel. » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 25954

R1B.012: Skeletons in the Closet: Family Secrets in Literature and Film

Tu/Th 8:00-9:30 225 Dwinelle Instructor: Carli Cutchin

Every family has its secrets. In this class, we’ll look at fiction, film, television, and poetry
that reveal what happens when a family’s metaphorical skeletons emerge from the closet.
Does the revelation lead to crisis? Chaos? Resolution? With some of our stories, the reader
alone learns a character’s secret, while the story’s other characters remain in the dark.
What kind of “revelation” is this? How does the possession of this secret knowledge affect
a reader’s attitude toward the character and the story’s events? How do these secrets alter
or contradict our notions of family? How do the ideas of family and kinship change over
time and across distance?

» read more »

Course Catalog Number: 25956

R1B.013: Narrating Revolution

Tu/Th 03:30-5 242 Dwinelle Instructor: Pedro Hurtado Ortiz Marianne Kaletzky

Revolutions often, if not always, present themselves as radical breaks with the past. Following the French Revolution, the newly formed National Convention declared that “The era of the French is counted from the Republic, which took place September 22, 1792 of the vulgar era…The vulgar era is abolished for civil usage.” The same decree set forth an entirely different calendar—complete with an autumn new year and a ten-day week—to emphasize the extent to which the Revolution began a new era, completely distinct from anything that had come before. » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 25957

R1B.015: Dream Worlds, Myth, and the Reality of Imagination

MWF 12-1 79 Dwinelle Instructor: Jacob Malone Nicole Adair

This course will be devoted to investigating storytelling, fantasy, and the imagination. In our readings, we will explore traditional elements of storytelling, including narratorial and authorial perspective, reliability, presence, self-consciousness, and voice. We will pay particular attention to storytelling devices such as allegory, verisimilitude, digressions, and interruptions, as well as symbols of imagination, including mirrors, dreams, monsters, miracles, illusions, and veils. What roles do these devices, images, and symbols play in textual world-making? » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 25959

R1B.016: On Being Ill

MWF 8-9 204 Dwinelle Instructor: Johnathan Vaknin

We tend to think about illness in biological and epidemiological terms. Much of our knowledge about health is communicated through the language of medicine and science; we look to doctors, pharmacists, nutritionists, and a range of other experts when seeking advice on how to lead a healthy life. But can science fully convey what it means to be ill? » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 25960

R1B.017: Stories about Stories: Scenes of Story-telling and Reading in Literature

Tu/Th 5-6:30 204 Dwinelle Instructor: Louisa Kirk

This course takes up its task of developing critical reading and writing skills via an exploration of texts that stage their own reading and reception within the work. More specifically, we will focus on texts—such as Boccaccio’s Decameron and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales—in which the characters themselves narrate and discuss other stories. Though this genre emerges in the West in the Middle Ages, it remains productive up to the present day, and, as a course, we will trace the permutations of the framed novella collection structure as it moves across literary periods and national boundaries, investigating both how the texts portray and problematize the telling of stories as well as the specific sociocultural dynamics that are called into play. » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 25961


20A: Episodes in Literary Cultures

Poetry and Power

Tu/Th 11-12:30 87 Dwinelle Instructor: Ramsey McGlazer

In his “Defense of Poetry,” Percy Bysshe Shelley argued that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” In this course, we’ll take Shelley’s claim as a point of departure and proceed to ask how poets have claimed, criticized, contested, and been coopted by power. Our focus will be on poetry from Romanticism to the present, but we will also have occasion to address older poetic forms and practices. What can the persistence of these forms and practices tell us about poetry’s own power, its force? And what should we make of contemporary poetry’s apparent powerlessness? » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 30552

24: Freshman Seminar

Literature, Film, and Cultural Disaster

Th 11-12 4125A Dwinelle Instructor: Miryam Sas

What happens when catastrophic or traumatic or painful events–war, or exile, or forcefully moving from one country to another—happened to your parents or grandparents, and not to you, but you hear about them over the dinner table, or at odd moments, or sometimes in the silences between their words? Did those events, even if you didn’t experience them yourself, have an impact on your mind and heart? » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 32549

60AC: Topics in the Literature of American Cultures

(Re)Making American History

Tu/Th 11:00-12:30 212 Wheeler Instructor: Karina Palau

What makes American history, and why would we want to—need to—remake it? This course explores literary and visual materials produced in the post-Civil Rights U.S. by artists and writers who ponder this question and approach history like a raw material that demands to be refashioned and constantly problematized. What versions of American history have they remade, and what new versions and visions of history are produced in the process? » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 25187

100: Intro to Comparative Literature

Memory and Destruction: The Literatures of the Archive

MWF 10-11 105 Dwinelle Instructor: Mario Telo

In this course, we will use the complex notion of the archive to analyze and compare a wide range of texts: Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus, Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, and novels by Sebald, Saramago, Murakami, Roth, and Morrison. What is an archive? How does it reflect the relationship between memory and forgetting, preservation and destruction? What does it mean to conceive of the literary tradition as an archive? » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 21958

155: The Modern Period

Literature & Colonialism

MWF 11-12 83 Dwinelle Instructor: Karl Britto

In this course we will read a number of literary texts set in colonized territories, largely though not entirely under French domination. Dating from the turn of the twentieth century to the period of widespread decolonization a half-century later, these texts represent a variety of forms and genres (adventure novels, autobiographical fiction, philosophical novels, political denunciation and/or satire) and emerge out of a number of different cultural situations and geographic locations (including Southeast Asia, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa). » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 30710

165: Myth and Literature

Comparative Mythology:  Celtic, Norse, and Greek

Tu/Th 2-3:30 255 Dwinelle Instructor: Annalee Rejhon

A study of Indo-European mythology as it is preserved in some of the
earliest myth texts in Celtic, Norse, and Greek literatures. The meaning of myth will be examined and compared from culture to culture to see how this meaning may shed light on the ethos of each society as it is reflected in its literary works. » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 25162

171: Modern Greek Literature

States of Crisis, Women's Voices and the Politics of Authorship: Reading Greek Women's Writings from 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries, (Prose and Poetry)

F2-5 206 Dwinelle Instructor: Maria Kotzamanidou

In this course we will read select writings by Greek women authors whose literary works reflect, in a direct or indirect manner, moments of crisis in Greek history, society, and/or in Greek literary culture. As the Greek state emerged out of its scattered contact with European Enlightenment, the ideological and cultural construction of Greece as a nation emerging from the Ottoman Empire, included also attempts to envision a new Greek society of the European type. However, in that new society, the woman still remained conceived, » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 21960

190: Senior Seminar

Poetry and Nature in Translation

Tu/Th 12:30-2 4104 Dwinelle Instructor: Anne-Lise Francois

It’s been said that poetry is what is untranslatable, yet one poem often translates another, and many of us only read one another’s languages in translation. As a catch-all concept for whatever “out there” can’t quite be captured in human terms, “Nature” can also be thought of as a language only ever encountered in translation. In this senior seminar we will explore the complex relationships between these three shape-shifting terms–“poetry,” “nature,” “translation”–as we read together poems and essays from various linguistic traditions, including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. Each of you will be responsible for a poet in the language in which you are working. All readings will be provided in English, with bilingual editions used wherever possible. » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 19855


202C: Approaches to Genre: The Novel

The Novel and Sociological Forms of Knowledge

M 2-5 4125A Dwinelle Instructor: Michael Lucey

What is sociological knowledge? How do certain novels acquire the resources to produce sociological forms of knowledge?  In particular, what aesthetic practices and what features of novelistic form contribute to this kind of knowledge production? What critical frameworks allow us to perceive this aspect of the conceptual or representational work that novels do?  We will use a series of American, French, and English novels to pursue these questions, reading in tandem with them a variety of classic sociological works, including work by Durkheim, Weber, Du Bois, Simmel, Bourdieu, and a few others, as well as some recent literary criticism.

Novels:  Balzac, Old Man Goriot; Eliot, Felix Holt: The Radical, Trollope, Phineas Finn,  Proust, The Guermantes Way;  Ellison, Invisible Man

Course Catalog Number: 30581

250.001: Studies in Literary Theory

Kafka and his Commentators

W 2-5 425 Doe Library Instructor: Judith Butler

This course will undertake a close reading of Kafka’s parables, letters, and short stories as well as The Trial to understand the relationship between literature, law, and justice.  We will consider as well some key commentators on his work, including Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, and Jacques Derrida.
To gain permission for this course, you must be a graduate student enrolled in UC Berkeley and write a letter of application to by November 20th.  That letter should be one page single-spaced and include your background in literary studies, your proficiency in German (not required), and your own reasons for wishing to take this course.
Enrollment will be restricted to 18 students.

Course Catalog Number: 26545

256: The Craft of Critical Writing/NES 291

W 2-5 106 Dwinelle Instructor: Chana Kronfeld

This seminar is intended for literature students at all stages of the dissertation writing process, from developing a prospectus to completing the dissertation and preparing a chapter for publication as a scholarly article. We will work against the isolation and competitiveness that often characterize this process and develop best strategies and habits for clear, forceful, and engaging writing. The vast majority of our time will be spent discussing the written work of the seminar members  We will also read and discuss articles that are pertinent to the dissertation project of each member. Enrollment limited to 15. Priority will be given to dissertation-stage students in Comparative Literature and literature students in Near Eastern Studies.

Course Catalog Number: 30585

260: Problems in Literary Translation

Th 3-6 4104 Dwinelle Instructor: Robert Alter

The course will be conducted as a workshop in literary translation.  Each student will have a translation project for the semester, which may be from any literature, any historical period, and any genre.  Each week, two of the participants in the seminar will circulate specimens of their work, and the class session will be devoted to discussion of their translations in what will amount to collaborative work.  There are no secondary readings.  Underlying the course is a conviction that translation is an essential activity for any student of literature and especially of comparative literature.  There is no process like grappling with issues of translation, sentence by sentence and line by line, for the discovery of the nature of literary expression in all its minute details.  Some students in this course in the past have ended up actually publishing translations, but even for those with no aspiration to become translators, these discussions should  meaningfully enhance their understanding of literature.

Course Catalog Number: 30586