Reading and Composition (R&C)

R1B.001: Seeing is Creating: Madness, Imagination, and Fiction

Tu/W/Th/10:00-12:30 104 Dwinelle Instructor: Current Graduate Students

Comp Lit R1B:1
TWTh 10:00-12:30
104 Dwinelle
CCN 27905
S. Cochran

(Please note that this course is only open to students who have satisfied the first half of the Reading and Composition requirement.)

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 »

Course Catalog Number: 27905

R1B.002: R1B:2, The Comic Corrective: Wordplay & Language Games

CL R1B:2
TWTh 4:00-6:30
Mon 4-6:30, film screenings
123 Dwinelle
CCN 27910
T. Wolff

Please note this course is only open to students who have satisfied the first half of the Reading and Composition Requirement.

This course experiments with different approaches to close reading through the diversions and subversions of comedy. We will get used to treating the forms of wordplay that provide most jokes with their punchlines as corresponding to aspects of literary style, from ambiguity to anticlimax, from clashing registers to the much-maligned pun. We will also look for ways that the same slipperiness of meaning plays a role in our own everyday speech habits, and in the media that saturate our social formation and participation. The course theme is intended primarily to attune the undergraduate reader and writer to fine stylistic distinctions in literary texts, but also secondarily to reveal, and to offer descriptive terms for, the ways language plays games in our lives at large. For this reason, we’ll read with an eye out for the ways language and comedy structure and reconfigure broader social themes, from gender and sexual politics, to childhood and family psychology, to the establishment of cultural and legal norms. As opposites to seriousness/reality, the relationships between comedy, dreams, theater, and pretense will guide our readings of concrete comic “correctives” (e.g., nonsense verse, surrealism, performance art, childhood play, and camp). The course balances texts from a range of genres and media (including film, television and advertising) with critical texts that suggest the unexpected force of play and the “comic attitude” in and out of literature. As always, students should be aware that an R/C course is especially writing-intensive, but in this course an additional willingness to pause over, discuss and play with linguistic details is a must.


• Aristophanes, Lysistrata

• William Shakespeare, As You Like It

• Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Ernest

• Muriel Spark, Loitering With Intent

• Harryette Mullen, Muse & Drudge

There will also be a Course Reader consisting of 1) selected the poetry and prose of Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, G. M. Hopkins, Edward Lear, Franz Kafka, Edward Gorey, Donald Barthelme, Georges Perec, and Lydia Davis; and 2) short selections from the critical writings of Friedrich Schiller, Henri Bergson, Sigmund Freud, Johan Huizinga, Kenneth Burke, D. W. Winnicott, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Erving Goffman, Vivian Gornick, and Susan Sontag.

Visual Media

Buster Keaton, Sherlock Jr.

Marx Brothers, Duck Soup

Jenny Livingstone, Paris is Burning

Monty Python’s Flying Circus (selected episodes)

Arrested Development (selected episodes)

Art works by Barbara Kruger & Jenny Holzer

Advertisements (TV and print)

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N 60AC: Topics in the Literature of American Cultures

Ghosts of Our Past: Cultural Anxieties in American Gothic Fiction

Tu/W/Th 04:00-06:30 251 Dwinelle Instructor: Bonnie Ruberg

Comp Lit N60AC:1
TuWTh 4:00-6:30
251 Dwinelle Hall
CCN 27915
B. Ruberg

A good ghost story is never just about an apparition. It’s about the society that created that ghost, and what such a society fears: race relations, changing gender roles, disease, technology, foreignness.   » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 27915

N 60AC: CL N60AC:2, “Like it’s 1999”: America in the Nineties

CL N60AC:2
TWTh 9:00-11:30
105 Dwinelle
CCN 27920
A. Gadberry

If the proliferation of floral print and crop tops or the planned remake of Point Break weren’t convincing enough, this fall’s fashion week paid homage to Sassy (beloved periodical of nineties teens), and the men’s magazine GQ joined the growing number of headlines in national newspapers and periodicals declaring that “we are likely entering a prolonged period of ’90s monomania.”

This summer we’ll take our cue from this apparent pop culture imperative and examine novels, poetry, drama, film, television shows, albums, artworks, government documents, and the output of American news media as we analyze the roughly decade-long period between the falls of the Berlin Wall and the Twin Towers.  We’ll attempt to complicate facile accounts of the decade as we place the post-Cold-War dot-com-boom alongside the decade’s spectacular violence from Operation Desert Storm to the beating of Rodney King and subsequent LA Riots and many other events and scandals.  We will place particular emphasis on literary, artistic, and philosophical works and their relationship to popular culture, and our approach will be selective rather than exhaustive.  We’ll focus especially on race, ethnicity, and gender in the 1990s and on the aesthetics of grunge culture and Gen-X malaise.

An abiding concern through our entire course will be in considering how the 1990s understood itself and how, or if, the apparent nostalgia for the ’90s in our present moment amounts to a longing for the decade George F. Will named, on September 12, 2001, “a holiday from history” (and we’ll test the legitimacy of Will’s assessment).  We’ll use close reading and rhetorical analysis to unfold texts literary and social, but we’ll also pose questions about periodization and ask how the invention of the Internet and the media of the 1990s constructed our perception of that historical moment, of the “real,” and of the continuities and discontinuities of the 1990s with the present.

Assignments will include two short papers, a project, and several small assignments and creative exercises.

In addition to some in-class screenings of TV episodes (e.g., My So-Called Life, Twin Peaks), music videos, and film, there will be weekly film screenings outside of our scheduled class time.  Students will be required to attend at least three of these outside screenings.  Some possible films for this series include: Greg Araki, The Living End (1992); Cameron Crowe, Singles (1992); Spike Lee, Get on the Bus (1996); Jennie Livingston, Paris is Burning (1990); Todd Solondz, Happiness (1998); Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction (1994); and Larry and Andy Wachowski, The Matrix (1999).

Required Works (available for purchase at ASUC Bookstore)

Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son
Nirvana, Nevermind
Alice Notley, The Descent of Alette
Anna Deveare Smith, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992

Most of the required texts for this class will be made available in a large course reader, which will include philosophical, theoretical, and literary-critical texts (e.g., Baudrillard, Butler, Jameson, Zizek); selected short stories, poetry, excerpts from longer works of fiction, and reproductions of artworks (e.g., Ellis, Monette, Moore, Wallace); newspaper and magazine articles; legislation, judicial decisions, and other government reports relevant to our course’s themes; and contextualizing selections from histories of the period.  (Interested students should feel free to contact the instructor for a full list of the texts likely to appear in the course reader.)

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