Reading and Composition (R&C)

R1B.001: Clothing Makes the Man: The Politics of Drag

Tu/W/Th/10:00-12:30 204 Dwinelle Instructor: Gregory Bonetti

Comp Lit R1B:1
Tu/W/Th 10:00am-12:30pm
204 Dwinelle
CCN: 27905
G. Bonetti

“Every time I bat my false eyelashes, it’s a political statement.”

Drag queens are not known for their subtlety.  But tucked away underneath the bedazzled outfit and the painted face is a scathing critique of gender categories.  You think a girl should have curves?  Well, it’s just a question of a little padding.  Eyelashes that can wink seductively?  » read more »

Course Catalog Number: 27905

R1B.002: R1B:2, Great Expectations

Tu/W/Th 03:00-05:30 203 Dwinelle Instructor: Current Graduate Students

Comp Lit R1B:2
TWT, 3:00-5:30pm
203 Dwinelle
CCN: 27910
M. Gordon


This is a course about people who fall short, plans that go bust, and stories that don’t turn out like you thought they would. Not that you’ll be spending the summer suffering through a series of tragic disappointments. For as we explore the making and unmaking of lofty ambitions, romantic aspirations, prophecies, and personal and collective ideals, we will also be questioning whether they’re all they’re cracked up to be, or even worth pursuing in the first place. Where do these enthralling, often crushing expectations come from? In what way do they shape our attitudes towards the past, the present, and the future? How are they framed within artistic works? With what preconceptions do we approach these works, and how might they respond to those preconceptions? Whether as characters, narratives, or readers, could going halfway, amiss, in the opposite direction, or nowhere at all towards fulfilling expectations—going somewhere completely unexpected—bring its own rewards?

Please purchase the following texts in the editions specified:

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (Grove; ISBN 978-0802130341)
Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust (New Directions; ISBN 978-0811218221)

Shorter written texts, films, songs, and visual art may include:

Katherine Mansfield, “The Baron”
Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel”
Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”
James Joyce, “Araby”
Roberto Bolaño, “Gómez Palacio”
Elizabeth Bishop, from Questions of Travel
Franco Marinetti, The Futurist Manifesto
Vladimir Mayakovsky, “At the Top of My Voice”
Leonard Cohen, “Waiting for the Miracle” and “The Future”
Hieronymus Bosch, The Last Judgment
Gregory Crewdson, Beneath the Roses
Tex Avery, selected cartoons
Lars von Trier, Melancholia
John Huston, The Maltese Falcon
Andrei Tarkovsky, Stalker
Fritz Lang, Metropolis
Joel and Ethan Coen, A Serious Man


Course Catalog Number: 27910


N 60AC: Topics in the Literature of American Cultures

Born in the USA: American Poets and Poetry

Tu/W/Th 04:00-06:30 179 Dwinelle Instructor: Current Graduate Students

Session D
TuWTh, 4-6:30pm
179 Dwinelle Hall
Jessie Hock

From Virgil’s epic of state-building to Petrarch’s coronation as poet laureate of Italy in the fourteenth century or Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again,” writers have always reflected upon, critiqued, and embodied national identities in poetry. Think of how much the Aeneid exemplifies Rome and her history, or Walt Whitman’s exuberant “Leaves of Grass” defines the expansive American landscape and spirit. In this course, we will explore how (North) Americans – natives, settlers, slaves, and immigrants – have crafted American identities in poetry and imagined America as land, birthright, culture, and nation.

By the seventeenth century when the first European settlers came to America, Europe had an infrastructure for the production and circulation of poetry. Court and patronage culture provided financing and context, publishers produced texts swiftly with the printing press, and reading communities of scholars, churchmen, aristocrats, and merchants were well established. This would not be true of America for many years – centuries even – and this course will begin by exploring the sorts of unconventional – and often oral – verse that was produced in America in the colonial and Revolutionary period. We will approach these forms and their authors by way of the spaces that produced them: the church, the field, the schoolroom, the prison, the house, the battlefield. Thinking in terms of space rather than genre or poetic form will allow us to integrate and compare different populations of Americans in a way that bisects racial, economic, and gendered groups; the ethnic groups upon which we will focus – Native Americans, European settlers, and African-Americans – can also be thought of in terms of cross-racial and trans-historical groupings – prisoners, students, workers, worshippers.

Thus, the first half of this course construes American “poetry” broadly, as oral and written texts with lyric qualities – rhyme, meter, song. By the nineteenth century, however, poets began to emerge. The second half of the course, covering the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, addresses two figures and one movement that defined American poetry: Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and the Harlem Renaissance (with a particular focus on Gwendolyn Bennett, Langston Hughes, and Claude McKay). These poets developed singularly American voices by thematizing American spaces – the open land, the city, the garret. Finally, the course will draw to a close by studying the Bay Area’s rich poetic history: San Francisco poetry, the California small press movement, and the great poets currently teaching at Berkeley. Thinking about local poetry will further deepen students’ appreciation for the bonds between local spaces and identities, and poetry. We explore the spaces of the bookstore (City Lights), the press-room, and the library (the Bancroft).

The course does not presume to provide a complete survey of American poetry. Instead, students will gain expertise in three different areas. First, the mechanics of literary form and how to read and analyze both metrical and free verse. Secondly, knowledge of several crucial figures, poetic forms, and poetic movements: for example, Anne Bradstreet, the spiritual, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, the blues, the Harlem Renaissance, California poetry. Finally, students will explore in depth the relationship between poetry and nation, and how poetic texts have produced a wide range of American identities. Through these diverse moments, and with the help of critical texts and supplementary sources in prose, images, and music – journals, captivity narratives, sermons, songs, paintings, newspaper articles – we will interrogate the ways poets have cobbled together an American identity from disparate sources and in wildly varied voices.


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