Comparative Literature Program - Course Descriptions


Spring Quarter

Dept Course No and Title Instructor
This course will provide students with an introduction to the concept of “multiculturalism” by focusing on its critics. The USA mythically conceives of itself as a nation of immigrants whose various geographical origins, ethnicities, and cultures coexist harmoniously in the proverbial melting pot of shared national identity as Americans. However, critics demonstrate how the rhetoric of American multiculturalism serves to manage the nation-state’s ethnic minority populations while upholding the white supremacist ideology and practices on which the US was founded. Furthermore, the notion of American multiculturalism obscures the settler colonial system that continues to suppress the sovereignty of Native American nations by racializing their citizens as “Indians” and misrepresenting them as ethnic American minorities rather than dual citizens of the US and their own Native nations. One example of this is the common academic practice of relegating Native American literature and cultural studies to ethnic studies, “minority discourses” within American studies, or a marginal branch of American literature within English departments.

This course will work beyond a multicultural framework to recenter the problem of political equality. Students will read Native and African-American literatures in comparative contexts to examine the establishment of social and ethnic hierarchies in the US. Whereas Africans and their descendents were racialized as Black through slavery, the one-drop rule, and Jim Crow laws designed to proliferate Black people as a source of exploitable labor, Indigenous Americans were racialized as Indians through blood quantum requirements and compulsory institutionalization in Indian boarding schools that were designed to eliminate the population of Native people over time, opening their lands up for further colonial settlement. Students will explore theories and practices of discipline and punishment as they pertain to sociopolitical processes of constructing racial difference in the US. Course readings will include slave narratives, Indian boarding school narratives, and scholarship on the prison industrial complex.
This course explores how anime imagines world crisis and the end of "Japan." We discuss anime, especially feature films, that work on this topic, and ask why and how the anxiety they show is coming up now. The goal of the class is for students to collaborate on new ideas about the politics and aesthetics of anime and what it means to think about the limits of the modern world from within Japan. The emphasis will be on on questioning and working together in a friendly environment. Some films and OVAs to be viewed include: Yasuhiro Yoshiura, Pale Cocoon; Makoto Shinkai, Voices of a Distant Star; Bones studio [Masahiko Minami, Hiroshi Ōsaka, Toshihiro Kawamoto], No 6, season 1; Mamoru Oshii, Sky Crawlers; Shuko Murase, Ergo Proxy (20+ episodes); Satoshi Kon, Paprika.

Requirements: participation, 2 short papers, miderm, final.
How do we think about the "self?" How is the ideas of self dependent on cultural contexts? How do different media impact the idea of the self? How are notions of race, gender and sexuality inscribed in "selfhood?" The class introduces students to a variety of cultural practices (fictional and non-fictional writing, film, audio, new media) by looking at ideas of selfhood. We will study autobiographical narratives in order to discuss how they use different strategies to represent a self, or how they construct and problematize identity. The materials will range from the 18th to the 21th century, and will include autobiographical writings (such as Rousseau's Confessions and Olaudah Equiano's slave narrative), documentary films and self-representation in social networks.
Requirements: regular attendance and participation in class discussion, regular postings/ blog entries, creative project and presentation to class, midterm/final.
Indigenous feminisms assert that gendered forms of violence in Native American and Indigenous communities—including sexual violence as well as the imposition of heteronormativity and patriarchy—are key components of the structure of settler colonialism. Indigenous feminist scholars note the erasure of Indian women as significant figures in history and culture, acknowledge the ways that Indigenous communities often internalize the settler colonial ideology of heteropatriarchy, and demonstrate that gender and sexual violence are methods of American Indian genocide. Indigenous feminist theories contest the view that Indigenous sovereignty and gender justice are separate political goals and argue that gender justice must be part of any strategy or theory of decolonization.

This course engages a wide array of Indigenous feminisms drawn from various thematic and transnational contexts across the Americas, Hawai’i, Australia, and New Zealand. Students will explore the foundations of Indigenous feminist theories in Black and women of color feminist thought and consider multiple intersections of gender, race, indigeneity, patriarchy, and settler colonialism as articulated in Native American and Indigenous studies and Indigenous feminist theories of sovereignty. Course readings include creative and critical literature written by Indigenous writers whose work remaps settler colonial geographies and imagines or creates Indigenous alternatives to enduring forms of imperialistic, gendered spatial violence. Students will also learn the critical contexts of Indigenous feminisms which encompass the fields of anthropology, history, law, dance, and postcolonial studies.
This course will be organized around the question of what globalization looks and feels like from below: this can mean both what is called the global south (what used to be called the third world) but also includes the face of globalization looks for those who may be on the loosing end of things in the global north as well. Are differences in space and time shrinking in the same way all over the planet? Is the present defined by speed, mobility, interconnectedness and hybridity for everyone? How is globalization being resisted or reformulated by those who call themselves anti-globalization? What if we are moving towards becoming, as Mike Davis suggests, a planet of slums? The first 6-7 weeks of class will lay the ground through readings which consider the impact of globalization on the organization of social movements, notions of identity, transformations of culture, experiences of space etc. in addition to the consideration of a few particular contexts through films and other readings. As this is the capstone seminar for the Global Cultures major, however, particular emphasis will be placed on students’ creative and critical contributions and to that end, the last 3-4 weeks of the class will be organized and run by student groups. Groups will be responsible for selecting an appropriate topic, identifying reading material as well as crafting study questions and assignments for the rest of the class in close consultation with me. Students will also be asked to write a final paper that comes out of the work with and topic of their group.
This seminar examines the problem of how to understand the time of our own lives historically – the work of which is conceived here as a critical archaeology of our senses of the future. For the spring term of 2016, this course is devoted to the futuristic speculative fiction of Octavia Butler’s Parable duology, 1993-1998 (Parable of the Sower, 1993 and Parable of the Talents, 1998, of which a third volume remained incomplete upon her passing) and Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy from 2003-2013 (Oryx and Crake, 2003, The Year of the Flood, 2009, and MaddAddam, 2013). Notably, the Wachowski’s made-for- television series Sense8 from 2015 (the first 12 episodes, so far released) will be required viewing and serve as a counterpart form of narrative for the course. The student who completes this course will understand both the necessity and possibility of thinking beyond traditional forms of supposed historical and philosophical understanding, even within literature, which remain so tied to traditional forms of identification – primarily but not only senses of human – in order to engage fully the diverse possibilities of historical existence – primarily those oriented toward the future, real and imagined, utopian and dystopian – that make up today’s global and truly cosmopolitan – that is to say cosmological, both micrological and macrological – senses of world. In the course of which we deal with climate change, the breakdown of California’s gated communities, corporate greed and global governance, misogyny, AI, new religions and new forms of religiosity, and the cyborg, whether human and machine or human and other animal. This is thus fundamentally a course about the relative and difficult different senses of world – that comprise our (whomever is such) future(s). This seminar is a part of a series of courses (taught by this professor), with alternating topics that respectively – that is to say, in different ways – take up the problem of thinking otherwise than our dominant senses of the human. The course is an upper division writing intensive seminar. This means students who wish to take this course should be prepared for both substantial reading and substantial writing.
This course introduces psychoanalytic theories of consciousness and
unconsciousness, especially as developed by Freud in two of his major
works, Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis and The Interpretation of
Dreams. We'll discuss dream motivation and function, parapraxes (or
Freudian slips), symptoms, resistance, trauma, melancholia, and
recovery. We'll also explore psychoanalytic thinking through the
writings of British psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott and through films.
We'll treat the films not as illustrations of psychoanalytic ideas, but
as works that themselves develop new psychoanalytic theories. One of the
main aims of the course is to encourage questioning about thinking's
complexity. Class experience emphasizes mutual exploration and
This is not a class about a TV show (as relevant as Don Draper’s story might be to contemporary culture). Rather, we will deal with representations of the experience what today is called “mental illness” and its gendering. Some theorists have posed the question how “madness” can be communicated if we understand it as the condition of a mind at the limits of language. Such a problematics is of particular interest in narratives, which use the perspective of an individual deemed “mad” in order to provide a critique of society, i.e. try to rearticulate “madness” as social pathology. We will explore these issues in a range of contemporary theoretical and literary texts, films and examples from popular culture. One of the major interests concerns the roles of gender and race in the construction of madness and in the experience of subjects regarded as “mad.” Readings might include Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper, Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye, Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony. Movies of interest include Miloš Forman, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down. We will also listen to the voices of the survivors of mental illness and to mental health activists. Students will participate in the student spring conference "Reclaim Mental Health" (as audience, workshop participants). 

Requirements: Regular attendance and participation in class discussion, midterm, final, weekly blog entries or final paper (about 12 pp).
No detailed description available.
The title of this course, “Gangs of Bollywood,” pays homage to the immensely successful and influential Bollywood movie, “Gangs of Wasseypur,” which has its own inter-textual, embedded reference to the equally successful Hollywood film “Gangs of New York.” This initial connection/contrast works at several planes. “Wasseypur” was successful strictly on the scale of the Indian national market and its director, Anurag Kashyap, would be almost completely unknown outside the world of Hindi cinema; by contrast, “Gangs of New York” was an international success just as Scorcese, the director, is a formidable figure in global cinema. This raises interesting questions about the national and global markets even in this era of purported globalization and the even more complicated question of the technical and formal authority that Hollywood has exercised over Bombay/Bollywood cinema since the very inception of the latter. Thus, “Wasseypur” rehearses, in a characteristic Bollywood “masala” mix, a number of formal tropes that Indian cinema borrows from various genres and phases of the American film: melodrama (the central form of the Bollywood movie), the classical noir (translated into Mumbai Noir), the Western and even “spaghetti western” (Curry Western in Bollywood parlance), the family romance, the crime thriller, and so on. A question that will concern us throughout the course is: what happens to western form when it arrives in the (neo-)colony and gets filled with indigenous social content? What happens, for instance, to the more recent sub-genres such as the political thriller or the erotic thriller when it arrives and gets re-activated in societies wherepolitical power structures and sexual mores are so very different. Does even an outright imitation remain simply an imitation? Or, does something more complex, more original emerge out of this unique process of domesticating the foreign form that is globally dominant.

In Bollywood films as in Hollywood cinema, the figure of the gang is complex and serves great many purposes. Two of the most famous and commercially highly successful Bollywood movies of recent years are Maqbool and Omkara, flamboyantly irreverent re-tellings of Shakespeare’s MacBeth and Othello respectively, that Vishal Bhardawaj has directed for mass audiences the majority of whom would be entirely unschooled in anything Shakespearean while large cross-sections of urban middle class audiences encounter Shakespeare again and again, obsessively, in their school and college syllabi, as the ultimate pinnacle of the cultural superiority of the departed colonial power, the British, who formulated those enduring syllabi in the first place. What happens to MacBeth and her famous consort when they re-appear, beset by the dark tones of the classic noir, as the Don and his mistress in the milieu of the Bombay Muslim Mafia which is itself trying to imitate the ways of life of the Muslim feudal aristocracy of yesteryears, including the routine violence endemic among such aristocracies? Or to Othello, if the whole plot is moved to the stagnant, corrupted hinterlands of rural North India—a beyond-the- law ‘Wild West’ in its own right? Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted quite often, for stage and then for film, in terms of contemporary settings. What is special about these particular films? Are these postcolonial deconstructions of colonially authoritative texts? Are they borrowing Shakespeare’s authority to debunk power structures in their own postcolonial society of today? Perhaps both, to varying degrees, and much more. What is significant, however, is the attempt to translate Shakespeare into the film language of popular culture that Bollywood has invented for itself.

Three other issues will also concern us prominently. First, the strange interplay of misogynist voyeurism and female empowerment in specific films of this genre, such as Bandit Queen and Godmother, and in the construction of female sexuality more generally. Second, the involvement of the gang and the mob in issues of ethnic identity and religious violence: Bombay, Earth:1947, Parzania. The third issue is more complex. Bombay cinema was born in the last decades of colonial power in India and began coming into its own, from 1930s onwards, in conjunction with the Progressive Writers Movement. High realism (mixed with romance) was often the narrative form, deployed for explicit social and political criticism. That phase ended in the 1960s and a radically new form arose in mid-1970s, in what now became Bollywood-- which this course will examine. What then happened to that heritage of film as medium of socio-political criticism? We shall see how older contents get re-articulated in new filmic forms.
Students will also read a number of texts of film theory and film criticism, the latter drawn mostly from Indian sources.
This class is the capstone seminar for the Comparative Literature major and as such focuses on independent research and a longer writing project. The theme for this year is the question of how, from the humanities, and from a discipline like comparative literature, we can have something to say about a topic that seems, at first glance, to be far removed from our area of study: water. Water might seem to be unambiguous, something that is “out there”, part of nature and best studied by biologists or engineers or, at best, by historians. Part of the challenge then involves a question of what we mean by water, what theoretical tools we use to conceptualize it, what narrative forms are used to talk about water (by whom and when?), and what aesthetic resources are brought to bear in the way we represent water. We will be reading theoretical pieces, poetry and watching fiction films and documentaries.