Spring 2023

Spring 2023 Courses

 Undergraduate Courses


COM 001—Major Works of the Ancient World

COM 002—Major Works of the Medieval & Early Modern World

COM 003—Major Works of the Modern World

COM 004—Major Works of the Contemporary World

COM 006—Myths and Legends
Amy Motlagh

COM 007—Literature of Fantasy and Supernatural
Stefan H. Uhlig

This course explores how literary texts (not least compared with other artworks) deal with subjects and experiences that are too strange to fit conventional storylines. If fiction is made up of statements that are neither true nor simply false, the realm of fantasy provides a test case for what literature can do. In other words: how can texts represent improbable, even impossible, events and still not lose our interest – let alone persuade us that they know things we do not, and that they are hence worth reading carefully? We focus on a few exceptionally imaginative texts alongside works in other media they have inspired (movies, opera, or dance). These works do not reassure us with their sense of what is real, or even plausible – instead, they ask us to rethink our ways of mapping and experiencing the world. Excerpts from works in other media will include: Max Reinhardt, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) / John Neumeier, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1977) / Dieter Dorn, Faust (1988) / Jacques Offenbach, The Tales of Hoffmann (1881) / Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo (1958) / Walt Disney, Alice in Wonderland (1951) / Peter Capaldi, Franz Kafka’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1993).

The set texts for this course are as follows. These will not be available from the Campus Book store, but I will provide full-text pdfs via Canvas. I recommend that you buy physical copies online if at all possible:

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, ed. Peter Hunt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); note that we will only be reading Alice in Wonderland
E. T. A. Hoffmann, The Golden Pot and Other Tales, trans. Ritchie Robertson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: Part One, trans. David Luke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis, trans. Stanley Corngold (Modern Library Classics, 2013)
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ed. Peter Holland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (Dover Publications, 1993)


COM 010L—Master Authors in World Literature: Animal Studies and World Literature

Zhenyu Xu

For both ancient and modern writers, literature has served to create a shared ecoliterary space in which humans and animals interact, and where animal footprints invite responses from readers. From William Blake’s tyger to Wang Wei’s wild gibbons, literature has had its own rich ecology. This course investigates a broad array of poems, films, and other cultural products, using the thematic concerns and theoretical methods of animal studies to produce an animal map of world literature. We will explore the distinctive way different literature traditions contends with the traces of animals and animality as they emerge in language, images, and forests. Putting this map into a historical context, we will discuss how modern and classical authors have synthesized animals into images or narratives that were conducive to their particular aesthetic, political, or social values.

  • 2 units; lecture/discussion; Pass/No Pass only

COM 011—Travel & The Modern World
N. Talbott


COM 110—Hong Kong Cinema
Sheldon Lu

 Lecture: 10:30 –11:50 am, Tuesday & Thursday, Wellman 2

Original weekly evening screening: 5:10 pm, Wednesday, TLC 1010, now students watch digitized films in Canvas course site on their own remotely  

This course is a study of the cinema of Hong Kong, a cultural crossroads between East and West. Students examine the history, genres, styles, stars, and major directors of Hong Kong cinema in reference to the city's multi-linguistic, colonial, and postcolonial environment. The course pays special attention to Hong Kong cinema’s interactions with and influences on other filmic traditions such as Hollywood and Asian cinema. Topics include: characteristics of Hong Kong cinema as a local, regional, and global cinema; historical evolution of film genres and styles; major directors and stars; film adaption of literary works about Hong Kong; Hong Kong cinema’s international influence.  The class will watch and discuss films involving directors, actors, and actresses such as Wong Kar-wai, John Woo, Stephen Chow, Ann Hui, Peter Chan, Fruit Chan, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-fat, Tony Leung, Andy Lau, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, and many others.

Read Expanded Course Description

COM 112—Japanese Cinema
Michiko Suzuki

This class is an introduction to Japanese film from the early silent films to contemporary cinema. While exploring the history of Japanese film and its social and cultural contexts, we examine works by important directors (such as Kurosawa and Ozu), genres (such as avant-garde film and samurai film), themes and techniques. We will also read secondary critical materials on Japanese film and history. Particular areas of focus include gender, war, memory, censorship, visuality and narrative. 

Lectures, readings and discussions will be in English. No previous knowledge of Japanese language or culture is required.


COM 145—Representations of the City
Jocelyn Sharlet

Comparative Literature 145 Representations of the City in Literature

This course investigates the city in literature through characters who find themselves out of place or in strange situations in the city, using examples of fiction by major modern writers about Cairo, Alexandria, Istanbul, Baghdad, and Beirut. We will consider how writers explore the experiences of growing up, relationships among family and friends, the pursuit of desire and ambition, and growing old in the midst of urban social dislocations of family conflict, migration, violence, poverty, and authoritarianism. Discussions will focus on how writers have recourse to the imagination, the absurd, the supernatural, the marginalized, and the strange and unexpected aspects of modernity in urban life. GEs: AH WC WE

Ahmed Saadawi, Frankenstein in Baghdad
Latife Tekin, Berji Kristin: Tales from the Garbage Hills
Hanan al-Shaykh, The Story of Zahra
Ibrahim Abdel Meguid, Clouds over Alexandria
Ahmed Naji, Using Life


COM 164B - Renaissance 
Leonardo Giorgetti

What is the Renaissance? Is it a cultural phenomenon that witnessed the rebirth of the interest in the Greco-Roman culture of the ancient Mediterranean world and the beginning of a new age, as believed by several people who lived in Italy between c. 1350 and c. 1550? Or should it be rather considered a longer, pan-European and decentered cultural phenomenon bearing a connotation of renewal and exceptionality and inexhaustibly enacting processes of cultural assimilation and transformation, as the very etymology of the term “Renaissance” suggests? Was it a period of significant political, economic, artistic, religious, and intellectual change that developed in continuity or rather in discontinuity with the Middle Ages? Did this period present distinct cultural connotations featuring a process of political and economic recovery as well as the birth of the new social ideal of the modern European universal individual capable of achievements in any area of life, as famously theorized by the historian Jacob Burckhardt in 1860? In this course, we will analyze all the historical factors at the origin of the Renaissance in early modern Europe, as well as its major intellectual contributions to Western modernity, such as the genesis of new conceptions of literature and the arts, of human dignity and worth (including the issues of gender, race, and slavery), of education and knowledge, of faith and doubt, of nature and science, of authority and social order. Students will have the chance to approach electively a number of varied, transnational primary and secondary sources featuring authors now belonging to a world republic of letters (Petrarch, Colonna, Pico della Mirandola, Machiavelli, Ariosto, Tasso, Moderata Fonte, Cornelius Agrippa, Erasmus, More, Montaigne, Rabelais, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Galilei, and Aphra Behn). All the course readings will be posted as pdfs on Canvas.

COM 164D: What's Wrong with the Enlightenment
Stefan H. Uhlig

The term Enlightenment describes a complex period in eighteenth-century European intellectual and literary history. Its basic sense is to encourage the reflective exercise of reason as opposed to prejudice, mere faith, or superstition. But this effort to shed light on knowledge-making has been, from the outset, criticized as flawed and incomplete. In fact, excessive faith in rationality and universal norms has in itself seemed like a form of bias, exercised by privileged elites at the expense of lived experience and fulfillment, the natural environment, cultural difference, or identity. Enlightenment may therefore best be thought of as a tenuous process and ongoing work-in-progress rather than a triumph that encapsulates the age. If eighteenth-century arguments were, even in the period, critiqued as overreaching, practically inept, and morally insensitive, what kind of legacy does the Enlightenment present for us? Was its attack on orthodoxy in religion, scientific method, anthropology, or politics a triumph over prejudice and ill-thought-out consensus? Or did contradictory and partial (that is sexist and routinely racist) efforts by an early class of experts leave a darker burden with their segregated faith in reason and utility? The question is especially pressing at our present time when democratic sovereignty contends with bigotry and fellow citizens, in the US no less than Europe, have abandoned knowledge-making for self-serving and, indeed, identitarian conspiracies. We will explore key readings from the European eighteenth century alongside influential counter-arguments. There is no textbook for this course, and all readings will be posted as pdfs on Canvas.

COM 168A: Romanticism

The term Romanticism is a strong example of how period concepts help, or hinder, how we think about the past. Some critics have insisted that the period between, roughly, 1770 and 1830 saw a transformation in how European intellectuals and artists thought about the world that shaped modernity. Others have argued that this notion of a period concept of Romanticism is misguided. For these skeptics, thought and creativity within the period is so diverse that we should move to lower case, and call it merely the romantic period. This course works through select examples of what may be new, or even radical, enough within this timeframe to define a threshold between old routines and new ways to conceive of self-expression, creativity, the natural world, or sociability. Where possible, we will read key romantic texts in contrast with the kinds of writing they defined themselves against to work out just what might be special about what we call Romanticism. I will provide all readings for this course as pdfs via Canvas.

Graduate Courses

COM 210—Special Topic: World Cinema
Tuesday, 2:10-5:00 pm
Sheldon Lu

Course Description:This course examines "world cinema" as a concept, as a critical discourse, and above all as the practices of diverse cinematic traditions of the world. We will also tackle related categories of contemporary film studies such as “national cinema,” “transnational cinema,” “global cinema,” “third cinema,” “third-world cinema,” and postcolonial cinema.  Depending on student interests and enrollment, comparative case studies will be drawn from countries and regions from around the world such as Asia, Europe, Africa, and America.  Special attention will be given to East-West cross-cultural interflows in the traveling of images, discourses, and ideas.  As we look at some pivotal moments in world film history, we also raise broad issues in current film studies such as globalization, diaspora, cinematic style, national identity, visual culture, and film industry.  Students will examine the ideas, practices, and styles of a variety of filmmakers such as Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, R. W. Fassbinder, Jean-Luc Godard, Yasujiro Ozu, Gillo Pontecorvo, Wong Kar-wai, Jia Zhangke, Zhang Yimou, Ousmane Sembene, Claire Denis, and others.  

Reading Materials: Students will have access to reading materials through the UC Davis library online system.  Materials will be uploaded onto the Canvas course site.   No requirement to purchase textbooks although students could purchase certain books they like on their own.

COM 298—Directed Group Study
Cheryl Ross