Winter 2020 Expanded Course Descriptions


Comparative Literature Expanded Course Descriptions Winter 2020


COM 7. Fantasy and the Supernatural (4 units)
Prof. Linda Matheson

CRNs vary depending on section choice

Course Description: Although the literature of fantasy and the supernatural flourished in the 19th century, phenomena associated with this genre like flights of fantasy, otherworldliness, horror and morbidity, free-floating psyches and fragmented bodies (disembodied hearts, teeth, or hair, possessing a life of their own) can be found throughout literature. This literary form assumes the cultural and narrative dominance of realism:  indeed the fantastic has no meaning without reference to realism, and shares with it a fascination with settings and objects, with the material realm. Yet perceiving and separating the supernatural and the fantastic from the real can be fraught with ambiguity as one mode seeps into another and blurs the lines of demarcation, often producing a concomitant blurring between sanity and insanity. Fantastic literature abounds in depictions of madness or suspected madness. This course will investigate these and other features of fantasy and the supernatural, as well as their relationship to realism, in literature and film from Mary Shelley to Guillermo del Toro.

Textbooks:  1. Gail Finney, ed. Literature of Fantasy and The Supernatural (Cognella 2012. ISBN 978-1-60927-335-4. Available at and in the bookstore.

2. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

GE credit (New): Arts & Humanities, World Cultures and Writing Experience.

COM 10N: Master Authors in World Literature: Rethinking Time (2 units)
Instructor: Sean Sell

CRN 77369 (Tu 4:10-6PM), 77370 (Th 4:10-6PM)

Course Description: Literature from different regions of the world may challenge us to reconsider structures of storytelling, and of time itself. In this course, we will explore readings from cultures that present alternatives to the linear Western notion of time, considering time that may be circular, cyclical, infinite, or folded back upon itself. Authors will include Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia), Luis de Lión (Guatemala), Juan Rulfo (Mexico), Toni Morrison (U.S.A.), LeAnne Howe (Choctaw) and Yvonne Vera (Zimbabwe). We will examine how these authors create plots that refuse to stay on the paths we might expect them to take, with characters and events not bound by convention, or even reality. All the readings will be in English translation.
Format: Reading and discussion class, no writing assignments; P/NP grading.

COM 53B. Literature of India (4 units)

Prof. Archana Venkatesan
CRN 76498

Course Description: In this course, we will explore the literature of India through the lens of women's writing. Starting with the luminous Therigatha, the first anthology of women's writing from the subcontinent, we will examine female mystics, poets, activists and contemporary novelists in a range of Indian languages. These will include the iconic writing of Mahashwetha Devi, the fantasy utopic novel Sultana's Dream, and the fierce feminist poetry of contemporary writers. 
Textbooks: Hallisey. Trans. Therigatha
Hossain. Sultana's Dream
Mahashwetha Devi. Breast Stories
Holmstrom. Trans. Wild Words
Additional readings will be made available on Canvas
Prerequisite: Completion of Entry-Level Writing (formerly Subject A) Requirement.

GE credit (New): Arts & Humanities, Oral Literacy, World Cultures and Writing Experience.

For more information, contact the instructor at

COM 110. Hong Kong Cinema (4 units)
Prof. Sheldon Lu

CRN 76616

Course Description: 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 will 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 adaptation of literary works about Hong Kong; Hong Kong cinema's international influence.

Prerequisite: Completion of Entry-Level Writing (formerly Subject A) Requirement, upper division standing or consent of instructor (

GE credit (New): Arts & Humanities, Visual Literacy, World Cultures and Writing Experience.

Format: Lecture/Discussion - 3 hours; Film Viewing - 3 hours.

Textbooks:  There are two required reading materials, each of which has their method of access listed beneath them:

  1. David Bordwell, Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment [2nd Edition]  (Irvington Way Institute Press, 2011)
            The Bordwell text is available only as an Adobe PDF file at

  2. Blackwell Companion to Hong Kong Cinema, edited by Esther Cheung, Gina Marchetti and Esther Yau  (Wiley Blackwell Books, 2015)
            The Blackwell Companion is available as an e-book in the UC Davis library system.

COM 147. Modern Jewish Writers
Prof. Timothy Parrish

We will be reading a range of modern Jewish writers, focusing primarily upon European and American writers. The Holocaust will come up but it is not the primary focus of the class. To situate the novels in a conversation going back to antiquity, we will begin with Job’s argument with G-d. His questions remain urgent and relevant to recent Jewish writing. Authors expected to be assigned include Kafka, Rebecca Goldstein, Cynthia Ozick, Philip Roth, and the Nobel Prize Winners, Saul Bellow and Imre Kertesz.

Two exams, one paper, and much fun reading and discussing these challenging works.

COM 160A. The Modern Novel
Prof. Timothy Parrish

In its ongoing experimentation with the creation of self, form, and narrative, the modern novel can be said to go through Proust (Swann’s Way) and Kafka (The Trial). For Proust, the narrative act reveals the self as an ongoing process of recreation. For Kafka, the self comes into form through the surveillance of an outside agency, be it G-d or the state. Confronting the horrifying major historical events of the twentieth century, Clarice Lispector (Passion According to G.H.), Milan Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being), and Mikhail Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita) playfully move between these two poles by enacting harrowing, yet often hilarious, accounts of personal identity and its relationship to history. The class concludes with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s elegiac Love in the Time of Cholera where memory and love try to resist the ravages of history. The reader, who she is and how his reading shapes the text, will stimulate our discussions with the assumption, always, that literature is fun and reading an act of discovery.

Two essay exams, one longish paper.

COM 210.  Special topic: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Chinese Literature (4 Units)
Prof. Sheldon Lu
CRN 76502

This seminar serves as an introduction to important theories, approaches, and topics in what is broadly conceived as Chinese literary studies.  The course is a team-taught course which draws on the strengths of the Chinese literature faculty at UC Davis.  Participating faculty members include Xiaomei Chen, Yuming He, Sheldon Lu, and Michelle Yeh.

The course covers important and representative research on various genres such as poetry, drama, narrative, and film.  Topics of discussion include literary movements, cultural theory, methods of interpretation, intellectual history, East-West cross-cultural interaction, comparative poetics, and issues of cultural and national identity.

Each student is required to make one in-class presentation and write a term paper.  Additional work, such as raising questions about selected reading materials, might also be assigned.

PDF files of the reading materials will be uploaded on the course website in Canvas.  No need to purchase textbooks.