Comparative Literature Courses - Winter 2021

Comparative Literature Courses - Winter 2021 - Remote Instruction

All Winter 2021 courses in Comparative Literature will be held REMOTELY (online).


COM 006 Myths & Legends (4 units)

Myths and legends are the most ancient and yet most influential stories worldwide. In different ways, myths and legends express ideas about being human in relationship to phenomena and experiences apart from and greater than the mundane: connecting everyday experience both to metaphysical realms and to the natural world.  Myths and legends also express deep thoughts about the complexities of being human: coping with life experiences such as growing up, growing old; coming to terms with identities, relationships and obligations (often conflicting ones); understanding patterns that define insiders and outsiders, individuals and their communities. These stories have inspired countless adaptations in literature, the visual arts, and, more recently, film. In this course we will investigate a selection of myths and legends along with some later reworkings of these stories. We will also explore some major analytic approaches to such texts and practice our own interpretive and argumentative skills on these compelling, foundational works.                                                  GE credits:  Arts & Humanities, World Cultures, Writing Experience

COM 100 World Cinema: "Chinese Cinema" (4 units)
Lecture: T & R 10:30-11:50 am, remote
Film viewing: 5:10-8pm, remote
Instructor: Sheldon Lu

Course Description:

In this quarter we focus on the rich cinematic traditions of China. We begin with early Chinese cinema and move all the way to the twenty-first century. Students will explore the themes, styles, aesthetics, stars, and socio-political contexts of particular films as well as the evolution of entire film industries. Representative directors and internationally renowned filmmakers will be discussed, such as Wu Yonggang, Xie Jin, Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, Ang Lee, Feng Xiaogang, Jia Zhangke, and Jiang Wen. We examine Chinese cinema as an outgrowth of indigenous, national roots as well as a necessary response to international film culture. We look at how films engage in social critique and cultural reflection, and how film artists react to the conditions and forces of socialist politics, capitalist economy, tradition, modernization, and globalization in Chinese-speaking regions.

Prerequisite: Upper division standing or consent of instructor
GE credit: Arts & Humanities, Visual Literacy, World Cultures and Writing Experience.
Format: Lecture/Discussion - 3 hours; Film Viewing - 3 hours.


No need to purchase textbooks. Students will read relevant book chapters and journal articles via the online resources of the UC Davis library. Reading materials include chapters from the anthology Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender (University of Hawaii Press, 1997), edited by Sheldon Lu; Chinese Modernity and Global Biopolitics: Studies in Literature and Visual Culture (Hawaii, 2007), by Sheldon Lu; Uneven Modernity: Literature, Film, and Intellectual Discourse in Postsocalist China (Hawaii, 2011), by Haomin Gong; and more.


COM 151 Colonial and Post-colonial Literature (4 units)

Instructor: Sean Sell

Course Description:

Course Description: Beginning in 1492, the European invasion of the Americas initiated a period of colonialism that perhaps culminated with the late 19th century “scramble for Africa.” In our "Western" hemisphere, most former colonies had become “independent” nations by then, though colonizers’ descendants still ruled. The 20th century saw Indigenous movements that led to political independence for Asian and African territories, but in many ways European hegemony continues over the formerly “colonial” world.

This course will examine a variety of works from sub-Saharan Africa, Abya Yala (roughly, Latin America), and Turtle Island (roughly, North America) that represent, interrogate and challenge the colonialist and post-independence experience of these nations and regions. We will examine the diverse processes by which Indigenous writers address the legacy of colonialism while also speaking for their own cultures and places, to show the world and themselves that their ways of knowing and being are important.


So Long a Letter, Mariama Bâ (Waveland) - Senegal, Lebu

From a Crooked Rib, Nuruddin Farah (handout) - Somalia

The Perfect Nine, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o (The New Press) - Kenya, Kikuyu

Pedro Páramo, Juan Rulfo (handout) - Mexico

A Mayan Life, Gaspar Pedro González (handout) - Guatemala, Q’anjobal

The Heirs of Columbus, Gerald Vizenor (Wesleyan University Press) - USA, Anishinaabe

Heart Berries: A Memoir, Terese Marie Mailhot (handout) - Canada, Salish

Additional supporting literary texts such as poems and short stories will supplement these longer texts, as will short selections of relevant critical works – though we will also see how some writers blur the difference.


COM 180: Topics – Science Fiction: The Future is Now

Instructor: Brian Young

This course will explore the genre of Science Fiction through novels, short stories, films and other media. In particular, we will examine imagined worlds that feel familiar, plausible, and perhaps even probable. The selection here will place a particular emphasis on intimate, emotional, and character driven narratives within those settings. Texts for this course may include works from Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Cormac McCarthy, among others. Films will include selections such as Children of Men (Cuaron), and Annihilation or Ex Machina (Garland). Other media will include TV episodes from the series Black Mirror and a portion of Play Dead’s video game Inside. 


COM 210 + FRE 212 (Cross-listed)

Instructor: Noah Guynn

Course Description:
According to philosopher Simon Critchley, “Jokes tear holes in our usual predictions about the empirical world. We might say that humor is produced by a disjunction between the way things are and the way they are represented in the joke, between expectation and actuality. Humor defeats our expectations by producing a novel actuality, by changing the situation in which we find ourselves.” This course will explore the relevance of Critchley’s insight for the study of medieval and early modern comedy, including a range of narrative and theatrical genres. We will focus our attention on how these texts use humor to tear holes in the world, begging questions about what is real, how reality has been constructed for us, and how it might change in response to our laughter. We will do our best not to forget that laughter is a pleasurable, bodily experience, one that is fundamentally at odds with philosophical explanation. That said, we will regularly supplement our literary readings with theoretical expositions on laughter and the body, including key works of critical theory, political anthropology, and feminist and queer studies. Of particular interest will be: (a) the problem of subalterns as the butt of jokes, and (b) the ways in which subaltern characters respond to being targeted. As we will find, the response often involves turning a joke on its head, tearing holes in reality, and imagining “a novel actuality” in which subordination is neither natural nor necessary nor justified.