Winter 2023

Winter 2023 Courses


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Undergraduate Courses


COM 001—Major Works of the Ancient World

Section 001

Section 003 - Myth, Epic, and the Sacred

What is the nature of the sacred? In which ways do deities preside over human life? To what extent can they shape the course of individual existence as well as that of entire human history? This course surveys some of the major books of ancient literature, from the Iraqi-Sumerian poem The Epic of Gilgamesh (2100 BCE), Homer’s Odyssey, and Virgil’s Aeneid, to the Hebrew Bible and Augustine’s Confessions (IV cent. CE). These books, which originate from the ancient Middle East and Mediterranean traditions, have inspired literature on every continent as now belong to a world republic of letters; while exploring their historical-cultural context, we will read them critically from a comparative, transnational perspective that would elucidate the ways these texts adapt and reformulate themes and motifs of world mythology and epic literature. The emphasis on the fluid relationship between humanity and the sacred will allow us to explore the mystery that is quintessential to every ancient religious experience. 

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 005—Fairy Tales, Fables, & Parables
Sven-Erik Rose

COM 006—Myths & Legends
Prof. Ralph Hexter

A classical painting of figures of myth

Myths and legends are stories created, handed down, and reshaped in each retelling, for purposes that range from explanation to entertainment, from supporting the status quo to moving minds in new directions. The course will explore and interrogate both types of narratives through readings (in translation) from the third millennium BCE to the present day. While examples come from multiple cultures and languages, most will derive from Eurasia, often with an emphasis on how both myths and legends are transformed as they are carried across borders. The four units proceed in rough chronological order: (1) stories about the gods and legendary heroes primarily of the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean; (2) legends based at least ultimately on historical figures from the “Axial Age” through the time of the movement of peoples into Western Europe drawing on texts recorded between c. 500 B.C.E. and 1270 C.E.; (3) nineteenth- and twentieth-century reworkings of some of the material; and (4) examples of and critical observations on the creation and deployment for political purposes of myths and legends about peoples and groups.


COM 100—World Cinema (Chinese Cinema)

Professor Sheldon Lu

Lecture/discussion TR 3:10 - 4:30 pm

Film viewing  W 5:10-8pm

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 individual films as well as the evolution of entire film industries. We discuss representative directors and internationally renowned filmmakers 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 edited by Sheldon Lu; Contemporary Chinese Cinema and Visual Culture: Envisioning the Nation (2021) written by Sheldon Lu; and more.

Prof. Sheldon Lu

COM 120—Writing Nature
Prof. Amy Riddle

This class will begin with Thoreau's Walden, the most influential work of nature writing in the American tradition, and move on to see how the ideas in this work and during this time period carry over to the contemporary moment, across cultures. We will be examining representations of nature as well as how the current environmental crisis is depicted in film, novels and poetry. Of particular interest will be how social and political possibility is examined in relation to nature in a capitalist setting.  We will examine works from US America, Nigeria, Japan, South Africa, Haiti, Martinique, and Hungary.

COM 175—Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings
Prof. Jocelyn Sharlet

Tuesday and Thursday 10:30-11:50 Olson 101


 This course investigates the critical and nuanced portrayal of legend, government, resistance and rebellion, and desire and ambition in the epic Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings by Ferdowsi (d. 1020 CE). Ferdowsi depicts the moral, political, emotional, and spiritual struggles of men and women who are advisers, rulers, warriors, rebels, lovers, merchants, tradespeople, tricksters, and/or supernatural figures in the perpetually deferred quest for justice. We will interpret the use of storytelling in this major work of world literature to articulate competing discourses, as well as the work's reception by the medieval narrative poets ‘Attar and Nizami Ganjavi.


Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings 

Aboqasem Ferdowsi, translated by Dick Davis, foreword by Azar Nafisi


Selections from additional texts available on Canvas:

Farid ud-din 'Attar, The Conference of the Birds, tr. Darbandi and Davis

Penguin Classics, 1984

Nizami (Ganjavi), Haft Paykar: A Medieval Persian Romance, tr. Julie Scott Meisami

Hackett Publishing, 2015

Course Flyer

COM 195—Senior Seminar Comp Lit
Professor Tim Parrish

Graduate Courses

COM 210—Topics/Themes Comp Lit

Section 001 - Prof. Michael Subialka
COM 210 Comparative Modernisms
The critical category of modernism has been an object of contention for nearly a century, but in the last decade a number of new approaches have developed that use comparative frameworks to understand modernism as transnational, multiple, and global. This course will examine those theoretical debates, beginning with the most recent interventions. We will couple those theoretical readings with modernist literary texts (and art) from multiple national traditions, examining them in a comparative light to question what it means to group them together as “modernist.” Issues to consider include: the role and limits of periodization (modernity/modernism and the question of postmodernism); the shift from Anglo-centric to Euro-centric models of modernism, and subsequent responses from a global comparative perspective; questions of form/style in relation to socio-historical and political contextualization (including the problems posed by fascist modernism and modernist nationalism); the role of genre and medium; the role of imperialism/colonialism and postcolonial work; the debate over cosmopolitanism and world literature in a global approach to comparative modernism; multiple modernities; and key modernist foci (subjectivity, modernity, crisis/rupture, capitalism, alienation, uncertainty/ambiguity, experimentation, decomposition, etc.).

Readings will include recent interventions from critics such as: Friedman, Hayot and Walkowitz, Ross and Lindgren, Vadde, etc. Likewise, we will examine key modernist texts; these will be drawn from students’ areas of interest/expertise in consultation with the instructor.

Section 003 - Prof. Noah Guynn
Special Topic: Servants, Slaves, and Domestic Comedy

Domestic servants are everywhere in early modern European comedy and often figure as central characters with a surprising degree of individual agency and psychological depth. Although elites typically regarded servants with a combination of contempt, disregard, and fear, they also couldn’t imagine anything funnier than plays in which servant characters best, betray, or physically beat their masters. This course will ask why this would be and will try to answer that question by reading a range of sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth-century plays, including works by Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Molière, Marivaux, and Olympe de Gouges. We will be especially concerned with questions of free and unfree labor, in that servants were technically free to choose their employers but were also regularly victimized by them and were too disadvantaged to protest their mistreatment. We will also be interested in the most extreme form of unfree labor, chattel slavery, and with early modern playwrights’ attempts to understand slavery by translating or adapting comedies from the ancient world. Throughout the course, we will attend to hidden transcripts of subaltern resistance in both highbrow and lowbrow theatrical genres. We will use those hidden transcripts to argue against the classic view of servants as compromised or complicit social actors whose intimacies with elites precluded them radical thought or action. French revolutionaries denied servants the vote for this reason, and Marx excluded them from the working class. Yet the evidence of prerevolutionary comedy suggests servants often achieved remarkable class consciousness and political agency and were capable of defying elites while signaling submission to them.

COM 298—Directed Group Study
Prof. Stefan Hoesel-Uhlig