In March, we got the go-ahead from the university to form a Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal — whatever the hell that was — and Berkeley CLUJ was born. We were a ragtag family, a bunch of students gathered in a room buried in the humanities building speaking ten languages between us and liking books a lot. Six months and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears later, we are so unbelievably proud and privileged and pleased to present this first issue.
Putting together this issue has been unbelievably inspiring. The research that undergraduates in Comparative Literature are doing all across the country — and indeed, the world — is truly incredible. The articles in our first issue reflect the discipline: broad in scope, in origin, and in mindset. To read this issue cover to cover is truly to step outside your neighborhood and comfort zone, to explore issues and areas of the discipline with which you’ve not previously had much interaction.
Our most pressing and perhaps poignant piece, in my opinion, is Gemma Juan-Simo’s “National Identity in the Egyptian Post-modernist Story” which deals with the emergence of Egyptian national identity. Though she wrote it before the revolutions of the Arab Spring, it remains just as relevant today.
In fact, our first issue includes articles pertaining to postmodern readings of the Beat generation, imperialist criticism in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, the rise of English as a major poetic language, the construction of Puerto Rican national identity through metaphor, and Haruki Murakami’s status as an international — rather than a Japanese — author. There’s no denying that we are taking a hard look at some of the intersections between politics and literature — an important crossroads that has long been crucial to the art scene in most of the world, from Bedri Baykam’s “Meet the Turk” slogan to truth-telling art produced in the decades following the fall of dictatorships across Latin America.
We are so impressed by the work that undergraduates are doing in the field, and we are proud to announce that we have created yet another excellent and dedicated team for the fall to prepare for the next issue. We affirm that we are committed to publishing the very best undergraduate work in Comparative Literature, and we further affirm that that work will continue to rival the work published in some graduate student publications.