UC Berkeley Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal

A Premier Humanities Research Journal at the University of California, Berkeley

A Note from the Editor-in-Chief

Language shapes our world. The world is filtered by our perceptions, which in turn are filtered by our language. For example, Italian has no word that directly corresponds to ‘privacy‘ — probably because there was never a whole lot of that in Italy. But ‘privacy’ is an entire concept, loaded with connotations and ideas and values.

In the United States, there is an entire set of rights wedded to the term ‘privacy.’ Imagine discussing the right to privacy in the workplace — or worse, the Bill of Rights’ famous passage that protects the right against ‘unreasonable searches and seizures.’ What would be an unreasonable search of one’s house if one did not have a word — and therefore a concept in one’s head — for ‘privacy’?

In learning one’s native language, it is difficult — if not impossible — to notice which concepts we are learning, which we are missing. Which values we stress and de-emphasize. And this is part of the joy and the benefit of learning a new language. The mere act of thinking and speaking with words that hold a different weight and shape the world a little differently allows you to question everything. It allows you to see the world from a new perspective. And some words, the untranslatable ones, literally expand your world, adding concepts that were previously unconceivable.

My father is ambivalent, at best, about traveling to foreign countries because, as he put it, they have different ways of doing everything — their restrooms are signed differently, people stand on the left side of the elevators, public transportation works in strange and mysterious ways. When you are abroad, you must take a leap. You must be willing to cast away everything you usually take for granted and face a world in which people park on the sidewalks and the tip is included in the bill.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce CLUJ’s second issue, which showcases work in four different languages. Enjoy one Italian’s take on the the great Don Giovanni (il mito, il ribelle, e l’attore), a romp through las novelas negras of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, a discussion of famous literary сделок с дьяволом, and many more superb pieces of scholarship from undergraduates across the world.

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