The Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal

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

Letter from the Editor

Dear readers,

CLUJ has always tried to emphasize a sense of cosmopolitanism in its approach, but such attempts are always tentative, precarious, and necessarily complex. The project of comparison itself poses a challenge to any straightforward way of tying together largely divergent cultural contexts, demanding an engagement with texts that focuses as intently on the nuances of distinctions as it does on the potentially universalizing rhetoric of similarities. Above all, any multiculturally attuned investigation requires a consciously self-critical and carefully self-reflexive analysis—one that evaluates its own methods of inquiry as astutely as it handles its subject matter. The papers in our Spring 2019 issue take up this challenge of comparison, meditating on the category of the global in distinctively experimental and self-conscious ways.

In “Cultural Hegemony and Narrative Strategies of Resistance in Midnight’s Children, Marabou Stork Nightmares, and Muriel at Metropolitan,” Rachel Whitford brings together readings of three texts that deal with questions of marginality in vastly different ways. Her explorations of language reveal a deep engagement with secondary literature, as she brings broader discussions of the difficulties of writing from within an always-already determined imperial system of linguistic power into contact with more localized critical readings. By acknowledging the distinctions between the national traditions and subject positions encoded in the three novels that she dissects, Whitford encourages a transnational understanding of the global that is not founded in simple reification.

While Whitford’s essay brings together literature born out of multiple different struggles against imperial and quasi-imperial power relations, Nicole Bilan’s “Consuming Palestine: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in Metropolitan Popular Culture” zeroes in on different modes of resistance along different axes of power within a single conflict. Discussing the work of Dareen Tatour and Yona Wallach, Bilan brings attentive readings to bear on the poems she examines, focusing on their use of affective strategies to aid in constructions of identity. She combines her close readings with a special eye to the instrumentalization of religious discourses, excavating allusions in the poets’ works that infuse their causes with mystical resonances. Ultimately, Bilan turns to questions of power and its relationship to secrecy, considering how Tatour’s Internet presence affects the reception of her work and allows for the generation of a potentially global network of resistance.

In our final paper, “The Global Market of Texts: The Violence of Intertextuality in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666,” Tae Catalina Markey takes up these incipient concerns around information transfer and modes of experiencing text, applying them to questions of international literary exchange. She begins with the paratextual imperative of a Baudelaire quotation that forms the epigraph for Bolano’s work, but her readings quickly open out into a wide-ranging consideration of modern conceptions of information and its relationship to more conventionally literary texts. Looking at the violence that accompanies globalization (perhaps an unsurprising outgrowth from the implicitly and sometimes explicitly colonialist aims of the Age of Exploration), Markey navigates between the literal and the metaphorical to examine the processes by which the traffic of knowledge fuels both desire and disappointment in equal but anticipatory measure.

I would like to extend a final thanks to all of the editors at CLUJ for the knowledge that they have shared with me through their generosity and dedication. I am always impressed by the depths of your insight, your good humor, and your patience with me. Reading with you has been an honor, and getting to know you over the past few semesters has been a pleasure. The journal is in good hands for the year to come, and I wish you all the best of luck in your continued academic, editorial, literary, and personal journeys!

Looking forward,


Arya Sureshbabu