In reflecting on the publication of this issue, what strikes me most is the seemingly paradoxical coexistence of normalcy and turmoil that has defined this semester. Like all the CLUJ editors before us, we read all the insightful, diverse submissions we received with fascination and delight. Like them, we deliberated over which ones to include in the journal; we copyedited and formatted; we grappled with the usual crop of unforeseen problems that arise on the road to publication. All the while, in the background, the public sphere has been undergoing a profound process of transformation that many of us have found deeply troubling. In the face of both nation-wide tumult and university-wide tragedy, the routine of putting together the journal has been, by turns, a constraint and a refuge.
However, this tension has not been an unproductive one; on the contrary, it served as the guiding principle for an issue that is somewhat unlike any that has preceded it. For the first time, the submissions we have selected all coalesce around a central theme: that of marginality as a tool for subversion. Perhaps this stems from our own desire to push back against dominant narratives; perhaps it indicates the capacity of Comparative Literature to open the door to analysis that escapes mainstream cultural and literary consciousness. I would venture to guess it’s a combination of both. In any case, what unites these essays is the innovative analytical approaches and sophisticated arguments that they use to question established thought and posit alternatives. In these times, such intellectual nonconformity seems more important than ever.
“Property Lines: Territorialization and the Renaissance Country House Poem” by Alec Fisher takes a self-consciously reflexive look at the English country house poem genre. In conducting close readings of several poems, he examines the genre’s relationship to the establishment of class status and makes the connection between language and the ideological territorialization of nature.
In “The Curators of Utopia: Expression in the Urban Space; An Analysis of the Visual Performance of ‘Blackness’,” Ozichi Emeziem explores San Francisco as a problematic utopian space and critiques the place of “blackness” within it. Through a synthesis of film analysis and critical theory, she provides insight into the relationship between spatial and social stratification.
Claudia Carroll’s “‘The Great Hunger is great novel’: Historiography and Meta-Fiction in Joseph O’Connor’s Star of the Sea” examines negotiations of the Great Famine in the Irish national consciousness. Reading O’Connor’s novel in conjunction with several historical texts, Carroll questions the possibility of accurate representation of the past in historical and literary writing.
Finally, Rachel Park’s essay, “The Aesthetics of Violence: Reading the Body in Kim Ki-Duk’s Address Unknown and Sony Labou Tansi’s La vie et demie” analyzes the intense scenes of corporeal violence in the two films. These moments, she argues, serve as entry points into a broader discussion of the continued prevalence of violence in the post-colonial space.
I owe an immense debt of gratitude to the phenomenal group of editors that David and I have had the pleasure of working with this semester. Each one has demonstrated remarkable dedication to their work, and this passion shines through in every page. It is with immense pride that I present to you the Fall 2016 edition of UC Berkeley’s Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal.