UC Berkeley Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal

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

Vol. 2(3): Summer 2012

Vol. 2(3): Summer 2012

Table of Contents

A Note from the Editor-in-Chief

People Still Fill the Streets: The Nature of Coping in American Fiction Since 9/11

Elisabeth Reidy Denison, University of St Andrews

This paper concerns itself with American fiction published since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A chapter devoted to contextualising recent literature of the United States outlines the influence of dominant political discourse, the impression of language, on the civilian response, rendering the coping process largely a private, unspoken enterprise. Following context, three separate chapters analyse the narrative framework, thematic material, and linguistic choices of Anthony Doerr’s About Grace (2004), Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005), and Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!. These chapters demonstrate the ways in which each novel reflects its “moment” in the decade, with attention to the earlier discussion of language, and the way that this literature may enact the element of catharsis – but not, as the Conclusion will state, closure – still largely missing from American society.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Grows Up: Children’s Literature and the New Media Novel

Christen Elizabeth Hammock, University of Georgia

Although new media novels written and designed by authors like Danielewski, Tomasula and Farrell, or Foer attract both praise and criticism for their “revolutionary” approach to textuality in the novel, I argue that these works actually return to formal qualities common in children’s literature. Using a comparative approach that invokes emerging studies of multimodality, I examine a variety of books meant for preschool-aged children alongside books like VAS: An Opera in Flatland by Tomasula and Farrell and Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer. In particular, I return to Eric Carle’s classic children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar to argue that children’s books and new media novels alike use similar functions of pedagogy and play to open up the world of reading and create a new stage of emergent literacy for adults.

Critique of Pure Value: Silvio Gesell’s Monetary Theory Applied to Defoe’s Roxana

 Parker Towle, Bowdoin College

This essay is an investigation into the monetary system of Daniel Defoe’s Roxana and how it relates to value, through the lens of a little-known critic and monetary theorist, Silvio Gesell (1862-1930).  We take our current monetary system for granted, but Gesell asks us to imagine an entirely different one.  He proposes that money, too, should decrease in value over time, just like any other object or product that holds value, so that money is more “natural”.  Roxana provides this essay with a view into the monetary system of eighteenth-century England, which is surprisingly similar to our own.  Applying Gesell’s monetary theory shows that our interpretation of Roxana’s actions and motivations be altered when we reconsider our notions of value.

Cosa de Mujeres: An Uncanny Reading of Almodóvar’s Hable con ella, Volver, and La piel que habito

Mackenzie Cooley, Cornell University

Among his beautiful women, heinous men, ambiguous rapes, and giant vaginas, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s work reeks of sexual imagery and cognitive dissonance.  Almodóvar’s style embraces discomfort-causing ambiguity which forces his viewers to think in nuances that they rarely would need to exhibit when viewing more conventional films. In this paper, I argue that Freud’s famous essay “The Uncanny” (1919) makes for a particularly appropriate lens though which to examine Almodóvar’s simultaneously sinister and heroic depiction of the female form.  By examining Volver (2006), Hable con ella (2002), and La piel que habito (2011) in a Freudian light, we see Almodóvar establish the uncanny nature of the female form, set up the binary between the worlds of men and women, and then blur the boundaries between men and women, dead and alive.

Finding Humor in Selfhood: The Permeability of Body and Soul in the Works of John Donne

Corinne Zeman, Northwestern University

Within recent years, early modern scholarship has converged on two issues: first, the permutations of the humoral body, and second, the notion of a “Cartesian moment,” which witnessed the divorce of corporeality and cognition. This thesis touches on each field, situating them in relation to John Donne’s writings. It poses the possibility of humoral selfhood—a sense of self that is insecure, much like the body that is governed by inscrutable humors.

Vladimir and Estragon, Descendants of Edgar

Natasha Rose Chenier, Concordia University

Vladimir and Estragon of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot inherit and inhabit the vacuum that remains after the sublime tragedy of Shakespeare’s premonitory King Lear. When all has been lost in Lear’s volatile world, nothing is left, and it is this very nothing that Vladimir and Estragon, like Edgar, must reckon with. The tragic and morally ambiguous finish of Shakespeare’s King Lear is the point from which Samuel Beckett creatively departs in Waiting for Godot.

“Le Senestre Chemin”: Aporia, Paradox, and the Ritual Act of the Search in Chretien de Troyes’ Conte du Graal

Mimi Zhou, UC Berkeley

Towards the end of the 1100s, Chrétien de Troyes began, but left unfinished, his last work, Le Conte du Graal (The Story of the Grail). Within about the first 6000 of 9066 lines of this romance, we have the story of Perceval, a young man brought up in isolation from society by his mother. The story begins when Perceval first encounters a group of King Arthur’s knights, and, after a comic episode wherein he demonstrates his ignorance of society and social norms, sets off to become a knight himself. As we follow Perceval on his quests, however, we realize that he not only begins quite un-knightly but remains so throughout the rest of Chretien’s narrative in that he rarely completes these quests. This paper explores how these incompletions affect the poem’s structure, how they affect the interiority Perceval develops, and, ultimately, how they affect us as readers of the Story of the Grail.