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University Courses Created by Lael

“The Deceit Conceit” (U.C. Berkeley Department of Comparative Literature, Fall ‘06) examined the pressure the theme of deceit exerts upon narrative form, how works narrated by liars lend themselves to ever less determinate modernist and post modernist innovations, and the way artistic invention and other types of fabrication overlap.  Works by Homer, Shakespeare, Twain, Nabokov, Borges, and Kurosawa.

“Things that Go Bump in the New World” (U.C. Berkeley Department of English, Spring ‘06), on the depiction of supernatural beliefs in literature of the African and Asian diasporas, explored how artists of non-Western heritage navigate the West’s rationalist bias, on the one hand, and its tendency to sentimentalize and exoticize, on the other.   Works by non-diasporic Asian and African authors highlighted the way globalization and colonialism effect internal exiles of cultural rather than physical dislocation. Works by Brooks, Chang, Kingston, Lemons, Morrison, Okri, Ong, Murakami, and Tutuola.          


“Inventing Innocence” (U.C. Berkeley Department of Comparative Literature, Fall ‘05 & ‘98) examined the use of child protagonists and narrators to convey a moral landscape. Considered the special privileges and limitations of this perspective as well as what the representation of children teaches about sentimentality and authenticity in different cultures and ages.  Included excerpts from Genesis and Exodus and works by Twain, Truffaut, Calvino, Roddy Doyle, Laughton, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Dylan Thomas.


“What is This Thing Called Love?” (U.C. Berkeley Department of Comparative Literature, Spring '05) considered depictions of the most volatile and pacifying of emotions—love.  Rather than its highly destructive potential, the focus was upon eros as a force for growth and change in the individual and society—the way desires of the heart stretch and sometimes shatter accepted identities and traditional boundaries.  In relation to the lyric, we considered how the urgency and expressive frustrations of the lover occasionally expand formal conventions as well.  This study of so potent and persistent a cultural myth also illuminated the way fundamental stories inform human life. Included works by Plato, Kushner, Garcia Marquez, Neruda, and Shakespeare.


“Poetry Workshop” (U.C. Berkeley Department of Comparative Literature, Summer ‘04) invited participants to explore their own poetic voices and--via discussion, memorization, and modeled composition--to deepen their knowledge of a range of poetic antecedents and contemporaries.  Basic elements of poetic language and form were reviewed, and some relations between poetry and other expressive media, including both the visual and the performing arts, were investigated.


"Laughing in the Dark:  Race, Ethnicity, and Humor in American Film" (U.C. Berkeley Department of Comparative Literature, Spring ‘03 & Fall '04) examined racial and ethnic experience in America through the lens of film comedy.  Considered the effects of the exigencies of assimilation on this mass medium along with the afterlives of minstrelsy, orientalism, and vaudeville.  Investigated theories of race, humor, and film while teaching tools and vocabulary for film analysis.                                                                      


“Women Warriors: A Cross-cultural Comparison” (co-created with Julie Anderson, Ph.D. for the U.C. Berkeley Department of Comparative Literature,  Spring ‘02 & Fall '02) examined how, from antiquity through modernity, female identity has been constructed through and against war in both Eastern and Western texts.  Theoretical consideration of gender, violence, and war supplemented analysis of works including The Mahabharata, The Book of Judges, The Woman Warrior, and The Terrorist.  


“Triumph of the Anti-Nietzsche: Neurotics in Twentieth Century Fiction and Film"  (honors course, U.C. Berkeley Department of Comparative Literature) interrogated the critique of Nietzschean ideals, particularly his conception of the will, in works featuring comic, neurotic characters. Syllabus included Genealogy of Morals; The Gay Science; Hamlet; Pale Fire; Confessions of Zeno; Zelig; The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl; and Triumph of the Will.


“Violence: A Less Doleful Approach” (U.C. Berkeley Department of Comparative Literature, Spring ‘97) explored moral and aesthetic questions raised by the representation of violence in works by Dickinson, Homer, Kafka, Larkin, Amis, and Scorcese. 


“Darkness and Vision” (U.C. Berkeley Department of Comparative Literature, Fall '96) explored the roles of bewilderment, dislocation, and suffering in learning and the paradox that darkness can be conducive to sight.  Works by Calvino, Joyce, Ellison, Shakespeare, and Sophocles.