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C LIT 240 B: Writing In Comparative Literature

Meeting Time: 
TThF 9:30am - 11:20am
SMI 407
Head shot of Richard Boyechko
Richard Boyechko

Syllabus Description:

Fantastic Literature

TTh 9:30–11:20
Smith (SMI) 407

There will be no class sessions on Fridays. Those are reserved for C LIT 240 sections that deal mostly with films.

  • Instructor: Richard Boyechko
  • Office Hours: MW 1:15pm–2:15pm, and by appointment
  • Office Location: Suzzallo Library Café
  • Email:

Latest Changes

  • (2016-05-23) fixed the calendar for week 10; Memorial Day is Monday, 5/30, not Tuesday
  • (2016–05–19) updated office hours and location; explained preparation and participation more thoroughly, including how I keep track of it and what I expect

Course Description

“Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” — Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968)

“One cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.” – Vladimir Nabokov, “Good Readers and Good Writers”

“Nobody can write who never writes, just as one cannot swim who never swims.” – Paolo Freire

During the term, we will read short stories – mostly of fantastic nature – by early 20th century Soviet and Latin American authors who strove to push the boundaries of their readers’ world-views. Unlike a lot of speculative fiction that is primarily meant only for entertainment, the works we will read often engage with complex issues and philosophical ideas that challenge not only what we think in but also how we think. Through class discussions and written assignments, we will attempt to unravel these texts, and to figure out – among other questions – what they are saying, how they are saying it, what makes them significant, and why they have been so influential over the past century.


  • Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones (originally published in 1944), trans. Anthony Kerrigan, et al. (Grove Press, 1962, ISBN 978–0802130303)
  • Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, Memories of the Future (written 1926–1929), trans. Joanne Turnbull and Nikolai Formozov (New York Review Books, 2009, ISBN 978–1590173190)
  • Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, Autobiography of a Corpse (written 1925–1939), trans. Joanne Turnbull and Nikolai Formozov (New York Review Books, 2013, ISBN 978–1590176702)

All of our texts are translations, so please make sure to get the editions specified above. Also, while ebooks are excellent for pleasure reading, they do not work well for literature classes; please get the paper copies of the books. They are all available at UW Bookstore, among other book sellers.

Course Calendar

You will find one or more short stories in each week section for the quarter. Please read those once before the Tuesday class session, and come to class with any questions you might have about the stories. We will cover any difficult points during the class. For Thursday, there will be no new reading; instead, re-read the stories listed for each week. We will spend those class sessions doing in-depth discussion of the stories. The readings are in the order of focus/importance; we will likely spend more time on the stories listed first, but will definitely get to the latter stories as well. The suggested readings go well with the week’s theme, but are not required; you are encourage to read them and bring up during class, but I will not assume anyone in class has read them.

Unless otherwise noted with “(Canvas)”, all readings are in the three textbooks we have for the course. As you have likely figured out, I list the book the reading is from in abbeviated form: F is Borges’s Ficciones, AC is Krzhizhanovsky’s Autobiography of a Corpse, and MF is Krzhizhanovsky’s Memories of the Future.

I will keep the calendar updated throughout the term, notifying everyone whenever I make a major change.

Week 1 (3/28–4/1): Love and Anger

  • Bruno Schulz, “The Gale” (Canvas) [6 pages]
  • Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, “Yellow Coal” (Canvas) [AC 136–50]

Week 2 (4/4–4/8): Individualism

  • Krzhizhanovsky, “Seams” (1927–28) [AC 61–86]

  • Jorge Luis Borges, “Funes, the Memorious” [F 107–15]

  • Suggested: Can Xue, “The Bizarre Wooden Building” (Canvas) [6 pages]

    Can Xue is a contemporary Chinese writers whose work is strongly influenced by that of Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, and Bruno Schulz. This is a little short story of hers that goes well with the week’s theme, but we don’t have enough time to get into it in class.

Week 3 (4/11–4/15): Writers

  • Krzhizhanovsky, “The Bookmark” (1927) [MF 15–51]

  • Borges, “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote” [F 45–55]

  • Suggested: Krzhizhanovsky, “Someone Else’s Theme” (1929–30) [MF 53–85; 32 pages]

    Interesting story (in the same way that “The Bookmark” is), and fits well with the theme of writers, but difficult and too long for our purposes.

Week 4 (4/18–4/22): Death and Life

  • Krzhizhanovsky, “Autobiography of a Corpse” (1925) [AC 1–30]

Week 5 (4/25–4/29): Time

  • Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths” [F 89–101]

  • Borges, “The Secret Miracle” [F 143–50]

  • Krzhizhanovsky, “The Collector of Cracks” [AC 87–106]

  • Suggested: Borges, “An Examination of the Work of Herbert Quain” [F 73–8; 5 pages]

    Seems to be a kind of precursor to “The Garden of Forking Paths,” but very dry: an exposition on the works of an imagined writer.

  • Suggested: Krzhizhanovsky, “Memories of the Future” (1929) [MF 133–214; 81 pages]

    Interesting science fiction story. A kind of politically-involved response to H.G. Wells’ Time Machine (1895). I really liked the story, and wish we had time to read it, but it’s much too long for the class.

Week 6 (5/2–5/6): Judas and Betrayal

  • (background reading in Announcements)
  • Borges, “Three Versions of Judas” [F 151–7]
  • Krzhizhanovsky, “Thirty Pieces of Silver” [AC 162–9]
  • Borges, “The Form of the Sword” [F 117–22]

Week 7 (5/9–5/13): Death

  • (background reading) Hamilton, excerpt from Mythology (Canvas) [42–44, 131–132, 328–334; 7 pages]
  • Krzhizhanovsky, “Bridge Over the Styx” (1931) [AC 151–61]
  • Krzhizhanovsky, “The Thirteenth Category of Reason” (1927) [MF 125–32]

Week 8 (5/16–5/20): Dreams

  • Borges, “The Circular Ruins” [F 57–63]

  • Krzhizhanovsky, “The Branch Line” (1927–28) [MF 87–107]

  • Tsai Chih Chung, excerpt from Zhuangzi Speaks: The Music of Nature, trans. Brian Bruya (Canvas) [24, 26]

  • Excerpt from Zhuangzi:

    “Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn’t know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a butterfly there must be some distinction!” – Zhuangzi, trans. Burton Watson (1968)

Week 9 (5/23–5/27): Alternatives

  • Krzhizhanovsky, “The Land of Nots” [AC 107–116]

  • Borges, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” [F 17–35]

  • Borges, “The Library of Babel” [F 79–88]

  • Suggested: Krzhizhanovsky, “Quadraturin” [MF 3–14: 11 pages]

    Another politically-conscious science fiction story. The ending is especially interesting. I left it out because didn’t want to have too much reading for the week.

Week 10 (5/30–6/3): Fate

  • Thu: Electronic evaluations (have laptop, tablet, or something else similar)

  • Borges, “The Sect of the Phoenix” [F 163–6]

  • Borges, “The Babylon Lottery” [F 65–72]

  • Borges, “The South” [F 167–74]

  • Borges, “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim” [F 37–43]

Finals Week (6/6–6/10)

  • Fri: Make sure everything is turned in by this point.


  • Class preparation and participation: 35%
  • Conferences: 5%
  • Reading responses: 30%
  • Long essay: 20%
  • Presentation: 10%

Preparation and participation (35%)

Since a major component of the class are the reading discussions during the class sessions, it is important not only to come to class, but also to come having read the stories assigned for the week. Please consult the course calendar (above) to see what you need to read each week; have the weekly texts read by the Tuesday meeting.

Index Cards

On Tuesday, please come with a 3x5" index card where you have written 1) your name, 2) the class session date, and 3) a question about an aspect of the weekly reading that puzzled you. On Thursday, after having re-read the weekly readings, instead of a question, please come to class having written a brief definition of an unfamiliar word you had to look up, or a brief description of an unfamiliar allusion you came across in the story.

Additionally, at the beginning of each class, I will ask a simple question about the reading that should be easy to answer if you have done the reading. It’s okay if you are behind on the reading sometimes, just write that as your answer; as long as you don’t make a habit of it, it will not have much of an impact.

If you cannot make it to class, please email me the content of your index card before the class meeting. There is no need to worry about

Canvas Discussions

Another way to get participation credit (either because you cannot make it to class or because do not feel comfortable speaking up in class) is to post on the Canvas Discussion page. Please post in the appropriate thread by either 1) responding to something I or another student (preferably mentioning them by name) said in class or posted about in the story’s thread, or 2) by bringing up something you found interesting in the story but didn’t get a chance to mention in class. These should be more substantial than “I agree” but need not be as involved as the Reading Responses (see below); one short paragraph is enough, though more is always welcome.

Keeping Score

I keep track of preparation and participation primarily by collecting 3x5" index cards every class period; it’s helpful to have one even if it only has the date and your name on it. If you take part in class discussion, I will make a note of your name for that day, so that way I also know that you were present. For each class session you can get as many as 62 points (maximum 124 per week), calculated as follows:

  • 32 points – being present throughout the class
  • 16 points – posting at least once on Canvas Discussion page
  • 8 points – participating at least once in class discussion
  • 4 points – having an index card for the session, and having it properly filled out before class
  • 2 points – answering one of the Questions of the Day correctly

Throughout the term, my expectations (i.e. to get 100% for participation and preparation part of the grade) are that you come to every class, have a filled-out index card every time, and take part in class discussion majority of the time (70% of the time). As you can imagine, doing more than that in some areas will balance out with doing less in others. However, you cannot get multiples in any “category”; for example, posting five times on Canvas Discussions in a given week will earn no more than posting twice (once per class session).

Conferences (5%)

During the first few weeks, I would like to meet with everyone one-on-one for 15–20 minutes to discuss your writing and any concerns you might have with the class. These conferences will take place in PDL B522 during my regular office hours. Please let me know if my regular office do not work for you in some way; I will try to find other time to meet. More details will be provided when the time comes.

Reading responses (30%)

Every week, there will be a short reading response (300–350 words, or one page if formatted according to the guidelines below) due about the story or stories we read that week. You only need to write five (5) of these throughout the quarter, so take a look at the calendar to see what weeks would be the most convenient to do that.

I will be reading these every week, but don’t expect much of a written response. I will mark sections that I particularly liked with a solid blue line, and mark the sections that I did not like for some reason with a dashed brown line, but that’s all.

Longer essay (20%)

There will be one longer essays (750-1000 words, 2-3 pages) relating to one or more of the short stories we read. While the topic is up to you, I would like that you check with me about what you are planning to write.

The goal here to produce coherent essay that engage in significant ways with the central issues of the works we are reading. To that end, we will be working through several revisions of the essay. We will cover revision techniques in class, and I will provide comments on your paper at each stage of the process.

Presentation (10%)

In lieu of a final essay, we will have student presentations in the final couple of weeks of the course. These will be short (3–5 minutes) and informal; you would just need to share about a connection you see between our readings and some other cultural product you are familiar with (TV show, movie, video game, written text, etc.). Aside from this presentation, there will be no final or final essay due at the end of the class.

Submitting written assignments

Unless otherwise specified, all written assignments should be submitted electronically on Canvas as PDF documents, and should follow the following formatting guidelines:

  • 12pt Times or Times New Roman font
  • one (1) inch margins all around
  • double spacing
  • page numbers
  • standard MLA header (see Purdue OWL MLA guide)

The due dates are flexible within a day or two; there is no need to check with me if you need a little extra time. For example, if something is due on Friday, it’s perfectly all right if you don’t turn it in until Sunday night. If you are having issues with completing the essay within the day or two of the deadline, please speak to me as soon as possible.

Class Policies

Late work

Like I mentioned above, I am flexible within a day or two. There is no need to email me or check with me if you need a little extra time. I will handle anything over several days late on case-by-case basis; please let me know if you are having issues.

Electronic devices

Please refrain from using laptops or other electronic devices during class. The exception is if you need to use a laptop because you have a disability that makes note-taking by hand difficult, in which case please talk to me as soon as possible.

You will note that I have my laptop with me every day; I will not be using it except for any presentations I will be doing, or to check my lesson plan.


Plagiarism, or academic dishonesty, is presenting someone else’s ideas or writing as your own without giving the original author(s) credit. As a matter of policy, I will report any student found to have plagiarized any piece of writing in this class to my supervisors, Dr. Marshall Brown and Dr. Michelle Liu. If you are having such difficulties in class that you are thinking of plagiarizing, please speak to me so we can find a way for you to succeed without resorting to such potentially disastrous measures.


If you need accommodation of any sort, please let me know so that I can work with the UW Disability Resources for Students Office (DRS) to provide what you require. This syllabus is available in large print, as are other class materials. More information about accommodation may be found at

Catalog Description: 
Comparative approach to literature and a workshop in writing comparative papers in English. Emphasis on cross-cultural comparison of literary works. Readings in English with an option to read selected texts in the original languages Offered: AWSp.
GE Requirements Met: 
English Composition (C)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
January 3, 2017 - 9:02pm