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C LIT 240 A: Writing In Comparative Literature

Meeting Time: 
MWF 9:30am - 11:20am
CMU 228
Head shot of Richard Boyechko
Richard Boyechko

Syllabus Description:

Marvelous Literature

MW 9:30–11:20 (No Meetings on Friday)
Communications (CMU) 228

  • Instructor: Richard Boyechko
  • Office: Padelford (PDL) B522
  • Office Hours: TTh 10:30–11:30, and by appointment
  • Email:


“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)

Over the past couple of decades, bookstore shelves and cinema billboards have been tantalizing readers and movie-goers with fantastical stories ranging from the Harry Potter series to Star Wars movies to Andy Weir’s The Martian and its film adaptation by Ridley Scott. All of these works, whether they are seen as “fantasy” or “science fiction,” are examples of the marvelous: works of fiction that require the audience to suspend their disbelief and to accept for a time being a different set of assumptions about how the universe works. In this way, the marvelous invites the audience to question what is real. This more skeptical way of looking at the world, in turn, has the potential to save us from the trap of believing that our society’s way of seeing the world is the only possible one.

During the term, we will read marvelous literature 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 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 (New York Review Books, 2009, ISBN 978–1590173190)
  • Mikhail Bulgakov, Master and Margarita (written 1928–1940), trans. Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O’Connor (Vintage, 1996, ISBN 978–0679760801)

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.

These texts are also available for 2-hour check-out from the Library Reserve desk on the 2nd floor of Odegaard Undergraduate Library.


Week 1 (1/4–1/8)

  • Mon: Course Intro
  • Wed: Krzhizhanovsky (vii-xiv, 3–51): Introduction, “Quadraturin”, “The Bookmark” [55]

Week 2 (1/11–1/15)

  • Mon: Krzhizhanovsky (53–85): “Someone Else’s Theme” [32]
  • Wed: Krzhizhanovsky (87–132): “The Branch Line”, “Red Snow”, “The Thirteenth Category of Reason” [45]
  • Fri: DUE Short Essay #1

Week 3 (1/18–1/22)

  • Mon: NO CLASS: Martin Luther King Day
  • Wed: Krzhizhanovsky (133–214): “Memories of the Future” [81]

Week 4 (1/25–1/29)

  • Mon: New Testament, Matthew 26-28, John 19-20 (Online); Krzhizhanovsky, “Thirty Pieces of Silver” (on Canvas) [8]; Bulgakov, Ch. I-IV (1–44) [44]
  • Wed: Bulgakov, Ch. V-VIII (45–77) [32]
  • Fri: DUE Short Essay #2, Raw Writing

Week 5 (2/1–2/5)

  • Mon: Bulgakov, Ch. IX-XIII (78–125) [47]
  • Wed: Bulgakov, Ch. XIV-XVI (126–153) [27]
  • Fri: DUE Short Essay #2, Revised

Week 6 (2/8–2/12)

  • Mon: Bulgakov, Ch. XVII-XXII (154-222) [68]
  • Wed: Bulgakov, Ch. XXIII-XXV (223-263) [40]

Week 7 (2/15–2/19)

  • Mon: NO CLASS: Presidents Day
  • Wed: Bulgakov, Ch. XXVI-end (264-335) [98]
  • Fri: DUE Midterm Essay, Raw Material

Week 8 (2/22–2/26)

  • Mon: Borges (9–44): Introduction, Prologue to Part One (The Garden of Forking Paths), “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim” [2/35]
  • Wed: Borges (45–72): “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote,” “The Circular Ruins,” “The Babylon Lottery” [3/27]
  • Fri: DUE Midterm Essay, Revised

Week 9 (2/29–3/4)

  • Mon: Borges (73–102): “An Examination of Work of Herbert Quain,” “The Library of Babel”, “The Garden of Forking Paths” [3/29]
  • Wed: Borges (103–128): Prologue to Part Two (Artifices), “Funes, The Memorious,” “The Form of the Sword,” “Theme of the Traitor and Hero” [3/25]
  • Fri: DUE Short Essay #3

Week 10 (3/7–3/11)

  • Mon: Borges (129–158): “Death and the Compass,” “The Secret Miracle,” “Three Versions of Judas” [3/29]
  • Wed: Borges (159–174): “The End,” “The Sect of the Phoenix,” “The South” [3/15]; Course Evaluations

Finals Week (3/14–3/18)

  • Mon: DUE: Final Essay, Raw Writing
  • Thu: DUE: Final Essay, Revised


  • Conferences: 5%
  • Class preparation and participation: 20%
  • Short written assignments: 25%
  • Midterm and final papers: 50%

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 Suzzallo Library Café. More details will be provided when the time comes.

Preparation and participation (20%)

The class only works if everyone makes an effort to contribute. In order to participate, however, we all also need to keep up with the reading assignments.

Please come to each class session with a 3x5" index card where you write 1) your name, 2) the class session date, and 3) either one feature of the reading assignment that you found intriguing and worth discussing, or a question about an aspect of the reading that puzzled you. At the beginning of the session, I will also ask a simple question about the reading that you will answer in a few words on the index card before turning it in.

Students who keep up with the reading and contribute regularly to discussion will receive a 4.0 for participation. Students who contribute occasionally will receive a 3.0. Students who attend regularly and keep up with the reading, but rarely contribute, will receive a 2.0. Students who rarely show up for class, or who do not keep up with the reading, and therefore cannot contribute to the discussion, will receive a 1.0 or a 0.

If you cannot make it to class, but have done the assigned reading, please email me your comment/question before the class meeting. You can get some points for preparation that way.

Another way to get participation credit is to post on the Canvas Discussion page. I will create a thread for each of our meetings, so please post in that thread by either responding to something me or another student (preferably mentioning them by name) said in class or posted about in the day's thread, or by bringing up something you found interesting in the reading but didn't get a chance to mention in class. You can post either before class or within two days of the class session.

Short written assignments (25%)

There will be three short assignments, about a page each (300–350 words), that will focus on a particular writing technique. Think of these as practice essays, where you can try your hand at something new without too great of a commitment and without significant consequences for not getting things right just yet.

Midterm and final papers (50%)

These are longer essays, 4–5 pages each (1,400–1,600 words), answering a prompt that I will provide when the time comes. We will focus on two different writing processes for these two essays. The goal here to produce coherent essays that engage in significant ways with the central issues of the works we are reading.

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; if you are having issues with completing the essay within that time frame, please speak to me as soon as possible.

Class Policies


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.


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: 
September 13, 2016 - 9:12pm