BERKELEY CONNECT IN COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
The Berkeley Connect program opens up the extraordinary resources of the University to you: the extraordinary students on our campus. By joining, you will become part of a community of like-minded faculty, mentors, and students that will provide a supportive environment in which to exchange and discuss ideas and goals. Berkeley Connect will help you make the most of your time at the University as you learn more about the major in Comparative Literature. We are excited to get to know you!
Berkeley Connect in Comparative Literature works to make stronger connections among our undergraduates, graduate students, and professors–and with the larger campus and its various communities. Berkeley Connect in Comparative Literature brings together small groups of undergrad Comp Lit majors and undeclared majors who’re interested in the study of literature; they meet with faculty members and graduate student mentors throughout the semester. The small-group discussion sessions give us a chance to address intellectual, institutional, and day-to-day practical kinds of issues. For instance: what is the Comparative Literature major? What sorts of reading do we do; how do we do it; why; what do we get out of it? What various kinds of careers do people with UC Berkeley degrees in Comparative Literature go on to have? These class discussions and conversations–free of the pressure of grades–allow us to talk about our intellectual, literary/artistic, cultural, and sociopolitical interests–those interests that we brought with us to Berkeley, and the ones we encounter or further develop here (in the academic community, the city, and the wider Bay Area). Graduate student mentors also hold one-on-one meetings with undergraduates to discuss students’ challenges, questions, and goals. The mentors also lead explorations of, and visits to, campus units and resources like the Bancroft Library and the UC Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). There are also events featuring Berkeley Comp Lit alumni working in a number of different professions, who speak about how the Comp Lit major has helped shape their interests, abilities, and careers. In addition, professors speak about how they came to study Comparative Literature, how they write, how they think–and engage in discussions–about literary works, in ways that involve both agreements and disagreements with others.
From start to finish, Berkeley Connect in Comparative Literature creates opportunities for relaxed, enjoyable encounters with–and further explorations of–the Comp Lit community at Berkeley, and helps us think together about how to make the most of your experience here at the University.
Professor Robert Kaufman
Director, Berkeley Connect in Comparative Literature
Berkeley Connect links undergraduate students with an experienced mentor in Comparative Literature. The mentor leads small groups of students (not more than 20) in regular meetings and also meets with students one-on-one to provide guidance and advice. Berkeley Connect is offered as a one-credit, pass-not pass course that is designed to create a community of students with similar intellectual interests. There is no homework associated with Berkeley Connect: no exams, no papers, no quizzes. Instead, small group meetings focus on sharing ideas and learning new skills related to Comparative Literature as a way to foster friendships and provide a supportive intellectual community for Berkeley undergraduates.
The only requirement for joining Berkeley Connect in Comparative Literature is that you have an interest in this field of study. You do not have to be a major in order to participate! Undeclared freshmen and sophomores are welcome, along with entering junior transfers and juniors and seniors who have declared their majors.
Every semester, Berkeley Connect sponsors a wide range of activities and events for participating students. They include:
- small-group meetings facilitated by your mentor;
- one-on-one meetings with your mentor;
- special events, including informal lectures by professors and guest speakers, and panels on career options, graduate school admissions, and other topics;
- and visits to Berkeley resources.
At the heart of Berkeley Connect is the relationship between you and your mentor. The Berkeley Connect mentor is an advanced graduate student in Comparative Literature, chosen both for demonstrated commitment to undergraduates and for scholarly achievement. The mentor is dedicated to providing the kind of close-knit community and one-on-one attention that can be hard to find at a large university.
When you sign up for Berkeley Connect, you will join one of the small groups of participants in Comparative Literature. Your small group sessions will be facilitated by your mentor, and will meet every other week during the semester for an hour-long dinner discussions. Discussions will focus on key intellectual issues within Comparative Literature as well as key skills you need to succeed in the major. Above all, the small groups will focus on building connections among students, so that each group becomes a supportive community for all participants.
You will meet with your mentor one-on-one at least twice during the semester, to talk about anything you choose related to your academic life—questions you have, challenges you are facing, resources you are seeking, goals you are seeking to achieve. Your mentor also has open mentoring hours throughout the semester, during which you are free to show up and continue these conversations, or just check in.
Robert Kaufman is proud to be a member of the First Gen Faculty group and to have received all of his degrees from UC Berkeley: a BA in English, a JD in Law, and a PhD in English. His teaching and research emphasize several interrelated areas: 20th-21st-century American poetry and its dialogues with modern Latin American, German, French, and British poetry; romantic and 19th-century poetry and poetics; philosophical aesthetics, literary theory, and the history of criticism (especially since Kant and romanticism); and Frankfurt School critical theory and the arts (poetry and the other literary genres; music; cinema; painting, etc.). He has previously taught at McGill University in Montreal, Stanford University, and the University of Chicago. He has been a member of the Comparative Literature faculty at UC Berkeley since 2007; he also teaches in, and is a past Co-Chair of, the Program in Critical Theory.
Laila Riazi is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature.
Where did you grow up?
Where did you go to college and what was your major?
University of California, Los Angeles; Comparative Literature & Economics (minor in French & Francophone Studies)
How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?
I study the relationship between literature, the environment, and war, especially with regards to the contemporary Middle East, and the artistic practices that have emerged in that region since the Gulf Wars.
During a semester in Berkeley Connect in Comparative Literature, you will participate in one-on-one conversations with your mentor, small-group discussions, special events and field trips.
Recent discussion topics have included:
- Why Comparative Literature?
- Why does literary criticism matter?
- Tips and tricks for close reading
- Making the library work for you
Berkeley Connect discussion sessions are informal and interactive, with time allowed for students to check in, talk about their experiences on campus, and reflect on current events that create the context for their academic studies.
Recent special events and field trips have included:
- Graduate Student Panel
- Workshop with writing tutors
- Guided tour of Bancroft Library Collection
To sign up, enroll in a Berkeley Connect section when course registration opens. To participate in Berkeley Connect in Comparative Literature, you enroll in a section of Comparative Literature 98BC (primarily for freshmen and sophomores) or 198BC (primarily for juniors and seniors). Both are offered for one unit, taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis. Participation is NOT restricted to declared majors.
You may enroll in Berkeley Connect more than once (some students choose to participate for a full year by enrolling in both the fall and spring semesters), and you may enroll through more than one department. You may NOT enroll in more than two sections of Berkeley Connect in one semester, or enroll in more than one section in the same department in the same semester.
Please see our FAQs. If you have additional questions about Berkeley Connect in Comparative Literature, please contact:
Robert Kaufman, Faculty Director, Berkeley Connect in Comparative Literature firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also contact the central Berkeley Connect office at email@example.com or (510)664-4182.