Compass Courses: Arts & Humanities 10 (HUM 10), 4 units

The Compass Courses offer you an opportunity to explore the division of Arts and Humanities.  They are offered on different themes each year, but they share a unique structure. The class is taught by three professors in three modules of study. You will have a chance to study with each professor, experience a range of approaches to the theme, and learn the methods and structures of different disciplines.  Compass Courses are designed to guide you through various options for study in Arts and Humanities and to serve as a gateway to the rich offerings at Berkeley. They are part of the freshman experience, advancing a common journey of discovery and building an intellectual cohort among students new to Berkeley's expansive possibilities. Compass Courses fulfill the Arts & Literature breadth category for the College of Letters & Science.

Spring 2022

Indigenous Arts in the Americas: Old and New Media 

This class investigates recent Indigenous creative practices—including poetry, film, dance, photography, and textiles—from across the Americas to think about how these forms of making and expression are not discrete but rather intimately woven together. Looking at work from North and South America such as the novels of Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo), the auto-ethnography of Davi Kopenawa (Yanomami), the paintings of Carmézia Emiliano (Macuxi), and the experimental video of Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk/Pechanga), we will explore how conventional notions of “old” versus “new” media are irrelevant as these makers, artists, artisans, and writers urgently draw upon historical traditions in order to reimagine alternative futures. Each professor will illuminate a series of keywords -- including life, time, story, and nature--from the perspective of their own disciplines (literature, film/media, visual arts) with an emphasis on social justice.

Instructors and Bios:

Prof. Julia Bryan-Wilson, History of Art

Prof. Natalia Brizuela, Film & Media; Spanish and Portuguese

Prof. Beth Piatote, Native American Studies; Comparative Literature


Spring 2022

What is Asia?

As the largest and the most populous geographical and cultural entity, Asia has played a dominant role in the world’s politics, economy, and culture. But what is Asia, in the minds of both Asians and others? This course approaches this question from three perspectives: the construction of Asia as a cultural space by Europeans from Greek antiquity to modern times; Asia’s own exploration of its identity as a cultural and political sphere, from ancient times to the present; and the imagining of Asia in the United States, from the beginning of the so-called American century to the present moment when US hegemony is perceived as being under threat by the rise of Asia. Linking these perspectives is an investigation of Asianness itself, through which we will explore urgent cultural and political issues that beset our world: race and identity, empire and clash of civilizations, cosmopolitanism and Orientalism, geopolitics and global cultural politics. We will read seminal texts in world literature from the first extant Greek tragedy The Persians to Jack London’s short stories and contemporary Asian-American, Taiwanese, and Japanese fiction, and engage thinkers from Hegel and Heidegger In Europe to Okakura Tenshin in Japan and Kang Youwei in China. We will explore the construction of Asianness through popular culture as well, including science fiction, American and Asian movies, and popular music.

Instructors and Bios:

Prof. Chenxi Tang, German

Prof. Alan Tansman, East Asian Languages and Cultures

Prof. Colleen Lye, English

Course Archive

Spring 2021

Borders and Belonging: Reading Refugees through Law, Literature, and Film

What makes someone a refugee? How do people inhabit placelessness? What kinds of lives can refugees build, what kinds of communities can they forge, even when they are in exile, in transit, or in detention? In this course, we will read and discuss legal and political texts on refugees and their rights, and we will closely analyze literature, photography, and cinema representing refugee experience. We will consider the status of the refugee in relation to that of the citizen and will work to understand how refugees' lives are shaped by both humanitarian impulses and security-driven practices of surveillance and control.  In the face of often dehumanizing treatment, how do refugees tell their own stories, and on what terms?  Authors will include, among others, Hannah Arendt, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Sylvain George.

Instructors and Bios:

Prof. Karl Britto, French; Comparative Literature

Prof. Debarati Sanyal, French

Prof. Samera Esmeir, Rhetoric

Fall 2020

World Cities: Shanghai - St. Petersburg - Berlin

This course explores three world cities, located across the breadth of Asia and Europe, retracing the stories, myths, symbols and fantasies which Shanghai, St. Petersburg and Berlin have inspired. Does each of these cities have its own story? What were its cultural forms? How did these cities come to embody the thrills and challenges of modern life? Were they able to satisfy the hopes and aspirations of a large and diverse urban citizenry? How did urban culture and national history become intertwined? In what ways did each city become a cradle of mass politics, shaping the major political and economic systems of the twentieth century: capitalism, communism, and fascism? Over the course of the semester, we will examine representations of each city and the cultural production of its inhabitants, across two centuries, in multiple genres ranging from literature and cinema to architecture, monuments, and memoirs. "New" cities on "old" continents, Shanghai, St. Petersburg and Berlin speak to us of our modern times, from the everyday life of ordinary citizens of the metropolis to the extremities of war and revolution. Course catalog link.

Instructors and Bios:

Prof. Lilla Balint, German

Prof. Weihong Bao, Film & Media; East Asian Languages & Cultures

Prof. Harsha Ram, Slavic Languages & Literatures; Comparative Literature

Fall 2019

Histories of the Self: Inventing Identity 

Did you know that the idea that each person has a “self” is actually an invented concept? Every time you post something on Instagram, you are involved in that long history of self-creation. So, how do we shape selves? What does it have to do with truth, with desire, with performance, with play?  We will explore many forms of self-representation as they’ve changed over time, and ask how different forms of humanistic expression – language, image, and media – have shaped what we’ve come to think of as identity.  Authors include St. Augustine, Charlotte Bronte, Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass, Gertrude Stein, Cindy Sherman, and the world of Instagram. Course catalog link.

Instructors and Bios:  

Prof. Kathleen Donegan, English                                              

Prof. Michael Mascuch, Rhetoric

Prof. Damon Young, Film & Media; French         

Dua Shamsi, Class of 2021 Data Science Major, Journalism Minor, Creative Writing Minor

Dua Shamsi, class of 2021, Data Science major, Journalism and Creative Writing minors

Danielle Roseman, Class of 2023 Psychology major, Disability Studies minor

Danielle Roseman, class of 2023, Psychology major, Disability Studies minor