comparative literature 270b | SDSU | Fall 2005

Comedy in World Literature, Film and Television since 1500
William Nericcio & Anna Marin

all pictures below are hotlinked
Truth in advertising! 

The SDSU catalogue touts this general education “Comparative Literature class as World Literature, 1500 to the Present.”  

And while, difficult as it is, your professor will attempt to toe the line (novel, for him!) and embrace the "letter of the law" with regard to our beloved and heralded SDSU catalogue, he will also, it needs be said,  be making some irreverent and comedic adjustments.  

This class is entitled, “Naked, Loud & Broken: Comedy in World Literature and Film, 1500 to the Present,” and, as you can see from the images garnishing this webpage, our focus will be the jovial world of the comedic. The final roster of texts is still being picked at this time but we will, for sure, thrill to the delights of Voltaire (Candide), Hogarth, John Kennedy Toole (Confederacy of Dunces), Friedrich Nietzsche (Ecce Homo), Nathanael West (A Cool Million & The Dream Life of Balso Snell), Dan Clowes, CultureClash and Woody Allen (Without Feathers).  

But books will not be our only friends in this class—after 1500 means after 1500 so don’t be surprised if Lucille Ball, the Marx Brothers, Ernie Kovaks, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle, Bill Hicks, Larry David, and Chris Rock make cameos as well during the course of the semester.  

Comedy is complex and not always funny—hence the phrase, “Naked, Loud, and Broken.”  Laughter may have the charm to warm the cockles of your heart, but it is also a weapon from the mouths of adversaries out to break your soul—stereotypes,for instance, those “bloodstains of nations in conflict,” are often time funny as well and wickedly destructive at the same time. 

And that, truth be told, is the power of Comedy as a genre, and the reason for its complexity. 

This class is open to ALL majors—any human being with a sense of humor and a healthy curiosity should have a blast.


Some of the texts we will peruse and experience this semester are of an ADULT nature; if your intellectual maturity is that of an innocent adolescent, you can expect to be offended during the course of the semester. TEST: view this Sarah Silverman trailer--try NOT to be offended.


You will be asked to write ONE Analytical Imagination Challenge--aka a 5 to 8 page essay. Please note that you will never be compelled to write about something you absolutely loathe. Please see me during office hours and we can always brainstorm a substitute essay assignment. There will be an Examination Festival (aka, the FINAL) on the last regularly scheduled day of class: Thursday, December 13, 2005.  Your final is comprehensive; it assumes you have read all the books and screened all the movies that are part of our required work. If you do the work, the final is a breeze--even "fun" if you can believe it. If you slack off, you will find the final as enjoyable as a surprise appearance on FEAR FACTOR.


There will also be a couple of in-class Panic-Inducing Challenges otherwise known as "check that you did the reading carefully and on time quizzes." You can expect these miserable quizzes from time to time, the number of quizzes depending on how many of you are nostalgic for high school. In other words, if everyone acts like a talented university undergraduate, we will enjoy FEW if any quizzes during our naked, loud & broken semester. The whole point of this class is to work together, the idea being that we convert our boring, somewhat high-tech classroom into a chaotic, unpredictable and exciting intellectual laboratory. Missing class, you miss as well the whole point of the adventure. So please bypass no more than three classes. Miss MORE than three classes during the term and your grade will decay in an ugly way: examples: your hard-earned A- will morph into a B-; your "gentleman's C" will appear on gradeline as a "D." Ditching this class too often will be as fun as a case of the flesh-eating virus.


  • 33% Quizzes, In-class "Panic-Inducing Challenges"©, Section Assignments by your TAs and class participation/attendance 
  • 33% "Analytical Imagination Challenge" aka The BIG Essay 
  • 33% Final Examination Festival 
  • 1% Chutzpah, ganas, will, and drive.


Why 'office hours'? I expect you to visit me in office hours at least once during the semester. At SDSU, it's easy to fall through the cracks, to feel that you are nothing but a number or some warm pile of sentient flesh filling a seat. In order to underscore that the person teaching you is somewhat human, please make a point to take the time to introduce yourself in person. My office hours will be on Tuesdays after class till 1:30 in Adams Humanities 4117. If these hours are inconvenient, do not hesitate to call me at 594.1524 either to schedule an appointment or discuss your questions via telephone. My E-mail address is: Your Teaching Assistant this semester, Anna Marin, is amazing--her facts and contact info appear below.

When you walk into class each day on time you will do so having completed your reading assignment for that day. Please think twice about joining us if you have not finished the readings--the quality of our class depends upon your dedicated work and your relentless and independent curiosity. Without your periodic intellectual donations, the class is likely to evolve into a boring, even painful waste of time. With your help, we can avoid this. 

complit 270b Graduate Teaching Assistant
office hours: M9-10am, T11-12am
room ESC 301F
phone: 94-2015 
email: aniem75 AT

After graduating from DePaul University with a BA in literature and education, working various waitressing and door-to-door environmental gigs, and tutoring and teaching high school students in Chicago and San Diego, Anna finally has landed a post at SDSU, TAing ENG 270 and teaching RWS 100.  Aside from spending enormous amounts of time hanging out in cafes drinking too much coffee with her nose buried in books hailing from south of the US border, she also enjoys talking with most anyone who is willing to listen to her faulty Spanish and adding to her passport more stamps from countries whose shores touch the seven-colored Caribbean.  She hates TV but is a music junkie, and is usually humming or whistling the last song heard on her drive to school.  Plus, she thinks comedy is pretty funny, especially if it's naked.  Just picture it in its underwear.

This COMEDY class is dedicated to the memory and legacy of my professor, friend, mentor, Richard Keller Simon, who left a trail of wizard-like scholarship and pedagogical pleasure at UCSD, UT Austin, and CalPoly San Luis Obispo. Dick Simon opened my eyes to the power of comedy in Austin from 1981 to 1984; he also opened my Candide-like eyes to the almost, sometimes (!) sacred magic that is possible in the university; it is also all too rare. I will always miss his laugh, his students will always miss his love of teaching, his readers will always miss his delicious wit, and his friends and intimates? his love.

The Mothership