Photo by Deborah Morrow Yu
Welcome from the Director of Undergraduate Studies
As we grow from kids to teenagers, we go from experiencing literature as the vehicle for unleashing the power of our imaginations; to seeing it as a fundamental means and style of sharing perspectives and values. The net effect, as we know, is an enhanced appreciation, empathy and engagement with the worlds and peoples that intersect or border our own. But that's just the beginning. For as we enter the world of advanced internet and communications technologies, population movements, transnational linkages, increased environmental awareness, and hybrid cultures, we in the study of literature, language, and culture see ourselves tasked with providing and cultivating a set of skills and aptitudes for the twenty-first century. These skills range from proficiency and higher education in a second language, comparative cultural appreciation and analysis, and the critical evaluation of historical change and continuity; to the development of original creative and critical writing, communication, and the effective presentation of arguments and ideas. While the Artist's Way remains the forever open frontier of inspiration, intellectual daring, and creative experimentation for many Literature majors, the specific skill sets acquired by our students translate well in professional fields as diverse as law, medicine, public policy, education, communications, advertising, diplomacy, tourism, and business; not to mention, of course, the arts industries like publishing and web content.
But the skill sets and artist's vocation still represent only two facets of the unique intellectual formation of literary and cultural studies, as well as writing, at UCSD. The deeper investment of our founders, which still resonates and finds expression in the brilliant pursuits and ambitions of our students today, remains the commitment to social and political change in and through the intellectual work of imagination, critical analysis, and aesthetic (re)invention. Whether students are tasked to conceptually map the faubourgs of Flaubert's Paris (or Joyce's Dublin, or Eileen Chang's Shanghai), decipher the coded message of an underground Philippine novelist, follow the syncopated rhythms of transplanted Yoruban music in the Caribbean, or pinpoint the hinge on which a Julie Dash film production turns, the study of literature and cultural studies at UCSD has always dedicated itself to both understanding and engaging with the transformative potential of cultural identities, critical positions, and cross-cultural currents that structure and influence our here and now. We access these through the translation, interpretation, and extrapolation of texts and contexts. We descend into the labyrinths of claims and counter-claims behind our fundamental ideas and practices of truth, justice, and collective action. And we emerge with a toolbox for reshaping the world, our worlds, beyond the status quo of what is to the possible futures of what ought to be, and why.
JOHN D. BLANCO
Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Spanish and Cultural Studies