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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Welcome to the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal, a biannual publication dedicated to publishing exemplary undergraduate research in the humanities and social sciences.

Volume 20 Issue 1 2008


Understanding Aging: A Medical Humanities Approach to “Death in Venice“

While "Death in Venice" by Thomas Mann has been typically described as a story about creativity, romance and death, this article analyzes several aspects of aging within the novel, while also giving a mini-treatise on the Medical Humanities as a field of study. Many nuances of the aging process are highly overlooked by the medical profession in modern times. Medical Humanities exists as a field that assists health professionals in understanding a variety of socio-cultural phenomenon that occur with respect to medicine by incorporating perspectives from sources such as literature and art. The medical field misdiagnoses many elderly ills as "part of the aging process" when, for a younger patient, the same symptoms are attributed to more general illness. This article works to reveal the ways in which Mann’s contemporary society perceived aging -and what we can learn about how our society looks at the same subject today- through a careful analysis of the novel's structure, and it’s emphasis not only in the interpersonal relationships between characters but also the function of the Venetian backdrop upon the flavor of the plot. Only once medical professionals truly understand the "experience" of aging can they help their patients deal with the aging process.

Joyce’s Comedic Self-Revision in “Cyclops”

The following paper addresses the “Cyclops” episode in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Joyce’s novel is fraught with epic comparisons, especially in regards to The Odyssey. For example, the protagonist, Leopold Bloom, continually parallels the brave and cunning Odysseus. While these epic comparisons tend to be somewhat insincere, there is an undeniably genuine element in the connection. Similarly, the “Cyclops” episode within the novel contains numerous narrative interruptions that often liken the ordinary to the grand. Yet, the interruptions ultimately mock and parody their subject. This paper relates these two different types of comparisons that are basically structured in the same way—they both relate the banal to the extraordinary—yet they have opposite results. My research draws on key works in Joyce criticism, and argues that the comparisons within “Cyclops” can function as a joke on Joyce’s much used technique of epic parallelism. The joke is that Joyce’s technique of epic parallelism is comically revised into a caricature—the mocking comparisons in “Cyclops.” It is precisely this ability to poke fun at oneself that is the answer to the fanatical patriotism exhibited by the Citizen, the Cyclopean figure within the episode. This performative joke on Joyce’s writing is consistent with Joyce’s habit of comical depictions of his work and of himself; and the analysis in this paper offers this comedic rendering as another facet to consider when examining the ingenuity and complexity of Joycean humor.

United States Trade and Foreign Labor Interests: The Effects on Foreign Labor of Linking Trade with Labor Provisions in Bilateral U.S. Free Trade Agreements

All bilateral U.S. trade agreements ratified since 2001 have included labor provisions within the main body of the agreement, though the scale, scope, and appropriateness of such provisions – and their enforcement mechanisms – have varied slightly between different FTAs. But little has been written on whether such agreements have, in the short time before and after their passage, tangibly transformed labor legislation and respect for workers’ rights within partner countries. By examining the successes and failures of trade-labor linkage within four bilateral U.S. FTAs, I attempt to demonstrate that tying increased market access with minimum labor standards can foster improved and updated foreign labor legislation and greater respect for workers’ rights. I also argue that the primary concerns over trade-labor linkage at the multilateral level have far less relevance at the bilateral level, where the scope of the provisions can be tailored to each particular trading partner, and the leverage of the United States allows it to exert significant influence during the negotiating process. Recent bilateral U.S. FTAs have shown that incremental improvements in labor standards can be achieved through the combined efforts of negotiating trade partners, the International Labor Organization, and domestic and international NGOs. Ultimately, it is argued, the effectiveness and viability of labor provisions at the bilateral level is most dependent on the political will of the negotiating countries to adequately address labor issues during trade negotiations and within signed agreements. With the U.S.-Jordan FTA, the U.S. demonstrated its commitment to “hard” labor standards by including sufficiently enforceable and appropriate labor provisions within the body of the agreement. Since Jordan, however, the labor provisions in U.S. FTAs, including those with Morocco, Bahrain, and Oman, have been relaxed, as “soft” trade-labor linkage – or the linking of trade and labor issues in the negotiating process – has played a more significant role.