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Asian Literature and Culture Courses

Courses marked with an * are available for graduate credit.

Asian Humanities

ASIAN LC 290 – East Asian Religious Classics

Overview of Course

This course explores some of the most influential texts of the major East Asian religious and philosophical traditions including Confucianism, Daoism, Chan/Zen Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism still prominent in China, Japan, Tibet, and several other Asian societies today. The goal is to understand their significance in East Asian cultures, as well as consider what we can learn from these texts today. This course will probe the following questions: What are the major themes, dilemmas, and issues these texts address? How can humans achieve contentment in the world? What are the moral values these texts instill? Beyond this historical focus, this course will also reflect on ways that these literary and religious texts have been appropriated and adapted in the modern context. Each period dedicated to a specific text will be preceded by an introduction to the tradition it represents offering an historical background together with biographical and/or content outlines. Format The course format will include a combination of lecture and discussion. Students will be encouraged to exercise critical thinking and to participate in class discussions. Students will analyze primary source material in translation, critically evaluate content and concepts, and will be encouraged to synthetize the information and communicate it effectively and thoroughly.

Teaching Method

Lecture and Discussion

Evaluation Method

Mid-term and final term paper, in-class presentation

Class Materials (required)

Confucius / Annping Chin (transl). The Analects. Penguin Classics (2014) - ISBN 978-0143106852

Lao Tzu / D.C. Lau (transl). Tao Te Ching. Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (1964) - ISBN 978-0140441314

Tsangnyon Heruka / A. Quintman (transl). The Life of Milarepa. Penguin Classics; 1 edition (2010) - ISBN 978-0143106227

Wu Ch'êng-ên (Author), Arthur Waley (Translator), Monkey: Folk Novel of China, Evergreen Books by Grove Weidenfeld; Reissue edition 1994, 978-0802130860

ASIAN LC 390* – Buddhist Cultures and the Rhetoric of Violence

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 390* – Buddhist Literature in Translation

Overview of Course
In this course students will read writings from Buddhist canonical and non-canonical literature on a variety of subjects to gain an introduction to the variety of literary genres used in Buddhist works, as well as to consider the central tenets of the Buddhist literary tradition these works convey. Who was the Buddha? What did he preach? Why do we suffer and how do we realize enlightenment? How should one follow the Buddhist path? What metaphors and parables have Buddhists used to convey these insights over the centuries? Students will be able to explore these and other questions through a selection of English translations of original texts in Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese, and Tibetan including the life of the Buddha, his sayings, Buddhist sutras, and Buddhist autobiographies. As this course is an introduction to Buddhist literature, there are no prerequisites, and students will gain familiarity with Buddhist teachings through engaging directly with primary sources in translation.

Teaching Method
This course will consist of lectures and class discussion

Evaluation Method
Students will be evaluated through a mid-term and a final-term paper, as well as class participation and an in-class presentation.

Class Material (required)
The Life of the Buddha (Penguin Classics 2015 - by Tenzin Chogyel and Kurtis R. Schaeffer. 978-0143107200

The Dhammapada (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 2010 by Valerie Roebuck (Editor, Translator, Introduction) ISBN 978-0140449419

The Platform Sutra: The Zen Teaching of Hui-neng, by Red Pine, Counterpoint 2008, ISBN 978-1593761776

Himalayan Hermitess: The Life of a Tibetan Buddhist Nun 1st Edition, by Kurtis R. Schaeffer, ‎Oxford University Press, 2004 – ISBN 978-0195152999

ASIAN LC 390* – Fate, Fortune, and Karma in East Asia

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 397 – Senior Seminar

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 492* – Readings in Tibetan Texts: Religious and literary texts

Overview of Course

This class over three quarters is designed to assist students who already have the equivalent of at least two-years of Tibetan language study. The course is intended to build on this foundation so that students gain greater proficiency in reading a variety of classical Tibetan writing styles and genres, including (especially in the third quarter) texts relevant to their research.

We will explore various genres: canonical and other religious texts, religious songs (mgur), poetry (snyan ngag), biographies (rnam thar), avadanas (rtogs brjod), and histories. We will also look at administrative documents (gzhung yig), other manuscripts and scrolls to become familiar with the most common forms of Tibetan calligraphy.  Students will gain facility in the use of Tibetan dictionaries essential for reading classical texts, in particular for understanding kāvya-derived ornamental vocabulary and rhetorical devices.

Learning Objectives

Students will learn to identify commonly found vocabulary, grammatical constructions and other conventions appearing in Classical Tibetan texts, including religious, literary, and historical genres. In the third quarter, students will be introduced to texts in dbu-med scripts and the abbreviated words (skung yig) often employed in these. They will learn how to identify texts helpful for their research and begin reading those texts.

Teaching Method
Online only

Evaluation Method:

 Percentage of Final Grade

Class participation & Homework                                               30%

3 Short quizzes                                                                                15%    

Mid-Term                                                                                            25%

Final Examination                                                                           30%

Class materials (required)

Bentor, Yael. A Classical Tibetan Reader: Selections from renowned works with custom glossaries.  Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2013.  ISBN: 978-1-61419-079-7 Purchase recommended.

Skal bzang ʾgyur med. Bod kyi brda sprod rig paʾi khrid rgyun rab gsal me long. Chengdu: Si-khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1981. [Clear Mirror]  Selections will be distributed if book is not readily available to students. 

Blo bzang chos grags dang Bsod-nams-rtse-mo. Gangs-ljongs mkhas dbang rim byon gyi rtsom yig gser gyi sbram bu. Zi-ling: Mtsho-sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2008. 3 vols. Selections will be distributed if book is not readily available to students.

Class materials (suggested)

Preston, Craig. How to Read Classical Tibetan. 2 vols. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2003.

Wilson, Joe B. Translating Buddhism from Tibetan. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1992.

Hackett, Paul. A Tibetan verb lexicon: verbs, classes, and syntactic frames. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 2003.  (This book will be used in the second semester.)

Hill, Nathan. A lexicon of Tibetan verb stems as reported by the gramatical tradition. München : Kommission für Zentral- und Ostasiatische Studien, Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2010.

Schwieger, Peter. Handbuch zur Grammatik der klassischen tibetischen Schriftsprache . Halle: International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies GmbH, 2009.

Jo-bo rje dpal ldan A-ti-sha’i rnam thar Bka’ gdams pha chosLinks to an external site. Zi-ling: Mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1994.  Starr Library Course Reserves: BQ7670.9.A2 B43 1994

 

Sarat Chandra Das. A Tibetan-English Dictionary, with Sanskrit Synonyms. Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Book Depot. 1902.

Jäschke, H. A Tibetan-English Dictionary, with special reference to the prevailing dialects (to which is added an English-Tibetan vocabulary). London. 1881.

ལི་ཤི་གུར་ཁང་།

དག་ཡིག་ངག་སྒྲོན་དང་དེའི་འགྲེལ་བ།

དག་ཡིག་གསར་བསྒྲིགས།

བོད་ཡིག་བརྡ་རྙིང་ཚིག་མཛོད།

Tibetan-English dictionary
https://dictionary.christian-steinert.de/#home

ASIAN LC 492* – TBA

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 492* – Readings in Tibetan Texts: Historical texts and Biographies

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 492* – Tibetan Buddhist Studies

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Chinese Culture

ASIAN LC 202 – Women in Chinese Cinema, 1922-2022

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 300* – A Writing of Their Own: Chinese Woman Writers Between Empire and Modernity

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 300* – Grassroots Revolt in China Today

Overview of class

"How have urban Chinese challenged the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party in the twenty-first century? What are the activist causes around which urban Chinese have rallied despite the risk of state repression? Given that activists risk persecution, prison, and torture, who would do this? How do activists maintain the emotional resilience to stand up to authoritarian rule? What are activists' tactics and strategies? To answer these questions, we will study reporters, labor organizers, environmental activists, religious activists, lawyers, and feminist activists.
Many activists oppose the authoritarian state in the name of freedom. I have found that many urban Chinese are happy, or at least content, in their lives today. The insight that hundreds of millions of people can be happy or content even though they are lacking freedom is so astonishing to me, I have begun to question my own understanding of freedom. Is freedom a specifically Western concept? Should the notion of freedom have universal relevance? Should we demand of the Chinese people that they democratize? Or is this demand Orientalist? Or racist? Is the demand that Chinese democratize another way of saying, "They must become like us"? The Chinese Communist Party is a threat to United States democracy. Thinking about China and acting toward China, how are we to combine the defense of our democracy and the injunction to stay clear of Orientalism? Who is a greater threat to our democracy, the Chinese Communist Party or the Republican Party? It turns out that we, unfortunately, cannot study Chinese activists without finding a framework to evaluate Chinese authoritarian rule in political and ethical terms.
Evaluating Chinese authoritarian rule involves thinking about ourselves. Are some Americans benefitting from authoritarian rule in China? Is the Chinese Communist Party profitable for some Americans? Would the United States economy collapse without Chinese poverty? Who are we in moral, political, and ethical terms to claim the high ground and criticize the Chinese Communist Party? It is possible to argue that Western modernity is flawed beyond rescue. From this perspective, are we in a desperate search for an alternative modernity? Can China be our inspiration for an alternative modernity? Or, would you agree with those Hong Kong activists who have coined the term Chinazi to indicate that, in their view, China increasingly resembles Hitler's Germany?"

Registration requirements

No prerequisites. All materials are in English.

Teaching Method

Discussion

Evaluation Method

You will read about sixty pages per class meeting, or circa one hundred twenty pages per week. To participate actively in class discussion, you must prepare the assigned readings outside of class for six hours per week. This includes taking good reading notes and bringing your reading notes to class.

Class Discussion 50%
Take-home Exam 15%
Final Paper 35%

Class Materials (required)

We will discuss select chapters from the following books. All of these required books are available to you as e-books through the Library's website.

Sebastian Veg. Minjian. The Rise of China's Grassroots Intellectuals. New York: Columbia 2019. 978-0-231-19140-1

Ching Kwan Lee. Against the Law. Labor Protests in China's Rustbelt and Sunbelt. Berkeley: California 2007.978-0-520-25097-0

David Ownby. Falun Gong and the Future of China. New York: Oxford 2008. 978-0-19-973853-3

Joshua Goldstein. Remains of the Everyday. A Century of Recycling in Beijing. Oakland: California 2021.

Rongbin Han. Contesting Cyberspace in China. Online Expression and Authoritarian Resilience. New York: Columbia 2018.

Leta Hong Fincher. Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China. New York: Verso 2018. 978-1-78663-364-4

Margaret Hillenbrand. Negative Exposure: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China. Durham: Duke 2020. 978-1-4780-0800-2

ASIAN LC 300* – Religion and Politics in the PRC

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First-Year Seminar

ASIAN LC 110 – Introduction to Tibetan Literature

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Japanese Culture

ASIAN LC 200 – Intro Topics in Japanese Literature and Culture

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 221 – Intro to Classical Japanese Literature

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 224 – Intro to Japanese Cinema I

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 224 – Intro to Japanese Cinema II

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 321* – Paying For It: Sex, Money, and LIterature in Early Modern Japan

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 322* – Finance Fictions: The Japanese "Economic Novel"

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Korean Culture

ASIAN LC 240 – Introduction to Korean Culture

Overview of course

In 2017, the world witnessed a profound aspiration for national reconciliation and the possible future reunification of the Korean peninsula. Indeed, this aspiration for reunion expresses a vigorous and deep historical belief in the shared ethnic and cultural heritage of the entire peninsula that imagines North and South Korea as tragically and temporarily separated entities bound to be reunited. At the same time, the contemporary everyday meaning of the word “Korea” (hankuk) is often limited to only their nation for many young South Koreans. How do we understand this seeming contradiction? With this question in mind, this course provides students with a set of critical frames for exploring Korean history and culture while simultaneously questioning presumptions of a nation or civilization with an unchanging or seemingly “natural” essence. This course focuses on the modern cultural history of the Korean peninsula by investigating the discursive constructions of national subjectivity carried out by disparate groups and social institutions since the Chosŏn Dynasty’s inclusion in the modern nation-state world system and the political realities resulting from those discursive constructions. The term culture in the course title is defined in a broad sense as it encompasses not only works of art but also systems of thought and social practices developed throughout the history of modern Korea.

Learning objectives

This course is designed to give students a set of critical techniques for exploring Korean culture through its art, literature, history, and systems of thought.

Teaching Method

Discussion with lectures

Evaluation Method

Grades will largely be determined by student comprehension of lectures and readings, discussion, and a combination of smaller and in-depth writing assignments.

  1. Regular attendance and preparation of all readings and active participation: In-class discussion and weekly online posting of reading responses (less than 200 words)
  2. “Modern construction of Korean culture” essay: 1000 words. Post online on Canvas.
  3. Discussion leading: This part consists of 3 reading summaries for the assigned readings. 1) an oral presentation of the reading in class; 2) a two-page written summary to be posted one day before class on Canvas (this means that all other students need to read posts before coming to class) 3) three questions to spark class discussion.
  4. “Korean diaspora” or “Globalization of Korean culture” essay: 1000 words. Post online on Canvas.
  5. Final research project: 2500-3000 words, excluding bibliography. Students are encouraged to give a short and concise presentation on their project at the end of the semester.

Class Materials

All assigned readings are accessible through Canvas.

ASIAN LC 240 – The End of a World: South Korean Fictions, Films and Webtoons of Disaster

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 340* – Feminist, Queer, Crip: South Korea and Its Discontents

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 392 – East Asian Media Studies

Overview of class

How do we critically engage "media in (East) Asia" in the age of global media production, circulation, and consumption? This course features a combination of critical theory and geopolitical history with an emphasis on asking how we understand various media forms, technologies, and texts that are from East Asia. Students will read different and sometimes competing sets of critical approaches and methods that theorize media forms and cultures in East Asia. We will especially problematize the qualifying phrase "in Asia" or the binary opposition between "culture" and (media) technology. While learning the key theoretical tools to understand media in Asia, students will also learn to question the assumed universality of the concept "media" while dealing with the geopolitical differences of the non-West, in this case East Asia. For instance, students will be learning and asking what we can gain or miss from analytical approaches that focus on the national characteristics (e.g. "Koreanness) or "East Asianness" of modern technologies such as K-pop machinery, Japanese anime, or the Chinese typewriter. Therefore, this course not only will provide students with an introduction to media technologies and cultures in East Asia, but also teach ways to rethink the Eurocentric theorization of media and modernity as well as the conceptualization of East Asian culture as fixed, static, homogenous, and "particular." Each week students will be reading or watching a media text paired with readings on relevant theoretical or historical problems.

Learning objectives

Students will read different and sometimes competing sets of critical approaches and methods that theorize media forms and cultures in East Asia. In particular, we will problematize the qualifying phrase “in Asia” and the binary opposition between “culture” and (media) technology. While learning the key theoretical tools to understand media in Asia, students will also learn to question the assumed universality of the concept “media” while dealing with the geopolitical differences and particularities of the non-West, which for our course refers principally to East Asia. Therefore, this course will not only provide students with an introduction to media technologies and cultures in East Asia, but it will also teach ways to rethink the Eurocentric theorization of media and modernity. Furthermore, we will trouble the conceptualization of East Asian culture as fixed, static, homogenous, and “particular.” Each week students will be reading or watching a media text paired with readings on relevant theoretical or historical problems.

Teaching Method

Discussion with lectures

Evaluation Method

Grades will largely be determined by student comprehension of lectures and readings, discussion, and a combination of smaller and in-depth writing assignments.

  1. Regular attendance and preparation of all readings and active participation: In-class discussion and weekly online posting of reading responses (less than 200 words)
  2. “What is Media” essay: 1000 words. Post online on Canvas.
  3. Discussion leading: This part consists of 3 reading summaries for the assigned readings. 1) an oral presentation of the reading in class; 2) a two-page written summary to be posted one day before class on Canvas (this means that all other students need to read posts before coming to class) 3) three questions to spark class discussion.
  4. Final research project: 2500-3000 words, excluding bibliography. Students are encouraged to give a short, compact presentation on their project at the end of the semester.

Class Materials

All assigned readings are accessible through Canvas.

 


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South Asian Culture

ASIAN LC 260 – Masala: Food and South Asia

Overview of course
Everyone eats, but not everyone eats the same way. What we eat, and when, and how, and with whom - all of these choices have the potential to define us. In this course, we will explore the meanings and practices surrounding food in South Asia and its diaspora. Whether in conflicts over forbidden foods, in crises of famine, in exoticist evocations of "the land of spices," or in nostalgic yearnings for the lost flavors of home, food has profound power over the imagination and the body. We will examine literature, films, cookbooks, and other materials - some of which we will eat! - to understand the roles that food plays in ritual, politics, art, and everyday life.

Learning Objectives
At the end of this course, students will be able to: - analyze historical, social, and cultural aspects of food in South Asia and its diaspora; - make cogent and persuasive arguments, orally and in writing, incorporating careful analysis of primary and secondary materials; - critically evaluate scholarly work relating to South Asian history and culture; - work with classmates to produce knowledge collaboratively.

Teaching Method
Seminar

Evaluation Method
Papers and presentations

Class Materials (required)
All course materials will be provided on Canvas or in class.

ASIAN LC 260 – India/Pakistan Partition in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 260 – Intro Topics in South Asian Literature and Culture

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 360* – TBA

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 370* – Travel Writing in Modern India

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