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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 a 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 synthesize the information and communicate it effectively and thoroughly.

ASIAN LC 290 – Intro to Tibetan Literature

Overview of Course
What are Tibetan literature’s distinctive features? In what ways has Buddhism determined Tibetan literary genres? How have modern forms of Tibetan literature developed? Students in this course will read Tibetan literature in English translation along with secondary sources to learn and reflect upon the long history of Tibetan literature up to the present. Given the impact that religious concerns have had among Tibetans for centuries, in the first part of the course students will analyze the ways in which Buddhism and Tibetan literary forms are intertwined from the Tibetan imperial period forward. The second part of the course will survey modern and contemporary Tibetan literature and its myriad influences, such as Chinese literary and political theory. Students will gain familiarity with diverse genres of Tibetan literature in translation including fiction, poetry, biographies, and historical treatises.

Teaching Method
Lecture and Discussion

Evaluation Method
In-class presentation, weekly response papers, midterm and final term papers

Class Materials (required)
Tsering Döndrup, "The Handsome Monk and Other Stories." Columbia University Press, 2019 - ISBN 978-0231190237
Tenzin Deckie. "Old Demons, New Deities. 21 Short Stories from Tibet." OR Books, 2017 - ISBN 978-1944869519

Class Materials (suggested)
PDFs provided by instructor

ASIAN LC 390* – Buddhism and Gender

Overview of Course
The unifying theme of this seminar is gender and Buddhism. We take as our point of departure Carolyn Bynum's statement: "No scholar studying religion, no participant in ritual, is ever neuter. Religious experience is the experience of men and women, and in no known society is this experience the same." Bearing this in mind, we will explore historical, textual and social questions relevant to gender in the Buddhist worlds of India, Tibet, and the Himalayas from the time of Buddhism's origins to the present day. Topics covered in this course will include the roles of women, men, femininity, and masculinity in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhism and the family, gender and the body in Mahayana Buddhism, the roles of female goddess figures such as dakinisin Vajrayana Buddhism, Buddhism and sexuality, and the status of Buddhist nuns.

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

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 390* – Martial Arts, Religion, and Philosophy in Asia

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 390* – Buddhist Literature and Translation

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 392 – Media in East Asia

Overview of Course

The seminar is designed to foster dialogues between Media Studies and Area Studies. The key questions we will be asking are: What is media and its relationship to our subjectivity? How are media practices in East Asia related to the formation of certain subjectivities and cultural identities? How are these practices related to our everyday experience and immersion in the contemporary global media landscape? What are the social contexts and histories that propel us to study East Asia (East Asian media in this case)? Who constitutes this we? How do we study East Asia while avoiding an orientalist lens in our analysis and othering the other? While learning about various media practices in East Asia, students will be asked to be self-reflective in considering these questions.

Teaching Method
Discussion with lectures

Evaluation Method
1. Regular attendance, preparation of all readings, and active participation
2. Short writing assignments
3. Discussion leading
4. Final paper

Class materials (required)
All assigned readings are accessible through Canvas.

 

ASIAN LC 397 – Senior Seminar

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 492* – Readings in Tibetan Texts: TBA

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 492* – Readings in Tibetan Texts: TBA

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 492* – Readings in Tibetan Texts: TBA

Overview of Course coming soon!

 

ASIAN LC 492* – Approaches to Asia

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 492* – Comparison and Interdisciplinarity

Overview of Course

This seminar considers methods of comparison and interdisciplinarity in relation to the field of Comparative Literature. It offers a brief history of that field and some of its influential texts as a starting point for thinking through alternative methods of “doing” comparative and relational literary and cultural studies today. Of particular concern is the challenge of working within (or between) Eurocentric fields that struggle to make equal space for different traditions and the methods, questions, and theories best suited to them. What does it mean to work in a field that doesn’t necessarily understand the work you’re doing and why you’re doing it? Of equal importance is the challenge of working across fields that are epistemologically and institutionally isolated from one another. How, for example, do you bring insights from other fields (in which you are not formally trained) to bear on your own research, particularly when both home and “outside” fields are not in conversation with one another? What does scholarly rigor look like when it comes to interdisciplinary work? We will approach these challenges and questions by looking at recent comparative and interdisciplinary scholarship in several broad fields, including the environmental humanities.

Teaching Method
Discussion

Evaluation Method
Attendance, Preparation, Participation: 20% Response Papers: 20% Presentation: 10% Final Essay: 50%

Course Materials (required)
Course Reader

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Chinese Culture

ASIAN LC 200 – Dao of Sex

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 202 – Taiwanese New Wave Cinema

Overview of Course
“New wave” is a ubiquitous but imprecise term that has been applied to various trends in cinema that emerged around the world beginning in the mid-1950s. As an historical term it is used to delineate shared styles, themes, and techniques that define certain national and international film movements. As a kind of descriptive shorthand, it has been applied more broadly to movements that abandoned conventional narrative techniques in favor of experimentation with the cinematic medium, while also confronting social and political problems specific to the context of production. Thus, the inaugural French New Wave has lent its title to film trends in Britain, Iran, Japan, Hong Kong, and many other locations around the world. This course offers a critical and historical introduction to one of these latter-day new waves, the “New Taiwan Cinema,” which emerged in the early 1980s as a reaction against contemporaneous commercial cinema. Through a careful investigation of the work of the three most important representatives of this “new” cinema—Hou Hsiao-hsien 侯孝賢, Tsai Ming-Liang 蔡明亮, and Edward Yang 楊德昌—this course will consider not only the experimental form and social consciousness of the Taiwanese New Wave but also the specific economic, social, and institutional structures—national and transnational—that shaped it. We will also study critical and theoretical writings on this cinema to better understand both the Taiwanese cultural milieu that produced it, and the broader global film culture of which it has become such an important part. Whenever possible, we will place individual Taiwanese films in dialogue with the Asian and European film cultures that influenced them as well as the films and filmmakers that they have influenced. There are no prerequisites for this class and no previous knowledge of Chinese or Taiwanese literature, culture, language, or history is assumed.

Learning Objectives
To learn how to use methods of “close viewing,” “close reading,” and analysis effectively

To acquire a formal vocabulary for discussing and writing about film in general

To develop a more sophisticated understanding of the techniques used in experiments with cinematic form

To develop techniques for writing clearly and effectively about film

To understand the historical, cultural, and economic contexts that shaped Taiwanese filmmaking in the period under discussion

To critically explore the category of “New Wave” and to consider Taiwanese film in its broader global cinematic contexts

Teaching Method
Lecture and Discussion

Evaluation Method
Participation, Attendance, and Preparation: 20% Review Posts: 15% Scene Analysis: 5% Essay 1: 20% Essay 2: 20% Essay 3: 20%

Course Materials (required)
course reader

ASIAN LC 300* – China as Threat

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 300* – Chinese Feminisms

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 300* – Grassroots Revolt in China Today

Overview of Course
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 teaching materials are in English

Learning Objectives
This class shall alert students to the fragility of democracy: Is our democracy in existential peril? Does the Chinese Communist Party pose a threat to our democracy? What is life like under authoritarian rule? What are the odds in the struggle of ordinary people against an authoritarian state? Which Americans have benefitted from Chinese authoritarian rule? Can we make demands on Chinese people in the name of universal values? Given the planetary scope of human-made global warming, can we demand that Chinese people restructure their economy?

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%

Course 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 People's Republic of China

Overview of Course coming soon!

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First-Year Seminar

ASIAN LC 110 – TBA

Overview of Course coming soon!

 

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Japanese Culture

ASIAN LC 221 – The Floating World

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 223 – Contemporary Japanese Culture

Overview of course coming soon!

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

Course description coming soon!

ASIAN LC 322* – Video Games in/as Japanese Culture

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 322* – Cyber-Japan

Overview of Course coming soon!

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Korean Culture

ASIAN LC 240 – Colonial Korean Literature and Culture

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 240 – Contemporary Women Authors of South Korea and Feminist Criticism

Overview of Course
The cultural importance of women writers in South Korea has been ever growing since the 1990s not just due to their increasing number and commercial success, but also because of their distinctive literary achievements and political voices. In this course we will trace this recent development in literary and cultural history against the backdrop of larger socio-political changes in South Korea. In particular, we will study the neo-liberalization of society through the restructuring of the gendered division of labor and the waning hegemony of nationalist realism that once effectively united labor activism and class politics.

Teaching Method
Discussion and lectures

Evaluation Method
1. Regular attendance and preparation of all readings and active participation
2. Short writing assignments
3. Discussion leading
4. Final paper

Course Materials (required)

Gong Ji-young, Human Decency, trans. Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton (Seoul: ASIA Publishers, 2012)

Han Kang, The Vegetarian: A Novel, trans. Deborah Smith (London: Hogarth, 2015)

Shin Kyung-sook, The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness, trans. Ha-yun Jung (New York: Pegasus Books, 2015)

Bora Chung, Cursed Bunny, trans. Anton Hur (Honford Star, 2021)

All other assigned readings are accessible through Canvas.

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

Overview of course coming soon!

 

ASIAN LC 240 – Contemporary South Korean Documentary Film and the Politics of Representation

Overview of Course coming soon!

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

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 340* – Korean Science and Speculative Fiction

Overview of Course coming soon!

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South Asian Culture

ASIAN LC 260 – Kings, Courtesans, and Khan artists

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 261 – Living Indian Epics - Ramayana

Overview of  Course
This course will consider one of two fundamental mythological pillars of Indian society – the great Hindu epic, The Ramayana (Story of Rama). Thought to be composed almost three thousand years ago (give or take a few centuries), this epic tale has been re-told and re-imagined in changing social and cultural contexts ever since. This course is dedicated to understanding the nature of this ancient epic as a modern, “living” text in contemporary Indian society. After we develop, as a group, a basic understanding of the major events and characters of the Ramayana, we will explore it in modern contexts of literature, visual art, film, television, and political rhetoric. We will ask whether the resonance of the epic varies in each of these modern contexts, or if its “meanings” are as immortal as the tale itself. In light of several recent controversies resulting from both scholarly and aesthetic approaches to the Ramayana, we will also consider the difficulty of bridging the fraught divides between religion, literature, history, and art. Therefore this course will provide you with an introduction not only to the fascinating stories of the ancient epic literature itself, but also to major issues of religion, gender, popular culture, and social politics in contemporary India. By the end of the course you will be able to understand and explain how the modern and contemporary cultures of India are constructed, in part, through a constant re-evaluation of the Ramayana among other Hindu epic narratives.

Learning Objectives
You will become very familiar with one of the foundation narratives shaping classical and modern Hindu-Indian society.

You will learn how to understand the intersections of religion, literature, art, and politics.

You will think critically about the ways in which classical religious and literary texts can have significant impacts on modern notions of belonging and exclusion.

Teaching Method
Lecture and Discussion

Evaluation Method
discussion, quizzes, midterm and final, short writing assignments.

Course Materials (required)
RK Narayan, The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic (Penguin Classics, 2006)
ISBN: 978-0-143-03967-9

All other materials will be available on Canvas.

ASIAN LC 261 – The Big B: Amitabh Bachchan and Bollywood Stardom

Overview of Course
The Hindi film industry, often called Bollywood, is famously one of the world’s biggest and most recognizable. Every year, the studios in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) put out hundreds of movies, in addition to hundreds more that are released by India’s other film industries in languages like Tamil, Telugu, and Bengali. Most of these movies are full of songs and dances, and bring action, comedy, tragedy, and romance together into one (often very complex) story. As the subject of our class has said, Hindi cinema “offers poetic justice in three hours. You walk away with a smile on your lips and dried tears on your cheeks.”

Film industries everywhere choose a few actors to elevate above all others. The biggest of these movie stars in India, and perhaps in the world, is Amitabh Bachchan. With his brooding, rebellious charisma, not to mention his ready wit, resonant baritone voice, and enviable dance moves, his “angry young man” persona dominated the films of the 1970s. Today, half a century after his film debut, he is still a major star. His face and voice are instantly recognizable, not only throughout South Asia and its diaspora, but in Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere. As his characters have aged from youthful rebels to somewhat less youthful rebels to stern patriarchs to goofy old men obsessed with their digestive tracts, he has at times seemed inescapable off the movie screen as well. He has spent time in politics, hosted a wildly successful game show, and starred in children’s comic books; one fan has even built a temple to worship him as a literal idol.

In this course, we will focus on Amitabh Bachchan, not only because he and his films are so interesting, but because he has so much to tell us about how Indian films work and what a star is. Students will have opportunities to think and write, not only about Amitabh and his films, but about film and celebrity more broadly.

Learning Objectives
At the end of this course, students will be able to:
- analyze Hindi films, and other elements of South Asian popular culture, in light of cultural, social, and political considerations;
- critically evaluate scholarly work relating to South Asian history and culture;
- work with classmates to produce knowledge collaboratively;
- make cogent and persuasive arguments, orally and in writing, incorporating careful analysis of primary and secondary materials.

Teaching Method
Seminar

Evaluation Method
papers and presentations

Class Materials (required)
William Elison, Christian Lee Novetzke, and Andy Rotman, Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation (Harvard University Press, 2016, ISBN 9780674504486)

ASIAN LC 360* – Inquilab Zimdabad

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 360* – Umrao Jan Ada

Overview of Course coming soon!

ASIAN LC 373* – Love, Literature, and Divine

Overview of Course coming soon!

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