East Asian Languages and Cultures Courses

In this course we compare the cultural traditions of tea in China and Japan. In addition, using tea as the case study, we analyze the mechanics of the flow of culture across both national boundaries and social practices (such as between poetry and the tea ceremony). Understanding the tea culture of these countries informs students of important and enduring aspects of both cultures, provides an opportunity to discuss the role of religion and art in social practice, provides a forum for cultural comparison, and provides as well an example of the relationship between the two countries and Japanese methods of importing and naturalizing another country's social practice. Korean tea traditions are also briefly considered. 

This course will explore some of the most difficult bioethical issues confronting the world today from the perspective of traditional values embedded in the cultural history of India, China, and Japan as evidenced in their religions, legal codes, and political history. Possible topics include population control, abortion, sex-selection, euthanasia, suicide, genetic manipulation, brain-death, and organ transplants.

The course will introduce students to narratives about illness, disease and healing written by patients, physicians, caretakers, and others. These narratives report an experience. They reveal the interactions between the unfolding life of the patient and the shifting social meanings attached to illness. We will study the relationships between illness and society through readings of fiction, memoir, films, essays and graphic novels in order to understand how these varied forms of storytelling organize and give meaning to crucial questions about embodiment, disability and emergent forms of sociality enabled by our bodily vulnerabilities.

A study of the Buddhist tradition as it is found today in Asia. The course will focus on specific living traditions of East, South, and/or Southeast Asia. Themes to be addressed may include contemporary Buddhist ritual practices; funerary and mortuary customs; the relationship between Buddhism and other local religious traditions; the relationship between Buddhist institutions and the state; Buddhist monasticism and its relationship to the laity; Buddhist ethics; Buddhist "modernism," and so on.

This course offers a cultural history of encounters between Russia and Asia in literature, film and visual art. The lenses of Orientalism, Eurasianism and Internationalism will be used to analyze Russian interactions with three spaces: the Caucasus, Central Asia, and East Asia. We will discuss works by classic Russian writers and artists (including Tolstoy, Blok and Platonov) that address the question of Russia’s engagement with Asia and consider Russia’s ambiguous spatial identity between Europe and Asia. We will also examine responses to Russian culture and the Russian/Soviet state in the literature and culture of China (Lu Xun, Xiao Hong), Japan (Kurosawa), Central Asia (Aitmatov) and the Caucasus (Sadulaev). All readings in English.

This course is a capstone experience that centers on the philosophies and religions of East Asia examined from multiple theoretical perspectives. It comprises several thematic units within which a short set of readings about theory are followed by chronologically arranged readings about East Asia. Themes will alternate from year to year but may include: ritual and performance studies; religion and evolution; definitions of religion and theories of its origins; and the role of sacrifice.