East Asian Languages and Cultures Courses

The use of metaphor, metonymy, and other figurative schemas to frame one aspect of our experience in terms of another is a central feature not only of literary texts but of language use in general. Indeed, some have argued that thinking itself is an extremely complex process of analogy-making and figuration. In this class, we will look at how figurative language is used in Chinese literature by closely examining a series of selections from ancient philosophical texts, medieval poetry collections, and modern short stories. 

This class has two main components. First, we will practice reading, outlining, summarizing, and evaluating a wide range of secondary literature drawn from the disciplines of philosophy, anthropology, psychology, and linguistics on the semantic, cognitive, and cultural dimensions of figurative language. Second, we will use the conceptual vocabulary we have built up through our reading of these secondary sources to describe and analyze the use of figurative language in a variety of different kinds of texts drawn from both premodern and modern Chinese literature. The hope is that by putting these two kinds of sources in dialogue, we will both enrich our own experience of reading and writing about these texts and re-sensitize ourselves to the ways we use figurative language in our own writing. No previous knowledge of China, the Chinese language, or Chinese literature is required.

How do we know what is funny? The experience of laughing at jokes, comedy films, cartoons, or even a satirical tale is a part of every day life, and yet notoriously difficult to write about analytically. At the same time, some types of social engagement and critique are only possible through comic culture, especially in eras of strict censorship. This course explores the theory of comic arts and the history of comic culture in modern East Asia, focusing on the second half of the 20th century. Each week will pair a primary literary text from Chinese cultures (continental China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan), Korean cultures (colonial, North and South), or Japanese cultures with a critical/analytical piece that both models strong academic writing and provides tools to analyze the comic presentation of the primary text. No previous knowledge of East Asian languages is required.

This seminar will look at some of the great works of contemporary East Asian cinema, featuring films that explore love, family and friendship through the manifold alignments of class, gender and sexuality.  Screenings will include classics like Iwai Shunji’s Love Letter and Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love, along with other contemporary works by Kawase Naomi, Ann Hui, Tsai Ming-liang, and Park Chang-Wook.

Note: Enrollment is limited to 18 sophomores.

This course explores representation of romantic love in East Asian cultures in premodern and post-modern contexts. Students develop a better understanding of the similarities and differences in traditional values in three East Asian cultures by comparing how canonical texts of premodern China, Japan and Korea represent romantic relationship. This is followed by the study of several contemporary East Asian films, giving the student the opportunity to explore how traditional values persist, change, or become nexus points of resistance.

This course provides a forum for reading and discussing East Asia’s greatest and most iconic modern writers, Lu Xun. We will closely read Lu Xun’s major works , discuss his role in the reinvention of the Chinese language and literary tradition, explore the global literary and intellectual currents with which he was deeply engaged, as well as situating him within the tumultuous era of colonialism, modernization, and revolution. All readings will be available in English translation.

Higher Learning begins with the study of heaven. As the source of orientation in space and time, heaven provides humanity the foundation for its knowledge and political order. To understand what knowledge is or how politics function, we need a basic understanding of the ways of heaven. This course examines the function heaven serves in the founding of order against the void in nature through the formation of conventional systems of time and space and the role heaven has played in the promulgation of governments. From a cross-cultural, interdisciplinary perspective that covers the course of Eurasian history and using primary sources in translation, we will see heaven unfold through the developments that leave us with the world we know today.

This course examines the multiple ways in which the enormous upheavals of modernity have impacted Buddhism and the ways in which Buddhist institutions, beliefs, practices, and values have responded, with a focus on Japan. Because the end of World War II changed the political landscape in fundamental ways throughout Asia, most notably the end of colonialism, the course will be divided into two sections: 1800 to 1945, and 1945 to the present. The course will focus on the example of Japan because of the unusual rapidity with which Japan began an accelerated process of Westernization and globalization at the end of the nineteenth, earlier than any other Buddhist nation, the rise of nationalism as an anti-Buddhist force, and the way in which Japanese Buddhist thinking has recovered from that period. 

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.

Prerequisite: Preference will be given to majors, especially those with junior or senior standing

This course investigates the theoretical and historical contexts under which "futurity" has emerged as a key concept in the environmental humanities and social sciences.  Tracking the ways in which the concept has been made central to bio-political, ethical and neo-materialist articulations, we will be thinking about ideas of the future as they arise in concerns about surveillance technologies, securitization and risks, health and toxicity, reproduction, preservation and extinction, environmental disasters and global warming, mutant ecologies and multispecies attentiveness. 

We will first engage with a few theoretical works on futurity (Edelman, Muñoz, Berlant, Puar, and Kafer).  Moving across national boundaries, we will then explore new questions and possibilities these works and others have opened up for rethinking (and queering) relationships between nature and culture, humans and environment, agency, objects and networks.  Readings will likely include Bruno Latour, Kimura Shuhei, Timothy Choy, Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing, Shiho Satsuka, Karen Barad, Jane Bennet, Tim Morton, Eduardo Kohn, Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, Naoki Kasuga, Kath Weston, Brian Massumi, Joseph Masco, and Rob Nixon.