East Asian Languages and Cultures Courses

This course will provide students with a basic understanding of the history, teachings, and practices of the Buddhist tradition. We will begin with a look at the Indian religious culture from which Buddhism emerged, and then move on to consider the life of the Buddha, the early teachings, the founding of the monastic order, and the development of Buddhist doctrinal systems. We will then turn to the rise of Mahāyāna Buddhism, and the transformation of Buddhism as it moved from India to China, Japan, Tibet and the countries of Southeast Asia. We will end with a brief look at contemporary controversies over, (1) the tulku (reincarnate lama) system in Tibet; (2) the ordination of Buddhist nuns in Southeast Asia; and (3) the rise and popularity of mindfulness meditation in America. Readings will cover a variety of primary and secondary materials, as well as two short novels, and we will make use of films and videos. There are no prerequisites for this course—everyone is welcome. But the course does demand a great deal of time and effort on the part of  students. There is a lot of reading as well as a short written assignment or quiz each week,  and attendance at all lectures and discussion sections is mandatory. Students should only enroll if they can commit the required time and energy to the course.

We concentrate on three interconnected issues: women’s status, homoeroticism, and the human body. Our discussion will be informed by cross-cultural comparisons with ancient Greece, Renaissance England, and Contemporary America. In contrast to our modern regime of sexuality, which collapses all the three aforementioned issues into the issues of desire and identity intrinsicto the body, we will see how the early Chinese regime of sexual act evolved into the early modern regime of emotion that concerned less inherent identities than a media culture of life-style performance.


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.


Fall 2023: The course explores how horror cinema unsettles the integrity of the human body by rearticulating the relations between viewers and the screen; the spectacle and the networked; the spectral and the virtual. We will raise questions about the body’s subjection to forms of gendered, racist, and class-based violence: how do different forms of horror encode histories of violence and oppression within bodies? How do we interpret and contextualize this “body language” within its representative history, in cinema and other media forms? We will think through these questions by reading and viewing recent works in the horror genre as well as a rich tradition of film criticism as it intersects with developments in affect studies, performance studies, and queer theory.  Film screenings will include works by established auteurs and emerging directors from world cinema.

“It may be easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism,” goes the well-known phrase attributed to Fredric Jameson, and with irreversible climate change, we are racing blindly toward the end of the world as we know it. Tracing the origins and onset of the industrial era in the late 19th century, this seminar couples scholarly/theoretical insights on the many aspects of what has come to be called the “Anthropocene” (climate change, fossil capital, natural/social disaster, ecological racism, waste colonialism, viral pandemics, vegetarianism, animal liberation, blue humanities, degrowth communism, cyborgian and/or posthuman subjectivity) with creative works of fiction exploring the ecological metabolism between humans and their natural or built environments across China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Taiwan, Oceania, and Asian America. All readings will be available in English translation, though participants are encouraged to read primary sources in the original languages corresponding to their area(s) of expertise. Requirements: in-class presentation; final seminar paper.