The primary goal of this course is to provide students with the tools for in-depth reading of one of the most famed of Chinese novels, The Story of the Stone (Honglou meng). Our focus this semester is how this novel treats character, both major and minor. Honglou meng's rich world is composed of hundreds of characters, a bewildering array that forms a sharp distinction to the more condensed worlds of the contemporary novels that have formed our habits of reading. We will ask how the novel structures relationships among this cast of hundreds, and how as it progresses it spotlights different aspects of its complex social world. Most importantly, we will ask how the novel both encourages and discourages interpretation.
Every year, we have a mix of native speakers of Chinese and of English in Chinese 155. I try to accommodate everyone’s needs. We often compare the original and the translation; some students will be reading the original and some primarily the translation. The translation we use is David Hawkes' magisterial accomplishment, The Story of the Stone, published by Penguin.
A secondary goal of this course is to develop your oral and written skills of expression. To this end, I will ask you to give an in-class presentation, lead a 15-20 minute class discussion once over the course of the semester, and write two papers, one 5-7 pages and one 8-10 pages.