ASIAN 480 - Topics in Asian Studies
Section: 003 What is Literature? A Critical History of Reading and Writing in East Asia
Term: WN 2010
Subject: Asian Studies (ASIAN)
Department: LSA Asian Languages & Cultures
Waitlist Capacity:
Enforced Prerequisites:
Graduate Standing
May be elected four times for credit. May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

This course offers an opportunity to explore the history of reading and writing in East Asia — principally Japan and China — with a view to determining their distinctive nature and function from a comparative Asian as well as East/West perspective. We will begin by analyzing scenes of reading and writing from literature, history, and philosophy, and proceed to interpret them through Chinese and Japanese critical theory and commentaries. Questions include, but are not limited to:

  • a comparative analysis of speech and writing, including calligraphy as a material aesthetic or ritual object and medium of communication;
  • controversies around the status of literature, particularly narratives, as truth or fabrication; the history and politics of canon formation;
  • the culture of reading/writing milieus and their links to class and identity formation;
  • the use of language in philosophical systems claiming their inadequacy
— students are encouraged to bring their own questions for discussion in the seminar.

Course work includes shorter response essays, an oral presentation, and a term paper. Texts will be in English translation, with original-language sources available as appropriate. They include selections from

  • Readings in Chinese Literary Thought (ed. Stephen Owen), an anthology of literary criticism from the ancient period through the Ch’ing Dynasty (1662-1912);
  • three kibyôshi (illustrated stories of the Edo ‘floating world’) from 1782-1788; and
  • contemporary studies of the social networks around literary and aesthetic pursuits.

ASIAN 480 - Topics in Asian Studies
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
F 11:00AM - 2:00PM
002 (SEM)
Th 2:30PM - 5:30PM
003 (SEM)
MW 4:00PM - 5:30PM
004 (SEM)
W 3:00PM - 6:00PM
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