This course explores gender and sexuality in China before the 20th century. Are “women” and “men” useful categories of analysis for premodern China, or did people think of themselves in other terms? What role did body, duty, virtue, and desire play in relationships among people?
In this course, you will learn how gender functioned in Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian thought and practice, and how those changed over time. We will also consider how the body and sex difference were conceived of in traditional medical texts. During the second part of the class,
we will investigate the relationship between writing and gender, asking how people represented themselves and others as gendered people with sexed bodies in writing in various genres(including letters, poetry, plays, novels, and short stories). We will also examine representations
in other media such as painting, decorative objects, book illustrations, and theater. We will conclude with a brief look at attacks on the traditional sex-gender system as manifested in the anti-footbinding movement at the turn of the twentieth century.
- Contribution to discussions 20%
- Informal writing exercises 20%
- Two formal essays 40%
- Final project with in-class presentation 20%
The course is interdisciplinary and is intended for undergraduates with a broad range of interests, including gender and sexuality studies, literature, history, art history, and Asian studies. All readings are in English, and there are no prerequisites.
This course is a conversation-based seminar that will be supplemented with frequent interactive lectures to introduce historical background and context for the primary materials we engage.