The first realistic novel of everyday life in China, Jin Ping Mei, or The Plum in the Golden Vase (ca. 1610), has been banned almost continuously from its first publication thanks to its allegedly pornographic nature. In this course, we will work our way through this novel slowly over the course of the semester. We will certainly discuss the function of sex in the novel, but we will focus on larger questions: how does this text marks a turning point in the history of Chinese literature? And how has it remained such a unique source for our understanding of everyday life in China’s past?
As we grow familiar with the late Ming world in which our story unfolds, we will begin to consider how the experience of reading a large literary text might be able to mimic, capture, or expand upon worldly pleasures, such as those of captivating theatrical performances, tantalizing fragrances, suggestive glances, or a few lingering notes strummed on a lute. To facilitate a comparative analysis of sensuous pleasures, we will attend four UMS performing arts events (dance, music, and theater) and visit UM’s art museum (UMMA).
- Participation 15%
- Informal Writing 15%
- In-class Exercises 15%
- Formal Essays 20% (Two assignments, 10% each)
- Midterm Exam 15%
- Final Project 20%
This course is appropriate for students at the sophomore level and above.
Two 90-minute meetings weekly