ASIAN 353 - Globalizing China: From Ancient Wisdom to World Literature
Section: 001
Term: WN 2018
Subject: Asian Studies (ASIAN)
Department: LSA Asian Languages & Cultures
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

This course offers an introduction to Chinese literature from an uncommon perspective, that of the contexts of its translation into other languages (mostly English). Some foundational reading in Orientalism and the politics of translation will prepare us to examine the translation of Chinese texts from its earliest instances to recent works that are even written with translation in mind. Questions we will address include: how has translation shaped Western conceptions of China? To what ends have translators have aimed their translations? And, perhaps most fundamentally, what should we make of reinterpretations and even wrong interpretations of texts when they circulate far beyond their original contexts? We will discuss why Chinese literature, especially poetry, has been construed as particularly difficult to translate, because of the supposed incommensurability of the Chinese written character with alphabetic languages. We will explore the ways in which the translation of Chinese classics into Western languages was animated by interests in ancient Chinese wisdom and spirituality, even as it dismissed the majority of later developments in Chinese culture. We will consider the current emergence of a new global notion of Chinese literature and culture, focusing on the two recent Nobel Prizes for literature awarded for Chinese works. We will conclude by comparing the history of adaptations of Chinese drama into European languages with the history of their adaptation within China, especially into films produced with a global audience in mind. We will approach these topics from any level of familiarity with Chinese literature and culture. All readings will be in English, and I am happy to provide references to the Chinese versions of our texts for interested students.

Course Requirements:

Engagement 20%; Weekly Informal Writing 20% (Ten assignments, 2% each); Unit Assignments 60% (Four assignments, 15% each); Unit assignments include:

  • two essays on assigned topics (of 4-5 pages each)
  • participation in an in-class debate with a written report of your position (2-3 min. initial position statement and 2-4 page written report)
  • a collaborative annotation project
Attendance -2% for each unexcused absence

Intended Audience:

This course is intended for undergraduate students at any level. It will be of interest to students of literature and comparative literature of other periods, and students interested in international politics have enjoyed the course in the past.

Class Format:

Two 90-minute meetings weekly

ASIAN 353 - Globalizing China: From Ancient Wisdom to World Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 9780802130860
Monkey, Author: Wu Ch'eng-en ; translated from the Chinese by Arthur Waley., Publisher: Grove Press 1970
ISBN: 9780140441314
Tao te ching, Author: Lao Tzu ; translated with an introduction by D.C. Lau., Publisher: Penguin 41st [prin 1976
ISBN: 9781611457070
The Garlic Ballads, Author: Mo Yan., Publisher: Arcade Pub. 1st Arcade
ISBN: 9780140443486
The analects [of] Confucius, Author: translated [from the Chinese] with an introduction by D.C. Lau., Publisher: Penguin Books Reprint. 1979
Other Textbook Editions OK.
Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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