Today we have the luxury of reading more literatures in more languages than ever before in world history. In this course we ask: what can we learn from the great diversity of literatures? In what ways does “literature” look different when viewed through a different lens (such as through the literary heritage of China, Japan, or Korea)? What does poetry written in Chinese characters accomplish that alphabetic poetry cannot? How does Buddhist reincarnation change the way you tell stories and devise novels? Why is Japan the world’s only major literature where female authors dominated certain literary genres as early as the 11th century?
Our selective journey through world literature will take us through some of Asia’s most seminal and thought-provoking texts, including philosophical masters such as Confucius, Laozi, and Zhuangzi; Tang poetry; China’s classical novels Dream of the Red Chamber and Journey to the West; Japan’s female-authored tales and diaries, such as The Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book; Korea’s classical novel The Nine Cloud Dream, and the pansori play Song of Ch’unhyang.
To enhance your ability to appreciate these rich texts and to speak and write about how they matter to us today, we will also draw in films, venture into creative exercises, and work on a translation project (no foreign language required!). All readings are in English translation.