1083 Masterpieces of Chinese Literature: Premodern
This course studies some of the most representative and interesting Chinese short stories, novellas, historical accounts, fantastic tales, detective records of a criminal nature, etc. They cover a variety of subjects including friendship, love, femme fatale, knight-errantry, dreams, etc. over a period of seventeen hundred years, beginning from the second century BCE to the early twentieth century. Given the wide scope of the subject matter treated and the long time span covered in the works to be studied, the course not only provides the students with a panoramic and historical view of the rich variety of Chinese literature in the non-lyric genres but a vivid portrayal of Chinese culture in its various features through the characters and situations encountered in these texts. The major thought systems of the Chinese tradition, namely, Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, as well as relevant historical events and Chinese customs will be discussed as necessary background knowledge for the literary texts. Modern video remakes of some of the stories and tales studied in the course will be shown and their faithfulness to the original texts critiqued.
In discussing the various themes and artistic techniques employed in the works, students will be encouraged to look into their own literature and culture for comparison as a way of rendering the foreign (Chinese) relevant and the familiar (Western) in a new light. The focus of the course is not only on the literary quality and cultural ramifications of the texts but also on a personal probing of human nature and the human condition as portrayed through the texts.