East Asian Languages & Cultures | Literary Chinese I
C506 | 1655 | Eno


P: grade of C or better in C202 or equivalent proficiency, or permission of
the instructor.

Classical Chinese is one of the world's great literary languages. More great
works of art have been written in Classical Chinese than in any other
language. Part of the reason they are great is because they were written in
a language so plastic that when Western explorers first asked masters of
Chinese prose about the grammar of their language, the universal response
was, "Grammar? There isn't any!" Sometimes it seems that way. Verbs become
nouns from one line to the next, adjectives change to verbs at the slightest
provocation, prepositions become predicates, interjections become subjects,
and just when you think everything is sorted out, numbers change into
adverbs and a common conjunction turns out to be the author's younger
brother. But somehow, once you begin to catch on to its tricks, Classical
Chinese is transformed from a bewildering collection of ideographs into a
literary language more powerful than anyone raised in the narrow world of
alphabets and unambiguous syntax could imagine.

C506 is a first step in mastering this remarkable language. Using original
literary works, we confront the most basic problems of vocabulary and
syntax. Students begin learning how to coax from texts their underlying
grammatical structures and to identify the easy regularities of the language
in order to focus on the writer's dynamic use of ambiguity.