History | China in the Age of "the Dream"
J300 | 21731 | Struve


Above class carries culture studies credit
A portion of the above class reserved for majors
Above class COLL intensive writing section
Above class open to undergraduates only
Above class meets with EALC-E352

In this course we will learn about the society, beliefs, values, and
politics of eighteenth-century China by reading the greatest novel
ever written in Chinese, the "Dream of Red Chambers" (also known as
the "Story of the Stone") by Cao Xueqin (?1715–1763). This most
obsessively beloved and fascinating work of Chinese literature can
be read not only as a masterpiece of semi-vernacular prose but also
as a window on the complex social and psychological relations within
a large, wealthy family as its good fortune peaks and declines. On
one level, it tells the story of an unusual boy, born into this
family with a magic jade in his mouth—of his idyllic childhood
growing up in the company of his female cousins, doted on by his
grandmother and other senior women but averse to joining the male
world represented by his overly severe father. On another level, it
plays out a cosmic allegory of interpenetration between the “real”
and the “unreal,” between “waking” and “dreaming” in human
consciousness.

Besides writing short, collaborative responses to discussion
questions in class, each student will produce, during the semester,
a total of about 30 pages of research prose on topics that he or she
finds particularly engaging in the novel. This may be done in three
10-page papers on different topics, or in the three-stage
development of a 30-page paper on a single, broader topic.
(Preliminary bibliographical help is provided by the professor on
most subjects that attract student interest in "The Dream.") Class
discussions will frequently be supplemented with clips from popular
Chinese television enactments of scenes from the novel.

The best English translation of the novel is that by David Hawkes
and John Minford, "The Story of the Stone," published in 5 volumes
by Penguin Classics. In our class, we will collectively read only
vols. 1, 3, and 5 of this edition (summaries will be provided of
major events in vols. 2 and 4). For background knowledge on the
period during which this novel was written, we will also read from
Naquin and Rawski, "Chinese Society in the Eighteenth Century."

Students who may be studying advanced Chinese and who wish to read
passages from the original text for one extra credit may sign up for
that, with the approval of Prof. Lin Zou of EALC, under the course
number E495.

Graduate students who may wish to familiarize themselves with the
novel by reading along and helping out with class discussion may do
so by signing up for one credit under HIST H575 or EALC E595.