East Asian Languages and Cultures | Topics in East Asian Studies: The Knight-Errant Tradition in Chinese Literature and Film
E505 | 30403 | Tsai, S


This course open to graduates only
This course meets with CMLT-C576

This course surveys the literary and filmic representations of the
Chinese knight-errant (wuxia) from antiquity to the present day. If
in the earliest days ancient philosophers regarded the knight-errant
as supermoral, transgressive, and anti-authoritarian, this portrait
evolved through historiography and the rise of fiction and film to
assimilate a range of gender, social, and literary issues within its
framework of the heroic narrative, and as such, it offers a unique
vantage point for Chinese literature and society. How does this
masculine tradition come to have such a central place for the female
knight-errant, of which there is no analogue in the West? How does
her very existence question and affirm social order simultaneously?
After examining the knight-errant in classical tales and in early
modern vernacular novels (e.g., The Water Margin) in the first half
of the course, we will explore the knight-errant in modernity,
including topics such as the birth of the Cantonese school of wuxia
fiction, Jin Yong and his debt to Cervantes, and the explosion of
popular Hong Kong action cinema as well as art house films by Wong
Kar-wai and Zhang Yimou. Though the readings will be available in
English, those with a command of modern, early modern vernacular,
and/or literary Chinese will be encouraged to tackle the texts in
the original language. No language requirement is met through this
course.