East Asian Languages & Cultures | East Asia: An Introduction
E100 | 1558 | Eno
This course is a selective survey of the traditional and contemporary
cultures of the East Asian nations: China, Japan, and Korea. There are no
course prerequisites, students are not expected to have any prior knowledge
of these countries.
Since the 1980s, the economic power and political influence of the
countries of East Asia have grown at a far faster rate than in any other
area of the world. Despite a short-term downturn in growth in Japan and
Korea during the past year, it has become common for business people and
journalists to speak of the coming century as the East Asian century, and
it is imperative for Americans to better understand the peoples and
cultures of this region of the world. In the coming decades, Americans who
do not have a basic understanding of East Asia will be as handicapped as
East Asians without a basic understanding of the West. China, Japan, and
Korea each represent civilizations many times older than that of the United
States. Most individuals in contemporary East Asia are aware and proud of
the great age of their cultures. They are also keenly aware of the sharp
break with their past that has formed during the past century, as a result
of the arrival of Western cultural and political forces. Building a basic
understanding of the world of contemporary East Asia means learning not
only about present day society, but also about the narratives of the past
that shape the way East Asian societies picture themselves and their
relations to us in the West.
In the first half of E100, we will examine aspects of traditional roots of
East Asian societies. We will read some of the teachings of Confucius that
shaped China, learn how Buddhism transformed all of East Asia, explore the
culture of the samurai of Japan, and read poems, stories, and diaries that
record the thoughts and feelings of people living far from us in place and
time. During the second half of the course, we will focus on modern East
Asia, examining the revolutionary impact of the West and contemporary
social and political structures. We will contrast how China, Japan, and
Korea each responded to the sudden challenges of the past century, read an
autobiographical account of a young person living through this era of
confusion, and examine how these shattering transformations continue to
shape events in East Asia up to the present day.
Course requirements will include short homework assignments, several brief
reflective essays (about two pages in length), and midterm and final exams.
Students will use the E100 webpage to prepare for assignments and class
discussions, and also to keep up on news of China, Japan, and Korea, as it
unfolds during the final months of the millennium.