East Asian Languages & Cultures | Chinese Literature I
E331 | 1523 | Bokenkamp


In the modern West, early Chinese literature is often portrayed as effete
musings on the subjects of the moon, love, and flowers. Nothing could be
farther from the truth. In traditional China, literature was accorded a
special place in the society. It was a means of expressing one's political
ambitions, a medium of social communication, a device for communicating
with the spirits, and a tool of governance. In this course we will examine
these various roles of literature through studying examples from nearly
three millennia of Chinese history (from roughly 1400 BCE to 1200 CE).
Along the way, we will explore the ways in which the written word helped to
make China, by the end of the period covered, the most successful
civilization in the world. Included in the survey will be examples of
historical and religious writing, narrative prose, and lyrical poetry.

This course satisfies both  Intensive Writing and Cultural Studies
requirements. No knowledge of Chinese is required. Students will be
expected to complete a series of short papers and a final paper on the
works studied, and to participate in class discussions.

Required texts:
Course reader–available at Collegiate Copies
Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature, Victor Mair, ed., New
York: Columbia University Press, 1994.