Alexei Kamran Ditter
Medieval and late imperial Chinese prose, poetry, and fiction; Chinese literary theory; Chinese literary history. On leave spring 2018.
Modern Chinese literature and culture, theories of modernity, nationalism, subjectivity, gender studies, film studies.
Hyong G. Rhew
Classical Chinese literature, Chinese literary theory, Chinese intellectual history, Korean literature. On sabbatical 2018–19.
Late Imperial Chinese literature and religion.
The Chinese department offers courses that provide training in the Chinese language and in the critical appreciation of Chinese literature, both classical and modern.
Language instruction in the first two years emphasizes a solid grounding in the basic skills of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The focus of the third year of Chinese class is on students’ acquisition of near-native fluency in spoken Chinese, competence in reading a variety of contemporary texts (with a dictionary), and the ability to employ different registers and genres of Chinese in their writing. A semester course in classical Chinese is also offered to 300-level students so they will be able to read classical texts in the original. Another semester course in the fourth year completes the cycle of Chinese language training at the undergraduate level.
The literature offerings are designed to provide students with opportunities to read with critical insight all the major genres of Chinese literature in the historical, cultural, and theoretical contexts of the relevant texts. The courses are taught in English, using texts in translation. Students may enroll in the courses as either literature or Chinese. An additional conference hour will be arranged for students wishing to read the original texts. Courses in related subjects, such as Chinese intellectual history, are also offered.
The department participates in the interdisciplinary humanities course sequence (Humanities 231–232) on foundations of Chinese civilization, which is a required course for Chinese majors. A description of the course can be found in the humanities section of this catalog.
The Chinese House, a residence hall, is the center of extracurricular activities for students interested in Chinese culture. The resident Chinese language scholar offers tutoring, conversation sessions, and other assistance to students taking Chinese.
The importance of a period of total immersion in a target-language environment cannot be overemphasized for learners of Chinese. Chinese majors are strongly encouraged to apply to Reed-sponsored study programs in China. The Chinese department assists in the arrangement of such study trips and assesses the transcripts brought back from overseas for credit transfer.
Prerequisites for the Major
Students who wish to major in Chinese must have at least second-year language proficiency.
Junior Qualifying Examination
Students must initiate the junior qualifying examination process by contacting a Chinese department faculty member at least one semester prior to the time of the intended completion of the qualifying examination.
Requirements for the Major
- A minimum of five units at the 300 and 400 levels, including one unit of third-year Chinese, one unit of classical Chinese, and one unit of either classical Chinese literature or modern and contemporary Chinese literature.
- Humanities 231–232—foundations of Chinese civilization.
- A minimum of one unit in Chinese history, Chinese art history, Chinese anthropology, or Chinese religious thought, to be taken in the relevant departments.
- Chinese 470—thesis.
Recommended (but not required) for the major: an additional unit in Chinese history, Chinese art history, Chinese anthropology, or Chinese religious thought, or any other Asia-related course that the college may offer.
Chinese 110 - First-Year Chinese
Full course for one year. A beginner’s course in standard (Mandarin) modern spoken and written Chinese, aimed at building a solid foundation in all its aspects: pronunciation (especially the tones), syntax, and basic vocabulary. Attention is given to a balanced development of all the basic skills of the language: listening and reading comprehension, speaking, and writing. Pinyin is the romanization system used in this and all other Chinese language courses. Both the traditional and simplified characters are taught. Students are expected to read both and write one of the two versions. Lecture-conference.
Chinese 210 - Second-Year Chinese
Full course for one year. This course is designed to build the skills of students who have studied at least one year of Chinese (or equivalent) to achieve intermediate-level proficiency in the oral and written use of the language through speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Emphasis in the course will be placed on learning to recognize and reproduce the natural flow of the spoken language, expanding vocabulary, and learning to write short essays in Chinese. Prerequisite: Chinese 110 or acceptance through placement test. Lecture-conference.
Chinese 281 - Self, Stage, and Society: An Excursion into Chinese Drama
Full course for one semester. This course introduces students to representative works of Chinese drama from the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), the first golden period of theatre on record, to the Cultural Revolution period (1966–1976), when theatrical forms continued to dominate ongoing visions of cultural and national remaking. The justification for spanning the conventional divide between the premodern and modern periods is the lasting appeal of the earlier theatrical masterpieces throughout the ages, in terms of both artistic forms and subject matters. This course pushes students to go beyond the dichotomized mode of thinking that views tradition and modernity as distinct and self-contained categories, to see continuity and powerful resonances between the premodern and the modern, and to understand how different generations of playwrights, writing either professionally or as members of the intellectual elite, have ingeniously and insistently inscribed their own moral and political visions into an art form traditionally associated with mass entertainment, if not outright vulgarity. Readings include works by Guan Hanqing, Wang Shifu, Tang Xianzu, Ouyang Yuqian, Cao Yu, and Tian Han, among others. Readings are available in English translation. Students taking the course for Chinese credit will meet for an additional hour of reading in the original language. Prerequisite: Chinese 210 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 281.
Not offered 2018–19.
Chinese 311 - Third-Year Chinese
Full course for one semester. This course is designed for students who have completed at least two years of Chinese language (or equivalent). The course will focus on student acquisition of near-native fluency in spoken Chinese, competence in reading a variety of contemporary texts (with a dictionary), and employment of different registers and genres of Chinese in students’ writing. Prerequisite: Chinese 210 or acceptance through placement test. Conference.
Chinese 316 - Classical Chinese
Full course for one semester. Intensive introduction to the grammar of classical Chinese through the study of selections from ancient literary, historical, and philosophical texts. Readings include the Analects, Mencius, Zhuangzi, Shiji, and Tang-Song prose essays. Conducted in Chinese. Prerequisite: Chinese 210 or equivalent. Conference.
Chinese 329 - Stranger Things in Medieval China
Full course for one semester. This course will introduce students to the “accounts of the strange” (zhiguai 志怪) and “tales of the extraordinary” (chuanqi 傳奇) produced in China between the fourth and tenth centuries. These narratives feature a rich cast of protagonists, from accomplished martial artists, demon-quelling monks, and hell-visiting filial sons to undead lovers, punitive deities, and shapeshifting animals and objects. Modern scholars have often viewed these works as early precursors in the development of Chinese fiction. By contrast, the writers and compilers of those medieval stories and collections, many of whom were among the most educated men of their age, seemed instead to have understood their works as attempts to map the contours and subtle workings of the world in which they lived. In this course, we will try to read their literary projects on their terms, exploring what they reveal about cultural fears, anxieties, and aspirations, the relationships between self and “Other,” and the different realms—human, animal, natural, supernatural—that made up the world within which the inhabitants of medieval China dwelt. All readings in translation. An additional hour session of guided readings in the original will be offered for students taking the course for Chinese credit. Prerequisite for Chinese credit: sophomore standing and Chinese 210 or equivalent. Prerequisite for literature credit: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 329.
Not offered 2018–19.
Chinese 334 - The Yijing: Text and Tradition of the Book of Changes
Full course for one semester. The Yijing, or Book of Changes, is a text of limitless possibilities. This course explores various strategies of reading the text and examines philosophical, religious, historical, and literary critical implications of the text and the tradition associated with it. The system and the language of the 64 hexagrams and various layers of attached verbalization are the focus of investigation. Readings are in English. Students who take the course for Chinese credit meet for additional tutoring to read parts of the text in the original. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 334.
Not offered 2018–19.
Chinese 335 - Chineseness, Translated Modernity, and World Literature
Full course for one semester. If world literature is work that gains in translation (Damrosch), then modern Chinese literature, frequently a product of translingual practice, is gained in translation. Textual linkages have been established between Bellamy’s Looking Backward: 2000-1887 and Wu Jianren’s New Story of the Stone, Arthur Smith’s Chinese Characteristics and Lu Xun’s True Story of Ah Q, the Diary of a Madman in its Russian and Chinese iterations, Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and the first modern Chinese love story, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Ding Ling’s Miss Sophie’s Diary, Sinclair’s The Jungle and Xiao Hong’s Hands, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Gao Xingjian’s Bus Stop. Whether these translated texts serve as conceptual or formal inspirations or interlocutions, our understanding of the Chinese literary modernity is inevitably transformed for the better when we redirect our critical attention to the dialogic nature of the modern Chinese literary enterprise and stay mindful of the fact that Chinese literary modernity has originated and thrived as a mode of reading, writing, and circulation that is fundamentally worldly in nature. Readings are in English. Students who take the course for Chinese credit meet for additional time to engage with select texts in the original. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 335.
Chinese 346 - From Allegories to Documentaries: Screening Postsocialist China
Full course for one semester. This course investigates interactions between literary production (focusing primarily on fiction) and filmmaking since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. Issues to be explored include the shared sociohistorical context that conditioned the production of these two cultural forms and the multivalent differences between them in terms of intended audience, narrative modes, and thematic concerns. Readings are in translation, and films selected are subtitled in English. No Chinese language training is required. Readings in the original Chinese and additional instruction will be offered for students taking this course for Chinese credit. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 346.
Not offered 2018–19.
Chinese 348 - Reading for Translation
Full course for one semester. This course examines theories of literary translation, including various ideas of equivalence, purposes, causes of uncertainty, and the formation of paradigms. Further, it will attempt to practice the theories, by exploring methods of reading particularly for translation and strategies of rendering such a reading into another language. A reading knowledge of Chinese is necessary. For exceptional cases, students with a reading knowledge of Japanese and Korean can be permitted to join the class. Prerequisite: Chinese 210 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 348.
Not offered 2018–19.
Chinese 355 - Early Chinese Philosophical Texts
Full course for one semester. This course examines various philosophical discourses in the early period leading to the unification in 221 BC. It is a selective discussion of a few major philosophical texts and schools of thought. We investigate the predominant interest in human nature and cultivation, the epistemological models for understanding such emphases, and the implications of Chinese epistemology. Readings in translation. Students taking the course for Chinese credit will meet for additional hours for the guided reading of selected texts in the original Chinese. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 355.
Not offered 2018–19.
Chinese 360 - The Social Life of Poetry in the Tang Dynasty (618–907)
Full course for one semester. This course will examine the role poetry played in Tang society, as well as how broader social changes—changing composition of the reading public, new technologies of writing, and developing economies of textual circulation—influenced the ways in which poetry was written, for whom, and with what aims. Both primary and secondary materials are in English. Students who take the course for Chinese credit meet for additional tutoring to read parts of the texts in the original. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 360.
Not offered 2018–19.
Chinese 367 - Love in Late Imperial China
Full course for one semester. This course will examine representations of love and lovers in the literary and historical discourses of the fourteenth through nineteenth centuries. Approaching “love” (qing 情) through key words, conceptions, ideals, and acts with which it was associated, we will explore a number of questions, including: What kinds of behaviors or speech were coded as “romantic?” Were representations of “love” consistent across different discursive contexts (fictional, dramatic, poetic, historical)? Were literary representations of love seen as promoting positive ideals of romance and marriage or encouraging socially deviant and dangerous behaviors? We will also explore the discursive boundaries of love, places where words and deeds shift from love to desire, lust, madness, and obsession. Within what contexts were otherwise romantic words and deeds suddenly viewed as transgressive or disturbing? How did different forms of discourse (medical, legal) identify pathologies of love and/or propose to treat them? All readings in translation. An additional hour session of guided readings in the original will be offered for students taking the course for Chinese credit. Prerequisite for Chinese credit: sophomore standing and Chinese 210 or equivalent. Prerequisite for literature credit: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 367.
Not offered 2018–19.
Chinese 369 - Modernizing Sentiments, Sentimentalizing Modernity
Full course for one semester. Modern Chinese literature, burdened from its inception with the task of nation building, is often read in terms of national allegories, but the extent to which imaginations of new collective and individual identities are articulated in emotive terms merits critical attention. Writers of all kinds share the belief that for China to transform successfully into a modern nation the sentiments of its subjects must be properly reeducated. This course looks at successive models of affective modernity that are valorized or rejected at various junctures of the twentieth century and seeks to understand their vicissitudes in literary history. It also asks at what point nation and emotion part ways and render untenable the assertion that works of modern Chinese literature are always necessarily national allegories. Readings for this course include fiction, supplemented occasionally by poetry and drama, from the late Qing period to contemporary China. An additional hour of class of guided readings in the original will be offered for students taking this course for Chinese credit. Readings are in English. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 369.
Not offered 2018–19.
Chinese 374 - Reading Early Chinese Novels: The Four Masterworks
Full course for one semester. This course explores the development of the novel as an artistic literary form in late imperial China by introducing students to representative novels from the Ming dynasty (fourteenth through seventeenth century), particularly the “four masterworks” (四大奇書) including Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三國志通俗演義), Outlaws of the Marsh (水滸傳), Journey to the West (西遊記), and Jin Ping Mei (金瓶梅). Through reading poetry, drama, short story, and commentary alongside selected chapters of the novels, we will discuss how these works creatively appropriate motifs, conventions, and character types from China’s long narrative tradition. Close textual analyses of the primary readings will be supplemented by critical and theoretical readings to support our interpretations and allow us to assess current scholarly approaches to the study of early modern Chinese fiction. We will also examine adaptations of these monumental novels in a variety of other literary genres and artistic media to appreciate their long-lasting cultural influences across East Asia. All readings are available in translation. Students taking the course for Chinese credit will meet for an additional hour of reading in the original language. Prerequisite: sophomore standing, or by instructor consent. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 374.
Chinese 375 - Chinese Strange Writing: From Ghost Stories to Scientific Fantasies
Full course for one semester. This course will acquaint students with representative works of the Chinese discourse on the strange and the fantastic from the late imperial dynasties through the modern and contemporary periods. As we move from gods and demons novels (shenmo xiaoshuo 神魔小說) such as the sixteenth-century masterpiece Journey to the West, to late imperial vernacular short stories (huaben xiaoshuo 話本小說) and religious miracle tales, to “records of the strange” writings (zhiguai 志怪) produced between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, and eventually to early twentieth adaptations of western science fictions and contemporary Hugo Award-winning works, we will familiarize ourselves with some of the most important literary styles and genres of Chinese literature. These narratives not only feature a vibrant cast of shapeshifting ghosts, animal spirits, and deities, but also contain curious representations of romance and sexuality, of national crises and imagined utopias, and intriguing conceptualizations of the alien and the exotic. Through historical contextualization and close reading, we will explore the porous boundaries and dynamic interactions between history and fiction, religion and popular literature, monstrosity and divinity, as well as tradition and modernity. All readings in translation. Students taking the course for Chinese credit will meet for an additional hour of reading in the original language. Prerequisite: sophomore standing, or by instructor consent. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 375.
Chinese 380 - Chinese Narrative Traditions
Full course for one semester. This course will approach the Chinese narrative tradition through close reading of The Story of the Stone and its literary antecedents. First published in 1792, The Story of the Stone recounts the experiences of a magical stone from heaven reborn as the male heir of the immensely wealthy and aristocratic Jia family. Through reading and discussion of poetry, drama, short story, and longer works of fiction from earlier periods alongside selected chapters from the novel, we will explore the ways in which The Story of the Stone self-consciously adapts literary conventions, techniques, and motifs from the narrative tradition, and learn to appreciate both China’s rich literary tradition and the unique artistic achievements of this novel. An additional hour of class of guided readings in the original will be offered for students taking the course for Chinese credit. Readings in English. Prerequisite: sophomore standing and Chinese 210 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 380.
Not offered 2018–19.
Chinese 412 - Selected Topics in Chinese Literature
Full course for one semester. Topics vary, selected from Chinese literature. Readings and instruction in Chinese. Prerequisite: third-year level of Chinese proficiency. Conference.
Chinese 470 - Thesis
One-half or full course for one year.
Chinese 481 - Independent Study
One-half or full course for one semester. Prerequisite: approval of instructor and division.