Classics and Canonization: Topics in Medieval Chinese Literature

SS125
Fall 21

This is a GE oriented course in humanities area, designed for the undergraduate students of all majors. Centering on the theme of “classics and canonization“, this course chooses certain periods, writers and literary works from medieval China that are familiar to general readers and takes a closer look behind their “classicism“. Throughout the course, the students will be guided through a broad spectrum of historical records, literary texts, academic research, and certain literary and cinematic works from the contemporary popular culture, and in a sense be “re-introduced“ to these “classics“. The goal is to inspire the students to reconsider, from different perspectives and with a broadened view, these writers, their literary works, activities and the relevant cultural phenomena that are customarily labeled as “classics“, and to further contemplate the process of literary canonization.

The core approaches of this course will be focused on reading and discussions. Apart from the “Introduction“ and the “Conclusion“, the main content of this course will respectively focus on four topics, namely, “the Three Kingdoms“, Tao Yuanming, “Li (Bai) and Du (Fu)“, and the “Song of Everlasting Sorrow“, and the content under each topic will unfold across multiple sessions. The choices of these four topics reflect a process of “canonization“ during the long history of reception of the Medieval literature, which further became a large part and a deeply rooted regulation of the reading experience for later generations. However, such a process of “canonization“ would inevitably invite limitations in thinking and rigidities in understanding, which are particularly reflected in readers' associating cliché labels with relevant writers, works and literary phenomena. In this light, the course will assemble, under each topic, a variety of reading materials, covering on the one hand the historical records and reviews, the literary works, theories and criticisms in the traditional contexts, on the other hand the academic research, and the popular cultural re-creations in modern and contemporary contexts. By introducing the students to and guiding them through these materials, this course aims to reveal the original forms of these Medieval literature before they became labeled as “classics“, to showcase the historical process of their canonization, as well as the impact and restrictions they had on the reading experiences and cultures of later generations. From this departure, the course further aims to inspire the students' critical thinking on the label of “classics“ in the humanities realm, and to encourage their pursuit for broader horizon and deeper understanding through independent reading and thinking process.

This course will be carried out bilingually, in both Chinese and English. On top of meeting the basic attendance requirement, the students are expected to actively engage in the reading and discussions accompanying the lectures. The assessment of the coursework mainly consists of a writing assignment in the form of an essay of no less than 1000 words and a final book reading report of no less than 1500 words.

Mengwen
 ZHU

Mengwen
 ZHU

I received my Ph.D. and M.A. in Chinese Literature from the University of Hong Kong and Fudan University, respectively.