Chinese

The Chinese program includes beginning, intermediate, and advanced courses that teach students to speak, read, write, and comprehend standard Chinese (Mandarin). The first-year class focuses on oral proficiency and grammar structures and culminates in end-of-semester projects that draw on the students’ interests. Reading and writing is emphasized in the second-year class, as students are introduced to short stories, poetry, and film. Student work in class and conference is supplemented by weekly meetings with the language assistant and by the lunchtime Chinese Table. Extracurricular activities include visits to museums and excursions to New York City’s various Chinatown neighborhoods.

Students of Chinese are strongly encouraged to spend a semester or, ideally, a year abroad at one of several programs, such as Global Alliance, Middlebury College, or Associated Colleges in China. These programs offer a range of experiences at different sites, including Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Xian.

Students of Chinese language are encouraged to enhance their curriculum with courses in history, philosophy, and literature taught through the Asian Studies department, as well as through religion and geography. 

2020-2021 Courses

Chinese

Beginning Chinese

Open , Small seminar—Year

Beginning Chinese is designed for students with little to no knowledge of Modern Standard Mandarin Chinese. The course aims to develop students’ communicative competency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in Mandarin Chinese at the novice-high level on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) proficiency scale. Students will learn the basics of the language—including sounds, grammar, vocabulary, and Chinese characters—as well as important cultural aspects. Through authentic materials and meaningful tasks, students will acquire basic communicative skills for essential daily-life communication. Additionally, students will learn the basics of Chinese calligraphy.

Faculty

Intermediate Chinese

Intermediate , Small seminar—Year

Intermediate Chinese is designed for students who have finished at least one year of Mandarin Chinese and for students who already have knowledge of basic Chinese. The goal of this course is to help students to achieve intermediate-low level on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) proficiency scale in Modern Standard Mandarin Chinese. Students will continue developing their communicative skills upon the foundation acquired. Students will reinforce and expand their language skills by reading, listening, discussing, and writing about topics related to daily-life events. By the end of the year, students will establish the ability to communicate in Mandarin Chinese to satisfy personal needs and social demands. In addition, students will expand their knowledge of Chinese culture and society.

Faculty

China’s 20th-Century Through Fiction

Open , Seminar—Year

There is no prerequisite knowledge of China (history or literature) for this course.

In 1902, China’s leading intellectual and political theorist, LIANG Qichao, observed, “If one intends to renovate the people of a nation, one must first renovate its fiction.” In the century that followed, reformers, radicals, and regimes repeatedly placed fiction at the center of the national project of modernity. Exploring literature’s contribution to the construction of the Chinese national body, this yearlong seminar uses short stories and novels as windows on a cataclysmic century filled with wars, political revolutions, cultural change, and social upheaval. As writers participated in and commented on these traumatic events, fiction was a key battleground for political, social, and cultural change. In the fall, we will encounter short stories and novels that carried forward radical demolitions of the Confucian cultural tradition and political critiques in the first half of the century. Beginning in the 1920s, urban feminists wrote to promote the emancipation of the individual while, a decade later, leftist writers exposed the evils of Western imperialism and capitalist exploitation. How did those works contribute to revolutionary movements? Despite an overall focus on the political dimension, we will take time out to consider some more lyrically inclined writers who explored China’s ethnic margins and the intricate and private dramas of love and despair. In the spring semester, we will delve into the socialist realism of Communist fiction to identify its unique qualities and role in Maoist political life before turning to the literary reassessments of Maoist excesses in the reform era (1980s) and the place of literature in the neoliberal atmosphere of post-Tiananmen (1989) China. We will interrogate fictional works in post-revolutionary China for how they deal with and understand China’s revolutionary past, its ragged cultural tradition, and a rapidly changing society and economy. What is the relationship between art and politics in these ostensibly (even studiously) apolitical works? And finally, we will also cover Taiwanese literature from the 1960s through the 1990s, as it too grappled with economic development, its political basis, and social effects. Our readings include many of the great characters in early 20th-century literature, such as Lu Xun’s cannibalistic madman and hapless Ah Q, Ding Ling’s tubercular Miss Sophie, SHEN Congwen’s Hmong villagers, and Zhang Ailing’s college student turned mistress-assassin. We will also meet blood-drenched bandits, long-suffering peasants, and disaffected urban youths in an age of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. For those taking this class as an FYS, conferences in the fall semester will consist of biweekly individual meetings, with a group session held on alternate weeks to handle matters concerning all FYS students. Conferences in the spring will be on the regular biweekly individual model (i.e., no group conferences).

Faculty

China’s 20th-Century Through Fiction

Open , Seminar—Year

There is no prerequisite knowledge of China (history or literature) for this course.

In 1902, China’s leading intellectual and political theorist, LIANG Qichao, observed, “If one intends to renovate the people of a nation, one must first renovate its fiction.” In the century that followed, reformers, radicals, and regimes repeatedly placed fiction at the center of the national project of modernity. Exploring literature’s contribution to the construction of the Chinese national body, this yearlong seminar uses short stories and novels as windows on a cataclysmic century filled with wars, political revolutions, cultural change, and social upheaval. As writers participated in and commented on those traumatic events, fiction was a key battleground for political, social, and cultural change. In the fall, we will encounter short stories and novels that carried forward radical demolitions of the Confucian cultural tradition and political critiques in the first half of the century. Beginning in the 1920s, urban feminists wrote to promote the emancipation of the individual while, a decade later, leftist writers exposed the evils of Western imperialism and capitalist exploitation. How did those works contribute to revolutionary movements? Despite an overall focus on the political dimension, we will take time out to consider some more lyrically inclined writers who explored China’s ethnic margins and the intricate and private dramas of love and despair. In the spring semester, we will delve into the socialist realism of Communist fiction to identify its unique qualities and role in Maoist political life before turning to the literary reassessments of Maoist excesses in the reform era (1980s) and the place of literature in the neoliberal atmosphere of post-Tiananmen (1989) China. We will interrogate fictional works in post-revolutionary China for how they deal with and understand China’s revolutionary past, its ragged cultural tradition, and a rapidly changing society and economy. What is the relationship between art and politics in those ostensibly (even studiously) apolitical works? And finally, we will also cover Taiwanese literature from the 1960s through the 1990s, as it too grappled with economic development, its political basis, and social effects. Our readings include many of the great characters in early 20th-century literature, such as Lu Xun’s cannibalistic madman and hapless Ah Q, Ding Ling’s tubercular Miss Sophie, SHEN Congwen’s Hmong villagers, and Zhang Ailing’s college student turned mistress-assassin. We will also meet blood-drenched bandits, long-suffering peasants, and disaffected urban youths in an age of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. For those taking this class as an FYS, conferences in the fall semester will consist of biweekly individual meetings, with a group session held on alternate weeks to handle matters concerning all FYS students. Conferences in the spring will be on the regular biweekly individual model (i.e., no group conferences).

Faculty

Chan and Zen Buddhism

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course is an in-depth, historical examination of the philosophy, mythology, literature, institutional arrangements, religious practices, art, and architecture associated with this most famous and widely misunderstood school of East Asian Buddhism. The Chan (Zen) school of Buddhism arose in China as the result of a cross-cultural exchange of epic proportions: the gradual intrusion into China of an alien set of religious ideas, values, and practices—those belonging to Indian Buddhism—between the first and the eighth centuries of the Common Era and the subsequent efforts of some 20 generations of Chinese Buddhists to defend, adapt, domesticate, and finally make the foreign religion entirely their own. Chan became the most “Chinese” school of Buddhism by defining itself in terms of indigenous concepts of clan genealogy; by exalting members of its spiritual lineage as native-born buddhas; and by allowing those buddhas to speak in the vernacular, using a mode of rhetoric that was heavily influenced by the Confucian and Daoist traditions. The course begins by outlining Indian Buddhist doctrines and practices that were imported into China and by summarizing the indigenous cultural milieu that was initially quite hostile to the alien religion. We will then explore the various compromises and adaptations of Indian Buddhist teachings, practices, and institutions that took shape within the Chan tradition and enabled it to emerge in the Song dynasty (960-1278) as the predominant school of Chinese Buddhism. Background knowledge of East Asian history, languages, or religions is desirable but not required.

Faculty

Ecopoetry

Open , Seminar—Year

In this poetry class—a yearlong school of poetry and the living world—we will consider the great organism Gaia, of which we are a part. We will read and write poems every week. We will ask questions: When did we begin to think of nature as apart from us? Why did we begin to speak of the animals as if we are not also animals? What are the stories and myths that have determined out attitude toward what we are and what we believe? We will read some of these stories and myths (myths of creation, Eden, the lost garden). We will read the long and rich tradition of poetry addressing itself to this subject, from the early indigenous peoples through the Zen monks and Wordsworth and right up through Gary Snyder and to utterly contemporary poets writing right now. We will read books and articles that teach us about the other animals and living entities that we call plants and trees and planets and galaxies. Each student will research an aspect of the living world and teach the rest of us what they have learned. And we will write poems that incorporate that knowledge. We will read books of poems but also watch films, take field trips, and meet with each other outside of class in weekly poetry dates. By the end of the class, my hope is that each of us will have a greater understanding of the great organism that we call Earth and will create a collection of poems that engage the questions that our class raises: What is time? What is death? What is Eden? Where is the garden now? Who are the other organisms? How have we, as a species, affected the other organisms? How have we affected the oceans, the earth, the air? How can poetry address the planetary emergency? Required for this class: intellectual curiosity, empathy, and a willingness to observe the world, to pay attention, and to write poetry that matters. This is a class for experienced writers, as well as for those who want to give writing poetry a try. All are welcome.

Faculty