Arts of Japan
(Offered as ARHA 148 and ASLC 123.) A survey of the history of Japanese art from neolithic times to the present. Topics will include Buddhist art and its ritual context, the aristocratic arts of the Heian court, monochromatic ink painting and the arts related to the Zen sect, the prints and paintings of the Floating World and contemporary artists and designers such as Ando Tadao and Miyake Issey. The class will focus on the ways Japan adopts and adapts foreign cultural traditions. There will be field trips to look at works in museums and private collections in the region.
Spring semester. Professor Morse.2023-24: Not offered
Chinese Civilization to 1800
(Offered as HIST 171 [ASP] and ASLC 124 [C].) A survey of Chinese history from ancient times to the eighteenth century. We will focus on texts and artifacts to explore the classical roots and historical development of Chinese statecraft, philosophy, religion, art, and literature. Using these media for evidence, we will trace the histories of inter-state relations, imperial institutions, global commerce, and family-based society through the ancient Han empire, the great age of Buddhism, the medieval period of global trade, and the Confucian bureaucratic empires that followed the Mongol world conquest. We will also compare these histories to those of European and other civilizations, considering Chinese and non-Chinese views of the past. Readings include the Analects of Confucius and other Confucian and Daoist texts, Buddhist tales and early modern fiction, selections from the classic Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji), and Jonathan Spence’s Emperor of China: Self-portrait of Kangxi. Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Professor Dennerline.2023-24: Not offered
Middle Eastern History: 600-1800
(Offered as HIST 190 [MEP] and ASLC 126 [WA].) This course surveys the history of the Middle East from the outset of the Islamic period to the beginning of the modern period. It is divided into the following segments: the formative period of Islam, the classical caliphates, the classical courts, the Mongols, and the great empires of the Ottomans and the Safavids. The course is organized chronologically and follows the making and breaking of empires and political centers; however, the focus of the course is on the intellectual, social, cultural and religious developments in these periods. Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Professor Ringer.2023-24: Not offered
Visual Culture of the Islamic World
(Offered as ARHS 152 and ASLC 142.) This introductory course explores the architecture, manuscripts, painting, textiles, decorative arts, material culture, and popular art of the Islamic world, from the late seventh century C.E., touching on the present. It follows a basic chronology, but is structured primarily through thematic issues central to the study of Islamic visual culture, including, but not limited to: orality and textuality, geometry and ornament, optics and perception, sacred and royal space, the image and aniconism, modernity and tradition, and artistic exchange with Europe, China, and beyond. The class will focus on the relationships between visual culture, history, and literature, analyzing specific sites or objects, for example the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, carved ivory boxes from Spain, luxury manuscripts from Cairo, gardens of Iran, and contemporary art from Pakistan, alongside primary and secondary texts. Films, audio recordings, and field-trips to local museum collections will supplement assigned readings and lectures. Participation in class discussion, a significant component of the course, is expected. No previous background is presumed, and all readings will be available in English.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Five College Mellon Fellow Rice.Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Fall 2023
Arts of China
(Offered as ARHA 147 and ASLC 143.) An introduction to the history of Chinese art from its beginnings in neolithic times until the end of the twentieth century. Topics will include the ritual bronze vessels of the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the Chinese transformation of the Buddha image, imperial patronage of painting during the Song dynasty and the development of the literati tradition of painting and calligraphy. Particular weight will be given to understanding the cultural context of Chinese art.
Omitted 2012-13. Professor Morse.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 172 [AS] and ASLC 146 [C].) A survey of Chinese history from the Manchu conquest of 1644 to the present. Beginning with the successes and failures of the imperial state as it faced global economic development, expanding European empires, and internal social change, we will study the Opium War, massive nineteenth-century religious rebellions, Republican revolution and state-building, the “New Culture” movement, Communist revolution, the anti-Japanese war, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and the problems of post-Mao reform, all with comparative reference to current events. Readings, which include a wide variety of documents such as religious and revolutionary tracts, eye-witness accounts, memoirs, and letters, are supplemented by interpretive essays and videos. Two class meetings per week.
Spring semester. Professor Dennerline.2023-24: Not offered
The Modern Middle East: 1800-Present
(Offered as HIST 191 [ME] and ASLC 148 [WA].) This course surveys the history of the Middle East from 1800 to the present. The focus is threefold: following political, social and intellectual trends as they evolve over time, exploring contemporary historical and methodological debates and analysis, and introducing students to important historical literature of the period. The class is divided into modules: “From Subject to Citizen,” “Engineering a Modern Middle East,” “Nationalism and the Quest for Independence,” “Islamist Opposition,” and “Taking Sovereignty: Contemporary Debates and the Post-Modern Era.” The class is discussion-oriented and writing intensive. Two class meetings per week.
Spring semester. Professor Ringer.2023-24: Not offered
Introduction to Medieval and Early Modern South Asia: From the Delhi Sultanates to Mughal Successor States, 1200-1800 A.D.
(Offered as HIST 173 [ASP] and ASLC 173 [SA].) This course presents an introduction to major themes and developments in medieval and early modern South Asian history with a particular emphasis on the emergence and flourishing of Islamic regimes in the sub-continent. Commencing with the rise of Islam in South Asia, the course explores the evolutions of the Delhi Sultanates, syncretistic cults and sects, the Vijayanagara Empire, and the Mughal Empire, as well as the relationships between politics, religion, literature, art, and trade under these formations. Readings are drawn from both primary and secondary sources. The course aims at providing a broad overview of six centuries of sub-continental history, coupled with closer attention to select themes. Challenging both colonialist and early nationalist views of this vast period as one of stagnation and tyranny, the course seeks to demonstrate the vitality and dynamism that characterized these centuries of the second millennium. Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Professor Sen.
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, Fall 2023
Introduction to Modern South Asian History
(Offered as HIST 174 [AS] and ASLC 174 [SA].) This survey course introduces key themes and events in the making of modern South Asia. The objective is to provide a skeletal historical narrative of the various transformations the subcontinent and its peoples experienced through the colonial and post-colonial eras. A variety of primary sources and audio and visual materials will be utilized in conjunction with excerpts from panoramic textbooks as well as portions of monographs, combining perspectives from political, social, cultural and economic history. Commencing with the transitions occurring in the middle to late 18th century, the course explores some of the major historical developments in South Asia until the present moment including the East India Company-state, colonial and imperial rule, social reform, the revolt of 1857, Indian nationalism, caste and communal conflict, and the struggles for post-colonial democracy. Two class meetings per week.
Spring semester. Professor Sen.2023-24: Not offered
Reinventing Tokyo: The Art, Literature, and Politics of Japan's Modern Capital
Offered as ASLC 220 [J] and ARCH 220.) Tokyo is the political, cultural, and economic center of Japan, the largest urban conglomeration on the planet, holding 35 million people, fully one fifth of Japan’s population. Since its founding 400 years ago, when a small fishing village became Edo, the castle headquarters of the Tokugawa shoguns, the city has been reinvented multiple times—as the birthplace of Japan’s early modern urban bourgeois culture, imperial capital to a nation-state, center of modern consumer culture, postwar democratic exemplar, and postmodern metropolis. The course will focus on the portrayals of Tokyo and its reinventions in art, literature, and politics from the end of the Edo period to the present day. It will examine the changes that took place as the city modernized and Westernized in the Meiji era, became the center of modern urban life in Japan before the Second World War, and rebuilt itself as part of the country’s economic miracle in the postwar era. As the largest human cultural creation in Japan, one that endured political upheavals, fires, earthquakes, fire-bombings and unbridled development, Tokyo has always been a complex subject. The course will use that complexity to consider how to analyze an urban environment that draws upon Japan's long history, yet which is also one of the most modern in Asia.
Preference to majors and students with an interest in urban studies. Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professors Morse and Van Compernolle.2023-24: Not offered
Japanese History to 1700s
(Offered as HIST 175 [ASP] and ASLC 225 [J].) This is a writing attentive survey of Japan’s history from antiquity to the early-eighteenth century. It traces political, social, and cultural developments in order to provide basic literacy in pre-modern Japanese history and a basis both for comparative history and further course work in Japanese history. Prominent themes include the rise of early polities, contact with the Chinese continent and Korean peninsula, the aristocratic culture of the Heian court and its displacement by medieval samurai rule, the role of Buddhist thought and institutions, the “warring states” period of the sixteenth-century and cosmopolitan contact with Christian Europe, the Tokugawa peace and its urban cultural forms. Throughout, we will read a variety of sources, including eighth-century mythology, aristocratic literature, chronicles of war, religious and philosophical texts, as well as modern fiction and film. Classes will combine lectures with close readings and discussions of the assigned texts. Requirements include short response papers and topical essays. Two class meetings per week.
Omitted 2012-13. Professor Maxey.2023-24: Not offered
Japan on Screen
(Offered as ASLC 234 [J] and FAMS 320.) Is the concept of national cinema useful in the age of globalization? Given the international nature of cinema at its inception, was it ever a valid concept? In this course, we will consider how the nation is represented on screen as we survey the history of film culture in Japan, from the very first film footage shot in the country in 1897, through the golden age of studio cinema in the 1950s, to important independent filmmakers working today. While testing different theories of national, local, and world cinema, we will investigate the Japanese film as a narrative art, as a formal construct, and as a participant in larger aesthetic and social contexts. This course includes the major genres of Japanese film and influential schools and movements. Students will also learn and get extensive practice using the vocabulary of the discipline of film studies. This course assumes no prior knowledge of Japan or Japanese, and all films have English subtitles.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Van Compernolle.2023-24: Not offered
From Edo to Tokyo: Japanese Art from 1600 to the Present
(Offered as ARHA 262 and ASLC 238 [J].) In 1590 the Tokugawa family founded its provincial headquarters in eastern Japan. By the eighteenth century, this castle town, named Edo (now known as Tokyo), had become the world’s largest city. This class will focus on the appearance of artistic traditions in the new urban center and compare them with concurrent developments in the old capital of Kyoto. Topics of discussion will include the revival of classical imagery during the seventeenth century, the rise of an urban bourgeois culture during the eighteenth century, the conflicts brought on by the opening of Japan to the West in the nineteenth century, the reconstruction of Tokyo and its artistic practices after the Second World War, and impact of Japanese architecture, design and popular culture over the past twenty years.
Omitted 2012-13. Professor Morse.2023-24: Not offered
Modern Japanese History from 1800 to the 2000s
(Offered as HIST 176 [AS] and ASLC 247 [J].) This course surveys the modern history of the Japanese archipelago, from the late-Tokugawa period through the rise of the modern Meiji nation-state, colonial expansion and total war. We will conclude with the postwar economic recovery and the socio-political challenges facing the Japanese nation-state in the early-2000s. Through primary documents, fiction, and film, we will explore themes including the disestablishment of the samurai class, industrialization, imperialism, feminism, nationalism, war, democracy, and consumerism. Classes will consist of lectures along with close readings and discussions. Requirements include short response papers and topical essays. Three class meetings per week.
Omitted 2012-13. Professor Maxey.2023-24: Not offered
China in the World, 1895-1919
(Offered as HIST 275 [AS] and ASLC 249 [C].) In 1895 the emergent Japanese empire imposed a humiliating defeat on the declining Qing empire in China, began the colonization of Korea and Taiwan, and set in motion the reformist and revolutionary trends that would shape the political culture of the Chinese nation in later times. In 1919, concessions by the Chinese warlord regime in Beijing to Japan at Versailles sparked the student movement that would further radicalize the political culture and ultimately divide the nation politically between Nationalist and Communist regimes. This course focuses on the intellectual, cultural, political, and economic issues of the era in between, when, despite the weakness of the state, the creative visions and efforts of all informed people were in line with those of progressives throughout the world. We will explore these visions and efforts, with special reference to national identities, civil society, and global integration, and we will consider their fate in wartime, Cold War, and post-Cold War Asia. Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Professor Dennerline.2023-24: Not offered
Buddhist Life Writing
(Offered as RELI 252 and ASLC 252) From the biographies of Gotama Buddha to the autobiographies of western converts, life writing plays a central role in teaching Buddhist philosophy, practice, history, and myth. This course explores the diverse forms and purposes of Buddhist life writing in the literary and visual cultures of India, Tibet, Sri Lanka, China, Vietnam, Japan, and America. Reading the lives of eminent saints and laypersons, charismatic teachers, recluses, and political activists, the course aims to broaden understanding of how Buddhists have variously imagined the ideal life. We will pay particular attention to how literary and cultural conventions of genre guide the composition of lives.
Omitted 2012-13. Professor M. Heim2023-24: Not offered
Buddhist Art of Asia
(Offered as ARHA 261 and as ASLC 260.) Visual imagery plays a central role in the Buddhist faith. As the religion developed and spread throughout Asia it took many forms. This class will first examine the appearance of the earliest aniconic traditions in ancient India, the development of the Buddha image, and early monastic centers. It will then trace the dissemination and transformation of Buddhist art as the religion reached South-East Asia, Central Asia, and eventually East Asia. In each region indigenous cultural practices and artistic traditions influenced Buddhist art. Among the topics the class will address are the nature of the Buddha image, the political uses of Buddhist art, the development of illustrated hagiographies, and the importance of pilgrimage, both in the past and the present.
Spring semester. Professor Morse.2023-24: Not offered
Sacred Images and Sacred Space: The Visual Culture of Religion in Japan
(Offered as ARHA 266 and ASLC 261.) An interdisciplinary study of the visual culture of the Buddhist and Shinto religious traditions in Japan. The class will examine in depth a number of Japan's most important sacred places, including Ise Shrine, Tôdaiji, Daitokuji and Mount Fuji, and will also look at the way contemporary architects such as Andô Tadao and Takamatsu Shin have attempted to create new sacred places in Japan today. Particular emphasis will be placed on the ways by which the Japanese have given distinctive form to their religious beliefs through architecture, painting and sculpture, and the ways these objects have been used in religious ritual.
Omitted 2012-13. Professor Morse.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Fall 2023
The Arts of the Book in Iran and Islamic South Asia, 1250-1650
(Offered as ARHA 267 and ASLC 267.) This course considers the arts of the book at the royal courts of Greater Iran (including Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia) and Islamic South Asia from the thirteenth through seventeenth centuries. It will focus in particular on illustrated histories and poetic works in Persian, including Abu'l Qasim Firdausi's Shahnama (Book of Kings), Nizami Ganjavi's Khamsa (Quintet), and Abu'l Fazl's Akbarnama (Book of Akbar), among others. All aspects of manuscript production will be considered, from the arts of “miniature painting,” calligraphy, and illumination, to the preparation of paper, brushes, inks, and pigments. The class will explore in depth the nature of the royal manuscript workshop, the formation of visual idioms, the roles of originality and imitation in artistic practice, the aesthetics of the illustrated page, and the theorization of painting and calligraphy in technical treatises, poetry, and other primary texts. Emphasis will be placed on the great movement of artists, materials, and ideas across the Islamic world, all of which contributed to the rise of an elite, cosmopolitan culture of manuscript connoisseurs. Examination of objects in the Mead Art Museum and other local collections will supplement classroom discussion and assigned readings. No previous knowledge of the topic is presumed, and all reading will be available in English.
Requisite:One course in Art History or Studio Art. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Five College Mellon Fellow Rice.
2023-24: Not offered
Muslim Lives in South Asia
(Offered as ANTH 253 and ASLC 270 [SA].) This course is a survey of foundational and contemporary writing on Muslim cultures across South Asia. The approach here is anthropological, in the sense that the course focuses on material that situates Islamic thought in the making of everyday practices, imaginations, and ideologies of a very large and varied group of people. While India hosts the second largest population of Muslims in the world, Pakistan and Bangladesh, respectively, are two of the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation-states. This course will aim to capture some of the richness of the textual and vernacular traditions that constitute what is known as South Asian Islam and the lived experiences of Muslims. Without relegating Muslims to a minority status and therefore targets of communal violence, or approaching Islam in South Asia only at the level of the syncretic, this course aims to understand the interface of traveling texts and indigenous traditions that is integral to the making of its diverse Muslim cultures. In doing so, the course will by necessity discuss topics of subjectivity, law, gender, community, secularism, and modernity that continue to raise important theoretical questions within the discipline of anthropology.
Some prior knowledge of Islam or Muslim societies may be helpful. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Chowdhury.2023-24: Not offered
Caste in Modern South Asian History
(Offered as HIST 271 [AS] and ASLC 271 [SA].) This course seeks to understand how practices of caste have transformed over the course of modern South Asian history. It focuses on various movements opposed to caste discrimination and inequality as well as the ongoing search for social justice. The course simultaneously provides an overview of the scholarship and debates about understanding this form of social identification. Rather than studying caste in a reified manner, we will be concerned with analyzing how it articulates with various other social phenomena, like gender, class, community, and nationality, amongst others. Based on close readings of primary sources, as well as an engagement with secondary literature in history, political science, anthropology and literary studies, the course explores some of the major interpretations of the experience and practice of caste produced by historical actors and scholars until the present moment. Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Professor Sen.
2023-24: Not offered
Inequalities in Contemporary China
(Offered as ANTH 315 and ASLC 315 [C].) This course examines various factors that produce inequality in mainland China, such as age, generation, gender, ethnicity, education, income, work, differences between rural and urban areas within China, and differences between China and developed countries. We will look at how Chinese citizens, state leaders, and media producers understand, portray, and produce such inequalities, and at how Chinese individuals and families try to improve their positions in the hierarchies created by such inequalities. Students will work in teams to conduct original research about particular kinds of inequalities in China, drawing on data from the instructor’s research projects. Each team will consist of at least one student experienced in statistical analysis who will analyze English-language survey data, at least one student with Chinese language skills who will translate and analyze Chinese-language interview questions and responses, and several students without Chinese language skills or statistical analysis skills who will analyze the English-language scholarly literature on particular kinds of inequality in China. It is expected that most students in this class will not have Chinese language skills or statistical analysis skills, and these skills are not required for admission to or success in the course.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Fong.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as ANTH 318 and ASLC 318 [C].) This course examines Chinese childrearing, focusing primarily on childrearing in mainland China. We will look at differences as well as similarities between childrearing in Chinese families of different socioeconomic status within China, as well as between childrearing in mainland China and in childrearing in Chinese and non-Chinese families worldwide. We will also look at dominant discourses within and outside of China about the nature of Chinese childrearing and ask about relationships between those discourses and the experiences of Chinese families. Students will work together to conduct original research about childrearing in China, drawing on data from the instructor’s research projects. Students with statistical analysis skills will analyze English-language survey data; students with advanced Chinese language skills will translate and analyze Chinese-language interview questions and responses; and students who have taken or are currently taking at least one course about anthropology, sociology, economics, psychology, or China will analyze the English-language scholarly literature about Chinese childrearing in the field(s) with which they are most familiar. Course assignments will be tailored to the interests, skills, and academic background of each student, so first-years, sophomores, and students with no Chinese language skills or statistical analysis skills are welcome and just as likely to succeed as juniors, seniors, and students with Chinese language or statistical analysis skills.
Limited to 20 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Fong.2023-24: Not offered
The Tea Ceremony and Japanese Culture
(Offered as ARHA 383 and ASLC 319.) An examination of the history of chanoyu, the tea ceremony, from its origins in the fifteenth century to the practice of tea today. The class will explore the various elements that comprise the tea environment-the garden setting, the architecture of the tea room, the forms of tea utensils, and the elements of the kaiseki meal. Through a study of the careers of influential tea masters and texts that examine the historical, religious, and cultural background to tea culture, the class will also trace how the tea ceremony has become a metaphor for Japanese culture and Japanese aesthetics both in Japan and in the West. There will be field trips to visit tea ware collections, potters and tea masters. Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Morse.2023-24: Not offered
Beyond Shangri-La: Narratives of Tibet, East and West
This course will look in depth at Asian and Western constructions of Tibetan identity in various sources and media, from Tibetan folk songs and legends to Buddhist philosophical and historical treatises, from Chinese Yuan and Ming dramas to Hollywood cinema, from Tibetan traditional art and music to some of its contemporary Western interpretations. By trying to get to the heart of Tibetan culture in this multimediatic universe, we will also try to map the ways in which, throughout different periods and at the hands of different agents, readers, and performers, “Tibet” has been constructed, invented, and deconstructed, as a site of identity, oppression, and resistance. The second part of the course will also involve sustained engagement with the Tibetan community in the Pioneer Valley, as the students will interview, in collaboration with the Shang Shung International Institute for Tibetan Studies and the Tibetan Association of Western Massachusetts, local Tibetan immigrants and collect their stories about the ways in which they identify with Tibetan culture in the North American diaspora.Course participants will give updates about their fieldwork projects, and the course will culminate in the creation of database of the oral histories and narratives of Tibetans in the Pioneer Valley.
Omitted 2012-13. Professor Zamperini.2023-24: Not offered
The Dao of Sex: Sexuality in China, Past and Present
(Offered as ASLC 328 [C] and WAGS 205.) This survey course will focus on sexual culture in China, from pre-Qin times to the present. Using various sources such as ancient medical texts, Daoist manuals, court poetry and Confucian classics, paintings and illustrated books, movies and documentaries, as well as modern and pre-modern fiction written both in the classic and vernacular languages, we will explore notions of sex, sexuality, and desire. Through the lens of cultural history and gender studies, we will try to reconstruct the genealogy of the discourses centered around sex that developed in China, at all levels of society, throughout 5,000 years. Among the topics covered will be sexual yoga, prostitution, pornography, and sex-tourism.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Priority given to Asian Studies and WAGS majors. Others admitted to balance by class year and major. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Zamperini.2023-24: Not offered
Fashion Matters: Clothes, Bodies and Consumption in East Asia
(Offered as ASLC 329 and WAGS 313.) This course will focus on both the historical and cultural development of fashion, clothing and consumption in East Asia, with a special focus on China and Japan. Using a variety of sources, from fiction to art, from legal codes to advertisements, we will study both actual garments created and worn in society throughout history, as well as the ways in which they inform the social characterization of class, ethnicity, nationality, and gender attributed to fashion. Among the topics we will analyze in this sense will be hairstyle, foot-binding and, in a deeper sense, bodily practices that inform most fashion-related discourses in East Asia. We will also think through the issue of fashion consumption as an often-contested site of modernity, especially in relationship to the issue of globalization and world-market. Thus we will also include a discussion of international fashion designers, along with analysis of phenomena such as sweatshops.
Limited to 20 students. Priority given to ASLC and WAGS majors. Others admitted to balance by class year and major. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Zamperini.2023-24: Not offered
Asian Studies Colloquium
A close study of a focused topic that has broad significance in Asian Studies. Normally to be team-taught by two faculty of the department. The approach will be multidisciplinary; the goal of the course will be to explore a subject of interest in Asian Studies that also has suggestive implications for issues in the humanities and social sciences.
Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2012-13.2023-24: Not offered
Anthropology and the Middle East
(Offered as ANTH 331 and ASLC 341 [WA].) In an era where “terrorism” has eclipsed the nuclear fears of the Cold War and become associated with a radicalism that is portrayed as at once militant, anti-Western, and bound to a particular region (the Middle East) and religion (Islam), the task of this seminar--to examine the everyday realities of people living throughout the Middle East--has become all the more critical. Beginning with an historical eye toward the ways that the “West” has discovered, translated, and written about the “Orient,” this seminar will use anthropological readings, documentary film, and literary accounts to consider a range of perspectives on the region commonly referred to as the Middle East. Rather than attempting a survey of the entire region, the course will take a thematic approach and explore such topics as: Islam and secularism, colonialism and postcoloniality, gender and political mobilization, media and globalization, and the politics and ethics of nation building. As an anthropology course, the class will take up these themes through richly contextualized accounts of life within the region. While it is recognized that the Middle East is incredibly heterogeneous, particular attention will given to the influence and role of Islam. By the end of the seminar, students will have gained a broad understanding of some of the most pressing issues faced within the area, while at the same time grappling with advanced theoretical readings. No previous knowledge of the Middle East is assumed.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor C. Dole.2023-24: Not offered
Early Islam: Construction of an Historical Tradition
(Offered as HIST 393 [MEP] and ASLC 355 [WA].) This course examines in depth the formative period of Islam between c. 500-680. Using predominantly primary material, we will chart the emergence, success, and evolution of Islam, the Islamic community, and the Islamic polity. The focus of this course is on understanding the changing nature over time of peoples’ understanding of and conception of what Islam was and what Islam implied socially, religiously, culturally and politically. We concentrate on exploring the growth of the historical tradition of Islam and its continued contestations amongst scholars today. This course will familiarize students with the events, persons, ideas, texts and historical debates concerning this period. It is not a course on the religion or beliefs of Islam, but a historical deconstruction and analysis of the period. This class is writing intensive. Two class meetings per week.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Ringer.2023-24: Not offered
Women in the Middle East
(Offered as HIST 397 [ME], ASLC 363 [WA], and WAGS 362.) The course examines the major developments, themes and issues in woman’s history in the Middle East. The first segment of the course concerns the early Islamic period and discusses the impact of the Quran on the status of women, the development of Islamic religious traditions and Islamic law. Questions concerning the historiography of this “formative” period of Islamic history, as well as hermeneutics of the Quran will be the focus of this segment. The second segment of the course concerns the 19th- and 20th-century Middle East. We will investigate the emergence and development of the “woman question,” the role of gender in the construction of Middle Eastern nationalisms, women’s political participation, and the debates concerning the connections between women, gender, and religious and cultural traditions. The third segment of the course concerns the contemporary Middle East, and investigates new developments and emerging trends of women’s political, social and religious activism in different countries. The course will provide a familiarity with the major primary texts concerning women and the study of women in the Middle East, as well as with the debates concerning the interpretation of texts, law, religion, and history in the shaping of women’s status and concerns in the Middle East today. This class is conducted as a seminar. Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Ringer.2023-24: Not offered
The Monkey, the Outlaws, and the Stone: The Novel in Pre-modern China
[C] This course will be devoted to reading the English translations of the major Chinese novels, from the Ming dynasty Xiyouji (Journey to the West), to the Jin Ping Mei (The Plum in the Golden Vase), the Shui hu zhuan (The Water Margins), to the eighteenth-century novel Hongloumeng (The Dream of the Red Chambers. Due to the length of each individual text, only one major novel will be the focus of the course each time, though we will often include selections from other contemporary and related sources, when relevant to the overall understanding of the text under study. In spring 2013 we will read the English translation of Xiyou ji, Journey to the West. As we explore this text, uncovering its richness and complexity, we will in turn address issues such as the place of the novel in traditional Chinese literature; authorship and authority; narrative strategies and plot development; Buddhism in China and its meanings and roles in literature and art; buddhafields, paradises, and hells; Daoist and Buddhist magic; the figure and the fortune of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, in narratives past and present; ghosts, demons and exorcism; travel narratives and geographical wonders; desire, sexuality, femininity, masculinity, and their discontents. In addition to Xiyou ji, representative theoretical work in the field of pre-modern Chinese literature will be incorporated as much as possible.
Previous knowledge of Chinese literature and culture is not required. Spring semester. Professor Zamperini.2023-24: Not offered
South Asian Feminist Cinema
(Offered as WAGS 469, ASLC 452 [SA], and FAMS 322.) How do we define the word “feminism”? Can the term be used to define cinematic texts outside the Euro-American world? In this course we will study a range of issues that have been integral to feminist theory--the body, domesticity, same sex desire, gendered constructions of the nation, feminist utopias and dystopias--through a range of South Asian cinematic texts. Through our viewings and readings we will consider whether the term “feminist” can be applied to these texts, and we will experiment with new theoretical lenses for exploring these films. Films will range from Satyajit Ray’s classic masterpiece Charulata to Gurinder Chadha’s trendy diasporic film, Bend It Like Beckham. Attendance for screenings on Monday is compulsory.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Shandilya.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 492 [ME] and ALSC 459 [WA].) This seminar explores contemporary Iran from a historical and interdisciplinary perspective. The aim of the course is both to provide an overall understanding of the history of Iran, as well as those key elements of religion, literature, legend, and politics that together shape Iran's understanding of itself. We will utilize a wide variety of sources, including Islamic and local histories, Persian literature, architecture, painting and ceramics, film, political treatises, Shiite theological writing, foreign travel accounts, and U.S. state department documents, in addition to secondary sources. Two class meetings per week.
Recommended requesite: a survey course on the modern Middle East. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Ringer.2023-24: Not offered
The History and Memory of the Asia-Pacific War
(Offered as HIST 477 [AS] and ALSC 462 [J].) The varied names given to the fifteen years of war conducted by Japan-the Pacific War, the Great East Asian War, the Fifteen-Year War, World War II, and the Asian-Pacific War-reflect the conflicting perspectives that arise from that war. How has the experience of a fifteen-year war during the 1930s and 1940s shaped memory and history in Japan, East Asia, and the United States? This seminar begins with this broad question and pursues related questions: How are the memory and history of war intertwined in both national and international politics? What forms of memory have been included and excluded from dominant historical narratives and commemorative devices? How does critical historiography intersect with the politics and passions of memory? We will use oral histories, primary documents, film, and scholarship to guide our thoughts and discussions. We will begin with a brief history of Japan’s Fifteen-Year War and move on to prominent debates concerning the history and memory of that war. Short response papers and a research paper will be required. One class meeting per week.
Limited to 15 students. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Maxey.2023-24: Not offered
Seminar on Modern China: The People and the State
(Offered as HIST 478 [AS] and ASLC 470 [C].) Political thinkers and activists inside China and throughout the world today puzzle over the relationship between the people and the state. Where do state functions and state control begin and end? How do the global economy, China’s increasing regional hegemony, internal migration, NGOs, rural protest, and the internet influence the relationship between the people and the state? Fundamental questions about the relationship between the people and the state have occupied thinkers and activists since the beginning of the twentieth century. Reformers in China tried to transform the imperial state into a constitutional monarchy, revolutionaries tried to create a Republic, Nationalists tried to build a “corporatist state,” and Communists tried to create a Socialist one. At each stage, the state-makers “imagined” the people, mobilized them, categorized them, and tried to control them. The people became subjects, citizens, nationals, and “the masses.” They divided themselves by native place, region, language, ethnicity, political party, class, and educational status. Chinese people in Southeast Asia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, have imagined themselves in relation to both “the ancestral land” and the colonial or national states under which they live. The process is by no means over. This seminar will focus on the problem of “imagining” and mobilizing people in China and these other states over the past century. General topics will include the ideas, the intellectual and educational context, and the mobilizations of urban and rural communities, commercial and religious groups, and NGOs. Research topics will depend on the interests of students. Two class meetings per week.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Not open to first-year students. Spring semester. Professor Dennerline.2023-24: Not offered
Independent Reading Course.
Fall and spring semesters. Members of the Department.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023
Turkey: From Empire to Republic
(Offered as HIST 493 [ME] and ASLC 493 [WA].) Turkey has a particularly complex relationship with the Ottoman Empire. On the one hand, the establishment of Turkey as a secular republic following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire after World War I marked a watershed between empire and republic, sultan and president, subject and citizen. On the other hand, significant areas of continuity persisted. This seminar focuses on areas of rupture and continuity in order to shed light on the way that these tensions continue to impact contemporary debates surrounding secularism and the place of religion, nationalism and minority rights, and the tensions between authoritarianism and democracy. We will pay particular attention to the intellectual, social and cultural construction of modernity and to the ongoing contestations over historical memory and the Ottoman past. Students will work in consultation with the instructor on developing, articulating and researching a seminar-length (20 pp) research paper. Two class meetings per week.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Ringer.2023-24: Not offered
Senior Departmental Honors
Spring semester.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023
Introduction to Buddhist Traditions
(Offered as RELI 152 and ASLC 152 [SA].) This course is an introduction to the diverse ideals, practices, and traditions of Buddhism from its origins in South Asia to its geographical and historical diffusion throughout Asia and, more recently, into the west. We will explore the Three Jewels--the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha--and how they each provide refuge for those suffering in samsara (the endless cycle of rebirth). We will engage in close readings of the literary and philosophical texts central to Buddhism, as well as recent historical and anthropological studies of Buddhist traditions.
Fall semester. Professor M. Heim.2023-24: Not offered
Canons and Traditions: Japanese Literature to 1750
[J] Before the emergence of print capitalism and the proliferation of books, literature was one of the repositories of cultural memory in Japan. Pre-modern authors alluded to and appropriated the writings of their predecessors as a way to bind their own creations to the great works from the past, but they also necessarily transformed the literature of their forebears in the process. A long-term perspective, stretching from the beginning of Japan’s written language to the early commercialization of literature in the eighteenth century, can best help us understand how canons, traditions, and genres emerge, develop, and become destabilized over time as part of the construction of and contestation over cultural memory. We will also examine a variety of genres, including courtly love poetry, war tales touched by many hands, Chinese verse composed by Japanese monks, theatrical forms for audiences large and small, and travel journals that overlay a literary topography on the physical landscape, among others. This course assumes no prior knowledge of Japan or Japanese, and all texts are taught using English translations.
Omitted 2012-13. Professor Van Compernolle.2023-24: Not offered
Words, Self, and Society: Japanese Literature Since 1750
[J] In the past two and a half centuries, Japan has experienced vertiginous transformations, including the rise of a money economy, the encounter with the West, rapid modernization, imperial expansion, war, defeat, democratization, and its postwar reemergence as a technological and economic superpower. This course will examine how literature has both reflected and responded to these disorienting changes. We will focus on how varied social, historical, and aesthetic contexts contribute to the pendulum swings among artistic positions: the belief that literature has an important role to play in the exploration of the relationship between society and the individual; the fascination with the very materials of artistic creation and the concomitant belief that literature can only ever be about itself; and the urgent yet paradoxical attempt, in the writing of traumas such as the atomic bombings, to capture experiences that may be beyond representation. This course assumes no prior knowledge of Japan or Japanese, and all texts are taught using English translations.
Spring semester. Professor Van Compernolle.2023-24: Not offered
An Introduction to Contemporary Chinese Cinema
(Offered as ASLC 235 [C] and FAMS 326.) In the last fifteen years, Chinese films have regularly won important awards in international film festivals. Who are the major filmmakers, actors and producers in the People’s Republic of China today? How can the recent success be traced to the Chinese film industry that has thrived since 1905? This course introduces the world of contemporary cinematic representations and discourses in the People’s Republic of China in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a focus on how social, political and cultural changes of modern and contemporary China find their expressions in films.
By focusing on the work of directors like Zhang Yimou and Jiang Wen, Jia Zhangke and Cui zi’en, as well as Xu Jinglei and Du Haibin, we will discuss millennial utopias and dystopias, gender and transgender, modernity and cultural identity, history and memory, urban culture, relocation and social migration. Students will learn to develop a critical understanding of Chinese society and culture through film, as well as to use and analyze film language.
No previous knowledge of Chinese cinema and culture is required. Fall semester. Professor Zamperini.2023-24: Not offered
Flowers in the Mirror: Writing Women in Chinese Literature
(Offered as ASLC 240 [C] and WAGS 240.) The focus of this course will be the study of sources authored by women throughout the course of Chinese history. We will deal with a wide range of material, from poetry to drama, from novels and short stories to nüshu (the secret script invented by peasant women in a remote area of Hunan province), from literary autobiographies to cinematic discourse. We will address the issue of women as others represent them and women as they portray themselves in terms of gender, sexuality, social class, power, family, and material culture. Focusing on issues such as foot-binding, sexuality, violence, and love, in the works of writers such as Li Qingzhao and Zhang Ailing, we will try to detect the presence and absence of female voices in the literature of different historical periods, and to understand how those literary works relate to male-authored literary works. In addition to primary sources, we will integrate theoretical work in the field of pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Chinese literature and culture.
Fall semester. Professor Zamperini.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as RELI 253 and ASLC 253 [SA].) This course introduces the history and civilization of Theravada Buddhism. The Theravada (the “Doctrine of the Elders”) is the dominant form of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar (Burma); in recent decades it has also found a following in other regions in Asia and the west. We will trace the Theravada’s origins as one of the earliest sectarian movements in India to its success and prestige as a religious civilization bridging South and Southeast Asia. We will also consider this tradition’s encounter with modernity and its various adaptations and responses to challenges in the contemporary world. No previous background in Buddhism is required.
Omitted 2012-13. Professor Heim.2023-24: Not offered
Reading Early Buddhist Texts: Mind, Meditation, and Transformation
This seminar focuses on the reading in translation of primary Buddhist texts from the Pali Tipitaka which highlight the early Buddhist model of mind and the role of meditation in mental development, ethical conduct and psychological transformation. Beginning with a look at how psychological perspectives emerged from the intellectual milieu of ancient India, and proceeding through a systematic study of the major elements of Buddhist psychology, the program culminates with an examination of some contemporary perspectives on the influence of meditation and Buddhist mind science on the modern fields of healing, psychotherapy and cognitive science.
Spring semester. Visiting Professor Olendzki.
Muhammad and the Qur'an
(Offered as RELI 282 and ASLC 282 [WA].)This course deals with the life of Muhammad (the founder and prophet of Islam) and the Qur’an (the Muslim Scripture). The first part deals with the life of Muhammad as reflected in the writings of the early Muslim biographers. It examines the crucial events of Muhammad’s life (the first revelation, the night journey, the emigration to Medina, the military campaigns) and focuses on Muhammad’s image in the eyes of the early Muslim community. The second deals with the Qur’an. It focuses on the history of the Qur’an, its canonization, major themes, various methods of Qur’anic interpretation, the role of the Qur’an in Islamic law, ritual, and modernity.
Spring semester. Professor Jaffer.2023-24: Not offered
Enlightening Passion: Sexuality and Gender in Tibetan Buddhism
(Offered as ASLC 326, RELI 326 and WAGS 326.) In this course we will study the lives of prominent female teachers in Tibetan Buddhism from its inception up to the present day. Our focus will be on reconstructing the narratives of the trajectories to realization that women like Yedshe Tsogyal, Mandarava, Yid Thogma, Machig Labdron, Sera Khandro, and Ayu Khandro, among others, undertook, often at high personal and societal cost. By utilizing biographical and--as much as possible--autobiographical records (in English translation), we will analyze the religious and social aspects of these women’s choice to privilege the Vajarayana path to enlightenment, often (but not always), at the expense of more conventional and accepted lifestyles. In order to do so, we will explore in depth the meanings attached to femininity, masculinity, sexuality, and gender dynamics within Tibetan monastic and lay life.
The course will combine methodology from Buddhist studies, Tibetan studies, women and gender studies, critical theory, and literary criticism in an effort to unravel and explore the complex negotiations that Buddhist female teachers engaged in during their spiritual pursuit, in the context of traditional as well as contemporary Tibetan culture.
Recommended requisite: Previous knowledge of Tibetan culture and Buddhism. Spring semester. Professor Zamperini.2023-24: Not offered
The World's Oldest Novel: The Tale of Genji and Its Refractions
Written over one thousand years ago by Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji (Genji monogatari) is the supreme masterpiece of Japanese literature, a work whose influence on subsequent arts and letters in the country is impossible to exaggerate. As the world’s earliest extant prose narrative by a woman writer, the Genji has received attention in world literature and women’s studies programs. With its rich psychological portraits of desire, guilt, and memory, the work has also gained a reputation as “the world’s oldest novel.” In this course, we will read the entire Tale of Genji in English translation and engage fully with its sophistication and complexity by employing diverse critical perspectives. We will investigate both the tenth-century prose experiments that made the work possible and a number of later works in different genres so as to gain awareness of the impact of the Genji on the culture of every historical era since its composition. We will also have occasion to consider the reception of Murasaki’s masterpiece in the English-speaking world.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Van Compernolle.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as RELI 252 and ASLC 352.) A systematic exploration of the place of ethics and moral reasoning in Buddhist thought and practice. The scope of the course is wide, with examples drawn from the whole Buddhist world, but emphasis is on the particularity of different Buddhist visions of the ideal human life. Attention is given to the problems of the proper description of Buddhist ethics in a comparative perspective.
Fall semester. Professor M. Heim.2023-24: Not offered
The Islamic Mystical Tradition
(Offered as RELI 285 and ASLC 356 [WA]) This course is a survey of the large complex of Islamic intellectual and social perspectives subsumed under the term Sufism. Sufi mystical philosophies, liturgical practices, and social organizations have been a major part of the Islamic tradition in all historical periods, and Sufism has also served as a primary creative force behind Islamic aesthetic expression in poetry, music, and the visual arts. In this course, we will attempt to understand the various significations of Sufism by addressing both the world of ideas and socio-cultural practices. The course is divided into four modules: central themes and concepts going back to the earliest individuals who identified themselves as Sufis; the lives and works of two medieval Sufis; Sufi cosmology and metaphysics; Sufism as a global and multifarious trend in the modern world.
Spring semester. Professor Jaffer2023-24: Not offered