Dreamlands: The Universe of Dreams in Chinese Literature
The course will explore the world of dreams in pre-modern, modern and contemporary Chinese literature and culture. Beginning with Daoist and Buddhist sources, and proceeding in a chronological fashion, we will navigate the dreamscapes mapped by traditional oneiromancy, philosophy, poetry, drama, fiction, all the way to contemporary theatrical and cinematic discourse.
What do dreams mean? How does their language intersect with the language of faith, desire, gender, politics, power and fear? How similar and how different are our dreaming brains today from those of Chinese philosophers that lived three thousand years ago? Do cultural differences make us dream different dreams? These are just some of the questions that we will try to answer together during the semester.
In order to do so, we will look at the semantic, religious and aesthetic function of dreams in the changing world of Chinese culture, connecting our findings to recent discoveries in the fields of contemporary psychology, psychoanalysis and neuroscience. Where possible, we will also engage in comparison with dream-related practices and traditions in other South and East Asian contexts, such as those of India and Tibet.
The course will combine lecture and in-class discussion. Assignments will include keeping a dream journal, explorations in dream yoga, a screening journal, essays, and a final project that should be original and respond to a major theme or issue in the course. Students will also give presentations and will be responsible, on rotation, for leading the discussion and analyzing the material for the date assigned, and where possible, also for finding new and interesting material related to the issue under study. The classroom will be our laboratory to understand together both the material and the issues at stake, and thus attendance and class participation are essential.
Office Hours: Wednesday 3-5 PM and by appointment
Attendance and participation
I expect you to have completed the reading assignments before coming to class. Attendance and class participation are essential. The course will combine lecture and discussion and part of the final grade will be based on your participation, which involves presence, preparation of readings, and contributions towards classroom discussion. Late arrivals will be noted - three late arrivals count as one absence. You are allowed two absences, absences above and beyond that need to be explained in order to avoid an impact on the grade.
Papers, deadlines and assignments
Please note that assignments below are subject to change, depending on our work during the semester.
During the course of the semester written assignments will be handed out with specific instructions. They will include dream journal entries, as well as responses to material discussed in class. Minimum length one page, maximum three pages. Electronic submissions are highly encouraged.
b) Screening journal.
The screening journal will consist of entries you will make for each movie screening assigned. Entries need not be long and elaborate, as long as they convey your thoughts and ideas. These entries can serve as a place to respond to class discussion and reading assignments, as well as to express any ideas, thoughts or feelings prompted by the movie. I will read the journal regularly to respond and as much as possible incorporate your ideas and reactions. The grade on journal entries is indicative of the effort you put in the class, not of the quality of your comments and insights: missed entries will negatively affect your grade, while entries that consistently reflect a lot of thought and engagement will boost your grade. Journal entries are due by the Tuesday following the screening at 11,30 and should be submitted by email.
c) Discussion teams.
Depending on the size of the class, I will create small groups (3-4 persons maximum) and will assign you a date and a topic on which your group will be responsible for leading the discussion and analyzing the material for the date assigned, and where possible, also for finding new and interesting material related to the issue under study
d) Final project.
You will be expected to submit a project by the end of the semester. The project should be original, and respond to a major theme or issue in the course. It could be collaborative (which of course will have an impact on the length of the project) and you will need to give a presentation in class about your work in progress before the end of the semester. There will be NO EXTENSIONS and your project will be marked down 10 % for each day it is late. Your final project is due by Tuesday December 18thth, at noon, in my office. Please note that additional assignments, including movie screenings, may be added to the schedule. Check the Blackboard site for updates and announcements.
If you are having problems with your writing, check the Writing center, they are wonderful people and can help you a great deal! Their website is http://www.amherst.edu/~writing/
All written work for this course must be typed, double spaced and printed in a clear fashion (no recycled or colored paper, please!) . Feel free to include art work.
Of course, you all swear to abide by the Statement of Intellectual Responsibility (please check https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/dean_faculty/fph/policies/sir
), don’t you? And in case you are still confused about plagiarism and the consequences of cheating, please make sure you visit
The final grade will be based on the following criteria: attendance and participation, 30%; assignments and screening journal, 30%; final project, 40%.
You are welcome and (really) encouraged to come and speak with me during office hours. This is important time to discuss more extensively the texts we are studying, the ideas we are exploring, or anything else related to the class. I strongly urge you to talk with me about difficulties you may experience with course related material and to make suggestions, so that we can all benefit from each other’s insights and comments. If you are unable to come to the scheduled office hours, we can set an appointment.
Required texts and course readers
The following texts will be available for purchase at
8 Main Street, Amherst MA 01002
They will also be on reserve for you in the library. Please use only the editions mentioned below, as all page numbers in your syllabus refers to them.
Essays and articles will be available as e-reserve material on the course website. Please note that additional texts may be added later on in the semester.
Hobson Dreaming: A Very Short Introduction OXFORD $11.95
Nancy Fall of Sleep FORDHAM $16.00
Tung Tower of Myriad Mirrors : A Supplement to Journey to the West PERSEUS $21.00
Strassberg Wandering Spirits : Chen Shiyuan's Encyclopedia of Dreams UCAL $55.00
Yun Dream of Glory (Fanhua Meng) : A Chinese Play COLUMBIA 2008 $39.00
Choegyal Namkhai Norbu, Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light, revised, paperback edition, Snow Lion, 2002, $ 9.31
With the two exceptions noted below, all movies will be available for your viewing pleasure as streaming videos that you can access from any computer connected to the Amherst-network. Please refer to this link
Class discussion will often center around the movies, so all viewings are compulsory. Additional movie screening may be added.
The Science of Sleep
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Kim Ki Duk’s Dream
Princess Tutu, vol. I and II
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
The Mirror Mask
Akira Kurosawa's dreams
The Lathe of Heaven
Edge of dreaming
9/6 Introduction to the course.
9/8 Falling asleep or waking up?
Readings: Jean Luc Nancy, The Fall of Sleep, required text for the course; Richter, Antje. "Sleeping Time in Early Chinese Literature,” e-reserve.
Assignment 1a due
Screening: Paprika, streaming
Week 2 Dream-gates and other wonders…
9/13 Dream interpretation in China. An Inter-active introduction to Chinese Culture.
Assignment 1 b due
Readings: David N. Keightley, “Art, Ancestors, and the Origins of Writing in China”, Representations, No. 56, Special Issue: The New Erudition. (Autumn, 1996), pp. 68-95.
9/15 Dreams and Butterflies
Readings: Stephen F. Teiser, The Spirits of Chinese Religion
Zhuang Zi, Chapter 2, Qiwu lun, http://ctext.org/zhuangzi/adjustment-of-controversies
Zhuang Zi, Zhuangzi’s Butterfly Dream and Other Stories, http://acc6.its.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~phalsall/texts/chuangtz.html
Screening: Princess Tutu, Vol. I, streaming
Week 3 The Dao of Dreaming.
9/ 20 Between the Buddha and the Dao. Dreamlore in the Liezi.
Readings: “Dreams, 38-48, from Taoist teachings from the book of Lieh Tzǔ,” by Liezi, Lionel Giles, tr.,
http://books.google.com/books?id=t7gvHK4BwsEC&pg=PA38&lpg=PA38&dq=liezi+dreams&source=bl&ots=qyoaxwGDkt&sig=Izizmk39Rc7fsO8ARFsgYCCTmW8&hl=en&ei=INVoTs6PLYXMgQfw2Zm4DA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false; Lin Fu-shih. 1995. “Religious Taoism and Dreams. An Analysis of the Dream-Data Collected in the Yun-chi ch'i-ch'ien." Cahiers d'Extreme-Asie 8: 95-112, http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/asie_0766-1177_1995_num_8_1_1090
9/22 Wandering Spirits. Chen Shiyuan’s Encyclopedia of Dreams
Readings: Wandering Spirits, Introduction, ix-47.
Screening: Ghost in the Shell II, streaming
Week 4 The Dao of Dreaming 2
9/27 Wandering Spirits. The Inner Chapters
Readings: Wandering Spirits, 51-99.
9/29 Wandering Spirits. The Outer Chapters
Readings: Wandering Spirits, 103-255.
Screening: The Matrix, streaming
Week 5 Dreaming Buddhas
10/4 Dream Music: interactive lecture with Wu Man
Please note that for today’s class we will meet in 108 Converse
For more information about Wu Man’s biography and music, see http://www.wumanpipa.org/
7 PM Screening of "Discovering a Musical Heartland- Wu Man's Return to China" at Stirn Auditorium
10/5 7,30 Wu Man: Chinese Pipa 7:30pm, Bowker Auditorium, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Renowned internationally as a virtuosic pipa performer, Wu Man will present her two-part concert at the University featuring solo pieces from her 2010 CD release as well as Ancient Dances by composer Chen Shi Yang.
10/ 6 Dreams and Buddhism in China: The Tower of Myriad Mirrors
Readings: Wen Tingyun, The Tower of a Myriad Mirrors, Chapter 1-10, 15-87.
Screening: Donnie Dark, streaming
10/11 FALL BREAK
10/13 Dreams and Buddhism in China 2: The Tower of Myriad Mirrors
Readings: Wen Tingyun, The Tower of a Myriad Mirrors, Chapter 11-16, and Appendix, 89-135.
Week 7 Engendering Dreams. Dreaming Men 1
10/ 18 Sexing Dreams and Dreamy Sex.
Readings: The Encounter with the Goddess, from Stephen Owen, An Anthology of Chinese Literature, 189-203; Wang Shifu, The Story of the Western Wing, 358 -366; Tang Xianzu, Awakening from a Dream, from The Peony Pavilion, from Stephen Owen, An Anthology of Chinese Literature, 882-892, e-reserve.
Suggested reading: Judith T. Zeitlin, Shared Dreams: The Story of The Three Wives' Commentary on The Peony Pavilion, in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 54, No. 1. (Jun., 1994), pp. 127-179.
10/20 Dreams of Power…
Readings: Su Shi, The Red Cliff Poems, 1 and 2, 381-384, from Cyril Birch, Anthology of Chinese Literature; Pu Songling, Selected Stories from Strange Tales from the Liao Zhai Studio, volume 1, 6-10, 340-351, volume 2, 273-277; Li Bo, A song on Visiting.., 401-403, Zhang Dai ,The Dream Recollections of Tao-an, 815-820, from Stephen Owen, An Anthology of Chinese Literature, e-reserve.
Assignment # 6 due
Screening: The Mirror Mask, streaming
Week 8 Dreaming Men 2
Begin in –class discussion teams
10/ 25 …Nightmares…
Discussion Leaders: Siyu Shen, Jimmy Yu, Jenna Cadone
Readings: Wang Yen-shou's Nightmare Poem, by Donald Harper. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Jun., 1987), pp. 239-283 http://www.jstor.org/stable/2719162 .
10/27 Discovering Frost Library.
Class will be held in Frost, details TBA.
Outline and tentative bibliography due for research papers.
Screening: Waking life, streaming
11/1 …And the Dream of Art…
Discussion Leaders: Daniel Parel, Andrew Hurn, Gaby Rodriguez
Readings: Origins and Presences: Notes on the Psychology and Sociality of Shitao's Dreams, by Richard Vinograd. Ars Orientalis, Vol. 25, Chinese Painting (1995), pp. 61-72
11/3 Lady Dreamers...
Discussion Leaders: Kari-Elle Brown, Constance Holden, Lena Budinger
Readings: Ji Xian, A Record of Past Karma, 139-146; Waltner, Ann "Visionary and Bureaucrat in the late Ming: T'an-yang-tzu and Wang Shih-chen," Late Imperial China 8:1 (1987), 105-127, e-reserve.
Assignment # 7 due—
Screening: Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, streaming
11/8 And Female Dream Texts 1…
Readings: Yun, Dream of Glory; A Chinese Play, ix-69
11/10 And 2…
Readings: Yun, Dream of Glory; A Chinese Play, 70-184
Screening: The Lathe of Heaven, streaming
Week 11 Shangrila Dreams
11/15 Dreams and Buddhism in India and Tibet.
Readings: Alex Wayman, Significance of Dreams in India and Tibet, History of Religions, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Aug., 1967), pp. 1-12, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1061861
; Serenity Young, “Dream Practices in Medieval Tibet”, in Dreaming, Volume 9, Number 1, 23-42, http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1021364909895
11/17 Dream in Practice, Dr. Katz’ s approach
Readings: Choegyal Namkhai Norbu, Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light, required text.
Assignment # 8 due--
Dream Yoga Workshop with Michael Katz November 18-19, 2011.
Alumni House, Amherst College campus
Friday, November 18, 2011
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Saturday, November 19, 2011
10:00 AM -12 PM & 2:30 PM- 4:30 PM
This unique workshop is intended to develop the capacity to dream lucidly, enhance creativity, promote self-exploration, and spiritual/psychological growth through powerful techniques of dream yoga, guided induction, theater, and lucid dream work. Michael Katz, author of Tibetan Dream Yoga; the Royal Road to Enlightenment, editor of Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light, and author of The White Dolphin is a psychologist who has lectured and led workshops internationally on dream yoga and lucidity for personal growth. He has studied Ericksonian hypnotherapy, Reichian therapy, Gestalt, Embodied Dream Imagery and psychodrama and synthesized many of these influences into his lucidity workshops. He has practiced Tibetan Buddhism and Dzogchen meditation since 1977.
November 19, 2011-November 27: Thanksgiving Break.
Assignment # 9 due as e-submission--
11/29 A look at Freud and beyond
Discussion Leaders: Trina Fanfant, Jon Kelleher, Nick Codola
Readings: Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, 1-10, 22, 50-65,96-121,133, e-reserve.
12/1 Freud and The (Dalai) Lama.
Discussion Leaders: Michael Millian, Connor Bottum, Tawkir Chowdury
Readings: Sleeping, Dreaming, and Dying. An Exploration of Consciousness with the Dalai Lama, 53-130, e-reserve.
Week 14 Awakenings?
12/6 Beyond Freud
Readings: Ludwing Binswanger, Dream and Existence, 81-105; J. Allan Hobson, “Freud Reawakens”, 171-179, from 13 Dreams Freud Never Had, e-reserve.
12/8 Dreaming as Science
Reading: Dreaming: An Introduction to the Science of Sleep by J. Allan Hobson, required text.
Screening: The Edge of Dreaming, streaming
12/13 Dreaming in Reel Time. In class discussion of the movies screened
Final projects due by Tuesday December 20th, at noon, in my office.