Topics in Chinese Literature and Culture


Who did early peoples in the land now called "China" think they were? Where did they believe they were from? Since when did they imagine their community had existed? Seeking to answer these questions, this course traces the change and development of the early peoples' collective consciousness and the narrativization of the past in ancient China, from the 11th century BCE through the 11th century CE. We will begin with some key theoretical questions about collective identity rooted in the sense of belonging and its major mental factors such as sharing and transmitting of the social memory and stories of the past. We will also discuss some theoretical challenges to the practice of historiography as a social emplotment of what really happened. Based on these theoretical reflections, students will read many excavated and received texts of so-called "history" such as the bronze inscription "Shi Qiang pan," the bamboo slip manuscript "Rongcheng shi," the Book of Documents, Records of the Grand Historian, etc., and explore how these texts reveal the early peoples' changing conceptions of the past in their own historical context. By the end of the semester, students are expected to acquire a more nuanced understanding that the collective identity of "China" or "Chinese" in pre-modern times had by no means been self-evident or inherently demonstrable but been continuously reimagined and reconstructed through the reformulation of the social memory and story of the past in the changing socio-political condition over time. Most reading materials will be provided in English. Open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates by instructor's permission. Prerequisites: none, though some background in Chinese history or literature is preferable.
Course Attributes: EN S; AS LCD; AS SSC; FA HUM; AR HUM; UC CD