Chinese 101: Beginning Chinese I (every fall since 2010)
Chinese 101 is the first course of the three-course language instruction sequence at AC. I have taught this course every fall since my arrival at the college. In its current iteration, the course follows an original curriculum of my design that employs standards-based grading and some flipped modules. The sample lecture below is one such module, that teaches telling time in Chinese.
Chinese 102: Beginning Chinese II (every spring since 2011)
Chinese 102 is the second course of the three-course language instruction sequence at AC. I have taught this course every spring since my arrival at the college. The syllabus below is from the course's Spring 2015 iteration, and follows a partially flipped classroom format. The sample lecture below explains the 了 le particle, one of the most difficult features of Chinese grammar. For Spring 2016, I am currently reorganizing the course as an extension of the original curriculum I have begun in Chinese 101.
Chinese 203: Intensive Intermediate Chinese (every fall since 2015)
Chinese 203 is new course for Fall 2015, developed as a response to both staffing shortages and student desire to reduce time to reaching advanced levels of Chinese language instruction. The course combines the material traditionally covered in Chinese 201 and Chinese 202, a year long sequence, into a single semester. In its current iteration, the course also follows an original curriculum of my design that employs standards-based grading and some flipped modules. The sample lecture below teaches differing grammatical usage of three characters identically pronounced de: 的，地, and 得.
Chinese 240: Classical Chinese
This course provides an introduction to classical Chinese, also known as literary Chinese (文言 wenyan). For more than three thousand years, up until the early twentieth century, Chinese historical, philosophical, and literary texts were written in classical Chinese. Knowledge of classical Chinese is indispensible to students of East Asian languages and cultures: both as the language of texts that critically shaped the development of the region’s civilization and for the linguistic influence the language’s history exerts on the region’s modern vernaculars. The course teaches reading knowledge of classical Chinese by expanding the student’s lexicon of recognized characters and teaching the basic grammar structures of the language. Students will learn famous parables behind Chinese idioms and read selections of famous classical texts in their original language, such as The Analects, Laozi, early histories, and classic poems. 250 is open to all students who have completed a semester of collegiate-level Chinese or Japanese. 350 requires completion of Chinese 236 and will meet for an additional hour each week.
Chinese 250/350: Chinese Pop Culture
This course examines contemporary Chinese popular culture as a response to the profound changes to Chinese society that have occurred since the death of Mao Zedong and the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. Looking at popularly consumed film, television, music, fashion, art, literature, internet culture, as well the Beijing Olympics of 2008 and the Shanghai World Expo of 2010, the course explores the radically changing role of socialist politics, government censorship, the rise of consumerism, the import of “western” culture, and China’s participation in the culture of globalization through their own exports. No knowledge of China or Chinese is necessary. Advanced students may take the course as a 300-level with consent of the instructor. The sample assignment below is one of the course's required primary source worksheets.
Chinese 255: Fantasy and Horror in the Chinese Context
Monsters! Ghosts! Life-force sucking fiends! Women who turn into foxes! Possessed stones falling from the heavens! Supernatural warriors! Magic! Chinese literature from its inception (at least 3000 years ago) offers a tradition of fantastic beasts, magical occurences, and horrifying spectacles that has continued into the contemporary. In this course, we’ll learn about Chinese literature and other forms of cultural production from their very beginnings, through the lenses of these strange tales. We’ll also think more broadly about what constitutes the genres of fantasy and horror, how they might relate to various moments in Chinese history, and why they have remained so appealing through the ages.
Chinese 250/350: Modern Chinese Society Through Literature
With its place of social importance in the Chinese tradition, literature is a natural lens through which to examine modern China. In this course, we will examine the myriad of changes to Chinese society since the fall of the last imperial dynasty, the Qing. We will move through the major upheavals of the twentieth century (the May Fourth movement, the Communist take-over, the Cultural Revolution, the democracy movements of 1989, and Open Market Reform and its continuing effects), using literature as a guide to how these sweeping social changes impacted those living through them and altered the very fabric of culture. No background in Chinese language or culture is required.
Chinese 250/350: Kung Fu
In this course, we learn about the historical and philosophical foundations of Chinese martial arts and examine the many related cultural products: film, literature, comic books, music, art, and more. What about kung fu has inspired and held the imaginations of so many? In answering this question, the course will begin with the earliest aesthetic representations of kung fu and progress to contemporary Hollywood collaborations, examining both its reception in the Chinese context and internationally, as well as speaking to questions of national identity, translation, and transnational production.
Chinese 250/350: Survey of Chinese Film
Growing interest in Chinese films, evidenced by them regularly winning important awards in international film festivals over the last fifteen years, reflects the value Chinese film has in understanding this emerging world power. This course, taught in English, explores the many important ways that the development of the Chinese film industry has mirrored China’s cultural scene. We’ll begin with silent film in the 1920s, moving through each of the historical periods of China’s long twentieth century into contemporary blockbusters, Hollywood collaborations, and independent films. While the course is primarily focused on the Chinese mainland, productions from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore will be examined as well. As we explore the history of the Chinese film industry, we’ll also examine how directors in each period use film as a forum to address social, political, and artistic concerns. No knowledge of Chinese language or culture is required.
EALC 250/350: Art and Human Rights in East Asia
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts in Article 27 that “(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits, and (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.” Despite the rich history of art shaping the social and political spheres, the declaration doesn’t mention art, or artistic expression, anywhere else. What does this limited mention tell us? Is artistic expression an inalienable human right? Perhaps more importantly, can artistic expression influence how human rights are defined and exercised in a given context?
In an attempt to answer these questions, this course looks at the case of East Asia. The region shares critically important cultural foundations and starting assumptions about human nature, but its dense population is governed by radically different political regimes ranging from democracy to dictatorship. What role does the artist occupy in each of these societies? What can we understand about the role art takes in advocating for basic human freedoms and dignity? These inquiries will force us to think of the assumptions we ourselves bring to bear upon the works we will encounter in the course, which provides a natural segueway into a consideration of the motivations of the various forms of international attention visited upon artists who take up human rights as their cause. Was Mo Yan’s award of the Nobel Prize for Literature a way of criticizing Chinese society? Would Ai Weiwei be as internationally acclaimed if he was not in conflict with a regime that concerns the United States on both economic and national security fronts? Can a democracy have dissident artists? Under a dictatorship, is all art propaganda? Does the society that surrounds you influence the type of artist you are allowed to become?
At the 200-level, the course assumes no prior knowledge of the languages or cultures of East Asia; all interested in these kinds of questions are welcome.
Chinese 250/350: Chinese Medicine
Will feeding a child the shell of a cicada really cure their night terrors? What could possibly have prompted someone to try? This course takes on this kind of question by looking at the cultural origins of the broad range of practices of what is now known as “traditional Chinese medicine” (中医 zhongyi), which have become so popular over the last thirty years that they are frequently investigated by western medical journals and introduced to practitioners of western medicine as part of their education. With practices stretching back up to 5000 years, Chinese medicine is distinct from its Western counterparts in that the origins of its practices are found in myth, literature, and anecdote. With twentieth-century efforts to integrate modern evidence-based science, traditional Chinese medicine is one of the most complete living examples of the evolution of the practice of science. In this course, we will read the classic treatises of Chinese medicine. We will learn about the traditional Chinese model of the human body (which still informs much of the modern practice of traditional Chinese medicine) and how the world surrounding it is theorized to affect it. We will study the “strange” ingredients of traditional Chinese pharmaceuticals in the context of the literature that prescribes them. Using their writings, we will follow in the footsteps of the founders of Chinese medicine, diagnosing the patients they saw and grappling with the complications they faced. Our journey will naturally lead us to reflect upon collaboration between science and the humanities. At the 250 level, no knowledge of China, Chinese language, or medical science is required, though the course is a good fit for anyone interested in one or more of the three. At the 350 level, students need to have completed Chinese 202 or have the permission of the instructor and are required to additionally enroll in Chinese 237.
EALC 251: Pre-Modern Chinese Literature and Culture
This course is a journey that starts at the very beginning: the dawn of the written word. That act: putting pen to paper, or in our case, chisel to bone, will be our central focus throughout the course. And history has proven that it’s a worthwhile focus: the worthiness of a society is gauged by the quality of its writing, the quality of governments is measured by how free citizens are to write, and the freedom to put pen to paper and write anything you like has historically been a right so precious that people are willing to die for it.
So what’s the big deal? It seems simple enough: you put words on a page. Lots of things seem more difficult. And yet, somehow, all these other things circle back to written word. A scientific discovery can’t be significant until it’s communicated. The most brilliant business mind can’t start on his path to greatness unless he can write a letter that convinces someone to give him that first break. And our fallen heroes can’t become legend until someone can write a proper eulogy.
And so our journey will place us shoulder-to-shoulder with historical figures grappling with how best to use and develop perhaps the most powerful tool the human race has ever known, from its inception to its maturity.
Along the way, we’ll gain a greater understanding both of how good writing came to be placed on its pedestal, and acquire some skills of our own. Accordingly, this class’s requirements are all grafted upon transferrable skills. Your grade will be dependent upon both the evolution of your skills and the ultimate quality of mastery you demonstrate.
Chinese 250/350: Translation and Adaptation: The Case of Journey to the West
What makes a good story? How do we share those stories with people from radically different backgrounds? How do we translate them into foreign languages? This course takes these questions as its central problem. Using Journey to the West, one of the most beloved stories of the Chinese literary tradition, we will look at specific instances of translation and adaptation. From Arthur Waley’s famous abridged translation into English, to television dramas, to film, to Japanese manga, the serialized novel from the Ming Dynasty tale of Xuanzang and his disciples questing after Buddhist sutras has inspired translations and adaptations around the globe for nearly a millennia. Our examinations of these works will be natural stating points for conversations about the tasks of translation and remake, and the theories and practices that go into these tasks. At the course’s conclusion, students will try their hand at these tasks themselves. At the 250 level, no knowledge of China or Chinese is assumed. At the 350 level, students are required to have completed Chinese 202 and will have an additional meeting each week to discuss sections of the texts in Chinese.
EALC 253: Modern Chinese Culture
This course takes the written word as its central focus. And history has proven that the act of putting pen to paper is a worthwhile focus: the worthiness of a society is gauged by the quality of its writing, the quality of governments is measured by how free citizens are to write, and the freedom to put pen to paper and write anything you like has historically been a right so precious that people are willing to die for it.
So what’s the big deal? It seems simple enough: you put words on a page. Lots of things are considered more difficult. And yet, somehow, all these other things circle back to written word. A scientific discovery can’t be significant until it’s communicated. The most brilliant business mind can’t start on his path to greatness unless he can write a letter that convinces someone to give him that first break. And our fallen heroes can’t become legend until someone can write a proper eulogy. In the context of modern China in particular, where the right to write has often been uncertain, the written word has taken on particular value and urgency.
And so our journey will place us shoulder-to-shoulder with historical figures grappling with how best to use and develop perhaps the most powerful tool the human race has ever known, in a variety of cultural landscapes.
Along the way, we’ll both gain a greater understanding of how good writing came to be placed on its pedestal, and acquire some skills of our own. Accordingly, this class’s requirements are all grafted upon transferrable skills. Your grade will be dependent upon both the evolution of your skills and the ultimate quality of mastery you demonstrate.
CHIN100: Changing Ideas of Chinese Civilization - taught in Beijing, PRC (Janterm 2012)
What is “China”? When we answer this question in the contemporary, we often do so in terms of political and economic strategy, a tendency that separates the nation from its long and varied history before the Communist take-over of 1949. But if we are truly to understand the complexities of this rising global power, we must begin to understand the multiple millennia of history that bear influence on its society. In this course, we’ll visit numerous sites, paying special attention to the way they’re presented in the contemporary and how they affect the idea of “China” and what it is to be Chinese: The Great Wall of China, The Forbidden City, Ming Dynasty Tombs, The Temple of Heaven, The Terracotta Soldiers of the Tomb of the First Qin Emperor, The Summer Palace, Tian’anmen Square, and much more!
No knowledge of China or Chinese required (though if you have it, you’ll have ample opportunity to use it), but an interview is required for permission to enroll. Open to 16 students on a first come, first served basis.
CHIN100: Chinese Food Culture (Janterm 2014)
The Cantonese have an old saying: "Anything that walks, swims, crawls, or flies with its back to heaven is edible." In modern Mandarin, it is often joked, "The Chinese will eat anything with four legs that isn't a table, and anything that flies that isn't an airplane." With such a diverse array of possibilities, it is no wonder that food plays such a central role in Chinese culture. In the earliest written records of ancient Chinese civilization, food, from preparation to partaking, is treated in exhaustive detail as a central practice of what came to be culture-defining rituals. As the Chinese language evolved, the very experience of human emotion even came to be expressed with the verb "to eat." The paramount importance of food has continued to be a hallmark of Chinese cultural traditions: the celebration of festivals, marking the passage of time with birthdays, the sanctifying of rituals, and the observation of folk superstition all have their foundations in food customs. The cultivation of regional and ethnic identity is inextricably linked to local variations on these customs. In this course, we will use the importance of food to explore Chinese history, cultural traditions, and identity. Students will be called upon to engage in the social customs that come with food preparation and sharing meals as they learn their cultural significances. Students will also learn the Chinese names for these dishes and associated customs.
C/I: Monsters Among Us: Horror Narratives in Global Context (Fall 2012)
What, throughout history and around the globe, prompts us to create things that go bump in the night? Given the limitless capacity of the human imagination, why do the monsters that scare us the most usually bear some distinct resemblance to ourselves? Why do so many horror narratives begin with the creation of a monster through human action (or inaction)? Where do we even begin in defining what makes a monster?
In this course, we will attempt to provide answers to these questions through the use of narratives, both literary and visual, from East Asia, Latin America, and around the English speaking world. Our approach will be interdisciplinary, drawing on work done in the fields of literature, film studies, art, philosophy, psychology and anthropology. As we explore we will focus on historical and thematic trends in the horror narrative: from the historical and social circumstances that inform their production to their relationship with sweeping social change, violence, injustice, and our attempts to manipulate or control nature and the environment. From literary classics like Frankenstein to contemporary pop culture sensations like Dexter, the course is designed to help students learn to make an analytic approach to narrative and think critically about the ways we label the world around us. Assignments are designed to improve the critical reading, writing, and thinking skills that will ensure success at Austin College and throughout a career of life-long learning. Students will also gain foundational skills in digital tools and presentation.