The Fantastic in Chinese Literature
Cross-listed as CHIN225 / COMP225
From the famous human/butterfly metamorphosis in the Daoist text Zhuangzi to contemporary writer Liu Cixin’s award-winning “Three Bodies Problem,” the “fantastic” has always been part of Chinese literature that pushes the boundary of human imagination. Readers and writers create fantastic beasts (though not always know where to find them), pass down incredible tales, assign meanings to unexplainable phenomena, and reject–sometimes embrace–stories that could potentially subvert their established framework of knowledge. Meanwhile, the “fantastic” is also historically and culturally contingent. What one considers “fantastic” reveals as much about the things gazed upon as about the perceiving subject–his or her values, judgment, anxiety, identity, and cultural burden. Using “fantastic” literature as a critical lens, this course takes a thematic approach to the masterpieces of Chinese literature from the first millennium BCE up until twenty-first century China. We will read texts ranging from Buddhist miracle tales to the avant-garde novel about cannibalism, from medieval ghost stories to the creation of communist superheroes during the Cultural Revolution. The topics that we will explore include shifting human/non-human boundaries, representations of the foreign land (also the “underworld”), the aestheticization of female ghosts, utopia and dystopia, and the fantastic as social criticism and national allegory. All materials and discussions are in English.
The Class: Type: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: participation, weekly posting, 3 writing assignments, final paper, oral presentation
Enrollment Preference: none
Distributions: Division I;