Pre-Modern Chinese Literature: Ghosts, Bandits, and Lovers
Throughout Chinese history, the most enduring characters of fiction were ghosts, bandits, and lovers. Authors used them as metaphors to contemplate and criticize their cultural, economic, and political traditions. This class will focus on the close reading of short-story fiction from two pivotal periods in Chinese literary history: the Tang-Song period (8th-11th centuries) and the Ming-Qing period (15th-17th centuries). In part, our goal will be to discover continuities and transformations of the genre in both its content and its form. And, in part, our goal will be to explore changing notions of ghosts, bandits, and lovers as a window onto pre-modern Chinese society. Topics for class discussion will include: the nature and definitions of the individual; the relationship between the self and society, the individual and the cosmos; changing notions of honor, virtue, and individualism; attitudes toward gender and sexuality; and the role of fiction in promoting or overturning cultural norms.