Course: HUM233/COM233/EAS233
Instructor: Pacala, Rubenstein, Sullivan
F 2018

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

This is an introductory course to the literature, philosophy, religion, and art of three East Asian cultures, China, Japan, and Korea, from the earliest times to around 1400. Students will examine primary texts such as poems, legends, and historical accounts in conjunction with museum collections such as bronzes, ceramics, and paintings to get a broad view of the premodern cultural landscape in East Asia. The course encourages students to compare and contrast the web of East Asian humanistic patterns in order to bring light upon the recurring themes and unique expressions from each culture in the premodern times. For example, what are the causes and appeals of the common mode of tragic romance across the three cultures? A follow-up discussion will incorporate analysis of the complex system of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism in order to situate the literary analysis in the relevant historical, philosophical, and social background. This class has its own interactive website where readings and assignments are uploaded in place of the Blackboard class page. There are two required books that a student needs to buy or borrow. Although prior knowledge of East Asia, East Asian languages, or digital media work will be helpful in digesting materials and working with the web-based platform, the class is designed to accommodate students with no or limited experience in these fields. All readings are translated and untranslatable terms are explained in details; an associated Digital Learning Lab technician and two peer mentors are available if students need help. Instructors will provide guiding questions for each class and encourage students to ask questions during lectures and precepts.   

Learning From Classroom Instruction

There are two 1-hour lectures and one 1-hour precept every week. In lecture, Professor Shields (China) or Cooper (Japan/ Korea) will present a slide show containing orienting historical background, close analysis of selected readings, and additional artifacts related to the weekly theme. Professor will bring up discussion questions during the presentation so you should focus not only on taking notes but also connecting the readings to the presentation’s content in the meantime. Students will engage in small group discussions based on the guiding questions received beforehand or an additional piece of poem or artwork given in lecture. Students will present their findings and opinions by groups, then the whole class will join in the conversation. Active participation in lecture is important because you will have a chance to hear feedback from both professors and the full class, whose advice and opinions can broaden your perspective in future response assignment. Since lecture pace can be quick, it is essential to ask for clarifications if any confusion arises so that you do not fall behind in the broad discussion in lecture and in the more specific discussion in precept. Professor Shields or Cooper may begin the precept discussion in a few ways. They may start off with a follow-up question about a concept presented in lecture, or ask students what they find interesting in the readings, or create a summary or comparison chart on a blackboard to gather inputs from students. Either way, students are expected to have read the assigned readings with care prior to attending precept. Even if you have finished the readings in advance, it is a good practice to review them and enrich your understanding by revisiting the lecture discussions too. Although it is not required that student print out readings, having physical copies in hand will allow you to conveniently annotate the text and easily track textual evidence. Students will engage in small group tasks, like listing main points of reading or identifying lines with special meaning, and present to the class. Professor will ask follow-up questions and lead the precept discussion with sharper thinking questions after the small group presentation. To get the most out of the weekly precept, you should actively take note of key terms and mark down specific lines pointed out by professor or classmates. These precept notes in combination with lecture notes will be an important basis for your assignments and assessments. There will be two peer mentors who will conduct a symposium every weekend to help you with upcoming assignments and understanding readings. Attendance is not mandatory for every symposium, but the symposium provides a good place if you want to meet with fellow students to brainstorm essay ideas or work on the group project. There will also be a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum. Although the trip is not mandatory, you can utilize this opportunity to apply your learning in class to analyze artifacts on display and build a closer bond with your fellow classmates and professors.

Learning For and From Assignments

There are a total of 3 annotation assignments, 3 essay responses, 2 group projects, 3 unannounced quizzes, and 1 midterm for this class. Annotation assignment requires you to pair an artifact with a short section of one primary text and write a brief blog post-like commentary, connecting the artifact with main ideas of the text. The main goal is to make a convincing connection and analyze the multimedia representation of one concept. It may help if you already have a specific passage in mind before you search for potentially relevant artifacts online so that you can narrow your target. For the first 2 essay responses, you can pick one of the two assigned questions to respond to. The assigned questions have multiple parts and tend to guide you in considering a specific issue, like the transcultural aspect of a character stereotype. You are also required to submit a draft for the first two essays; the drafts will not count as part of your actual grade, but the professors will leave comments and provide a temporary grade for your reference. You should take advantage of the draft option and turn in a paper as complete as possible to receive more detailed comments from the professors. The third and final essay response, however, will not have the draft phase. It can be helpful if you submit a rough outline in place of a complete draft and discuss your main arguments with Professor Shields and Cooper. Other than the two assigned questions, you are also given a chance to design your own question for this final response. Although you are free to choose your topic, you may find it helpful if you write your question by imitating the assigned question’s form of having a few smaller questions. Other than writing your own annotation and response, you are also required to comment on at least one other student’s work to encourage interaction. The 2 group projects are intended to be creative work utilizing different digital platforms, such as Story MapsJS and Google Maps. There will also be a presentation component in these projects. You are given a specific task for the first project, but little restriction for the second project as long as it concerns one of the East Asian cultures within the relevant time period. The main considerations for group project are creativity, analysis, cohesiveness, and external research effort. It is important to clearly communicate with you groupmates about each member’s responsibility because you will also fill out an evaluation form after each project to reflect on your group’s teamwork. This is a good place to clarify your contribution and provide any additional explanation not apparent in the project itself. It is encouraged that you reach out to the professors or peer mentors to discuss your project topic and execution method so that you can further improve and refine your approach. The DLL specialist will be able to help you navigate the various digital platforms.

The 3 unannounced quizzes are designed to make sure that you have done your readings on time. However, they are brief and straightforward if you have been reading the texts with care. The midterm is a text identification assessment. You will identify a short paragraph from reading and address the section’s significance to the text. Professor Shields will provide a study guide template and peer mentors will conduct a mock midterm in the symposium a week before the midterm. It is important that you keep up with the readings consistently to prevent last-minute panic before a quiz or the midterm. A good method to test if you have been absorbing the readings is to challenge yourself to summarize the key points and main arguments of a text and recall passages discussed in lecture or precept before.

External Resources

Office hours are very helpful if you need clarifications on a certain concept or if you want to discuss your idea for an assignment. Both Professor Shields and Cooper have scheduled office hours every week, but you can also email them to set up a meeting for another time. You may email or schedule an in-person meeting with peer mentors who have taken the class before and can share feedback from the student perspective. For annotation assignments, feel free to explore online museum collections such as the Metropolitan Museum’s website to locate artifacts. You can search by key terms of interest such as “Buddhist” or “Bronze”, or search by time period or region. For group projects and essay assignments, you can utilize the Princeton University Library catalog or visit a librarian at the East Asian Library if you are seeking supplementary readings or additional primary sources.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

As evident in the amount and the variety of assignment and assessment listed, this class requires a student to not only be constantly engaged with the readings but also be comfortable in producing different forms of analysis. Even though there are many assignments, the class is very well-structured. You will need to note deadlines of the various tasks and be responsible for managing your time wisely in order to get through readings effectively. The class is certainly doable without previous knowledge of East Asia, but you should expect that some students in the class already have some relevant background. Nonetheless, do not let that fact or the amount of work deter you from taking the class if you are interested in the foundation of East Asian cultures. This course is an intentionally broad introductory course which will give you a better understanding of three cultures with deep historical roots and prepare you to take more specific courses in the East Asian Studies department. Because the course places significant focus on transcultural comparison, critical thinking, and working with multimedia platform, students interested in these fields may find this class as a useful addition.  

East Asian Humanities I: The Classical Foundations

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