OverviewEast Asia is one of the most culturally vibrant areas in the world today, with approximately more than 1.6 billion people, i.e. one fifth of the world's population, includes two of the largest world economies (China and Japan) after the USA, and one of the richest literary traditions dating back to 1000 BCE. This module aims to give students an introductory overview of this important literary and cultural sphere, as well as the opportunity to explore in more depth particular texts, films, and cultural phenomena. The module focuses on transcultural connections as well as tensions between the areas of mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and the Korean peninsula.
Topics explored in this module focus on different aspects of East Asian literature and culture, such as food culture; the East Asian metropolis; colonialism and war in recent history; intimacy and the sensitive subject in modern narratives; the lingua franca (common language) and multilingualism. Writers and directors examined include, for example, Taiwanese writer Wu Chuo-liu (who wrote in Japanese), Chinese modernist writer Yu Dafu, Hong Kong-ese director Wong Kar-wai, contemporary Korean writer Han Kang, and Japanese writer Akutagawa Ryunosuke, whose famous short story 'Rashomon' was adapted into an equally famous film by Akira Kurosawa. Drawing upon key ideas about transcultural interactions and receptions, as well as a range of historical sources, we will explore how East Asia as a geographical and cultural sphere is both inextricably interconnected and, at the same time, marked by tensions and conflict.
This module appears in:
Total Contact Hours: 20
Method of assessment
Essay (2,500 words) – 80%
Presentation (15 minutes) – 20%
Any edition of the following:
Akutagawa Ryunosuke, trans. by Jay Rubin (2006). Rashomon, London: Penguin Classics
Han Kang, trans. by Deborah Smith (2015). The Vegetarian, London: Portobello
Kyung-sook Shin, trans. Chi-young Kim (2011). Please Look After Mom, London: Penguin
Wu Chuo-liu, trans. Ioannis Mentzas (2006). Orphan of Asia, New York: Columbia University Press
Yu Dafu, (1921) Sinking, extracts in Nights of Spring Fever and Other Writing, Yu Dafu, trans. Tang Sheng, Beijing: China International Book Trading Corp, 1984
Lust, Caution (2007) Dir. Ang Lee, produced by River Road Entertainment and Haishang Films. Distributed by Focus Features, USA/China/Taiwan, 159 mins
Rashomon (1950) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, produced by Minoru Jingo, distributed by Daiei Film, Japan, 88min
2046 (2004) Dir. Wong Kar-wai, produced by Block 2 Pictures, distributed by Mei Ah Entertainment, Hong Kong, 129min
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
- Demonstrate critical understanding of literature and culture in East Asia;
- Demonstrate a broad theoretical understanding of transcultural connections, cultural influence, reception, and reappropriation;
- Engage thematically and comparatively with a range of literary texts, films, and cultural artefacts from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds and in a broad chronological scope;
- Employ diverse theories and methods for literary and film analysis, within and beyond this module;
- Demonstrate a broad understanding of area studies by focusing on East Asian literary and cultural spheres.