Introduction to East Asian Cinema: EAS 140L

Fall 2008, Second Quarter, Class # 5091


Meeting Time/Place:      Tuesday and Thursday, Hum. 020, 7:15-10:05 PM

Instructor:                     Prof. Jim Hargett, Hum. 254C, 442-4233


Office Hours:                Tuesday and Thursday, 12:15-1:15 PM (or by appointment)


Course Description and Introduction

This is introductory film class on East Asian cinema, this semester focusing on films concerning China produced in the United States since the late 1930s. The goals of the class are (1) to help you understand how and why films about China are produced in the United States and what purposes they serve; and (2) to help you understand the social, political, and racial implications of these films, and how they can promote stereotypes. We will accomplish these goals by (1) viewing six representative films; (2) attending class lectures and participating in class discussions; and (3) writing four reaction papers (the topics of these papers will be assigned in class).


What Will You Learn in This Course?

In many ways, cinematic texts are mirrors. That is to say, in addition to providing entertainment, they also reflect social, political, cultural, and economic issues and concerns. In this course you will be taught how to identify, decode, and understand these issues as they appear in the six films treated this semester. By doing so you will begin to discover and understand the nature, history, and cultural significance of the “China film” genre in the United States.


Class Organization

The class will meet twice weekly. Typically, during the first session (Tuesday) we will view the week’s film. The second class (Thursday) will be devoted to discussing and decoding the film, with particular attention paid to major (and recurrent) themes and images. Background details (historical, cultural, and so on) will be provided by the instructor as needed. Copies of the films viewed in the course will not be available on reserve in the library or from the instructor, so attendance is essential.


Prerequisites: None. This is a survey course open to anyone. No previous knowledge of East Asia is required. All the films viewed in this course have English subtitles.


Grading: Your final grade will be determined by (1) your attendance, preparation, and contributions to class discussions (25%); (2) your average grade on the four reaction papers (25%); (3) your grade on the mid-term exam (25%); and (4) your grade on the final exam project (25%).


Attendance and Makeups: Students are expected to attend all classes. Attendance will be taken at the start of each class. If you arrive late, you will be marked absent. One absence is allowed. An additional class cut beyond the allotted one absence will result in a “one click” reduction in your final grade. In other words, if you cut two classes over the course of the semester and earn a B+ in the course, your final grade drop to B; three class cuts would get you a B-, and so on. Makeups for missed work will be given only if the absence was due to a documented medical or personal emergency. If possible, consult with the instructor before the absence. Late reaction papers will not be accepted for any reason.


Academic Integrity: The discovery of any cheating (including plagiarism or shared work of any kind) on an exam or written assignment will result in (1) immediate expulsion from the course with a failing grade; and (2) a report to appropriate SUNY officials. Appeals may be made through appropriate channels. Just so we are clear: if you use any words/phrases/sentences or ideas from an internet website without citation, it is plagiarism. One plagiarism offense gets you thrown out of the course with a failing grade.


Food, Drink, and Cell Phones: Please do not bring any food or drinks to our class meetings. Also, please turn off your cell phone during class.


How to do well in this course: (1) complete all assignments on time; (2) view the films carefully (Take notes! You may want to bring a small flashlight to class on Tuesdays to facilitate note taking); (3) attend class regularly (take detailed notes!); (4) do not come to class late (the teacher really, really dislikes late arrivals because they disrupt the class); (5) actively participate in classroom discussions (this means raise your hand and participate!).



Tues, 21 Oct:   Course introduction; Film: The Good Earth (1939)

Thur, 23 Oct:    Lecture and discussion: The Good Earth

Reaction paper #1 due.


Tues, 28 Oct:    Film: 55 Days at Peking (1963)

Thur, 30 Oct:     Lecture and discussion: 55 Days at Peking

Reaction paper #2 due.


Tues, 4 Nov:     Film: The Sand Pebbles (1966)

Thur, 6 Nov:      Lecture and discussion: The Sand Pebbles

                        Reaction paper #3 due.


Tues, 11 Nov:    Film: A Great Wall (1986)

Thur, 13 Nov:    Lecture and discussion: A Great Wall


Tues, 18 Nov:    Film: The Corruptor (1999)

Thur, 20 Nov:    Lecture and discussion: The Corruptor

Reaction paper #4 due.


Tues, 25 Nov:    Midterm Examination


Tues, 2 Dec:     Documentary film: Nanking (2007)

Thur, 4 Dec:      Lecture and discussion: Nanking