AEAS/AWSS 270 (#9078)

Women in East Asian Literature

FALL 2008  TTH 8:45AM-10:05AM

HU 039


Dr. Fan Pen Chen

Office hours: Tu 10:15-11:15; Th 3:00-4:00; and by appointment. 

Office: Hu-246

Phone: 442-2600




Course Description: East Asia is a culturally rich and complex area of the world that includes societies as diverse as China, Japan, Vietnam and Korea. Frequently, the cultures of these societies are presented through discourses that assume the supremacy of patriarchal values. In this course, we will examine one of the most fascinating yet neglected aspects of these societies, the histories of women through literary works. The course will focus on China and Japan, two of the most complex and influential societies globally. Tracing these civilizations to matrilineal roots, we will learn how Japan was more matrilineal than China 1500 years ago, how it became patrilineal and patriarchal through Chinese influence and ultimately became even more patriarchal than China.  By analyzing literary sources, we will examine how gender has been constructed in Chinese and Japanese cultures, and attempt to make interpretations concerning the relationship between female empowerment (including footbinding) and the imaging of women in historical, literary and dramatic sources. Change and continuity in the contexts and the narratives will be studied along with the ideological functions and significance of the sources.


The class will combine lectures with discussion and close reading of assigned materials. Aside from a midterm and final exams, students are required to do a group project that couple analysis with creativity through rewriting a traditional piece of literature into one appealing to contemporary ideologies and performing it.  


The course satisfies the Gen Ed requirements for “Humanities” and “Regions Beyond Europe.” 


Prerequisites: The course has no prerequisites and no prior knowledge of East languages or cultures is required.




Required textbooks:


Robin R. Wang ed., Images of Women in Chinese Thought and Culture: Writings from Pre-Qin Period through the Song Dynasty. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Co. Inc., 2003.

Donald Keene ed., Anthology of Japanese Literature. New York: Grove Press Inc. 1955.


The textbooks will be available at Mary Jane Bookstore. Other materials will be available through the University electronic reserve system (ERes). All you need to do is to go to the University library page from the University main page. Select “ERes,” click on “Electronic Reserves and Reserves Pages,” fill in “270” for the Course Number, click on “EAS270” and fill in the password (eas270f08). 




     The final grade will consist of: 1) A map quiz (5% percent of the final grade); 2) Mid-term exam grade (25% of the final grade); 3) Final exam (30% of the final grade); 4) Class attendance, preparation, and participation in class discussions (20% of the final grade); and 5) group presentation (20% of the final grade).

Numerical scores will be converted to course grades according to the following scale: 93-100%=A; 90-92.99%=A-; 87-89.99%=B+; 83-86.99%=B; 80-82.99%=B-; 77-79.99%=C+; 73-76.99%=C; 70-72.99%=C-; 67-69.99%=D+; 63-66.99%=D; 60-62.99%=D-; 0-59,99%=E.


Class rules: 1) Class attendance is mandatory (attendance will be taken; since you cannot participate without being present, the participation grade will be affected by your absences. 2) You must purchase the textbook and download the Eres materials and bring them to class. You must bring the materials under discussion to our class every time we meet. They should be in front of you, and you should be able to use them in our class discussions. 3) You are responsible for reading the assignments on time and come to class prepared to discuss any part of the reading assignment. 4) You are encouraged to ask questions whenever you do not understand something. 5) It is your responsibility to take notes and review them for the exams. 6) All the evaluations (mid-term, final exam, class participation, formal presentation) are mandatory. If you fail to come the day in which they are assigned, you will get a “0” for that component of your grade. Only written medical documentation or excuses documented through authorized institutions such as the Undergraduate Dean’s office or the police department, will be accepted. Verbal justifications will not be enough to justify you absence to any of the components that comprises your final grade. 4) The acquisition and demonstration of good ethical standards is one of the goals at our university. Plagiarism and any other form of “cheating” are unacceptable and they will be reported to the corresponding university authorities. You are responsible for reading the undergraduate students’ manual online for greater familiarity with the university rules and regulations which also apply to our class.     



Characteristics of all General Education Courses


1. General Education courses offer introductions to the central topics of disciplines and interdisciplinary fields.

2. They offer explicit rather than tacit understandings of the procedures, practices, methodology and fundamental assumptions of disciplines and interdisciplinary fields.

3. They recognize multiple perspectives on the subject matter.

4. They emphasize active learning in an engaged environment that enables students to be producers as well as consumers of knowledge.

5. They promote critical inquiry into the assumptions, goals, and methods of various fields of academic study; they aim to develop the interpretive, analytic, and evaluative competencies characteristic of critical thinking.



Learning Objectives for General Education Humanities Courses


Humanities courses teach students to analyze and interpret texts, ideas, artifacts, and discourse systems, and the human values, traditions, and beliefs that they reflect.

1. Humanities courses enable students to demonstrate knowledge of the assumptions, methods of study, and theories of at least one of the disciplines within the humanities.

Depending on the discipline, humanities courses will enable students to demonstrate some or all of the following:

2. An understanding of the objects of study as expressions of the cultural contexts of the people who created them

3. An understanding of the continuing relevance of the objects of study to the present and to the world outside the university

4. An ability to employ the terms and understand the conventions particular to the discipline

5. An ability to analyze and assess the strengths and weaknesses of ideas and positions along with the reasons or arguments that can be given for and against them

6. An understanding of the nature of the texts, artifacts, ideas, or discourse of the discipline and of the assumptions that underlie this understanding, including those relating to issues of tradition and canon



Learning Objectives for General Education Regions Beyond Europe Courses


Courses in the General Education category of Regions Beyond Europe enable students to demonstrate

  1. knowledge of the distinctive features (e.g. history, institutions, economies, societies, cultures) of one region beyond Europe or European North America
  2. an understanding of the region from the perspective of its people(s)
  3. an ability to analyze and contextualize cultural and historical materials relevant to the region
  4. an ability to locate and identify distinctive geographical features of the region



Course Schedule

(Subject to Amendment)


8/26 – Introduction. Photo essay of a traditional “mom and pop”.

8/28 – Overview of the geography, diversity and history of China. 


9/2 – View the film, “ Shu: a Hidden Language of Woman in China.” Discussion on gender; minority and Han cultural differences and influences.


9/4 – Women in Chinese Antiquity (prehistory to the Qin dynasty)

Evidence of matrilineality (Images of Women: pp.22-23 Jiangyuan; pp.144-147 “King Kaoli of Chu had no sons”); women in mythology and history (pp.96-99 Gua; p.3 Lady Hao)


9/9 – Development of patriarchy (p.47 “The Speech at Mu”; p.66 The Analect; pp.49-60 The Record of Rites). Femme fatale and the dynastic cycle (pp.159-161).


9/11 – Women’s role and lives (p.131 sericulture; pp.6-22 The Book of Odes/Poetry;  pp.140-1 Stratagems of the Warring States; p.88, p.90 Discourses of the States).


9/16 – Women in Medieval China (the Han to the Five dynasties).

The yin and yang (pp.68-72; p.124). Women in the religious traditions (pp.191-4; pp.346-348; p.282; pp.291-3).


9/18 – Virtuous women (pp.150-5; pp.157-9; pp.177-88; pp.327-40; pp.438-9). Discussion: “The Princess of Suiyang and Scholar Tan” (pp.204-5)


9/23 – Power of the mother-in-law (pp.233-42). Famous women (pp.209-12; 421-3; 250-4).


9/25 – Quiz on the geography of East Asia.

Women in Pre-Modern China (the Song to the end of the Qing dynasty)

Footbinding; female chastity; female infanticide; concubinage; love for daughters (pp.432-434); talented women (pp.435-436).  

9/30 – NO CLASS


10/2 – Women in Chinese drama (ERes) and fiction: romantic beauties, virtuous ladies, femme fatales, ghosts (pp.204-5), spirits, shrews, romantics, martial women (pp.250-4; 205-6). Discussion of “Painted Skin” (ERes).


10/7 – Modern China: “Hands” (ERes).


10/9 – NO CLASS

10/14 – Modern China: Film - “Small Happiness”.


10/16   Midterm Exam


10/21 – Overview of the history of Japan. Antiquity: “The Shamaness Ruler” (ERes: Heroic With Grace, pp.3-39)


10/23 – “The Tales of Ise” (pp.67-75); “Kokinshu” (pp.78-9); “Kagero Nikki” (Gossamer Years; pp.97-9); “The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon” (pp.137-9)


10/28 – Continued.


10/30 – The Tale of Genji – film and novel. Yugao” (pp.106-136).


11/4 – Continued.


11/6 – “The Lady Who Loved Insects” (pp.170-6).


11/11 – Presentations


11/13 – Presentations


11/18 – Medieval Japan: “The Three Priests” (pp.322-31).


11/20 – Medieval Japan: Film -Onibaba.”


11/25 – Film: Continued. Discussion of film (see ERes for questions). Deadly women in Medieval Japanese drama.


11/27 – NO CLASS


12/2 – “What the Seasons Brought to the Almanac-Maker” (pp.335-53).


12/4 – Modern Japan: “The Smile of a Mountain Witch” (ERes).


FINAL EXAM:  Wednesday, Dec 17   10:30am-12:30am