EA 231 “The Chinese Novel”

The GardenWelcome to EA 231!  In this course we will read what has been called the greatest Chinese novel of all time–the Qing novel, The Story of the Stone (also called Dream of the Red Chamber, or Dream of Red Mansions) The author of this voluminous work of fiction, Cao Xueqin (1715?-1763), drew on the whole of the Chinese cultural tradition in an effort to tell his own story as well as those of his family and his society.  As we read the novel, we will look at the literary antecedents that influenced Cao, how he manipulated these forms as a means of characterization and self-expression, and the function of literature both within the novel and by extension within Chinese culture in general.  In this iteration of the course we will also explore how Cao similarly used descriptions of the scenes, settings, and objects within the world of the novel to add further layers of meaning to his story.  Our readings will be paired with class visits to the museum.  The format of the course will be lecture-discussion.  To encourage you to keep up with the reading (and thus be able to participate in discussion) almost every class session will begin with a five minute reading quiz.  There will be four short writing assignments during the course of the semester in lieu of a midterm and a final.  These assignments will provide you the tools to prepare you for a a research/analysis project that will result in a video essay.

Learning Goals:

  • Become familiar with the basic outlines of the history of Chinese literature, and learn the defining characteristics of the major literary genres of prose, poetry, drama and fiction, as we read representative works of these genres.
  • Acquire an understanding of Late Imperial Chinese culture and society through a reading of the novel Story of the Stone.
  • Reflect critically on the function of literature and visual art within both Chinese society and our own.
  • Learn to constructively share insights on literary works, visual art, and interactions between these two forms of creative expression.
  • Hone analytical skills through close readings of literary texts and objects of art.
  • Improve ability to construct a clear, coherent, and compelling written discussion, and an oral presentation for a general audience.

For the course schedule, reading assignments, the class forum and other downloadable resources, please see our course Moodle Site.

Required Texts:

David Hawkes & John Minford trans. The Story of the Stone Volumes 1-5.  London:  Penguin Press.

All of the above are available at the bookstore. 

Readings will also be assigned from:

Wu-chi Liu and Irving Lo ed.  Sunflower Splendor.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Y.W. Ma and Joseph Lau ed. Traditional Chinese Stories: Themes and Variations.  New York: Columbia University Press, 1978.

David Rolston, ed.  How to Read the Chinese Novel.   Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1990.

Paul S. Ropp ed.  Heritage of China:  Contemporary Perspectives on Chinese Civilization.  Berkeley:  University of California Press, 1990.

Tang Xianzu.  Peony Pavilion.  Cyril Birch, trans.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980.

Wang Shifu.  The Moon and the Zither: The Story of the Western Wing.  Stephen H. West, and Wilt Idema ed., and trans.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

All of the above are available on our course moodle page.

William H Nienhauser, ed.  The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature.  Bloomington:  Indiana University Press, 1986.

The above work is available in Miller Reference, call number Reference Z3108.L5 153 1986

Resources for Study of Story of the Stone

Student Video Essays