Expanded descriptions of Winter 2018 courses


Richard Bodman: China Inside Out

Session #1: Orientations

Reading assignment: Part I in China Inside Out, pp. 2-46. “Yellow River Blues” discusses the economic and environmental issues of China in the late 1980s.

“China vs. the World” presents statistics revealing how China compared with its Asian neighbors, the U.S. and Russia in 2003. “The Chinese Language” introduces the Chinese spoken and written languages and explains why Chinese characters could not be easily replaced by a phonetic script.

In class: Introductions, Chinese geography; illustrated presentation on U.S. and Chinese views of each other as seen in popular art from 1949 to the present.


Session #2: The Confucian Way

Reading assignment: Part II in China Inside Out, pp. 48-96.

This section begins with excerpts from two Confucian classics, The Analects and The Great Learning, both commented by the instructor, in an attempt to use internal evidence and key terms to arrive at the original meaning. In “Confucian Concepts” the instructor examines six Confucian terms: the gentleman, the ruler, filial piety, ritual, power, and benevolence. The next items attempt to discover what Confucianism meant in the minds of China’s common people. We read a folktale about the sage hero Shun, noted for his filial piety, and an article of commentary, followed by excerpts from two texts for schoolchildren and finally a Maoist critique of Confucius from the 1970s.

In class: Confucianism and its critics; Chinese education. Illustrations from The Twenty Four Exemplars of Filial Piety.


Session #3: Poems and Gardens

Reading assignment: Part III in China Inside Out, pp. 98-152.

“Quotations from Taoist Writers” presents the images of water, the valley, and the gnarled tree. “Selections from Chinese poetry” provides translations of classical verse from the Tang and Song dynasties. “How to Eat A Chinese Poem” analyzes a single poem by poet Tao Qian, explaining why poems are to be enjoyed for their flavor, but not for a message. “A Note on Regulated Verse” describes stylistic characteristics of parallelism and contrast. “The Mountain in Chinese Literary Art” by French sinologist Paul Demiéville presents the image of the mountain in Chinese literary history, which helps us understand in turn the symbolism of mountains and streams, and thus how garden designers condensed the universe into rockeries and pools. A Chinese author’s 1936 essay on gardens presents several aesthetic principles as well as contrasts with European gardens. William Chambers’ essay from 1765 is the first extended description of a Chinese garden in the English language and one that influenced the European fad for chinoiserie in 18th and 19th century gardens.

In class: The Chinese view of nature. Slides of Chinese gardens. Samples of Chinese painting and calligraphy.


Optional Saturday: Chinese Art

Morning visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Chinese section, with lunch afterwards, either in museum café or nearby Chinese restaurant. Share rides up, meet with instructor at the museum entrance at opening time.


Session #4: Village Life

Reading assignment: Part IV in China Inside Out, pp. 154-186. This section includes personal accounts about village life and superstition, as well as examples of folk literature that lack the Confucian taboos about sex. In the first reading, the author recalls a “ghost wedding” between a drowned girl and her fiancé that he witnessed in 1945 in rural Guangxi province. “Dancing with Ghosts,” by Hongyuan Lang, is the instructor’s wife’s memoir of a year spent in a Shanxi village in 1957 and includes accounts of spirit possession. “The Weasel Story” from China’s northeast, recorded by a grad student in 2007, tells a Halloween tale of spirit possession and murder. “What Confucius Did Not Speak About” contains two accounts of superstition composed by Qinghua students in 1919. “Mountain Songs” and “Widow Wang Scolds Her Chickens” present two examples of folk literature with bawdy humor. The section concludes with lecture notes on “Chinese family and village” and “Chinese Popular Values as Expressed in Folk Art.”

In class: Slides of village life, and slide lecture on folk art.


Session #5: The Mao Era

Reading assignment: Part V in China Inside Out, pp. 188-216. Two sides of Mao’s creativity are presented by selections from his famous Quotations and from his poetry, both commented by the instructor. The cult of Mao is represented by a song entitled “Long Life, Chairman Mao” and by excerpts from The Diary of Lei Feng, a worker who posthumously became an icon of loyal devotion to the Chairman.

In class: photos and pictures of Mao; political poster art.


Session #6: Memoirs and Reflections

Reading Assignment: Part VI in China Inside Out, pp.218-345. This long section commences with three translations from modern authors: a memoir of prison camp life during the anti-rightist movement of the late fifties; an example of reportage literature telling the story of two dissidents during the Cultural Revolution; and a comedy with a female protagonist set in the era of Deng Xiaoping. These are followed by three essays by the instructor: “Prelude to Tian’anmen” examines the causes of the student democracy movement in 1989. “Chinese Political Culture” briefly introduces key concepts and theorems underlying political behavior. “Human Rights in China” summarizes the situation as of 1996.

In class: Chinese political culture, internal critiques of the system, and the ways in which dissent is expressed. Examples of paintings from recent decades which reflect social issues.


Session #7: A Chinese Film

No reading assignment.

In class: A contemporary Chinese film, such as “Shower.”


Session #8: New Voices

Reading Assignment: Part VIII in China Inside Out, pp. 348-403. This section consists of essays by Chinese graduate students in the author’s English composition class in the fall of 2007, in three categories: autobiographical essays, essays on a contemporary public issue; and brief essays on a range of subjects, including modern identity and values.

In class: discussion of the film and of Chinese student essays.

Session held at instructor’s apartment at Village on the Cannon.