All our destinations on this voyage have undergone profound and turbulent struggles during the twentieth century (and ongoing): nationalist movements against the domination of the West; internal religious, racial, political and economic conflicts, as traditional societies face the pressures of modernity; disillusion and ongoing further struggles. This course will focus on close attention to short fiction (and one film) from three of our destinations: China, India, and South Africa, with some initial attention to Japan and, at the end, North Africa. We will read and discuss writing that anticipates or looks back to the major struggles, and then consider later responses of both satisfaction and further troubles. By comparing similar patterns in the different societies and cultures, we will identify parallels, but also conspicuous differences. Some recurring questions will be: why does the turbulent past continue to preoccupy even the most contemporary writers? What traditional features of these cultures remain present in the literature, whether for critique or nostalgia? What forms of expression relate intimate personal experience to public events? What narrative forms seek to separate the private from the public? What challenges of literary interpretation arise for us as Western readers and travelers, removed from direct experience of the life represented in our reading, including in many cases, the original language?
Field ClassCountry: China
Day: 2 - Hong Kong - Sunday, 08 February
This Field Lab provides an opportunity to visit a liberal arts college and interact with students within the larger system of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Tentative plans for the visit include a group walk in the area of the college, which is at a distance and in an environment significantly different from the crowded business section of Hong Kong. Lunch with students (and possibly with some faculty) will provide a further occasion for students to socialize with their Chinese counterparts. A more formal discussion session after lunch will take up some more specific comparisons between the goals and experiences of undergraduate liberal arts education for this variety of students, including but not limited to the role of literature and other features of cultural activity in their formal and informal life as students. The recent protest of students in Hong Kong might end up figuring largely in this discussion. Academic Objectives: 1. An opportunity to experience firsthand the experience of contemporary Chinese youth in a situation comparable but also very different from SAS students in the United States. The role of liberal arts education in the two cultures will be a topic, as will the economic and political complications of student experience. 2. Students will be in a position to measure relationships between the reading of modern Chinese literature they have been doing on board with the reading experiences as well as the current other cultural experiences of this Asian student group. 3. The reflective writing students will do following the field experience will provide the challenge of articulating the relationship between their experiential learning and the analytic discussion of texts expected in other of the course assignments.