Courses

CHIN 101(F)Basic Chinese

An introduction to Mandarin, the language with the largest number of native speakers in the world, which is the national language of China and Taiwan, and one of the official languages of Singapore. Course objectives are for the student to develop simple, practical conversational skills and acquire basic proficiency in reading and writing at about the 200-character level. The relationship between language and culture and the sociolinguistically appropriate use of language will be stressed throughout. Both audio and video materials will be employed extensively. [ more ]

CHIN 102(S)Basic Chinese

An introduction to Mandarin, the language with the largest number of native speakers in the world, which is the national language of China and Taiwan, and one of the official languages of Singapore. Course objectives are for the student to develop simple, practical conversational skills and acquire basic proficiency in reading and writing in both the simplified and the traditional script at about the 500-character level. The relationship between language and culture and the sociolinguistically appropriate use of language will be stressed throughout. Both audio and video materials will be employed extensively. [ more ]

CHIN 131Basic Cantonese

Last offered Spring 2017

An introduction to Standard Cantonese, a major regional language of southern China which is spoken by over 70 million people in Hong Kong, Macao, Guangdong, and Guangxi as well as by many overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, Hawaii, and North America. Due to the pervasive influence of Hong Kong as well as the economic transformation of Guangdong Province, the prestige of Cantonese within China has been rising steadily over the past few decades. Our focus in this course will be on developing basic listening and speaking skills, though some attention will also be paid to written Cantonese, including the special characters which have been used for centuries to write colloquial Cantonese and which have become even more widely used in Hong Kong since 1997. Since students will ordinarily possess prior proficiency in Mandarin, a closely related language, they should be able to attain in one semester approximately the same proficiency level that is attained in the first two semesters of Mandarin. [ more ]

CHIN 134 T(S)Leaving the World Behind: The Literature of Reclusion

Living in a time of political and social turmoil, Confucius told his followers: "When the realm has the Way, show yourself; when it lacks the way, hide." Reclusion here is a moral choice, justified by the ethical decline of the state. But it could also be a mortal necessity in a period in which government service was a distinctly hazardous pursuit. In other contexts becoming a hermit could instead be figured as aesthetic stance meant to preserve one's artistic integrity against the dominant claims of society. This course looks at the literature of reclusion---living a life of seclusion from society---in a range of different cultures and periods, from ancient China to contemporary America. With sources that include poems, essays, novels, and films, we will investigate a set of issues surrounding radical seclusion. What different forms does reclusion take? Can one be a hermit without being completely separated from society? What is the relationship between hermits and the state---to what extent does one depend on the other? What are the philosophical and moral implications of eremitism? Is separating oneself from human society an inherently immoral act? What is the relationship between reclusion and technology in the contemporary world? What is the nature of solitude and can it be experienced in a group (for example, in contemporary "intentional communities")? While most of our work will focus on textual analysis, there will be an experiential component to the course as well. Each student will design and implement their own experiment in (short-term) eremitism. [ more ]

CHIN 140Introduction to Traditional Chinese Literature

Last offered Fall 2017

With a written record stretching over 3000 years, China's literary cultures are some of the richest and most varied in human history. Their influence continues to be felt not only in modern China, but also throughout much of the world. This course examines the origins and development of the different literatures of China from their earliest stages up until the end of the imperial system in 1911. We will read texts ranging from the Analects of Confucius to the medieval poetry of the Tang dynasty, from Buddhist sutras to plays about prostitutes and singing girls. An invulnerable monkey god may make an appearance to sow chaos as well. He's difficult to pin down. Some important themes will include: the role of the individual versus that of the community, responses to catastrophe and disorder, the fantastic, the articulation of the self through literature, and ways of dealing with historical and literary legacies. All readings are in English translation. [ more ]

CHIN 152(S)Introduction to Taiwanese/Southern Min Language and Culture

This course, which includes a required, fully-funded two-week field trip to Taipei, Quemoy (Jinmen), and Xiamen over Spring Break, constitutes an introduction to Taiwanese, the majority language of Taiwan, which is essentially the same as the native language of Xiamen, China and environs. Different varieties of this language, which is also known as Amoy, Hokkien, Fukienese, and Southern Min are spoken by about 50 million people in Taiwan, southern Fujian, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Suppressed in Taiwan by the Japanese from 1895-1945 and by the KMT Chinese government from 1945 through the 1970s, Taiwanese--in both its spoken and written forms--has been experiencing a fascinating revival in recent decades. The most divergent of all the major Chinese "dialects," this language is of special linguistic interest because it has preserved a number of features of Old Chinese. Our focus will be on developing basic listening and speaking skills, though we will also study some of the special characters used to write Taiwanese. The relationship between language and culture and the sociolinguistically appropriate use of language will be stressed throughout. Since students in the course will ordinarily possess prior proficiency in Mandarin, a related language, we should be able to cover in one semester about as much as is covered in the first two semesters of Mandarin. Classes will include dialog performance, drills, communicative exercises, and oral reading and discussion of written Taiwanese. Required Spring Break field trip to Taiwan and China, funded by the Global Initiatives Fund. [ more ]

CHIN 201(F)Intermediate Chinese

These two courses are designed to consolidate the foundations built in Basic Chinese and continue developing students' skills in aural comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing. Upon completion of the courses, students should be able to speak Chinese with fluency on everyday topics, reach a literacy level of 1000 characters (approximately 1200 common words written in both traditional and simplified characters), read materials written in simple standard written Chinese, and produce both orally and in writing short compositions on everyday topics. Conducted in Mandarin. [ more ]

CHIN 202(S)Intermediate Chinese

These two courses are designed to consolidate the foundations built in Basic Chinese and continue developing students' skills in aural comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing. Upon completion of the courses, students should be able to speak Chinese with fluency on everyday topics, reach a literacy level of 1000 characters (approximately 1200 common words written in both traditional and simplified characters), read materials written in simple standard written Chinese, and produce both orally and in writing short compositions on everyday topics. Conducted in Mandarin. [ more ]

Taught by: Lu Kou

Catalog details

CHIN 214(F)Foundations of China

This course examines the foundational period of Chinese civilization, from the earliest evidence of human activity in the geographical region we now call China, through the end of the Han dynasty in the early third-century CE. This is the period that saw the creation and spread of the Chinese script (a writing system that would be the dominant one in East Asia for thousands of years), the teachings of Confucius (whose ideas continue to play a role in the lives of billions of people today), the construction of the Great Wall (which is not, as it turns out, visible from space), and the creation of the imperial bureaucratic system (that was, in essence, the progenitor of the modern bureaucratic state). We will proceed chronologically but focus on a set of thematic topics, including language and writing, religion and philosophy, art and architecture, politics and economics, and science and technology. While this course is entitled "Foundations of China," we will take a critical perspective on narratives, both Chinese and Western, that see Chinese history as an unbroken history of a single "civilization." [ more ]

CHIN 225(F)The Fantastic in Chinese Literature

From the famous human/butterfly metamorphosis in the Daoist text Zhuangzi to contemporary writer Liu Cixin's award-winning "Three Bodies Problem," the "fantastic" has always been part of Chinese literature that pushes the boundary of human imagination. Readers and writers create fantastic beasts (though not always know where to find them), pass down incredible tales, assign meanings to unexplainable phenomena, and reject--sometimes embrace--stories that could potentially subvert their established framework of knowledge. Meanwhile, the "fantastic" is also historically and culturally contingent. What one considers "fantastic" reveals as much about the things gazed upon as about the perceiving subject--his or her values, judgment, anxiety, identity, and cultural burden. Using "fantastic" literature as a critical lens, this course takes a thematic approach to the masterpieces of Chinese literature from the first millennium BCE up until twenty-first century China. We will read texts ranging from Buddhist miracle tales to the avant-garde novel about cannibalism, from medieval ghost stories to the creation of communist superheroes during the Cultural Revolution. The topics that we will explore include shifting human/non-human boundaries, representations of the foreign land (also the "underworld"), the aestheticization of female ghosts, utopia and dystopia, and the fantastic as social criticism and national allegory. All materials and discussions are in English. [ more ]

Taught by: Lu Kou

Catalog details

CHIN 226Chinese Film and Its Significant Others

Last offered Spring 2018

From the "wows" that the first short films invoked at a Shanghai teahouse in 1896 to the $527 million (or 3.4 billion RMB) grossed at the box-office by a 3D fantasy in 2016, Chinese films have struck a responsive chord among domestic and foreign audiences. In this survey course, we will explore the evolving relationships between Chinese films and five "significant others" that are central to film and film-making. Roughly following a chronological order, this course will examine 1) the effect of new technological developments (such as photography, sound, color, special FX) on film; 2) the tension between film and traditional modes of public entertainment (such as operas and shadow plays); 3) film's social role to affirm and contest gender, national, and class identities; 4) the need to garner differing sources of financial support (state funding, cultural entrepreneurs, and transnational capital); and 5) the circulation of Chinese films in the global market. Class materials include various genre films (melodrama, horror, martial arts, comedy, etc.), directors' notes, contemporary reviews, and scholarship in China and media studies. All materials and discussions are in English. [ more ]

CHIN 227Made in China or Making "China"?: Twentieth-Century Chinese Performative Culture

Last offered Spring 2017

This course explores the ways in which twentieth-century Chinese performative culture fashioned our contemporary understanding of "China." Starting with Chinese hybrid theatres staged in the US, Japan, and semicolonial Shanghai in the early 1900s and ending with the 2008 Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremonies, this course examines performative works drawn from the breadth of an expanded 20th century; including film, spoken drama, intercultural reproductions of Peking and Kun Operas, revolutionary and avant-garde theatre, Chinese Rock concerts, and global mass mediated performances. Emphasis will be placed on how performances (encompassing the performance onstage and the performance-making backstage) placed "China" on the global stage; and shaped racial, gender, and national identities among play-makers and audiences. We will also explore how Chinese operas were reinvented as "traditional culture" and a "national essence" in the early 20th century; and how agents of Chinese performance, as makers of imaginary worlds, serve as both assets and threats to real-life arbiters of power. The class will be structured around the themes of "Inventing Tradition on the World Stage," "Acting the Right Part," and "Performing the Nation." Students will learn to engage performances as cultural texts embedded in national and global histories. By gaining knowledge about major playwrights, directors, artists, networks, and ideas, students will also become fluent in the landscape of performance culture in China. All class materials and discussions are in English. [ more ]

CHIN 237 TPresent Past: The Politics of Memory in Contemporary Chinese Literatures and Films

Last offered Fall 2017

What happens when memories, already slippery, are further massaged by literary and cinematic narrative strategies? How is the historical "past" remembered, forgotten, and subverted in a literary "presence"? This tutorial explores the politics of memory in contemporary literatures and films from the People's Republic of China (post-socialist era, 1978), Taiwan (post-martial law, 1987), and Hong Kong (postcolonial era, 1997). We will look at how literary and cinematic works in each of these "post" societies represent state-sponsored narratives of remembrance, dissidents' collective amnesia, and at the popular level, a playful yet cynical flirtation with politics. With close- and distant- readings of textualized and visualized memories, we will examine themes of nation and locality, public and private, amnesia and nostalgia, and home and diaspora in the PRC, Taiwan, and Hong Kong from the late 1980s until to today. Course readings include "root-seeking", "new realist", "avant-garde" and "hooligan" novels, examples from the Taiwanese small theater movement, and the transnational cinemas made by the fifth, sixth, and second new wave filmmakers from these three "post" societies. [ more ]

CHIN 252Bridging Theory and Practice: Learning and Teaching Chinese as a Second Language

Last offered Fall 2017

This course introduces students to the principles of second language acquisition (SLA), a field of study that investigates how people learn a foreign language and provides a basis for understanding research related to foreign language learning and teaching. Theoretical issues to be covered include what it means to know a language, how one becomes proficient in a foreign language, factors that affect the learning process, and the role of one's native language. We will also examine what SLA research has discovered about teaching grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, and writing. The goal is to explore ways in which SLA theories can be applied to facilitate acquisition of Chinese in terms of learning strategies and curriculum design. This course will be useful to both students who want to improve their own learning of Chinese and those who plan to teach or conduct research on Chinese. All readings in English with some examples in Chinese. [ more ]

CHIN 253"Disease" in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

Last offered Fall 2016

From early modern anxieties about China's status as the "sick man of Asia" to contemporary concerns regarding the prospect of transnational pandemics, "diseases" and their related stories have played a critical role in making and contesting individual psychologies and Chinese modernity in the 20th and 21st centuries. Actual diseases, from tuberculosis to AIDS, constitute not only social realities that trouble political and popular minds in their own right; but further provide powerful metaphors for exploring issues of human rights, national identity, and transnational circulation. This course examines how Chinese literature in the 20th and 21st centuries writes and visualizes "disease"--a universal human experience that is nevertheless heavily bounded by culture and history. Specifically, we examine the cultural and social meaning of "disease"; the relationship between diseases on the one hand, and the politics of body, gender, and class on the other; we ask how infectious (sexual) disease, and mental illness are defined, represented, and understood in both male and female writers' analytical essays and fictional writings in the 20th century; we examine how metaphorical "diseases," such as infectious cannibalism and fin-de-siècle "virus," are imagined and interpreted by key culture figures ranging from the founding father of modern literature (Lu Xun), to the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature (Mo Yan), to the "Second New Wave" film director of Taiwanese Cinema (Tsai Ming-liang); and we explore how Freud's psychoanalysis and post-Freudian psychotherapy are "practiced" in literature circulated in both print and internet cultures. Throughout the course, we will focus on the interplay between literature canons (fictions, essays, and dramas) and popular media and genres: blockbuster cinemas and art house films, popular novels, photographs and posters, etc. [ more ]

CHIN 272The History and Mythology of Chinese Scripts

Last offered Spring 2018

Written scripts using what are most often called "Chinese characters" have an attested history of over 3000 years and have been used all over the world to represent a range of different languages. In this course we will examine the history and development of Chinese characters from their earliest extant examples on sacrificial animal bones to their often amusingly misguided use for contemporary tattoos. We will look at historical evidence and mythology, carefully constructed grammatological studies and wild orientalist imaginings. Some topics will include: comparisons between the development of Chinese characters and other written scripts, the relationship between Chinese characters and the languages of China, the use of Chinese characters to write non-Chinese languages, Chinese characters in art and calligraphy, theories of connections between Chinese characters and Chinese philosophy and literature, issues of education and literacy, and the future of Chinese characters in the digital age. [ more ]

CHIN 301(F)Upper-Intermediate Chinese

The goal of this course is to continue developing students' overall language proficiency. However, special emphasis will be on strengthening students' reading and writing proficiency in standard written Chinese, the grammar and vocabulary of which differ considerably from colloquial Chinese introduced during the first two years of instruction. Conducted in Mandarin. [ more ]

CHIN 302(S)Upper-Intermediate Chinese

The goal of this course is to continue developing students' overall language proficiency. However, special emphasis will be on strengthening students' reading and writing proficiency in standard written Chinese, the grammar and vocabulary of which differ considerably from colloquial Chinese introduced during the first two years of instruction. Conducted in Mandarin. [ more ]

CHIN 312(S)Introduction to Classical Chinese

This course is an introduction to the grammar and basic vocabulary of Classical Chinese, the standard written language of China from around the seventh century BCE through the 1920s (and for many centuries an important written language in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam as well). Aspects of Classical Chinese continue to play a role in both written (e.g., in newspaper, academic, and legal writing) and in spoken (e.g., proverbs and aphorisms) modern Chinese. Our work in this course will be based on reading, translating, and discussing philosophical, political, literary, and historical anecdotes from the Spring and Autumn (770-481 BCE) through the Han (206 BCE-220 CE) periods, as they served as the foundation for the language. We will conduct discussions of grammatical and philological issues primarily in English and most of our translation work will be from Classical Chinese into English. We will, however, frequently discuss the points of intersection between Classical and Modern Chinese. Students are required to have completed CHIN 202 or the equivalent. Students who have extensive reading knowledge of Chinese characters through other languages (such as Japanese) may also take this course with the instructor's permission. [ more ]

CHIN 401(F)Advanced Chinese

This course is designed to enhance the Chinese language proficiency of students who are already at relatively advanced levels. A wide assortment of materials is used including (for speaking/comprehension) audiotapes, videotapes, and films featuring Chinese speakers from various segments of society; and (for reading) newspaper and magazine articles dealing with Chinese politics and economics as well as selections from modern Chinese literature. Conducted in Mandarin. [ more ]

Taught by: Lu Kou

Catalog details

CHIN 402(S)Advanced Chinese

This course is designed to enhance the Chinese language proficiency of students who are already at relatively advanced levels. A wide assortment of materials is used including (for speaking/comprehension) audiotapes, videotapes, and films featuring Chinese speakers from various segments of society; and (for reading) newspaper and magazine articles dealing with Chinese politics and economics as well as selections from modern Chinese literature. Conducted in Mandarin. [ more ]

CHIN 413Intermediate Classical Chinese: Ideas of Authority in Classical Chinese Literature

Last offered Spring 2018

This course builds on the foundation established in Introduction to Classical Chinese (CHIN 412) by examining longer and more complicated texts from the Warring States (403-221 BCE) and Han (206 BCE-220 CE) periods. While our focus will be on careful linguistic analysis and translation, we will also discuss these texts in terms of their philosophical ideas, rhetorical methods, and cultural and historical contexts. The works we will read include some of the foundational texts of Chinese philosophical and political thought, including the Confucian Analects, the Mencius, and the Zhuangzi. While this course is a continuation of Chinese 312, students with prior work in Classical Chinese (through study abroad, attending high school in a Chinese speaking region, etc.) are welcome as well. [ more ]

CHIN 420(S)Masterpieces in Modern Chinese Literature

"To modernize the Chinese people, it has to start from the modernization of the genre 'novel'." Liang Qichao, the famous Chinese intellectual in the early twentieth century, envisioned a collapsing China to be salvaged by, first, its modernized literature. Indeed, throughout China's long century of struggle, exploration, and transformation, literature has been playing a crucial role in negotiating (the consequence of) modernity, fueling revolution, investigating human interiority, constructing national identity, and coping with trauma and diaspora. This course introduces students to the masterpieces in modern Chinese literature and their representations of critical events in twentieth-century Chinese history. We will read novels, poems, prose pieces, and plays, and pay close attention to the language and literary devices that the authors use for storytelling, characterization, and self-representation. The class is organized by themes, such as, for example, modernity, revolution, diaspora, root-seeking, trauma, science fiction and so on. Through class discussions, writing assignments, and oral presentation on the final project, this course will further develop students' language proficiency, especially reading ability and effective communication in a formal setting. This course also trains students to be a critical reader who will be able to not only analyze the key moments and literary masterworks of modern China but also reflect on the complexity of Chinese culture vis-à-vis its tradition and the global context. The class will meet in one large group meeting once a week and the second meeting will be in smaller groups. The course is conducted in Mandarin. [ more ]

Taught by: Lu Kou

Catalog details

CHIN 422 TOld Shanghai, New Shanghai

Last offered Spring 2018

Once nicknamed as "Paris of the East," Shanghai, now a megacity with a population of 25 million, is the industrial, commercial and financial center of contemporary China. Shanghai is often depicted as a metropolis that marked the beginning of China's modernity and urban culture. People from other regions in China see Shanghai as a city full of opportunities, but characterize its people as astute and shrewd, cocky and unwelcoming. Foreigners, however, find the city appealing and its people open-minded. Jews fleeing Nazi persecutions during WWII, found Shanghai to be a "paradise of ghetto" that provided the only haven of survival. For local people, there have always been two Shanghai: an old one and a new one. They are proud of the new Shanghai but constantly nostalgic about the old one. This tutorial examines the multifaceted city of Shanghai and its people from historical and cultural perspectives. We will look at the city's history (from the late nineteenth century to present day), its local language and culture, and everyday life of the people (including migrants and foreigners) living in it. The central ideas we will explore are "modernity" and "regional identity." We will investigate how these theoretical constructs play out in the making of the city of Shanghai and the formation of its unique local identity. Course readings include historical and cultural studies as well as documentaries in English about Shanghai, and primary sources in Chinese in a wide range of genres including fiction, essays, and films (English translation of the primary sources are available for students taking the course in English). The course is conducted in either Chinese or English. Students wishing to take the course in English should register under ASST 122T and students wishing to take the course in Chinese should register under CHIN 422T. Students will come away with a critical understanding about China's regional cultures and one of its most important metropolitan cities. Chinese language learners will be able to improve their reading and writing skills in Chinese through this course. The course has a required field trip to a Chinese restaurant on a Saturday or Sunday, depending on all students' schedules. [ more ]

CHIN 425(F)Becoming Taiwan: Social, Cultural, and Economic Discourses of Modern Day Taiwan

A small island in East Asia and home to 23 million people, Taiwan is the largest economy that is not a member of the United Nations. From 1949, when the Nationalist Party (KMT) retreated to Taiwan after the Chinese Civil War, to becoming one of the Four Asian Tigers in the latter half of the 20th century, Taiwan has developed into a multifaceted society through an array of social/cultural/economic changes associated with industrialization, globalization and identity formation. In this course, we will examine some of the signal examples of these experiences that define the Taiwan society that it is today through literary works and films, as well as journalistic and academic articles. By way of group discussions and individual projects, students will acquire domain-specific vocabulary and develop abilities to analyze and discuss in Mandarin complex ideas related to the aforementioned issues. Using a semi-tutorial format and collaborating with a graduate program in Chinese pedagogy in Taiwan, this course is designed to provide opportunities for Williams students to engage in direct conversation with a language partner on course assignments and for the MA students in Taiwan to gain practical training in helping non-native speakers of Mandarin Chinese develop linguistic proficiency at the levels of Advanced Low to the Advanced Mid based on the ACTFL proficiency guidelines. [ more ]

CHIN 431Introduction to Chinese Linguistics

Last offered Spring 2017

Is Chinese--whose nouns "lack" number and whose verbs have no tense--a monosyllabic, "primitive" language? Are the Chinese characters a system of logical symbols or "ideographs," which indicate meaning directly without regard to sound? Could (and should) the characters be done away with and alphabetized? Are Cantonese, Hakka, and Taiwanese dialects or languages? And what is the relationship between Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese? These are some of the questions we will be taking up in this one-semester introduction to the scientific study of the Chinese language. Topics to be covered include: the phonological, syntactical, and lexical structure of Modern Standard Chinese; the Chinese writing system; the modern Chinese dialects; the history of the Chinese language; sociolinguistic aspects of Chinese; and language and politics in various Chinese-speaking societies. Readings in English and Chinese, with class discussion in Mandarin [ more ]

CHIN 497(F)Independent Study: Chinese

For students who have completed Chinese 402 and Chinese 412 or equivalent. Interested students must contact the Coordinator of the Chinese Program one semester in advance and present a proposal to the Coordinator or the professor with whom they wish to study during pre-registration week. [ more ]

CHIN 498(S)Independent Study: Chinese

For students who have completed Chinese 402 and Chinese 412 or equivalent. Interested students must contact the Coordinator of the Chinese Program one semester in advance and present a proposal to the Coordinator or the professor with whom they wish to study during pre-registration week. [ more ]