HUMS 647
"Crane Music:" Chinese Culture, Poetry, and Cross-Cultural Understanding

Vera Schwarcz           

Course Description

This seminar is for poets, writers as well as for teachers and students who seek a creative path to understanding other cultures. The focus will be on the buried treasures of classical Chinese aesthetics and how we can make them come alive through the translations, renditions crafted in a language filled with the verve of  common English. No previous familiarity with Chinese language or history is required-- just a mind open to rigorous exploration of texts and ideas that enhance the craft of poetry and the art of cross cultural communication. The focus of our reading and writing will not on formal issue of translation. Rather the goal is to experience how another culture and another language gives voice to universal ideas and emotions. The more we grapple with the specificity of cultural expression in a tongue other than our own, the more versatile the tools we gain for rethinking the craft of writing, and indeed the art of living.

Writing Requirements

Each day of the course, students will:

1) e-mail instructor (copies to all students in the class) specific questions/concerns about the historical and linguistic context of the poetry to be discussed the following day. This should be no longer than a page.  A couple of focused paragraphs that show you have done the reading suffice! These will be used for me to open up with 15-20 lecture about the background for the readings. 

2) bring to class each day a poem: this could be a rendition from the Chinese, a poetic reaction to the readings or an original work. Please keep it relatively brief, so these poems may be revised for final project which will be a public reading on July 13--when we are hosting a reading of student poems in  the gracious setting of  the "Zhi Xue Tang" (Hall for Setting One's Heart on Wisdom)-- known also as the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies at Wesleyan University. Classical zither music and a reading by a contemporary Chinese poet  will be part of this experience.

In preparing daily poems, students may use any of the books/ readings for the course, extra source books on Chinese poetry recommended by the instructor. You may find it useful to consult the following web sites as well:
--www.chinese-poems.com
--www.poetrysky.com
--www.zhongwen.com 

***Readings not in the bookstore, may be found in the packet and library reserve.**           

Enjoy playing with words and the rigors of stretching the tongue and the mind beyond the comfort zone!

Course Schedule
 

"WEN"-- CULTURE, LANGUAGE, CIVILIZATION 

Readings:
--S. Hamill, Lu Chi's Wen Fu: The Art of Writing, pp. 1-35
--Christopher  Moore, In Other Words, pp.10-19,82-89.

 

"ZHI YIN"--WORDS AND THE MUSIC OF THE MIND

Readings:
--S. Hamill, Wen Fu, pp. 36-57
-Ernest Fenelossa, "The Chinese Written Character as Medium for Poetry" (on reserve, you can also down load it)
--Carolyn Kizer, Carrying Over, pp. 7-36.

 

"ZHU SHI"-- BAMBOO, ROCK AND THE QUEST FOR MEANINGFUL SOUNDS

Readings:
--A Thousand Peaks, pp. 1-30
--Arthur Sze, The Silk Dragon, pp. 3-24
--David Hinton, The Mountain Poems of Meng  Haoran, ix-8.

 

"TIAN DI ZHI XIN"--MIND (POETRY) AS  BODY OF THE COSMOS

Readings:
--Stephen Owen, Traditional Chinese  Poetry and Poetics: Omen of the World, pp. 3-52

 

"QIAN LI MU"-- HOW NATURE EXTENDS THE POET'S EYE/ I

Readings:
--A Thousand Peaks, pp. 31-48
--The Silk Dragon, pp. 25-54

 

"DAO CHU"-- HOW POETS GIVE VOICE TO 'EVERYWHERE" 

Readings:
-- Owen, Omen to the World, pp.108-140
--Octavio Paz, Nineteen Ways to Look at Wang Wei, part I.

 

"FU SHENG"--HOW LANGUAGE REVIVES THE WORLD

Readings:
--Owen, Omen to the World, pp. 143-176
--Paz, Nineteen Ways, part II.

 

"SHI KE YI YUAN"--POETRY AS A VEHICLE FOR GRIEF

>Readings:
--S, Soong, A Brotherhood in Song: Chinese Poetry and Poetics, pp. 21- 40
--David Hinton, The Late Poems of Meng Chiao, pp. xi-10

 

"QIAN QIU HEN"-- POETRY AND HISTORICAL MEMORY

Readings:
--A Brotherhood of Song, pp. 371-382
--V. Schwarcz, "Circling the Void"pp. 32-66

 

"NA HAN"--THE BURDEN OF POETRY IN 20TH CENTURY CHINA

Readings:
--Lu Xun Selected Poems, pp.25-67
--C. Forche, Against  Forgetting, pp.752-762

 

"HUI YI WANG SHI"--THE THREAD OF CONNECTION TO PAST & PRESENT, HEAVEN & HELL

Readings:
--Fu Hao, Distance, pp.2-63
-- Yi Dan , Selected Poems of  Green Voice, pp.91-126

 

POETRY READING &  ZITHER MUSIC CENTER FOR EAST ASIAN STUDIES

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