Summer 2009

HUMS 647
"Crane Music:" Chinese Poetry and the Art of Writing


06/29/2009 - 07/16/2009
Monday-Thursday 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM

Freeman East Asian Studies Lib

This seminar is for poets and writers, as well as non-poets 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 translations and renditions crafted in a language filled with the verve of common English.

Readings in this seminar include little-known texts such as the Wen Fu (Art of Writing) written in the 3rd century by Lu Zhi (and translated masterfully by Sam Hamill) as well as more famous renditions from the Chinese, such as Ezra Pound's Confucian Odes. Students will be exposed to critical studies of Chinese aesthetics, including Ernest Fenelossa's "The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry," Stephen Owen's Omen of the World: Traditional Chinese Poetry and Poetics, Stephen Soong's A Brotherhood in Song: Chinese Poetry and Poetics and Arthur Sze's The Silk Dragon: Translations from the Chinese.

Students will have ample opportunity to practice the craft of poetry through daily assignments centering on renditions from the original Chinese. The instructor will familiarize students with subtleties of expression possible only in an ideographically anchored language. Visual imagination will further be stimulated by explorations of key works of art and calligraphy that have been traditionally connected to the art of poetry--crane music--in traditional China.

Poets in the class will write one poem/rendition each day; non poets will write an essay of 2-3 pages twice a week. Poets will put together a corpus of poems (renditions and their own original work) by the end of the semester. Non-poets will complete a 10-page research essay on a topic of their choice in consultation with the professor. The culminating project of this three week course will be a public poetry reading hosted 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 tea ceremony may be part of this unique experience.

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.

Course tuition: $2022

Enrollment is limited to 15 students. This course is not open to auditors.

For the first class meeting, students should have read the following: 1) Owen, Traditional Chinese Poetry and Poetics, PP. 3-13 (available at the Science Library Reserve); 2) V. Schwarcz, Brief Rest in the Garden of Flourishing Grace PP. 1-38 (available at Broad Street Books)

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus

Vera Schwarcz (BA Vassar College; MA Yale University; PhD Stanford University) is professor of history, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, and founding director of the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies. She is author of more than 50 articles and seven books, most recently, In the Garden of Memory, (March Street Press, 2004), and Singing Crane Garden: Art and Atrocity in One Corner of China (forthcoming from University of Pennsylvania Press).


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 15

Texts to purchase for this course:
Liu, A THOUSAND PEAKS (China Books), Paperback

Lu Chi, THE ART OF WRITING: LU CHI'S WEN FU (Milkweed Editions), Paperback, Translated by Sam Hamill

Arthur Sze, SILK DRAGON (Copper Canyon Press), Paperback

Weinberger and Paz, NINETEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT WANG WEI (Moyer Bell)


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