History of East Asian Writing Systems: W4410x (Fall 2004)

Mondays 4:10-6, Starr Library Kress Room

    A survey of writing systems in East Asia, ranging from the origins of writing in early China to contemporary issues of digitalization and electronic media.  Topics will include the evolution of character-based writing in China and other parts of the region; the development of the Japanese kana scripts,  the Vietnamese chu nom system, and the Korean alphabet; ideologies of writing and their connections to state formation; relations between orality and literacy; premodern manuscript cultures; the rise of printing and its social and cultural impact; East Asian responses to the western alphabet and European images of East Asian writing; script reform and the modern nation-state; writing and aesthetics; and more.  An advanced undergraduate seminar; should graduate students be interested in taking the class, provisions will be made for additional written work.  (All readings for the course will be in English.)


Some experience reading and writing a modern East Asian script is strongly preferred, as is at least one of following courses: Introduction to East Asian Civilization (China, Korea, or Japan; V2359, V2363, V2361) or Colloquium on Major Texts: East Asia (V3400).  Permission of the instructor is required to register.

For a copy of the syllabus click here.


Introduction to Kanbun: W4019x (Fall 2004)

Mondays and Wednesdays 11-12:15, Starr Library Kress Room

    The purpose of this class is to build proficiency in reading the variety of classical Japanese written styles that are subsumed under the broad term kanbun [].  More specifically, it aims at fostering familiarity with kundoku [P], which is a collection of techniques for reading and writing classical Japanese in texts largely or entirely composed of Chinese characters.  Because it is impossible to achieve fluent reading ability using these techniques in a mere semester, this class is intended as an introduction.  Students will be expected to gain familiarity with a toolbox of reading strategies as they are exposed to the basic variety of premodern written styles and genres; this will lay the groundwork for more thorough competency in specific areas that are relevant to their individual research.

    This is not a class in Classical Chinese: those who desire facility in Chinese classical texts are urged to study Classical Chinese itself.  (On the other hand, some prior familiarity with Chinese will make much of this class easier).  The pre-requisite for this class is Introduction to Classical Japanese (W4007x); because our focus is the use of Classical Japanese as a tool to understand character-based texts, it is assumed that students will already be comfortable with basic Classical Japanese grammar.  Students with concerns about their competence should discuss them with me immediately.

Goals of the course

  1. Acquire basic familiarity with kundoku techniques of reading, with a particular focus on the classes of special characters (unread characters, twice-read characters, negations, etc.) that form the bulk of traditional Japanese kanbun pedagogy.
  2. Gain facility in the use of Classical Chinese-Japanese dictionaries (kanwa jiten aT) and other basic reference materials, and understand how to apply the skills learned in this course to more extensive readings in literary or historical sources.
For a copy of the syllabus click here


Page created 20 April 2004; revised 17 November 2004