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HL309 Comparative Literature
August 2011 semester

Description
The module will examine the binary categories ‘modern’/‘traditional’ (and/or the ‘primitive’) as they appear in modernising societies. First, we look at representative literature from (what was until recently known as) Great Britain. The question is: why did the world’s homeland of the Industrial Revolution have a fascination with adventure, feats of derring-do and the primitive? We look at a young reader’s Victorian adventure novel, the long-enduring The Coral Island, and the later short stories of Rudyard Kipling (the ‘Bard’ of Empire), and examine the (contradictory?) lure of the primitive, even as British modernity is taken for granted. Second, the module will proceed to examine some major Chinese and Japanese writers and intellectuals (and an Indian poet and critics, the Nobel Prize-winning Rabindranath Tagore) and see how northeast Asian culture was broadly affected by their sense of Western modern superiority in technology, political organisation and literary (and other forms of creative) culture. Both China and Japan, the major countries in East-Southeast Asia, were never colonised, but they were intimidated by the presence of the Great Western Powers (and their colonies) in the region. Japan after the Meiji Restoration (1868) became the first modern Asian nation-state, and their attempts at intensive (and disruptive) modernisation of their culture had a profound impact on the whole region – and this desire to be modern also meant that Japan itself became a colonising state, following the British, French and German states. This module attempts, therefore, a comparative examination of the ambiguities and contradictions in the process of becoming modern both in the colonial centre (Great Britain) and in northeast Asia, and an understanding of the new forms of literature that resulted in that latter region.

Texts
The readings are a combination of mainly fiction and some non-fiction material. The books have been ordered and should be available later in the bookshop. Some of the material will be made available as PDF texts closer to the start of the new semester. (See below, under ‘Readings’.)

Class Requirements * One (1) class presentation, possibly in groups, depending upon enrolment size. (10%; the presentations should be based upon the reading(s)). There should be a concise summary of the author’s main argument (or some sort of general thematic and/or aesthetic or analysis of the material) first, and students are encouraged to bring their own interests for the rest of the presentation. Expressing critical opinions of the readings/production is important, as critical evaluative skills are vitally important – of course there must be evidence for the position taken). Between 15 mins. (for a single presenter) to 20-25 mins. (for a group presentation). Do pls be prepared to do group presentations if the seminar size is fairly large. Do try to stay within the time limit. * A preliminary proposal for the final essay – up to 300 words. (5%) * A final essay of between 1,500-1,700 words. (35%) * A final exam. (50%) The exam: a) will be a closed-book exam; b) students will have to answer three (3) questions in 2 ½ hours; c) there will be no compulsory questions; d) there will be a choice of questions – i.e., more than 3 questions will be offered; e) the questions will be both comparative and on single works; & f) there should be no repetition of writers: an author used for one question cannot be used for another.

Readings * Selection of Rudyard Kipling short stories from The Day’s Work (1898) and Plain Tales from the Hills (1888; 1890) ++ * R. M. Ballantyne, The Coral Island (New York: Adamant Media Corp./Elibron Classics, 2000). ** * Selections from Kakuzo Okakura, The Awakening of Japan [non-fiction] (1904; New York: Adamant Media Corp./Elibron Classics, 2001). ** * Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Nationalism in Japan’ (1917), in Rabindranath Tagore, Nationalism [non-fiction] (London: Penguin, 2010) ++ * Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro, ed. Meredith McKinney (1914; London: Penguin, 2010) ** * Selection of short stories from Lu Xun, The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun, trans. Julia Lovell (London: Penguin, 2009) ** * Selections of novellas and a short story from Eileen Chang, Love in a Fallen City (London: Penguin, 2007) **
Key
** Will be available for purchase in the bookshop
++ Will be available for copying from the library copy of the book or as a PDF file

Select Secondary Reading (will be expanded) * James L. Huffman, Japan and Imperialism (An Arbor, Mich.: Association for Asian Studies, 2010). DS882.6 H889 * ‘What is Modernity? (The Case of Japan and China)’, ‘Overcoming Modernity’ and ‘Asia as Method’, from Takeuchi Yoshimi, What is Modernity: Writings of Takeuchi Yoshimi, ed. and trans. Richard F. Calichman (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005). (Book on order.)

Schedule, Readings, Topics

MEETING ONE: 11 August
Introduction

MEETING TWO: 18 August
Ballantyne, Coral Island
The lure of the purer world of nature in the unspoilt (uncivilised and undomesticated) South Seas – room for boys to become men – the reproduction of the a civilised way of life in the frontier – the value of male bonding

MEETING THREE: 25 August
Ballantyne, Coral Island, cont’d; and Kipling, Plain Tales from the Hills
The British and the confrontation between the primitive and the modern – the dangerous lure of the ‘other’, racially and sexually

MEETING FOUR: 1 September
Kipling, Plain Tales from the Hills (cont’d); and The Day’s Work
Masculinity and the ‘other’ – on becoming like the natives – colonial kingship and intimate (and dangerous) knowledge of natives

MEETING FIVE: 8 September
Okakura, Awakening of Japan
Why is the West more modern than the East? – what happened to the history of progress in Asia? – what is the value of traditional Japanese culture? – modernising Japan

MEETING SIX: 15 September
Okakura, Awakening of Japan, cont’d; and Tagore, ‘Nationalism in Japan’
Nationalism in Japan and the pride in being modernised – Japanese nationalism and the (problematic) link to a pan-Asian civilisation

MEETING SEVEN: 22 September
Soseki, Kokoro (心 or in hiragana こころ)
Changing values in Meiji-era Japan – the idea of the individual and the self – the changing roles of inter-generational values and women – the cost of weakness and individual identity – the mystery in one’s heart of motives and identity

RECESS WEEK: 26-30 September

MEETING EIGHT: 6 Oct – No class meeting: away at a conference

MEETING NINE: 13 Oct
Soseki, Kokoro, cont’d

MEETING TEN: 20 Oct
Lu Xun, selection from Real Story of Ah-Q
The problems of ‘backward’ Chinese culture and norms – feudalism, and the ignorance and exploitation of the masses – the impact (or otherwise) of the 1911 Revolution and capitalist modernity – the need for Enlightenment of the people and the role of the writer of a modernised Chinese literature

MEETING ELEVEN: 27 Oct
Lu Xun, real Story of Ah-Q, cont’d

MEETING TWELVE: 3 Nov
Chang, selection from Love in a Fallen City
The pain of a society in transition – love and women’s roles – the freedom of the modern – Shanghai and Hong Kong as modern urban spaces

MEETING THIRTEEN: 10 Nov
Chang, selection from Love in a Fallen City, cont’d
Review and conclusion

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