- To begin the East Asian Literature component, please read the Columbia Encyclopedia introduction to Chinese literature (NOT the Wikipedia selection) before proceeding to Lesson One.
- Complete Lesson One: Tang Dynasty Poetry (all readings and questions)
- Complete EITHER Lesson Two: Vernacular Narrative (all readings and questions) OR Lesson Three: Twentieth-Century Short Fiction (all readings and questions).
Please go to the Web sites below and read
After completing the readings, please answer the following two questions.
Each answer should range from 250-500 words (about two double-spaced pages in 12 pt. font). Please send your answers to email@example.com in an email or as an email attachment in a Word document. Please use the title of the unit you are reading as your email subject header.
1. Cultural crisis
The Madman's central realization (3rd section) is that Chinese society is cannibalistic; he learns this only after studying the classical texts. Although the Madman refers to incidents of actual cannibalism in China, his diary also develops an analogy between cannibalism and the social and political injustices of imperial China. In what way were individuals “consumed” by traditional Chinese society? How does Confucianism lend itself to repressive social and political practices? Is the madman himself cannibalized by the system? Describe some specific traditional Chinese practices that victimized and repressed people. For example, what was the position of women in Confucian society? What about the average farmer in the feudal Chinese society? What do you make of the report that the Madman has recovered and is waiting to take a job with the government?
2. Literary Revolution
“A Madman’s Diary” is written in two voices: the narrator begins the story by explaining how he came to have the diary and ends the story by telling us that the Madman has recovered and is awaiting an official job in the civil bureaucracy.
Although the English translation does not show the Chinese language difference, this part of “A Madman’s Diary” (the narrative frame) is written in formal classical (or literary) Chinese, whereas the diary itself, the voice of the Madman, is written in vernacular, the spoken language of ordinary Chinese people.
What importance is this use of language? Does it matter that the diary itself is written in informal colloquial language? What does the narrator's use of classical language suggest about him? And why is it important that the narrator frames the story of the Madman? (You may wish to review the introduction to Chinese literature).