This course explores the historical development of East Asia, focusing primarily on China and Japan, but also including some consideration of Korea, Vietnam, and U.S. interactions with East Asia. Over the fall semester, we will explore the philosophical, religious, social, political and economic foundations of East Asian civilization from a historical perspective and through literature and art, covering the broad period from the Bronze Age to the eighteenth century. Our approach will challenge the “West and the Rest” Eurocentric narrative by exploring the economic and technological achievements that made East Asia (and China in particular) the most advanced region of the world from 800 to 1800 CE. The course can thus be seen as part of a broader movement within the discipline to both “re-orient” and deepen our understanding of history away from a limiting preoccupation with the modern and Western framing. In the same way, Modern East Asia as a semester course enables students to go into much more depth, especially through primary source readings. This deeper encounter challenges the master narrative of East Asian modernity being simply a derivative “response” to Western “impact” and lets students think through not only the lived experience of East Asian people, but also the escalating U.S. involvement in East Asia over the modern period. In the spring semester, we will consider the impact of Western imperialism in the nineteenth century, the rise of nationalism and revolution in the twentieth century, and the emergence of East Asian economic power and globalization in the present.
The course is designed to help students encounter a historical tradition outside the Western experience, to expose students to primary sources in translation, to introduce different approaches to the study of history, and to help students better understand our world today and the historical forces that have shaped it.
Over the year we will learn how to,
1. read a text for its core content, analytical perspective, and significance
2. write a concise précis conveying the key points of a reading assignment
3. interpret a primary source in light of its historical context
4. frame a research topic, find sources, and write a focused research paper