Princeton University

On Collecting: Anatomy of an Obsession (Comparative Literature/Art & Archeology). Fall 2017; Spring 2020.

Why do people collect objects? What are the sociological, economical, psychological and anthropological roots behind this obsession across cultures? How does a collection reflect and shape our imagination of the world as a system? Starting with these questions, this course introduces students to the rich cultural history of the practice of collecting through reading classics in world literature, as well as key theories on this subject.

This course focuses on the history of collecting as an interlocution of global exchange of both ideas and objects. Readings of literary and theoretical texts will be complemented with sensory, hands-on experiences with museum objects through visiting a museum collection on campus. By highlighting the discursive, open-ended character of collecting, this course will introduce you to an object-based and non-teleological method of studying archeology, art, literature, social and intellectual history.

Imagining Sounds of China: Encounters and Fantasies (East Asian Studies/Music). With Paize Keulemans. Spring 2019.

From the use of high-pitched voices in Peking opera to the reverberations of the classical zither, from the different dialects spoken (and sung) across the various regions to the distinct tones of the central drum tower in Beijing, China is full of sounds with distinctive timbres. They have been experienced, imagined and theorized locally and in cross-cultural dialogues. People from different times and cultures often experience them in mediated forms such as literary and graphic descriptions. The sounds, our senses and intellect never cease to shape each other. This course offers an introduction to these sonic phenomena, using comparative and transmedia approaches to tackle their multicultural repercussions, while giving equal attention to their socio-historic contexts. You will gain an overview of the Chinese soundscape, aided by methods of sound studies and literary/cultural criticism.

Love and Violence through Words: Modern Chinese Literature in the Age of Revolution (East Asian Studies/Comparative Literature). Spring 2018.

Beginning in late nineteenth century and throughout twentieth century, Chinese literature has been alternatively stretched and constricted to fit all kinds of roles beyond its “pure” self: as tools of political propaganda, national defense, cultural revolution, history-making, self-fashioning, gender-conscious communication, or complete depoliticization. In these processes, it has been remolded to encompass qualities of the audio and visual arts, and to reach beyond itself to encourage actions, serving purposes of love, violence and revolution.

This course will introduce important works of modern Chinese literature, both canonical and understudied, in a comparative and multi-media context. The multiple literary genres of novel, folklore tale, theater and poetry will be analyzed alongside related forms of opera, film and other visual arts. Set in the context of the turbulent twentieth century; this course you help you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the critical moments from the Xinhai Revolution, New Cultural Movement, Sino-Japanese War, Civil War, Cultural Revolution, Economic Reform, up to China’s ongoing participation in globalization.

A Cultural History of 19th Century through Wagner’s Ring (Comparative Literature/Music/German). Fall 2018.

From Hitler’s favorite composer and the unofficial persona non grata in Israel to sold-out performances around the world, Wagner remains a figure who defies oblivion. All his controversies and attractions find intense expression in the 15-hour long opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. This influential but problematic work dramatizes the key issues that troubled the nineteenth century. Few works of art reflect such a wealth of meanings as the Ring, which tells the power struggle between gods and humans caused by the abuse of the Rhine gold.

Through close reading/listening/viewing, this course will provide a comprehensive, cross-disciplinary introduction to the Ring. Key theoretical debates in music and aesthetics in nineteenth century Europe will be discussed. Moreover, students will be introduced to a variety of disciplines and approaches in the humanities, from the foundational to the cutting-edge.