Capstone Course: Exile and Contemporary Chinese Poetry
Yang Lian (see Prof. Ying for registration)
Wed 4:00 pm - 6:20 pm OLIN 310
This advanced seminar for seniors, taught in English, is designed to "cap" the studies of students in Foreign Languages, Cultures and Literatures. Each year a foreign guest author will lead this course on recent trends in the literature of his or her language(s), with emphasis on issues of particular importance to young authors writing today. The purpose of the course is to expose this specially qualified group of students, who have spent three and more years honing their skills as readers, with a living literature in the process of evolving, presented to them by a writer whose own work is part of this evolution. At the conclusion of the course, each student will have the choice of presenting a polished work of translation, a piece of original writing (in English or in another language), or an essay on one or more of the works read during the semester. These texts will be collected in a Capstone Journal, which will be published on a yearly basis. The 2003 seminar focuses on contemporary Chinese poets who have been living in exile since 1989. We will examine the process in which the experience of exile is transformed into poetry, how writing constructs realities and how the poetic language explores the depth of a culture in transition. Poets to be dealt with include Yang Lian, Bei Dao, Gu Cheng, Man ke, Duo Duo, and others. In order to gain a better understanding of contemporary Chinese poetry, we will also consider the enduring legacy of ancient Chinese poetic tradition. Furthermore, this course aims to locate contemporary Chinese poetry in relation to other national poetic forms. When poets cross national boundaries, colliding and colluding with one another, the result is something universal but uniquely personal. As we talk about the work of the Chinese exile poets, we will discuss Pound, Eliot, Yeats, Rilke, Dylan Thomas, John Ashbery, and other western poets. Students will be encouraged to retranslate any of the Chinese poems on the reading list. Even those who do not read Chinese can embark on a translation project with textual assistance provided by the professor, just as Pound did when he translated classical Chinese poetry into English. During the course of the semester, public readings and performances as well as panel discussions will be organized. This course is designed as a workshop and writing, creative as well as analytical, is a major component of the course.