Classics of East Asian Literature

One-semester course. The classics of East Asia were written over the course of approximately two thousand years, from c. 500 B.C. to A.D. 1600, and span various genres. This survey course attempts to provide students with broad exposure to the most influential texts across this time period, from ancient philosophical works to poetry, memoir to short essay, and early examples of the novel. Through lectures and discussion, students will learn about the cultural, religious, and philosophical background that gave rise to the East Asian literary tradition. We will pay particular attention to how the teachings of Buddhism and Confucianism echo throughout the texts, sometimes at odds with one another.

Please note: This course is designed for high-school students. These readings are composed in prose styles that younger readers may have difficulty understanding, and some of the texts contain subjects and themes that more sensitive readers may find uncomfortable. If you have any concerns we encourage you to check the texts out at the local library before enrolling your student.

Prerequisite: At least one of the following courses–Literature of the Ancient World; Literature of the Medieval and Renaissance Worlds; History of the Ancient World; History of the Medieval World.

*Not offered during the 2023-2024 school year.

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Classics of East Asian Literature Information

  • Example Syllabus
  • Class meets once per week for 50-55 minutes.
  • Class cap: 20 students.
  • Designed for grades 10-12.
  • High school students may be awarded .5 Language Arts credit upon completion of this course.

Course Materials

  • Click here to purchase the course texts.
    • Selections from The Analects of Confucius 
    • Selections from Mencius 
    • One Hundred Poems from the Chinese, Kenneth Rexroth
    • One Hundred Poems from the Japanese, Kenneth Rexroth
    • The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu
    • The Pillow Book, Sei Shonagon
    • The Sarashina Diary, Daughter of Sugawara no Takasue.
    • An Account of My Hut, Kamo no Chomei
    • Monkey: Folk Novel of China, Wu Ch’eng-en.

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