Asian Studies

Website: Asian Studies

Majors in Asian Studies seek to acquire a deep knowledge of one or more cultures in Asia so that they can understand how people in an Asian society act and view the world. Such a goal requires a firm grasp of: an Asian language so that students can understand the concepts and modes of communication within a culture; historical knowledge of the culture’s development, the culture’s values, and ritual practices that stem from religious and philosophical traditions; and the pattern of social structure and economic development. Asian Studies majors should also examine the forces that have integrated Asia as well as how Asian countries vary among themselves, as revealed through comparative analyses.

Summer Program in China/India

Sewanee students may take advantage of summer study in China and India. The continuing topic of the program is economic development, with other subjects also included in different summers. Note: the Summer Program in China/India does not fulfill the study-abroad requirement for Asian Studies.

Professors: Brown, Goldberg, O'Connor, Peterman, S. Wilson (Chair)

Assistant Professor: Tan

Requirements for the Major in Asian Studies

The major requires successful completion of the following:

Select three or more approved integrative or comparative electives in Asian Studies (from at least two departments/programs)12
Select five or more electives in Asian cultures20
Select one course in Asian languages numbered 300 or above4
ASIA 458Senior Thesis4
Total Semester Hours40
Additional Requirements
A comprehensive examination 1
A study abroad program approved by the chair of the program


To earn honors in the Asian Studies program, a student must satisfy the following criteria: a) at least a 3.33 grade point average from courses in the major, b) awarding of a B+ or better on the senior thesis, and c) awarding of “distinction” (B+ or better) on the comprehensive exam.

Requirements for the Minor in Asian Studies

The minor requires successful completion of the following:

Course Requirements
Select one approved integrative or comparative elective in Asian Studies4
Select two electives in Asian cultures8
Select two courses in one Asian language8
Total Semester Hours20

Asian Studies Courses

ASIA 202     3000 Years of East Asian Poetry  (4)

From the ancient Chinese "Book of Songs," to Bash's haiku and the creative work of young poets today writing in colloquial Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean, this course introduces students to the major forms, genres, themes, and developmental history of East Asian poetry. The course approaches poetry not only as something to be contemplated alone in a study, but also as a vital social tool, an integral part of traditional performance, and as something to be recited or sung at a party. Taught in English.

ASIA 205     Modern China through Fiction and Film  (4)

How do film and literature inform our understanding of the evolving concepts of art, ideology and material conditions in modern China? How have literary and cinematic representations changed over the last century to accommodate and facilitate social transformations? What are the characteristics of the cultural productions from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan? This course helps students develop a critical sense and appreciation for Chinese cinema and literature. Taught in English.

ASIA 208     Modern Chinese Literature in Translation  (4)

This course surveys the four major modes of Chinese literature from the early twentieth century to the present: realism, modernism, socialist realism, and postmodernism Themes of modernity, nationalism, gender, class, and identity are explored through primary texts. The course emphasizes rhetorical, formal, and aesthetic critiques of literature. Taught in English.

ASIA 209     Japanese Literature and Culture  (4)

This course introduces students to the culture and history of Japan from the pre-modern period to the present through exposure to some of the most celebrated works in Japanese literature and cinema. Beyond analysis of the texts and films themselves, particular attention in is paid to the socio-historical contexts from which these works emerged. Taught in English.

ASIA 217     Modern Japanese Literature  (4)

This course is a survey of Japanese literature from the late nineteenth century to the present. Through the reading of seminal works, the course explores such key issues and events in modern Japanese history as modernization, westernization, World War II, and the postwar experience, in addition to contemporary Japanese life. Not open for credit to students who have earned credit for ASIA 317. Taught in English.

ASIA 220     Japanese Folklore and Mythology  (4)

Japan has a long history of folklore and mythology filled with magical creatures, witches, and sneaky animals. The study of Japanese folklore and mythology relates to topics in Japanese religion, history, and literature. This class not only explores mythological texts dating back to the sixth century, but it also considers tales and their re-tellings as situated in particular times and places. The course illustrates that much can be learned about a place and time by how stories of the oral tradition are changed and adapted to the political environment.

ASIA 225     Tales of the Samurai: Bows, Blades, and Bushido  (4)

Focusing on medieval war epics such as Tales of the Heike, this course examines representations of samurai in Japanese literature, with a. By tracing the development of the samurai class and analyzing literary source materials in historical context, students navigate competing claims of what bushido, or the "way of the warrior," meant to Japanese society. Major emphasis is given to themes commonly associated with samurai, such as loyalty, honor, revenge, and violence.

ASIA 233     The Fantastical World of Anime  (4)

This course traces the evolution of Japanese manga (comics) and anime (animation) from World War II to the present day, focusing on works that depict female characters and works intended for female audiences. By examining a wide selection of manga and anime, students build skills in close critical analysis of popular culture and explore shifting Japanese perceptions of key social concepts such as gender, childhood, technology, nature, and Japan itself. Taught in English.

ASIA 235     Love in Modern Japan  (4)

What does it mean to love someone? Despite its apparent universality, "love" is in fact a highly malleable concept whose definition can vary greatly. In Japan, the conceptualization of love transformed radically in the modern era. This course explores how literary representations of love in Japan reflect not only this transformation but also the struggles it entailed. Issues of particular interest in the course include the interconnection between assumptions about gender and the definition of love, the relationship between marriage and love, the role of sexuality in love, and the relationship between the West and Japan.

ASIA 237     Gender and Sexuality in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture  (4)

This course examines Chinese literary and cultural practices related to gender and sexuality from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. Using primary texts in translation, theoretical works, films, and visual materials, students explore the personal and collective politics involved in constructions of gender, sexuality, desire, and identity. Taught in English.

ASIA 240     Introduction to Traditional Asian Drama  (4)

This course introduces students to major works of pre-modern and early modern Asian dramatic literatures and some of the living performance arts associated with them. Readings include great works of Sanskrit, Chinese, and Japanese drama and dramaturgy, together with study through recordings of such performance arts as Kathakali, Kunqu, Peking Opera, and Noh. Among the topics addressed are ways in which traditional Asian philosophies as Buddhism and Daoism shaped the literary and performance aesthetics under consideration, as well as questions of theatre as ritual and theatre as imaginative space for social performance. All readings are in English translation.

ASIA 241     The Comic and Sublime: An Introduction to Chinese Theater  (4)

This course surveys the rich and varied traditions of Chinese theater from their origins in ritual and spectacle to their current formulations in traditional and modern productions. We will discuss both dramatic texts and theatrical performances. All readings will be in English. Course will be taught in English.

ASIA 320     Gender and Sexuality in Japanese Culture  (4)

This course examines aspects of Japanese culture by devoting special attention to issues of gender and sexuality. Students read primary texts from pre-modern and modern literature, drama, and manga (graphic novel) in English translation, together with critical essays on gender theory. In-class screenings of short films, anime (animated film), and documentaries help to illustrate some concepts and practices introduced in the readings. Taught in English.

ASIA 444     Independent Study  (2 or 4)

A reading and research paper on a topic agreed upon by a sponsored faculty member and the student. Open only to students pursuing programs in Asian studies. Prerequisite: Instructor prerequisite override required.

ASIA 458     Senior Thesis  (4)

This course calls for students to write a senior thesis on a selected topic under supervision of a faculty advisor. May be taken either semester of the senior year. Open only to students pursuing majors in Asian studies. Prerequisite: Instructor prerequisite override required.