Narrative Arts of Asia:


Epics of China and Japan Moss Roberts, instructor Course Description and Readings This course is mainly a comparative study of four major narratives. We compare two military epics of China and Japan, Three Kingdoms and The Tale of the Heike; and then two romantic epics, The Tale of Genji and The Dream of Red Mansions. These four readings (of which the Genji alone was written by a woman) are thematically central to their respective cultures. The military epics raise crucial questions about the nature of dynastic rule and the qualifications of kingship, about the relationship of the ruling dynasty to the territory and the people that it rules, and about how diplomatic and military strategies interact. The romantic epics deal with the intrigues of the royal court and the noble elite, the observations and roles of the female characters, and the problem of generational continuity. The course begins with two short readings, the Vietnamese national classic, Tale of Kieu, which is based on Chinese works; and the Chinese fantasy travelogue Monkey (abridged). Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism play a large role in these complex narratives, and due attention is given to how the ideals and doctrines of these three ways of thinking inform the motives and the fates of the characters and the larger design of the authors.

Course Information



4 Points

Term Section Instructor Schedule Location

Spring 2018

Moss Roberts
TR: 3:30 PM - 4:45 PM SILV 401