Of 113 total laureates, Japan can claim two, China can claim either one or two, and Korea cannot claim any. What does the awarding of the Nobel Prize say about the state of literature in East Asia, and about the Nobel Prize itself? What, furthermore, does it say about the idea of national literature, world literature, and the role of literary prizes in negotiating these fraught categories? This course is designed around the goal of combining close literary analysis with a broader theoretical discussion of these issues. While engaging critically with works produced by East Asian laureates (and potential laureates), we will simultaneously interrogate the Nobel Prize itself and the particular questions it raises about the categorization, function, and assessment of literature in today’s world. Each week we will combine a literary selection with a variety of secondary sources—either criticism or commentary on the literature, or more general theoretical selections. By the end of the course we hope to have examined not only the productions of several major East Asian writers, but also the ideas of “national literature” and “world Literature,” along with issues of identity, culture, and politics.
Topics vary from semester to semester. A recent topic was postwar Japanese literature.