Course Description

This course asks the question: to what extent are we influenced by the poetry and traditions of the ancient East? We will stare into Eastern culture, and through deep concentration on our subject, begin to understand the fascination and mutual influence between the East and West. We will investigate ancient texts from China and Japan and modern work from the West and Japan, and we will follow a trail of influence from these texts. Basho most likely studied the Kokinshū before he set out on his pilgrimage across Japan. In The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac records his friendship with Gary Snyder, who translated the ancient Chinese poet Han-shan, a likely contemporary of the unnamed poets who contributed to the Kokinshū. Spirited Away is a Disney-presented anime, while Ran is a Japanese version of King Lear. The relationships between these texts detail the exchange of ideas, translations, interpretations, and appropriations between cultures. We will continue in this tradition by writing Albuquerque-based haiku, renga, and waka and studying contemporary cultural exchanges.


Kokinshu: A Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern ISBN-13: 978-0887272493*
Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings by Matsuo Basho (Author); Sam Hamill (Translator) ISBN-13: 978-1570627163
No Nature New and Selected Poems by Gary Snyder
The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
Number 9 Dream by David Mitchell

Plus a selection of articles, Japanese folktales, and short stories.

Films: Spirited Away, Ran 

Your course reader will be provided free online. It includes selections from Japanese Tales (Pantheon fairy tale & folklore library) as well as reading guides, weekly information on cultural exchanges, and rubrics for assignments.

*Please note that it is important that we all work with the same translations. These translations are selected for maximum readability.


Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Analyze, interpret, and evaluate primary ancient and contemporary Eastern and Western poetic and fictional works within their interdisciplinary, cultural, and historical contexts;
  • Explain the relation of texts, methods of translation, adaptation, and appropriation, and content of ancient and contemporary Eastern and Western selected, key works;
  • Compare works from Eastern and Western perspectives, cultural traditions, and historical eras in terms of genre, style, content or theme;
  • Recognize and evaluate how selected, key works in the Eastern canon reflect national, cultural, and ethnic differences, even as they invoke shared human experiences that may relate to contemporary Western and Eastern audiences;
  • Construct persuasive arguments and increase writing proficiency through analytical essays characterized by original and insightful theses, supported by logically integrated and sound subordinate ideas, appropriate and pertinent evidence, and good sentence structure, diction, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.