China's Banned Book: Reading Jin Ping Mei




This course will introduce students to the controversial masterpiece of Chinese fiction, The Plum in the Golden Vase (Jin Ping Mei). Censored for its erotic content, this sensational book had a profound impact on the development of Chinese fiction. A landmark in the history of the novel, The Plum in the Golden Vase shifts attention away from worthy heroes to examine the everyday exploits and desires of ordinary people. The work of an anonymous author, The Plum in the Golden Vase revels in sensory excess (greed, murder, intoxication, and lust), illustrating the vivid details of Chinese urban life. We will focus on developing skills in close reading, while using this monumental work to survey the flourishing cultural landscape of early modern China. Our discussions will situate the novel alongside recent scholarship on gender and sexuality, material culture, and performance. We will also hold class viewing sessions in the Harvard-Yenching Library and the Harvard Art Museums. Students with Chinese language skills will be encouraged to read the original text.
Additional Information:
Faculty: Thomas Kelly
Semester: Full Spring Term
Time: TBA