Special Topics: China and the Natural Garden: Intercultural Exchange at the Dawn of the Modern Age
210 Tappan Hall
W 10:00-1:00pm
3 Credit Seminar

By the 18th century, the great powers across Eurasia were investing major levels of thought and resources into gardens. This was so because, prior to the invention of World Fairs, the Olympics, or international sports, gardens were an important means of competing for "soft power" in the international arena. In addition, gardens served as a kind of worksheet for trying out new theories of society and nature, government and the social agency of individuals. In fact, some of the most important buzzwords in modern life were first worked out in relation to gardens in the 18th century. In this course we'll come to understand how this happened first by surveying the evolution of gardens in China: we'll trace the origins of the "natural" garden with its oppositional political and social connotations, and then learn what happened when this tradition of garden design clashed with Europe's royal gardens in the 17th century. By reading together original 17th and 18th century documents in UM's special collections, we'll learn how to reconstruct the complex, intercultural discourse of society and nature that developed on the two ends of Eurasia during the 18th century. Along the way, we'll witness the birth of radical new understandings of terms such as "nature" and "liberty." Students will have the opportunity to conduct original research using UM's Special Collections as well as online sources providing access to 17th and 18th century documents. In addition to class participation, grades will be based upon two oral progress reports, a bibliography, and a written term paper. No previous course work in Chinese art is required. Online reading materials. C. 3