HISTART 468-001

Beautiful Writing: Explorations of East Asian Calligraphy

210 Tappan
W 10:00-1:00pm
3 Credit Seminar

Why does writing matter in East Asia? What is lost when we think of texts only in terms of content, divorced from style and medium? What can we learn about handwriting in a digital age?

This seminar explores practices of brush writing in Japan, with a secondary emphasis on Chinese and Korean calligraphic traditions. We will consider basic linguistic features of East Asian cultures; fundamental art historical ideas including style, abstraction, materiality, connoisseurship, and formal analysis; social and cultural issues such as valuation; and the formation of gender and proto-national identities. We will not necessarily follow a chronological narrative, but we will cover the beginnings of writing in central China up through 21st century calligraphy in Japan. Different themes will necessarily involve comparisons of diverse cultural and historical moments.

In addition to providing an overview of East Asian calligraphic traditions, this class aims to develop and deepen your understanding of East Asian languages and cultures, while honing your skills of description and historical and visual analysis.

This course adopts an explicitly unconventional approach to the study of calligraphy, welcoming perspectives from diverse fields including studio practice, font design, art conservation, anthropology, computer engineering, musicology, and linguistics and pedagogy,. Thus, students from all backgrounds are welcome and everyone will be expected to actively engage with the material from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. No prior knowledge of East Asian languages or culture is required, but students who have particular linguistic skills will be encouraged to apply them in the course of the semester and in their final research papers.

Textbooks/Other Materials: There is no required textbook for this class.

Course Requirements: Apart from background reading and participation in class (30%), your required coursework will include one short essay (20%), a creative project (15%), and a final research project and presentation (25%).

Intended Audience: All students at all levels; there are no pre-requisites.

Class Format: One three-hour meeting per week with some lecture but mostly discussion of the visual materials and readings.

Estimated Cost of Materials: $0-$50.

HISTART Categories for Concentration Distributions: 2. Medieval, 3. Early Modern, C. Asia (includes China, Japan, India, South and Southeast Asia, and the Pacific).