Women in East Asia (P. Ebrey)





Instructor: Patricia Ebrey, Room 103 608 S. Mathews Tel: 244-5943

e-mail p-ebrey@uiuc.edu

Office Hours:  Monday, 4-5, Wednesday, 11-12.

The goal of this course is to help you sharpen your analytic skills in thinking about cultural differences and gender differences while at the same time learning more about the contemporary societies of China, Japan, and Korea. It will be run as a discussion class focused on a set of challenging and stimulating readings and movies. Students who enroll should be committed to keeping up with the assignments and actively participating; there will be no lectures to listen to passively on days when you have not prepared.

In designing this course I have made no effort to cover all aspects of women~s experiences in these three countries of East Asia. Because sources for each country differ considerably, rather than try to treat each country in a comparable way, different topics are discussed for different countries. There is somewhat more material on China, not only because it is the most populous of the countries and probably the most extensively studied, but also because I know it the best. Assignments will include fiction, film, primary sources, and modern scholar~s analyses. More specifically, we will discuss two novels, four short stories, six feature films, two book-length autobiographical profiles, a half-dozen short primary sources, and about two dozen modern scholars~ articles or book chapters. In class we will talk about the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of source, and discuss the ways they can be used to complement each other.

Preparation/participation: Assignments are challenging enough to provoke good discussion but short enough that you should be able to read them closely, making notes in the margins or in a notebook. Not only should you have read/viewed them in full before you arrive in class, but you should also have reviewed your notes the morning of the class, so that you are prepared to discuss them. For most sessions, particular students will be assigned the task of introducing each reading. The ~introducer~ can give a brief synopsis of the piece, but should also be ready to ask questions to get a discussion going. Whenever possible, the introducer should distribute some of the questions to the other students via e-mail by 9 PM the night before.

Grading: Both class participation and written assignments will count in the grade. There will be four papers, each 3-5 pages, each worth 15 points (They are due at about monthly intervals: February 12, March 6, April 1, May 1). Class discussion/participation/in class written assignments will be worth 40 points. In-class written assignments will generally be a paragraph in length, and will not be announced in advance. For instance, after being assigned to watch a movie, the class period might begin with the students spending fifteen minutes writing a paragraph on how they interpreted something in the movie.

Books to purchase:

A Daughter of Han
Words of Farewell
The River Ki
Life and Hard Times of a Korean Shaman

Other readings will be in a packet available at Notes and Quotes, 502 E. John (Johnstown Center)


(1/17) First day of class: goals of the course

  1. (1/22) Thinking Cross-culturally/ Multiculurally

Tani E. Barlow and Donald M. Lowe, ~Preface,~ ~Feminism,~ and ~Sexism,~ in Teaching China~s Lost Generation: Foreign Experts in the People~s Republic of China (China Books, 1987), xi-xvi, 189- 206). Maria C. Lugones and Elizabeth V. Spelman, ~Have We Got a Theory For You! Feminist Theory, Cultural Imperialism and the Demand for ~the Woman~s Voice,~ Women~s Studies International Forum 6.6 (1983), 573-81. Chizuko Ueno, ~The Individualist Versus the Communalist Version of Feminism,~ (unpublished paper, 1984), 1- 12. Nicholas D. Kristof, ~Japan~s Feminine Falsetto Falls Right Out of Favor,~ New York Times, December 15, 1995, p. 1, 4.

  1. Conceptualizing ~Tradition~ (China)
    1. Using actual primary sources:
      1. (1/24) Didactic texts on Confucian values for women

Mother of Mencius Ban Zhao~s Exhortations The Classic of Filial Piety for Women

  1. (1/29, 31) An oral autobiography of a woman enmeshed in a largely pre-modern society (Daughter of Han) (1/29, pp. 11-141, 1/31, pp. 142-249)
  2. (2/5, 7) A novel written in a transitional period (1932) when tradition begins to be problematic, and to be rejected (The Family) (2/5, pp. 1-173, 2/7, pp 173-329)
  3. (2/12) Western social scientists~ analyses:

Johnson, Kay Ann. 1983. ~Women and the Traditional Chinese Family,~ in Women, the Family and Peasant Revolution in China. (University of Chicago Press), 7-26. Gates, Hill. 1989. "The Commoditization of Chinese Women," Signs 14:

First paper due 2/14: Critique one or the other of the western analyses of the traditional Chinese family and women~s place in it, on the basis of the primary sources read during the preceding sessions

3. Women in Modern Capitalist Societies (Japan)

  1. (2/14) feature film (in library) Early Summer documentary film (in class) Full Moon Lunch
  2. (2/19) The modern state and economy and women:

scholarly studies Sharon H. Nolte and Sally Ann Hastings. ~The Meiji State~s Policy Toward Women, 1890-1910,~ in Gail Lee Bernstein, ed. Recreating Japanese Women, 1600-1945 (University of California Press, 1991), 151-74. Mary Brinton, ~Christmas Cakes and Wedding Cakes:

The Social Organization of Japanese Women~s Life Course,~ in Takie Sugiyama Lebra, ed. Japanese Social Organization (University of Hawaii Press, 1992), 79-107 Mark Brinton, ~The Struggle for Equal Employment Opportunity~ in Women and the Economic Miracle: Gender and Work in Postwar Japan (University of California Press, 1993), 222-38. Kumiko Fujimura-Fanselow, ~College Women Today,~ in Japanese Women: New Feminist Perspectives on the Past, Present, and Future, ed. Kumiko Fujimura-Fanselow and Atsuko Kameda (New York: The Feminist Press, 1995), pp. 125-54.

  1. Mother Power (Japan/Korea)
  2. (2/21) Primary source: Michio Matsuda, ~Advice to Young Mothers,~ in Aoki and Dardess, As the Japanese See It (University of Hawaii Press, 1981), 154-59. d. (3/4,6) Views of scholars and activists:

Masako Tanaka, ~Maternal Authority in the Japanese Family.~ Religion and the Family in East Asia (University of California Press, 1986), Masami Ohinata, ~The Mystique of Motherhood,~ in New Feminist Perspectives on the Past, Present, and Future, ed. Kumiko Fujimura-Fanselow and Atsuko Kameda (New York: The Feminist Press, 1995), pp. 199-212. Cho Haejoang. ~Male Dominance and Mother Power:

The Two Sides of Confucian Patriarchy in Korea.~ Unpublished manuscript.

  1. Women~s Powers and Vulnerabilities in Film and Fiction. (Japan/Korea)
  2. (2/26, 28) A novel written by a Japanese woman set earlier in the century (The River Ki) (2/26, pp. , 2/28, pp. )
  3. (3/4) A novella written by a Korean woman set in contemporary Korea (~A Room in the Woods,~ in Words of Farewell)
  4. (3/6) feature film (in library) The Makioka Sisters

Second paper due March 6: Create an imaginary debate about The River Ki among a small group of scholars of Japanese women.  Pick three authors whose works we have read in class (Ueno, Nolte and Hastings, Brinton, Fujimura-Fanselow, Tanaka, and Ohinata) and imagine how they might agree or disagree about the characters, underlying assumptions, or implied values in the novel.  You may insert yourself in the discussion if you wish.  Feel free to be creative (set them in a coffee shop, at a conference, on a television show, or whatever) but supply footnotes to indicate why you think each would hold the opinions you attribute to her (e.g., ~Brinton would argue this way because of what she said about marriage [1992:79]~).

7. Religion and resistance (Korea/Taiwan)

  1. (3/18) video in class: An Initiation Kut for a Korean Shaman Laurel Kendall. The Life and Hard Times of a Korean Shaman (University of Hawaii Press, 1988), pp. 1- 84.
  2. (3/20) Kendall. The Life and Hard Times, pp. 85-127. Margery Wolf, ~The Woman Who Didn~t Become a Shaman,~ in A Thrice Told Tale: Feminism, Post-modernism and Ethnographic Responsibility. (Stanford University Press, 1992), 93-116.
  3. Women in the Sex and Entertainment Industries (Korea/Japan)
    1. (3/25) . Selections from Saundra Pollack Sturvedont and Brenda

Stoltfus, Let the Good Times Roll: Prostitution and the US Military in Asia (New York: The New Press, 1992), pp. 169-75, 180-205. Alice Yun Chai, ~Asian-Pacific Feminist Coalition Politics: The Chongshindae/Jugunianfu (~Comfort Women~) Movement~ Korean Studies 17 (1993), 67-91.

Short story in Words of Farewell, ~Days and Dreams.~

      b.   (3/27) 

      Anne Allison, Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club (University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 1-5, 57-76.

     ~Fearing G.I. Occupiers, Japan Urged Women into Brothels,~ NYT Oct. 27, 1995.

Third paper due 4/1: Argue for or against the view that Korean women~s shamanistic activities help make the social system more tolerable to them and thus should be seen as sustaining the overall system rather than subverting it.

9. Women under state socialism (China)

  1. (4/1) feature film (in library) Hibiscus Town video (in class) Small Happiness
  2. (4/3) Journalistic profiles: ~Weaver,~ ~Rural Primary School Teacher,~ and ~Prospector,~ in Portraits of Ordinary Chinese, pp. 74-79, 172-77, and 215-221. Scholarly study: Lisa Rofel, ~Liberation Nostalgia and a Yearning for Modernity,~ in Gilmartin, Hershatter, Rofel, and White, eds., Engendering China: Women, Culture,, and the State (Harvard UP, 1994), 226-49. Short story by Hu Xin, ~Four Women of Forty,~ in The Serenity of Whiteness: Stories By and About Women in Contemporary China (Ballantine Books), 158-87. Primary sources: ~Economic Liberalization and New Problems for Women,~ in Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 482-87.
  3. Women and the politics of reproduction (China/Japan)
    1. (4/8) Birth limitation Primary sources: ~The One Child Family,~ in Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 478-81. Scholarly studies: Vaclav Smil, China~s Environmental Crisis (Sharpe, 1993), 13-35. Sulamith and Jack Potter. ~Chinese Birth Planning: A Cultural Account,~ in Chinese Peasants Susan Greenhalgh, Controlling Births and Bodies in Village China,~ American Ethnologist 21.1(1994): 3-30.
  4. (4/10) Abortion Scholarly studies:

Sandra Buckley, ~Body Politics: Abortion Reform Law,~ in Gavan McCormick and Yoshimoto Sugimoto, eds. The Japanese Trajectory: Modernization and Beyond. Cambridge University Press, 1988), 205-17. Bardwell Smith. ~Buddhism and Abortion in Contemporary Japan: Mizuko Kuyo and the Confrontation with Death.~ In Buddhism, Confrontation with Death.~ In Buddhism, Ignacio Cabez"n (Albany: SUNY Press, 1992).

  1. Cultural Politics: Representing Women in Films (China)
  2. (4/15, 4/17) no classes. Watch two feature films in the library: Raise the Red Lanterns and Qiu Ju
  3. (4/22) Scholarly and journalistic commentary on Raise the Red Lantern: Mayfair Mei-hui Yang, ~Of Gender, State Censorship, and Overseas Capital: An Interview with Chinese Director Yang Yimou.~ Public Culture (5) 1993:297-313. Jame Ying Zha, ~Excerpts from ~Lore Segal, Red Lanterns, and Exoticism,~ Public Culture 1993.5: 329-32. Dai Qing, ~Raised Eyebrows for Raise the Red Lanterns~ Public Culture 5 (1993):333-37. Rey Chow, Primitive Passions: Visuality, Sexuality, Ethnography, and Contemporary Chinese Cinema (Columbia University Press, 1995), 150-72.

12. Intercultural politics: representing Asian women and Asian-American women in American films and literature

  1. (4/24) Feature film in library: Joy Luck Club
  2. (4/29) Lisa Lowe, ~Heterogeneity, Hybridity, Multiplicity: Marking Asian American Differences,~ Diaspora, Spring 1991.
  3. A. Sasaki, ~The Loom,~ Making Waves: An Anthology of Writings By and About Asian American Women (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989).

Fourth paper due May 1: Sensitized by the sorts of issues raised by the readings during the last three weeks, compare the representation of women, femininity, and sexuality in the films of the Makioka Sisters, Hibiscus Town, and the Joy Luck Club.  

13. Summing up and presentation of fourth papers (5/1)