01:165:350 Chinese Martial Arts Film and Culture 

How did martial arts (wuxia) fantasy arise in Chinese society? Why have almost all major film directors intended to create a chivalric oeuvre by shooting a martial arts film at the crucial stages of their careers? How have these trendsetters balanced and mediated between their disparate reworkings of the popular wuxia genre and their specific avant-garde artistic positions and practices in the cold war and post-cold war eras? Why have martial arts films gained phenomenal popularity not only in Asia but also in the West?

This course explores the local and national contexts of Chinese martial arts cinema and its global dissemination, and introduces early historical writings on assassins, late imperial vernacular fiction about outlaws, the broad variety of martial arts novels published in the twentieth century, and the developments of martial arts cinema in Hong Kong, Taiwan, mainland China and Hollywood from the postwar era to the present. It explores major film directors including King Hu, Wong Kar-wai, Ang Lee, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Zhang Yimou, and Jia Zhangke (and also Chang Che, Tsui Hark, John Woo, Chen Kaige, Jiang Wen, Xu Haofeng, and Lu Yang, among others), as well as examines key movie stars such as Shi Jun, Cheng Pei-pei, Hsu Feng, Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, and Shu Qi (together with Bruce Lee, and Jackie Chan, among others). Topics include “Spatiality, Visuality, and the Chivalric Mind and Mood, 1960s-2010s,” “King Hu: Diasporic (Re)Location and Obsession with a Chivalric China,” “Wong Kar-wai: Ashes of Time, Traces of Subjectivity,” “Ang Lee: Emotion in Motion,” “Hou Hsiao-hsien: Epiphanies from the Tale, the Marvel, and the Quotidian,” “Zhang Yimou: (De)Coloring Dynastic and Identity Crisis,” and “Jia Zhangke: Crippled Chivalry and Subaltern Psychogeography.”

Since this class emphasizes focused discussions of each week’s readings, it is essential that students come to class having read all of the assigned materials carefully and prepared to engage actively in the discussion. Students should bring a copy of each week’s readings. Regular attendance is thus expected. If an absence is unavoidable, the student must consult with the instructor beforehand and make-up work will be assigned. For each week’s readings, students will be designated to post a reading response (approximately 500-700 words for graduate students; 200-300 words for undergraduate students) by 10:00pm, Monday, two days before each sessions starts. These responses should begin with a summary of the key points of the assigned theoretical and/or critical texts and comment on the relevance or usefulness of reading the literary works within the given theoretical framework. These responses may include ideas, reflections and questions that arise during the reading of the texts. They may also address larger issues or make comparison with other readings. Others are required to have read each week’s postings before class in order to participate in group discussion. Those assigned to oral presentations will also be responsible for presenting on that week’s readings at the beginning of class. The 10-minute oral presentation should summarize and elaborate on the points made in the Canvas posting. To post a response, log into the Canvas site, choose the page for this class, click on “Discussion and Private Messages” and then click on “Class Discussions” for the relevant week.
7-8 pages for graduate students, 4-5 pages for undergraduate students. These papers should be understood as “think papers,” in which students have the opportunity to respond to the readings of a particular week in depth. These “think papers” should demonstrate a good understanding of the ideas and issues in the theoretical and critical texts and show original and careful reflection of these issues. Students are encouraged to consult with the instructor about their topic in advance. Students must retain a copy of each paper.

This course will introduce students to the major issues of Chinese martial arts film and culture; it will teach students to develop critical approaches to literary, historical and cinematic texts, and to formulate their own ideas to produce a solid paper about Chinese martial arts imagination.

The assessment methods for this course are designed to evaluate student mastery of the course goals. The assignments require students to read, interpret and discuss texts related to topics and issues in Chinese martial arts literature, film, and culture, related scholarship, and critical theory. Upon completion of the course, students will have learned analytical and rhetoric skills through weekly discussions of the texts and issues, as well as through individual oral presentation to the class. Students will also be able to construct a thesis argument and build support with examples through one short and one long analytical and research papers.