WiSe 13/14: Another Universe: Wilderness Thought in Ancient Chinese and Modern American Poetry
The ancient Chinese picture of the universe is fundamentally different from the picture that has dominated our Western tradition, and it has produced the distinctive form of Chinese culture. ... read more
The ancient Chinese picture of the universe is fundamentally different from the picture that has dominated our Western tradition, and it has produced the distinctive form of Chinese culture. However distant it may seem, it also feels remarkably contemporary in our secular and scientific age. In this picture, the Universe is a living and harmonious whole, constantly self-generating (and so, female in nature), and humans are an integral part of that whole. This integration of human and Universe is the deep subject of ancient China's major art forms: poetry, painting, and calligraphy. It is also the subject of a contemporary philosophical movement called "deep ecology," and it has had a profound influence on the arts of the West during the last century.
In this seminar we will try to understand this other picture of the Universe. First we will read philosophic and poetic texts from ancient China (in English translation), then we will read modern American poetic texts which share that picture in various ways. We will also explore other aspects of ancient Chinese culture: Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism, painting, calligraphy. And we will explore the Land Art (Earth Art) movement in contemporary Europe and America. Land Art focuses on ecology, wilderness and landscape, using natural materials and landscape to make art.
No knowledge of Chinese is necessary or even desirable for this seminar.
Reading will include ancient Chinese philosophical texts such as the Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, and Ch'an (Zen) Buddhist texts (in English); ancient Chinese poetic texts; and selected work by modern/contemporary American poets such as Robinson Jeffers, Kenneth Rexroth, Charles Olson, Gary Snyder, Larry Eigner, A.R. Ammons, and others. We will also look at photographs and films showing the work of major Land Artists such as: herman de vries, Robert Smithson, Richard Long, Andy Goldsworthy.
Participation to this course is open to students of all faculties.