ALC 345

Revenge and Retribution

Since antiquity, many cultures have turned to retribution as a means of restoring justice. Stories about getting even through revenge abound in both highbrow and popular Chinese literature. The themes of revenge and retribution have lent themselves effectively to various literary genres throughout Chinese history, from historical biographies and classical tales to vernacular short stories and plays, extending all the way into twentieth-century ballet and film. Literature has served as an important site of inquiry into the morality and mechanisms of revenge and retribution, sometimes offering conclusions that are a good deal more ambiguous than legal and philosophical discourses about the same question. This course works through four organizing themes: The Collective (assassination and self-destruction for a larger cause); The Individual (revenge and redemption in interpersonal relationships); Modern Man and Nation Building (from the Republican Period to Socialism); and Transnational Interpretations of ?China?s Hamlet.? By the end of the course students should be able to identify the relevant genres, produce effective oral and written analyses of the material, and critically and cogently reflect on how Chinese conceptions of revenge and retribution might help them think through their own beliefs about revenge, justice, forgiveness, and identity.