John C. Schafer Fall, 2004
Office: 213 FH FH 108
Of. hrs.: —, T & R T & R: —
English 240: Modern Vietnamese Literature in Translation
The general and unchanging title of this course is "English 240: World Literature." Its purpose is to introduce you to literature other than American and English literature. Of course, "English literature" is not what it once was and now may include works by writers around the globe, but the intent of English 240—to introduce you to literatures not usually taught in English departments—remains. According to the catalogue description, in English 240 students will "read and discuss significant works of literature in translation" (p. 195, my emphasis). Though the English literary canon is hard to define these days, in the view of most people it includes only works written in English, not translations.
"English" class, however, this fall's version of English 240, we will
read translations: works by Vietnamese composed originally in Vietnamese. The idea is to get you to step back from a literary
culture that you are familiar with and allow you to sample another literary
Packet of readings available at the University Bookstore.
C. Schafer, Vietnamese Perspectives on
the War in
Nhất Linh, Severance [Đoạn Tuyệt], translated by James Banerian. Available as a packet at the University Bookstore.
Dương Thu Hương, Paradise of the Blind, translated by Phan Huy Đường and Nina McPherson.
Bảo Ninh, Sorrow of War, translated by Vo Bang Thanh and Phan Thanh Hao, with Frank Palmos and Katerina Pierce.
Lê Minh Khuê, The Stars, The Earth, The River: Short Fiction by Lê Minh Khuê, translated by Bac Hoai Tran and Dana Sachs, edited by Wayne Karlin.
Nguyễn Huy Thiệp, Crossing the River: Short Fiction by Nguyễn Huy Thiệp, edited by Nguyễn Nguyệt Cầm and Dana Sachs (many different translators).
A. Attendance: Regular attendance is important and bad attendance will result in a lower grade. If you miss four classes for no legitimate reason I will ask you to drop the class.
B. Reading: You will be expected to do all the assigned reading and also some additional reading related to your course paper.
C. Tests: There will be a mid-term and a final exam.
D. Responses to reading: Before Wednesday evening you should post a response to the reading assignment for the next day (Thursday). See below for more information on this requirement. (You don't need to write or post a response before coming to class on the reading to be done for Tuesdays, but I may ask you to write a response in class.)
E. Course Paper. As you know, though this class meets only three hours a week, it is a four-unit class with one of the four units devoted to "individualized instruction on assigned topics" (Catalogue, p. 195). In this class the "one-unit" activity will be the writing of a course paper of six to ten pages in length. I will explain this assignment in class and will meet with you individually to assist you with it. In the meantime you can consult the list of proposed topics in section VI below.
A. Attendance: 10%
B. Class participation: 10%
C. Mid-term: 20%
D. Responses to reading: 15%
E. Course paper: 25%
F. Final exam: 20%
V. Responses to Thursday Reading
I'm having you write responses for several reasons. First, because writing promotes thinking, these responses will get you thinking about the works you have read. Second, by sharing them with your classmates they will help to make our exploration of Vietnamese literature more of a communal activity—less lonely, more fun. We can learn from each other. Finally, these responses will alert me to questions and issues that I should discuss in class.
These responses, which should be around 150 words in length (i.e., one fully developed paragraph or two less developed paragraphs), do not need to be carefully edited for grammar, style, and punctuation. You should, however, try to express your ideas as clearly as possible. In these responses you should express your reactions to the reading and raise questions about it. You can do any of the following things:
· Express what you found interesting about the selection;
· Discuss something you learned from the reading about Vietnamese history, literature, or culture;
· Mention something that puzzled you about the reading;
· Explain what the selection reminds you of (perhaps some work you have read);
· Speculate about the meaning of a story or poem—in other words, begin to interpret the work;
· Discuss a character that intrigues or puzzles you;
· Raise a question about the work that you are hoping to get answered during class.
We'll begin these responses right away, but for Thurs., Aug. 26, your response will be a little different—a short report on some Vietnamese historical event or figure (see special handout). Until we get our class e-mail list set up, just e-mail your response to me (firstname.lastname@example.org), not the entire class. Remember, your response should reach me (and, after the class list is set up, your classmates) before on Wed. I'll read at least some of these responses before class on Thursday and will try to cover questions you raise in them during class. Some other details related to these responses:
· Bring a copy of your response to the Thursday class.
· Keep a hard copy of all your responses in a folder. (I won't be able to print all your responses.) I'll collect and evaluate your responses at least two times, once at mid-term, once at the end of the term.
· It is better to write your response before reading responses from your classmates. If you read other responses first, you may be tempted to withhold or alter your initial response, which may be a valid an interesting one.
VI. Class Schedule
Tues., Aug. 24: Introduction. What Is Modern Vietnamese Literature?
Thurs., Aug. 26: Vietnamese History and Culture
"Vietnamese History: Confucianism, Colonialism, and the Struggle for
Tues., Aug. 31: Vietnamese Language and Writing Systems
Nguyễn Văn Huyên, "Intellectual
and Artistic Life:
Thurs., Sept. 2: Pre-Modern Vietnamese Literature—Part I: Folk Poetry, Riddles
Selected ca dao (folk poetry) translated by John Balaban (handout)
Công Huyền Tôn Nữ Nha Trang, "Ideal Role Conformity of the Vietnamese Wife Reflected in Folksongs" (packet)
Công Huyền Tôn Nữ Nha Trang, "Versification of Vietnamese Riddles" (access via course web page)
Tues., Sept. 7: Pre-Modern Vietnamese Literature—Part II: The Vietnamese Verse Narrative
Excerpts from Nguyễn Du's The Tale of Kiều, translated by Huỳnh Sanh Thông (handouts)
Nguyễn Đ́nh Ḥa, "Nguyễn Du and The Tale of Kiều" (packet)
Nguyễn Đ́nh Ḥa, "Nguyễn Đ́nh Chiểu" (packet)
John C. Schafer, "Lục Vân Tiên: Its Relation to Prior Texts" (packet)
Thurs., Sept. 9: Moving from Pre-Modern to Modern, From Verse Narrative to Novel
Công Huyền Tôn Nữ Nha Trang, "Literary Embodiment of Social Moods—Hoàng Ngọc Phách's Novel Tô Tâm (1925)" (access via course web page)
Recommended but not required:
Cao Thị Như-Quỳnh
and John C. Schafer, "From Verse Narrative to Novel: The Development of
Prose Fiction in
Cao Thị Như-Quỳnh and John C. Schafer, "Hồ Biểu Chánh and the Early Development of the Vietnamese Novel" (on reserve under "Schafer")
John C. Schafer and Thế Uyên, "The Novel Emerges in Cochinchina" (on reserve under "Schafer")
Tues., Sept. 14: Nhất Linh and the Self-Strength Group—Part I
John C. Schafer, "Three Literary Trends in Early 20th Century Vietnam" (packet)
Nhất Linh, Severance (Đoạn Tuyệt) [also translated as Breaking Off or Breaking the Ties] (a separate photocopied packet available at the Bookstore)
Recommended but not required:
Nhất Linh, "Two Beauties" (Hai Vẻ Đẹp) (reserve; see Vietnamese Short Stories, trans. by James Banerian; for my comments on this story, see Schafer, "Two Beauties,' on reserve under "Schafer")
Thurs., Sept. 16: Nhất Linh and the Self-Strength Group—Part II
John C. Schafer, "Comments on Nhất Linh" (packet)
Nhất Linh, Severance (Đoạn Tuyệt) [also translated as Breaking Off or Breaking the Ties]
Neil J. Jamieson, "The Battle of the Novels" (packet)
Recommended but not required:
Công Huyền Tôn Nữ Nha Trang, "Glorifying Women's Selfless Suffering—Khái Hưng's Nửa Chừng Xuân (In the Midst of Spring, 1934)" (access via course web page)
Tues., Sept. 21: Documentary Fiction or "Critical Realism"
John C. Schafer, "Introduction" to When the Light's Put Out
Ngô Tất Tố, When the Light's Put Out (Chapters 4, 10, 12, 13, and 18)
Selection of Topic for Course Paper
Thurs., Sept. 23: Socialist Realism—Part I
John C. Schafer, "Works of Socialist Realism from the North and 'Liberated' South" (access via course web page)
Trường Chinh, "The Stand of Marxist Culture" and "Some Concrete Problems of Our Country's Present Literature and Art" (Chapters II and VII from Marxism and Vietnamese Culture) (packet)
John C. Schafer, "Comments on 'Ivory Comb'" (packet)
Nguyễn Sáng, "The Ivory Comb" (packet)
We will also look at some scenes from a film, The Abandoned Field—Free Fire Zone (Cánh Đồng Hoang), which is based on a short story by Nguyễn Sáng.
Tues., Sept. 28: Socialist Realism—Part II
John C. Schafer, "Comments on Hồn Đất" (packet)
Anh Dức, Chapter Five from Hồn Đất (packet)
Lê Thị Minh Khuê, "Distant Stars" (in The Stars, The Earth, The River)
Thurs., Sept. 30: Three 'New Poets' Before and After the Revolution
John C. Schafer, "Three 'New Poets' Before and After the Revolution" (packet)
Tues., Oct. 5: Fiction from the Non-Communist South
John C. Schafer, "Fiction from the Non-Communist South" (access via course web page)
Vơ Phiến, "Love Cherished for a Thousand Years" (packet)
Nhă Ca, "A Story for Lovers" (packet)
Meetings with me this week to discuss your paper. Notes on reading for paper due.
Thurs., Oct. 7: Challenges to Socialist Realism
Nguyễn Minh Châu, "Writing about War" (packet)
_____, "A Boat in the Distance" (packet)
_____, "A Ferry Stop in the Country" (packet)
Recommended but not required:
John C. Schafer, "Nguyễn Minh Châu and New Developments in the Vietnamese Short Story" (reserve)
Tues., Oct. 12: Catch-Up Day, Review
Thurs., Oct. 14: Mid-Term Test
Tues., Oct. 19: Renovation (Đổi Mới)
John C. Schafer, "Đổi Mới (Renovation) Literature" (access via course web page)
Nguyễn Văn Linh, "Let Writers and Artists Actively Contribute to Renovation" (packet)
Dương Thu Hương, Paradise of the Blind (Begin reading this novel.)
Thurs., Oct. 28: The Sorrow of War
Bảo Ninh, The Sorrow of War
Tues., Nov. 2: The Sorrow of War
Thurs., Nov. 4: Nguyễn Huy Thiệp Phenomenon—Part I; The film Nostalgia for the Countryside
Nguyễn Huy Thiệp, "The General Retires" (in Crossing the River)
_____, "Remembrance of the Countryside" (in Crossing the River)
Tues. Nov. 9: Film: Nostalgia for the Countryside (Continued); The Nguyễn Huy Thiệp Phenomenon—Part II
Nguyễn Huy Thiệp, "Fired Gold" (in Crossing the River)
_____"The Woodcutters" (in Crossing the River)
Thurs., Nov. 11: Short Stories of Lê Thị Minh Khuê—Part I
"A Day on the Road" (in The Stars, The Earth, The River)
"The Last Rain of the Monsoon" (in The Stars . . .)
Rough drafts of course paper due.
Tues., Nov. 16:
Short Stories of Lê
Thị Minh Khuê—Part II; Constraints on Writers in Post-Renovation
"Tony D" (in The Stars . . .)
"A Small Tragedy" (in The Stars . . .)
Phạm Thị Hoài, "The Machinery of Vietnamese Art and Literature in the Post-Renovation, Post-Communist, and Post-Modern Era" (packet)
Linh Dinh, "Introduction:
Writing and Publishing in
Individual meetings with me this week to discuss rough drafts of course paper.
Thurs., Nov. 18: Selected Poems and Songs
Read the poems and song lyrics on the handout distributed previously.
Tues., Nov. 23: Thanksgiving Vacation
Thurs., Nov. 25: Thanksgiving Vacation
Tues., Nov. 30: Exile Narratives
Vơ Phiến, "A Spring of Quiet and Peace" (packet)
_____, "The Key" (packet)
Trần Tri Vũ, "Lost Years: My 1,632 Days in Vietnamese Reeducation Camps" (Excerpts) (packet)
Thurs., Dec. 2: Brief Oral Reports Based on Your Papers
Final drafts of course paper due.
Tues., Dec. 7: Brief Oral Reports Based on Your Papers
Thurs., Dec. 9: Review
Tues., Dec. 14, —12:10: Final Exam
VII. Possible Paper Topics
These are general topics—rather broad areas of investigation. Obviously you will need to explore the topic you choose and develop a specific approach to it based on your own interests and research. I will meet with each of you individually and suggest ways of narrowing your topic and developing a thesis statement.
Note: Unless otherwise indicated, all works mentioned in these descriptions of possible topics are on reserve.
1. The Tale of Kiều: Read this work by Nguyễn Du, the most famous and most admired work in all of Vietnamese literature, and compare its theme and structure to the modern Vietnamese novels that we will be reading.
development of the Vietnamese novel:
This topic is similar to #1 above.
Go beyond our class discussions and discuss how the novel emerged in
3. Stories of life during French colonial times: Read the excerpts from The Peasants and Dead End, both examples of documentary fiction, and the two essays, "Mud and Stagnant Water" and "Who Committed This Crime?" all of which can be found in Before the Revolution. Ngô Vĩnh Long, the compiler/translator of this collection, also provides background information on the life of peasants in colonial times. Relate these works to themes and issues discussed in class. (We will read and discuss When the Light's Put Out, another example of documentary fiction.) One possibility: compare these stories, sometimes called "critical realism," to works of "socialist realism" that came later. Another possibility: Read some historical accounts of French colonialism and compare what you learn in them with what you learn from these stories and essays. Joseph Buttinger's Vietnam: A Dragon Embattled, vol. 1, contains chapters on the colonial period.
Linh and the Self-Strength Group. We will discuss Nhất
Linh and read his novel "Severance," but
you could explore this important writer of the 1930's in more depth. He is a fascinating figure. Neil Jamieson's Understanding Vietnam includes information on him and see also
Stephen O'Harrow's "Some Background Notes on Nhất Linh" and Maurice
Durand and Nguyễn Trân
Introduction to Vietnamese Literature.
A short story, "Two Beauties," by Nhất
Linh can be found in James Banerian's
Vietnamese Short Stories," and I
have commented on this story in an introduction (which I've put on reserve
along with another copy of the story; see "Two Beauties" under my
name on the reserve list). Instead of
focusing on Nhất Linh
alone, you could focus more broadly on the Self-Strength Group which included
also Nhất Linh's
and Thạch Lam—and Khái
Hưng, Thế Lữ, and other writers. See Jamieson's Understanding
5. Socialist Realism: Explore this approach to literature more closely. See my brief discussion, "Works of Socialist Realism from the North and 'Liberated' South" for more ideas. Nguyễn Hưng Quốc's essay "Fifteen Years of Vietnamese Communist Literature (1975-1990)" provides some information. I can also give you more stories written according to the dictates of socialist realism for you to examine.
6. Poets Before and After the Revolution. Explore, in greater depth than we did in class discussions, how the poetry of Xuân Diệu, Lưu Trọng Lư, and Chế Lan Viên changed after they joined the revolution. Neil Jamieson in Understanding Vietnam provides a great deal of information on these poets.
Memoirs. In the 1960's many
communist revolutionaries, few of them professional writers, began writing
revolutionary memoirs and this movement continues to this day. Though many of
these memoirs are of dubious literary quality, they are interesting works
nevertheless. I've put two on reserve: Trần Tử B́nh's The Red Earth: A Vietnamese Memoir of Life on a Colonial Rubber Plantation and
Nguyễn Thị Định's No
Other Road to Take. Nguyễn Thị Định, a woman, was a revolutionary leader in
by writers associated with the
(Đổi Mới). Explore Renovation,
10. Modern Vietnamese short stories: Read stories in Wayne Karlin and Hồ Anh Thái's Love, After War, Wayne Karlin et al.'s The Other Side of Heaven, and Linh Dinh's Night, Again (all on reserve). Choose some stories that interest you and relate them to themes and issues and works by other writers that we have discussed in class. The article, "Let's Talk about Love," by Phan Thị Vàng Anh and Phạm Thu Thuy should give you some ideas of ways to approach this topic.
11. Nguyễn Huy Thiệp. This writer's short stories shocked and intrigued readers when they began to appear in the late 1980's. We will read some stories and discuss them but you could explore his work in more detail. Critical articles will help you get started. See Greg Lockhart's long introduction to The General Retires and Other Stories (listed under Nguyễn Huy Thiệp on the reserve list), K. W. Taylor's "Locating and Translating Boundaries in Nguyễn Huy Thiệp's Short Stories," and Peter Zinoman's "Nguyễn Huy Thiệp's 'Vàng Lửa' and the Nature of Intellectual Dissent in Contemporary Vietnam."
12. Lê Thị Minh Khuê. We will read some of this writer's short stories but you could read the others in The Stars, The Earth, The River and give your assessment of her achievements.
13. Modern Vietnamese novels: Read two of the following novels and relate them to works and issues discussed in class. If you choose the two works by Dương Thu Hương your paper could become a study of this writer's fiction. I've placed these novels on reserve:
Dương Thu Hương, Beyond Illusion
Dương Thu Hương, Novel without a Name
Ma Văn Kháng, Against the Flood
14. The War from Both Sides. Compare two Vietnamese novels about the war—Bảo Ninh's The Sorrow of War and Dương Thu Hương's Novel without a Name with two novels about the war by Americans. Possible American novels to consider: Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato; Larry Heinemann's Close Quarters, or Paco's Story; Bobbie Ann Mason's In Country.
Or compare poetry from both
sides. See Poems from Captured Documents (on reserve) and From Both Sides Now: The Poetry of the Vietnam
War and Its Aftermath (not on reserve but I could lend you a copy). This collection contains poetry by Vietnamese
and Americans. Poems by a highly praised
15. Accounts of Imprisonment and Reeducation:
Vietnamese literature includes some
moving accounts of imprisonment (We will read excerpts of one—Trần Tri Vũ's Lost Years). Vietnamese revolutionaries
spent years in colonial prisons run by the French, Hồ
Chí Minh spent time in a
Chinese prison (see The Prison Diary of Hồ Chí Minh),
and later younger revolutionaries spent time in prisons run by South Vietnamese
and their American allies.
Anti-communists, like the poet Nguyễn Chí Thiện, spent thirty
years in a communist prison in
16. Vơ Phiến.
This writer was well-known in
17. Vietnamese exile literature. Vietnamese exiles have written some
fascinating works. Few works written in
Vietnamese have been translated; much of this literature is in English,
composed by either generation 1.5 Vietnamese (born in
18. Confucianism, family customs and cultural values. We will discuss Confucianism a great deal in class. Choose several works and discuss the impact of Confucian values on them.
See "Cultural Background: Religion, Language, Myths, Legends" for some suggested works on Confucianism. This paper could be an exploration of Vietnamese customs and values related to the family as revealed in literary works with Confucianism only a minor, not the major, focus.
19. Changing attitudes toward love and marriage. Choose five or six works that we have read and compare the attitudes to love and marriage that are revealed in them.
List of Works in Course Packet
Note: Works are listed in the order they appear on the class schedule.
Alexander. "Vietnamese History:
Confucianism, Colonialism, and the Struggle for
Nguyễn Văn Huyên. "Intellectual and Artistic Life:
Công Huyền Tôn Nữ Nha Trang. "Ideal role Conformity of the Vietnamese Wife Reflected in Folksongs." Tenggara 8 (1976): 60-69.
Nguyễn Đ́nh Hoa, "Nguyễn Du and The Tale of Kiều."
In Vietnamese Literature: A Brief
Đ́nh Chiểu." In Vietnamese
Literature: A Brief Survey.
C. "Lục Vân Tiên: Its Relation to Prior Texts." In
_____. "Three Literary Trends
in Early 20th Century
_____. "Comments on Nhất Linh."
Schafer, John C. "Introduction to When the Light's Put Out."
Ngô Vĩnh Long. "Introduction" [To the work listed below].
Ngô Tất Tố, When the Lights' Put Out [Tắt Đèn] (Chapters 4,
10, 12, 13, and 18). Trans. by Ngô Vĩnh
Long. In Vietnamese Women in Society and Revolution: 1. The French Colonial
Trường Chinh. ""The Stand of
Marxist Culture" and "Some Concrete Problems of Our Country's Present
Literature and Art." In Selected Writings [by Trường Chinh].
Schafer, John C. "Comments on the 'Ivory Comb.'"
Nguyễn Sáng. "The Ivory Comb" [Chiếc Lược Ngà]. In The Ivory Comb. 2nd Edit.
Schafer, John C. "Comments on Hồn Đất by Anh Đức."
Excerpt from Hồn Đất. Trans. by Robert C. Friend.
Schafer, John C. "Three 'New Poets' Before and After the Revolution."
Banerian, James. "Vơ Phiến" [Introduction to story listed below].
Vơ Phiến. "Love Cherished for a Thousand
years" [Thương Hoài
Ngàn Năm]. Trans. by James Banerian. In Vietnamese Short Stories: An Introduction. Ed. and trans. by James Banerian.
Banerian, James. "Nhă Ca" [Introduction to the story listed below].
Nhă Ca. "A
Story for Lovers" [Truyện Cho Những T́nh Nhân]. Trans. by James Banerian. In Vietnamese Short Stories: An Introduction. Ed. and trans. by James Banerian.
Nguyễn Minh Chau. "Writing about War" [Viết về Chiến Tranh]. Trans. by Huỳnh Sanh Thông. Vietnamese Review 3 (Autumn-Winter, 1997): 438-446.
_____. "A Boat in the Distance" [Chiếc Thuyền Ngoài Xa]. Trans. by
_____. "A Ferry Stop in the Country" [Bến Quê]. Trans. by Linh Dinh. In Night,
Again: Contemporary Fiction from
Nguyễn Văn Linh. "Let Writers and Artists Actively Contribute to Renovation." Vietnamese Studies (New Series) 21 (1991): 117-125.
Phạm Thị Hoài. "The Machinery of
Vietnamese Art and Literature in the Post-Renovation, Post-Communist, and
Post-Modern Period." Webpage of Center for Southeast Asian Studies,
Linh Dinh. "Introduction: Writing and Publishing in
Vơ Phiến. "A Spring of Quiet and Peace" [Một Mùa Xuân
An Lành]. Trans. by Huỳnh Sanh Thông. In Landscape and Exile. Ed. by Marguerite Guzman Bouvard.
_____. "The Key" [Cái Ch́a Khóa]. Trans. by Phan Phan. In Landscape and Exile. Ed. by Marguerite Guzman Bouvard.
Trần Tri Vũ.
Excerpts from Lost Years: My 1,632
Days in Vietnamese Reeducation Camps.
Trans. by Nguyễn Phúc.