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CHIN 582 A: Seminar In Vernacular Literature

black and white drawing of chinese people sword fighting
Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
* *
John Christopher (Chris) Hamm

Syllabus Description:

Seminar in Vernacular Literature: Shuihu zhuan 水滸傳, The Water Margin

CHIN 582A  SLN 12350

TTh 1:30-3:20 pm – Remote (synchronous)

Prof. John Christopher (Chris) Hamm   (206) 543-4974 

Office Hours: T, Th 10:30-11:30 am. Zoom Meeting ID: 931 7365 4625

Chinese 582 in Spring 2021 will offer an introduction to the study of pre-modern Chinese vernacular fiction via one of the most well-known and influential examples of the genre, the linked-chapter novel Shuihu zhuan 水滸傳 (The Water Margin).

Topics addressed in the seminar will include:

  • Sources and development of the material
  • History of the text(s)
  • Structural and thematic analysis
  • Critical heritage and reception history
  • The language of vernacular fiction
  • Literary influence in China and the broader Sinosphere
  • Sequels and adaptations

Precise topics and assignments will be tailored to the interests of students enrolled.

Enrollment by instructor’s permission. Requires reading knowledge of standard modern Chinese and at least one year’s study of Classical Chinese. Completion of CHIN 463 or comparable coursework in Chinese literary history strongly recommended. The course will be taught in English. Contact instructor for further information.

General Discussion

This discussion board is available to share resources relevant to the course and thoughts and questions beyond the scope of the individual posting assignments.

Daily Assignments

For the posting assignments that will be the basis for class discussions, see the weekly course Modules.

Course Format

The seminar meets synchronously online via Zoom, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:30-3:20 pm PST. Be present with camera ON, and microphone muted unless you are speaking. (Let the instructor know if there are circumstances, technical or otherwise, that make it inconvenient to use your camera.) We will typically take a short break halfway through each session.

Our Tuesday sessions will focus primarily on assigned portions of the text, and our Thursday sessions primarily on assigned readings in the secondary scholarship—though we can expect frequent intersections between the two.

Our in-class discussions will begin from online postings that you will make prior to each class. Your posting for each class is due no later than 11:59 pm the day prior to the class meeting; you are strongly encouraged to post further in advance. In addition to your own original posting, you must post a response to one of your classmates’ posts for each class session. These responses are due by Friday 11:59 pm of each week (though you are welcome to make them earlier), and can reflect or extend class discussion as you wish. In some cases I will provide a specific prompt for the original posting; if no prompt is provided (and even if it is), you are welcome to comment on any aspect of the reading that you find of interest. At least one each of your two weekly postings and two weekly responses must be in English; if you like, one may be in Chinese. Class discussion will be in English.

Materials and Texts

Our course will proceed simultaneously on two intersecting tracks; that of reading and discussing Shuihu zhuan, and that of reading and discussing scholarship on a range of related topics.


The works of secondary scholarship we will be reading together and discussing in the course will be made available online, through links to online materials or as PDFs posted to the course Canvas page.

Shuihu zhuan

Your first task for the course is to find a Shuihu zhuan text that you will use as your primary reading copy as we read and study. Perhaps you own a copy; perhaps you request one from the UW Libraries; perhaps you find an online text; perhaps you come up with another solution. There are many different versions, editions, and texts of Shuihu zhuan, with different kinds and degrees of variation among them. Try to get hold of a 100- or 120-hui edition rather than a 70-hui version. The differences between texts and the historical relationships between them are among the topics we will address in class.

Catalog Description: 
Reading and analysis of Chinese vernacular literary texts. Selections vary. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.
Last updated: 
February 3, 2021 - 11:51am