Masterworks of Asian Literature in Comparative Perspective: A Guide for Teaching

Masterworks of Asian Literature in Comparative Perspective: A Guide for Teaching

Masterworks of Asian Literature in Comparative Perspective: A Guide for Teaching

Masterworks of Asian Literature in Comparative Perspective: A Guide for Teaching

Synopsis

This is a collection of 46 essays by specialists in Asian literature, who offer a wide range of possibilities for introducing Asian literature to English-speaking students. It is intended to help in promoting multicultural education.

Excerpt

"The very thought of a superior European culture is a blatant insult to the majesty of Nature," wrote the eighteenth century German philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder in his Ideas on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind. Herder's study questioned the assumption of most historians of his time that "civilization" was a unilinear process, leading to the high point of eighteenth century European culture. The critique seems relevant two centuries later, in view of the debates going on in American educational circles between academics who interpret multicultural curricular changes in the humanities as a lapse into cultural relativism, and opponents who contend that the cultural imperialism that still dominates Western attitudes towards Asian, African, and Latin American cultures is at best anachronistic.

The issues are complex, but radical changes in American society over the past half century, wrought by factors of war, migration, and global communication, have altered what we call "Western culture," the range of beliefs and values that anthropologists refer to as patterns of and for behavior. New research in archaeology, geography, and literature suggests that the cultures of Asia and the West have historically been less indifferent to one another than is generally supposed. It has become increasingly clear that in order to understand what Western culture is, we need some understanding of non-Western cultures. Most of us live in multi-cultural environments in which we are constantly faced with ideas and practices that challenge our personal values. To be truly educated in the modern world demands the ability to make . . .

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