Prior to the mid-twentieth century, the study of Asia in the American academy generally inherited the traditions of nineteenth-century European Orientalism, emphasizing philology, classical literature, and history. At the dawn of the Cold War, Area Studies emerged as the dominant paradigm, remaining strongly in place until the fall of the Soviet Union, slowly fading in importance in the decades that have followed.
Although much has changed in the field of Asian Studies since the breakup of the Soviet bloc, few concerted attempts have been made to think creatively about these changes and to propose new models for the study of Asia in the American academy. This NEH Summer Institute is a first step, providing an opportunity for a group of teachers of the Asian Humanities to develop new approaches for the undergraduate classroom in a collaborative environment. The Institute will trace the history of the Humanities’ role in Asian Studies in the past and offer new perspectives for the critical and comparative study of Asia in the future.
Three modern Asian novels will provide the anchor of our inquiry: José Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not), published in 1887, Natsume Soseki’s Kokoro (The Heart of Things), published in 1914, and Rabindranath Tagore’s Ghare Baire (The Home and the World), published in 1916.
The University of Michigan has been a leading center for Asian Studies since the nineteenth century, playing a key role in each of the models of the past. With its huge Asia Library, its five Asia area centers, and its Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, it is an ideal site for building new models for the Asian Humanities in the American curriculum.