2. About this course

Course topic and structure ◆ teaching aspirations & learning outcomes ◆ Object learning and active learning ◆ *Connectionism, *Connectivism, *emergence

— Key Terms —

  • Introduced in this chapter:
    • Connectionism
    • Connectivism
    • emergence
    • love
  • Mentioned and should now be familiar (review if necessary):
    • cultural contexts, East Asia, interpretive projects

— Chapter Abstract —

This chapter states the core topics of the course, outlines its structure, shares my teaching aspirations (goals) that affect the learning directions, states the learning outcomes that you should aim for, and notes where the details of the course are located. It includes an extended description of three types of knowledge that are core to the course, including *emergent knowledge and its relationship to *Connectionism and *Connectivism.

— Chapter Outline —

  • 2.1. Course overview
  • 2.2. Course topics
  • 2.3. Three types of knowledge encountered in this course
    • 2.3.1. Overview
    • 2.3.2. First type of knowledge: Object learning where the objects are details of the course method and details of relevant *cultural contexts
    • 2.3.3. Second type of knowledge: Active learning as analytic skill deployed in the process of completing *interpretive projects
    • 2.3.4. Third type of knowledge: *Emergence and its place in this course
      • What is *emergence?
      • In what ways is *emergence important for this course?
      • *Connectionism, *Connectivism, *connectedness (musubi)
      • *Connectionism—*emergent knowledge & culture (here paired with Buddhist sensibilities)
      • *Connectivism—a challenge to course premises
      • What you are expected to be able to use of *Connectionism and *Connectivism
  • 2.4. Course structure
  • 2.5. Course goals
    • 2.5.1. My teaching aspirations
    • 2.5.2. Learning outcomes
  • 2.6. Locations of course details

2.1. Course overview

In this course you will learn the details of some traditional *cultural contexts and identify others on your own. You will deploy those contexts using a specific analytic method towards the goal of interpreting *narratives that have *love as an important element. Your analysis must always be clearly about *love. (This requirement is called the *”always about high-order love” standard.)

With *love (broadly defined) as your focus and *cultural contexts as your primary guide for interpretation, you will offer reasons why the fictional characters within a *narrative behave as they do, what they might be thinking, what they seem to think love is, what their hopes and expectations appear to be, and what they might be feeling. Thus, the course method requires that you bring to bear on *narratives credible *cultural contexts that you have constructed, using your best understanding of the immediate culture but also having considered the possible presence (extensive or limited) of traditional *worldviews and *ethical values that you may less frequently think about.

Many aspects of a *narrative—structure, tone, plot developments—result from the pressure or influence from other literary or cinematic objects (and for many other reasons). However, we are not explicating a story or film in its entirety, nor are we attempting to situate it in literary or film history. Rather, we are borrowing the *narrative space to discuss issues of culture. Therefore, we more or less completely set aside these other considerations, important though they are for a rich understanding of the *narrative in its full artistic stature. As valuable as this is, we only use literature and films as forums for exploring the *status of *worldviews, *ethical values, and *common practices, premodern or otherwise. In short, our course project is to engage cultural features of *East Asia using *love as our way to focus this exploration.

The course is in three segments:

  1. We begin by learning the course *interpretive method in its specifics, together with the assumptions and premises on which it is based. (Parts Two and Three of this book, working in conjunction with Part Five.)
  2. We then take up one at a time *authoritative systems of thought that might influence how participants in *East Asian cultures think about love: Western views, Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. (Part Four of this book with reference to Part Five as necessary, plus further in-class discussions.)
  3. Finally, we view, discuss, and interpret *love *narratives within modern *East Asian films. (Based on films assigned for viewing, with reference to this book as necessary.)

The above work is done through reading, occasional lectures, exercises, and discussions. Much of the work will be with your peers, in small group formations.

2.2. Course topic and the primary course activity: *interpretive projects

The content and activities in this course are built around this broad question:

What is the *status of *traditional *East Asian *worldviews and *social values in modern cinema produced in China, Korea, and Japan—specifically *worldviews and *social values that are relevant to how stories of *love (broadly defined) are told and understood?

Or, put another way,

To what degree should we deploy *traditional *worldviews and *values if we wish to interpret as accurately as we can *love *narratives found in modern *East Asian films?

Using what we call *interpretive projects, you will fashion credible position statements to specific areas of the *narrative ( pre-determined or offered by you as *narrowly defined topics) designed to be relevant to the above topics, restated appropriate for the project at hand as overall guiding question (*framing question). Thus, the *interpretive projects in the class have this conceptual hierarchy:

  1. Course topic — never set aside
  2. Identification of the film or *narrative to be considered
  3. Guidance question that creates appropriately or interestingly a bridge between the course topic and the film or *narrative at hand
  4. Development of a much more specific topic that is relevant to some aspect of the broader question
  5. Decisions about what interpretive perspective you will take (selection of a *ToM) and what *cultural contexts you will deploy
  6. Tentative conclusions or statements of position

If it is a group project, you will also report who agrees, who disagrees, and other discoveries made as the result of group discussion.

2.3. Three types of knowledge presented in this course

2.3.1. Overview

“Knowledge” in this class is complex and, often, ambiguous. It might be helpful to organize under types of knowledge the types of things you are expected to learn in this course. This can help you understand that some things you might characterize as just “things to do” are seen by me as knowledge that is to be acquired and will be assessed. This understanding will position you best to learn efficiently and score well.

I will ask you to engage three types of knowledge.

The first type is obtained through reading: course materials, your own outside research, and the *CDE reports of other students. All three of areas of reading are expected. Research will be initiated and designed by you and your group. The other two types are generated by you through acts of interpretive analysis, including the many discussions associated with them. Although the *interpretive projects will lead to a product (a report that might offer tentative conclusions), it is primarily the process that should be considered the knowledge, not the product.

The content of the first type of knowledge could, in theory, be written down if you were asked to do so. There second cannot be easily written; it is a disciplined analysis—a skill in action, that is, executing *interpretive projects.

The third is a para-phenomenon arising from the second:  *emergent knowledge related to understandings of what *love is, cultural content, and relationships between culture and interpretation. Some of this *emergent knowledge exists ephemerally,  only in the moment of discussion or analysis, other aspects linger as traces of thoughts or conclusions, while now and then there might be specific discoveries that you will keep well after the course is finished.

I regard all three of the above types of knowledge as equally valuable.

To restate these three types of knowledge in somewhat different language: You will learn from the reading, me, and your peers details about *East Asian cultures that you might not have known; by reading this book and practicing its principles in class, you will learn a specific analytic process that can be modified for your use in other fields or at other times; and, you will probably at times, in a self-aware way, situate yourself within webs of connected ideas, perhaps seeing how this type of knowledge has practical value in making judgments and decisions as well as re-fashioning your own ways of learning in the future.

2.3.2. First type of knowledge: Object learning where the objects are details of the course method and details of relevant cultural contexts

This first type of knowledge is what most students might intuitively think of as “knowledge” in that it is, in large part, “factual” information (such as the Buddhist idea of *karma), or premises and positions upon which the course is based (such as the working premise that *narrative progress should *make sense).

There are three areas of this type of knowledge that you will be asked to master:

  • terms related to the assumptions, premises, and other theoretical positions that are the foundation of the interpretive method used in this course (for example, what we mean by *cognitive love),
  • specific standards, rules, and steps of the interpretive method used in this course (such as the *”always about high-order love” standard), and
  • *cultural contexts relevant to interpretations (such as love-related concepts associated with Confucianism).

2.3.3. Second type of knowledge: Active learning as analytic skill deployed in the process of completing *interpretive projects

The second type of knowledge is your ability to perform and complete *interpretive projects: identify areas of value to explore, construct a *Theory of Mind (*ToM) for a *narrative figure or individual based on a credible and skilled application of *cultural contexts, then, finally, draw conclusions from this process. The *interpretive method is predefined to produce concrete, credible, shareable analysis in the face of an extremely amorphous, vague topic (“*love”).

Our object of interpretation is primarily, but not always, some aspect of a modern *East Asian film. You will be asked to generate your own credible interpretations then (in most cases) test them within your group. Your ability to perform the analysis according to the *course method, then the credibility, value and interest of your conclusions will be assessed. Your conclusions are not assessed as to whether they are “correct” — only whether they are the result of the method correctly done and credible, broadly measured. You are, therefore, free to accept or reject your conclusions and those of others as worthwhile descriptions of the situation or culture that was the topic.

 2.3.4. Third type of knowledge: *Emergence and its place in this course What is *emergence?

The third type of knowledge that I hope you grapple with in this course is best characterized as *emergent.

*In truth, *emergence can be either ontological or epistemological and so its placement here as a course type of knowledge is somewhat awkward. We include both types of *emergence in this course. Ontologically speaking, the concept of *emergence includes an assertion that some things exist as *emergent phenomena arising from the synergy of various elements interacting and exist only as long as that synergy is present in some way. Epistemologically speaking, *emergent knowledge is active networks of ideas and facts and is greater than the sum of those various parts. *Emergent knowledge perhaps cannot be fully articulated or even understood if we take ourselves to be members of the network but engaging it nevertheless has great value for us.

When we can more or less recognize the roles of elements in the production of the *emergent phenomenon, we call it a “weak” *emergent event. When it is very difficult or impossible to articulate fully what exactly are the roles the elements play in leading to the *emergent phenomenon we call it a “strong” *emergent event. This distinction is important to us in that most of the *emergent phenomena we confront for our analysis can best be described as “strong.”

*Emergent phenomena can have a “downward” influence; that is, the arising of macro-level *emergent entities from micro-level elements or networks is not one way: *emergent entities, once they have come into existence, can influence the elements or networks that produced them. While it is not possible to see exactly why at this early point in the course, remembering this “two-way” relationship enhances the credibility of our *interpretive project positions and conclusions.

For this course, as a type of knowledge, *emergent knowledge is networked knowledge engaged or perceived by embracing the dynamic dimensions among the diversity of details of our discussions and interpretive acts. This is in contrast to a standard “course mastery” process that is reductive—one that seeks to distill course details into sets of principles. To put it another way, the *emergent knowledge view allows or, better, expects the various moving parts to remain complex and interactive rather than believing they can be more accurately comprehended by consolidating or simplifying them towards essential statements. I ask you to attend to this complex, interactive, developing process of the many moments of knowledge we generate through analysis, to glean something of value that leads towards a larger view of East Asian culture. The skill is to reside in a networked activity that looks more like a web of small observations rather than build a package of principles to preserve after the course concludes. The language I will use may well be often essentialist (such as “the role of passivity” “the *status of ren,” and so on) but this is a step at the micro-level of the class. It is how these various essential elements or principles play out in the ambiguity and complexity of specific situations and what this might suggest at a macro-level of culture that should be foremost in your mind despite that the work to complete and submit for the course is mostly at the micro-level of point-by-point interpretations. In what ways is *emergence important for this course?

*Emergent knowledge is used differently and means somewhat different things depending on the discipline. There are several reasons why it is important in our case.

To begin, as you will see when we discuss interpretation, I have a high respect (and suspicion) for the generative power of the cognitive mind. *Narratives themselves, and why they feel “real” to us is, in my opinion, a relatively strong *emergent phenomenon. Phenomena that can be traced directly back to the sum of its elements is not *emergent. For example, the total number of books on all the various shelves in my house could be called, collectively, my library. Weak *emergent phenomena have some meaningful explanatory relationship to the elements whereas strong *emergent phenomena might have an indistinguishable, perhaps mysterious, perhaps even ultimately unknowable relationship such as the relationship between brain neurons and consciousness. *Narratives, in my mind, are relatively strong: we encounter the elements of the story in terms of tone, characters, plot, and so on, yet somehow the story means more to us than the sum of these parts regardless of how detailed and insightful we are in describing those elements. Since our work is done in the environment of *narratives, your most promising analytic start point will be if you approach *narratives as *emergent phenomenon. Your interpretations will be more credible and more meaningful to you and others. You will avoid simplistic arguments that would draw a straight line between a principle discussed and an event in the story, statements such as “Chinese believe in Daoism and so when she turned her back on him and walked away, he remained passive and let her leave.” We know the world is more complicated than that; indeed, one of the basic course rules is to offer “real” interpretations, not abstract ones. Preserving this rule requires that we remain aware of the complexities of the projects keeping in mind the *emergent nature of what we are analyzing.

Similarly, just as we use *narratives as the forum for discussing the nuances of the culture of a group, this course assumes that a group’s culture itself is a strong *emergent phenomenon. Social groups are more than just a lot of individuals—they have a new, *emergent, identity at the level of the social network, one that is not simply an averaging out or other calculation of its many individual members. We cannot just expect the individual to be a microcosm of the society’s collective identity. The relationship between the individual and society is more mysterious than that. Our observations will be appropriately more accurate as well as more cautious when we keep this in mind.

Finally, the broad definition we use in this course for *love is also an *emergent phenomenon: “the strong *emergent effect of neurochemical, affective, and cognitive processes.” In this view of love, the neurochemistry of one’s body helps produce the affective emotions and together they influence cognition. However, there is a downward effect: cognition can generate emotions and emotions will trigger neurochemical changes.

This upwards-downwards model is also useful when thinking of culture: individuals collectively generate culture but culture has a downward influence on the qualities of the individual. When considering the influence of culture, as we do, we look mostly on how culture constrains individuals or how *cultural contexts lead and constrain interpretations. But, to keep things real, we should also remember that culture is not monolithic or static and continues to arise from and evolve as a result of the thoughts, feeling, and actions of the members of the cultural group.

Aside from viewing *narratives, culture, and *love as *emergent macro-phenomena that arise from the synergy of the elements at a micro level, I suggest that the course itself, as a result of dialogue and especially *bounded dialogue leads, collectively, to *emergent knowledge that helps us think about culture. The activities in the class are dialogue based but not in debate fashion where two positions are tested against each other to find the best elements of each. Instead, dialogue is open and accepting to a wide range of observations which, when considered collectively, are meant to create webs of knowledge that helps us think about culture. *Connectionism, *Connectivism, *connectedness (musubi)

With *emergent knowledge in mind, I would like to introduce two concepts that have significant background influence in this course: *Connectionism and *Connectivism. While you do not need to know the specifics of these concepts, knowing something about them will make certain parts of the course less puzzling and might help you be more efficient in matching your effort to the type of effort expected.

The first of these, *Connectionism, originated in the 1940s and involves mathematical models called connectionist networks. The second, *Connectivism, is the name of a pedagogical approach first introduced in 2005.

I would like to say at the outset that both of these concepts subvert, although not entirely, Theory of Mind (*ToM) theories, one of the most central elements of our courses *interpretive projects. This rupture in the theoretical foundations for the course has yet to be repaired and perhaps need not be. Nevertheless, I want to note it here since it can, indeed, cause some confusion along the way. By the way, we also learn a Japanese term—*musubi—that will be translated as “connectedness.” It has nothing to do with these other two terms. The potential for confusion is unfortunate but inescapable. *Connectionism—*emergent knowledge & culture (here paired with Buddhist sensibilities)

*Connectionism—when applied to neurobiology, cognitive science, and certain areas of psychology—suggests that behavior, indeed the mind itself, is not built upon the playing out of principles but is the result of the activation of networks of neurons. Rather than an “if … then …” cognitive framework that relies on logic, categories, and principles, the knowledge that is used to interpret all things around us is instead the (incredibly vast) arrays of neuron networks themselves in their synergetic moments of activation. We have 100 billion neurons and that allows for an astronomically large number of a neuron networks.[1]

*Connectionism seems to me to be relevant to our project of trying to understand the role of culture in human behavior because it raises a question about what happens (and so what we should do to learn effectively) when we become able to function in a new culture. Are we learning overarching principles of that culture and applyingin complex ways those principles to all the little acts of the day, perhaps in ways we ourselves do not understand? Or, instead, are we memorizing, one-by-one, appropriate behaviors and either only reproducingthat behavior at the appropriate time or, more complexly, the synergy of our many learned behaviors generates new behavior that works appropriately within the boundaries of a cultural group? In other words, is culture generated by sets of ideasand sub-ideas, loosely interrelated and synergistically interacting? Or, is it better to think of culture to be just as soulless as we, too, would be with this biologically-based view of the origins of thoughts and behaviors—that is, as just exactly the plentitude of interconnected behaviors themselves, webs and patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions, observed or performed then memorized by neuron networks, to be constantly shared and reproduced within the cultural group as patterns activated? If it is the latter, then this course which posits *worldviews and *values as cultural-generating principles and so have value toward interpreting and understanding the character of a culture, may have little practical value, even if interesting. We do indeed intuitively believe that living in a culture is the fastest way to become proficient in it, in which case perhaps learning a culture is, indeed, the observation and memorization of a vast collection of behaviors.

On the other hand, when in Japan I have met Americans who have lived for decades in that country and yet still are not functionally proficient in the culture, and these individuals almost inevitably seem to lack reflection as to what Japanese culture is. This suggests that deducing principles from the culture around one is a useful, perhaps even necessary step towards cultural fluency. Additionally, I have observed that the combination of structured (principles-based) teaching of the Japanese language paired with real world exposure to the language leads to faster and more complete language proficiency than just being immersed in that linguistic environment. Therefore, partially based on what I know of theories of learning and partially based on what I have observed, I am convinced of the approach of this course but recognize that there is much we still do not understand about how we learn anything, let alone something as subtle and complex as culture, or what is, exactly, the origins of social patterns of behavior.

We do not need to settle this issue. I have defined as a premise for the course that *cultural contexts exert pressure on *ToM and that *ToM of *narratives resemble *ToM of actual people and so learning and applying *contexts to construct the content of *ToM might help us understand members of that culture. Even if these premises are wrong, learning more about a culture is anyway a good project, and learning how attending to *contexts frees us from our own prejudices is a very good project.

Despite an inability to clarify whether it is more helpful to think of culture as *emerging from a complex interaction of principles or, instead, from simply highly complex and multitudinous neuron networks, the basic principles of *Connectivism are at the very foundation of my way of thinking about *cultural contexts, social and individual identity, and *love.

I definitely do not ask you to make my views yours. Nevertheless, many aspects of this course are designed around my belief that our interpretations will be more accurate, honest, and viable in real world settings if we observe a wide variety of disparate details rather than search out similarities, if we accept the unfinished and diverse qualities of our observations rather than push for essentialist statements. In my opinion, there is no “master at home” coordinating everything. Instead, people and their cultures live in day-to-day details as ephemeral, complex, and fluid forms. To restate this borrowing the Buddhist influence within me: There is no coordinating master (no-self 無我), only the “everything else”with *emergence an important epiphenomenon of these interactions.

This “network-first—don’t centralize around a grand central station of some sort, *ToM is not a snapshot of an enduring soul, it is for the moment, not forever” position, I would like to argue, better allows us to accept and consider the contradictions of the human (the push and pull between desires and *ethical values, indecisiveness, contradictory behavior—all of it) and similar contradictions and tensions within a culture. It definitely creates humble limits to our *ToM, preventing stereotyping and keeping our conclusions at the level of a description related to a particular instance rather than taking them to be enduring principles or steps towards them. We are most definitely blocked from aiming for dangerous and absurd conclusions that might look something like: “All Japanese are … ,” or “Every Korean will … ,” or “Most Chinese prefer … .” *Connectionist and *emergent descriptions—attending to complex arrays of networks of behavior or knowledge or attitudes that come into play—seem to me to be the most promising and accurate way of thinking about culture(s) and our culture-embedded lives in their complex, ongoing multiplicities. *Connectivism—a challenge to course premises

Let us move on to the place of *Connectivism in this course. One of the key premises of *Connectivism is that the skills traditionally taught at a university do not always match well with the skills students need to be successful and happy in their work lives after graduation. *Connectivism argues that in a world of high connectivity and over abundant information, agility and speed and perceptive judgment at assembling in a practical way information within reach (and the reach is far), for a particular purpose, is often the best recipe for success. The skilled and successful individual does this effectively over and over, based on the situation at hand. The process does not require that the same or even same type of knowledge be assembled by the individual each time, nor does it expect an internalization of knowledge (principles) that is kept ready to be applied consistently across various situations. This is a version of pragmatism and, in my view, the American higher education system is increasingly being measured by and moving towards behavior best described as prioritizing pragmatic directions.

*Connectivism does not just envision an individual who navigates the Internet with great skill in order to connect bits of data (knowledge) with the aim at making good decisions and judgments at a particular moment in time based on that assembled knowledge. It suggests something much larger: that successful human endeavor, the shape of knowledge itself, is collaborative, with networked humans acting in a networked world of information. The emphasis, therefore, is on developing skills in the effective use of digital reach, on the one hand, and improving collaborative skills, on the other.

I think *Connectivism has a point. Therefore, in this course, you will assemble working groups whose members hopefully have diverse opinions and different cultural backgrounds (reservoirs of cultural knowledge about *cultural contexts). These groups interpret *love *narratives then compare notes based on their skilled research, personal understanding, and their analysis derived from these. This process hopefully leads to a mutual diminishing of cultural blindness due to preconceptions. It visualizes students who make effective and intelligent use of the diversity of information accessible via the Internet. Unlike typical research prioritizing credible sources, this research contemplates various claims of what a cultural practice is, although of course the student needs to be aware of the nature of the information with which she or he is working, and duly note that so others reading her or his work knows that as well. In my view of the course, therefore, students deploy critically *Connectivist skills to develop cultural knowledge and bring that knowledge to the group where collaborative skills enrich positions and help neutralize errors. This process (independent analysis brought to group meetings where it is discussed) is based on my belief that cultural “knowledge” is less a list of items to be learned as it is ideas performed through dialogue (a group manifesting as networked knowledge). The collaborative process begins with an *interpretive project and ends in a *CDE report, where key aspects of the meeting are recorded and shared, to become the topic of further discussion by other working groups or in classwide sessions or among students of the next generation of the course.

Again, as with *Connectionism(*emergent phenomena arising from networks), the premises of *Connectivism (students need a different pedagogy that helps teach a different set of skills than are traditionally trained) seem to me closer to how we move within a culture where we make multitudinous decisions based on specific situations while principles might play a role but the specifics of the information at hand plays a greater role. Alas, as with *Connectionism, there is conceptual tension between the implications of a learning style centered on *Connectivism and our interpretive method which assumes that there are enduring *worldviews and *values informing *cultural contexts. In this sense, our method, in part, rejects the “flat” and pragmatic invitation of *Connectionist learning. But where it embraces it is in the emphasis on *instances rather than broad and sweeping topics, and in the commitment to collaborative learning (the class working on a project together, rather than individuals producing work for the instructor). We, as a class, are all in pursuit of a certain type of knowledge and share our discoveries along the way. The essential course structure is not instructor-gives-to-student, student-proves-reception but rather all class members explore and share, creating ephemeral but important *emergent knowledge through those very and various actions of sharing. What you are expected to be able to use of *Connectionism and *Connectivism

Again, as stated earlier, you do not need to know the above theoretical positions in detail.

You do, however, need to know my expectations for students derived from ideas related to *Connectionism:

  • You are not expected to be in pursuit of “big” ideas, “meta” positions, or macro-level *emergent phenomena that might act as the most powerful explainers of the essence of a culture. This is not the practical content of the course, although it is, indeed, its idealistic goal. The scale of what we actually do is smaller and tied to *narrowly defined topics and *instances. You are expected to generate credible, useful, and hopefully interesting knowledge on narrow points (*instances and *narrowly defined topics) relevant to the course topic. This is sometimes difficult for students to remember in their wish to draw conclusions about the culture of an *East Asian country.
  • You are, however, expected to remain open to taking complex questions as the start point of analysis, then fashioning something specific with that more complex question in mind. Conclusions, too, should be respectful of the complexity of our projects, meaning they will often be tentative rather than asserted with confidence.
  • Your group is at its best when it is enabling a process where you create a space friendly to *emergent discoveries. While there is indeed value in simply discovering whether your group members agree with your interpretations or not, the *emergent knowledge that might result at times from your group discussions is, hopefully, greater than just the sum (list) of the details of those discussions.

In terms of *Connectivism:

  • You are expected to be dynamic, discerning, and effective as an independent researcher on the Internet, bringing together in meaningful, creative, but critically aware ways the information you discover.
  • Collaboration at the group level means to interact energetically rather than divide the work to be done among group members to obtain an end project sooner. Good collaboration means honoring a process-rich discussion not seeking product-oriented efficiency with the rapid completion of the analysis in mind. The processof discussion itself should be the focus.

2.4. Course structure

First segment of the course. Part Two of this book is the first portion of the course: we get comfortable with the interpretive method to be used and the theories behind it.

Next segment of the course. I begin introducing content of *cultural contexts: Greek thought, traditional views of love from (mostly) Christendom, ancient Chinese cosmology (Daoism, including Daoist sexual alchemy), Confucianism, and Buddhism.

Final segment of the course. Gradually we begin to place more emphasis on films as a way to both understand introduced *cultural contexts and introduce further cultural contexts. In this segment, with films as part of the discussion, a few more country-specific concepts are introduced, such as *han and *musubi.

In brief, we move from theoretical considerations to learning the specifics of an array of *cultural contexts to the interpretation of *love *narratives in films.

This general structure is adjusted with every iteration of the class, based on the circumstances of that particular semester.

2.5. Teaching aspirations and learning outcomes

As already stated, in this course you are asked to offer your reasoning about love-related behaviors, thoughts, and feelings of fictional characters within *narratives. You explore these questions by learning contextual information (love-related aspects of Daoism, Confucianism, and so on) and using that information to fashion your interpretations as you judge appropriate, testing your ideas against others in discussion, as well as listening to theirs. What you talk about and how you talk about it is, to some degree, circumscribed by the specifics of the *interpretive method you are required to use because this brings us nearer one another in our analyses and, also, protects against just spinning our wheels given that “*love” is a large and ambiguous topic.

That is the thumbnail description of the learning activity of our class.

2.5.1. My teaching goals

What students should be able to do by the end of this course is listed next, as learning outcomes. Here, however, I would like to describe my “goals” (my hopes and aspirations for your learning on a long-term basis) because these are the basis for the overall directions of this course. Learning outcomes, described in the next section, are specific, attainable finish lines. These aspirations are open-ended, broader in their implications, and not necessarily attained or attainable or perhaps can be attained only in degree.

These are my teaching aspirations for this course:

  • I hope students can understand with greater sophistication how premodern *worldviews and *ethical values might be influencing modern cultures of China, Korea, and Japan. When students develop the ability to “tease out” (make explicit) these “background” influences, their understanding of a situation becomes less based on their own preconceptions and better grounded in an understanding of the actual situation. (An aspiration about reading cultural situations accurately.)
  • I hope students become interested in the puzzle of what produces “culture.” (An aspiration about understanding where culture originate.)
  • I hope students become more self-aware of how a culture has a startlingly large role in determining one’s own *worldviews and *ethical values. If this is accomplished, students will also have a better appreciation of how culturally embedded the experience of *love truly is, how great the gap can be between two individuals in their understanding of a relationship, and how misleading the phrase “true love” can be. (An aspiration about the enhanced self-knowledge of one’s cultural identity, as well as a goal about understanding what *love is.)
  • I hope students become more self-aware of the role of preconceived notions (*models, *cultural attractors, etc.) in interpretive conclusions, and that they develop a crisper understanding of the boundaries of their own preconceived notions. This self-knowledge can enable helpful self-affirmation as one better knows what one believes and why one believes it. At the same time, I hope students develop some expertise in noticing when their assumptions are dulling their ability to see a situation accurately (that is, that someone else might be thinking much more differently than one had assumed) and can catch the opportunity to invite new ways of thinking and perhaps even adjust their own *worldviews or personal *ethical values in some way beneficial to them (and perhaps those around them). (An aspiration about knowing one’s thinking habits and thereby enhancing one’s ability to expand one’s thinking horizons.)
  • I hope that this becomes a thinking habit: “That person did X. Do I really understand why? Are there *worldviews and *values behind that action and, if so, what might they be? Do I really understand or might I be missing something?” (A further aspiration about expanding one’s thinking *horizon.)
  • Also, I hope (for those interested in thinking about things like this) that students notice how—in considering the clash of *worldviews and *values between *East Asian *traditional thinking and Western views of *love—they also are able to gain a better understanding of the history of *East Asian countries’ encounters with Western values,  or the *status of these *values in contemporary *East Asia, or both. This is a very interesting area of thought but not an explicit course topic or a required line of thought. (An aspiration about East-West relations and the role of history in that.)
  • Finally, I hope that those who already understand such things can reconfirm in this course the very difficult position women have held in traditional *East Asian cultures, and that those who have not yet considered these issues can come to a greater level of awareness.  (An aspiration about deepening one’s sensitivity to the challenges women have had and continue to have.)

2.5.2. Learning outcomes

By the completion of this course you will be able to do these things:

  • State key *worldviews and *ethical values associated with the teachings of Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism—while our focus is on *love-related content, in practice it is necessary to consider these three broadly.
  • Explain the relevance to course topics of other key terms such as 情 (“feeling,” “essence,” “emotion”—*qing in Chinese, *nasake in Japanese, *jeong in Korean), 甘え (“emotional dependence”—amae in Japanese), 親 (“familiarity,” “intimacy”—*qin in Chinese, *shitashimi in Japanese, *chin in Korean), and 恨 (“hatred,” “resentment,” “rancor”—*hen in Chinese, *urami in Japanese, *han in Korean).
  • Outline key features of “Western” love—including Western romantic love—as informed by Greek and Christian thought.
  • Offer a more complex view of what *love is and was—one which includes a range of premodern, unfamiliar views, and, further, will better understand how *love is defined by the cultures in which it is embedded.
  • Recognize some common features in *East Asian love-related *narrative structures such as the use of dreams, time, gifts, communication pathways, passivity, secrets,
  • Employ disciplined analytic skills or, if the student already has good analytic skills, will have a new method to add to her or his repertoire of approaches.

2.6. Location of course details

This textbook works in conjunction with our bCourse website and my public website: http://www.sonic.net/~tabine/.

Canvas, where bCourse resides, has an app for mobile devices.

  1. The online abstract to Stephen J. Flusberg and James L. McClelland's chapter "Connectionism and the Emergence of Mind," in The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Science, edited by Susan E. F. Chipman (Oxford University Press, 2017), is a satisfyingly clear description of *Connectionism in terms of cognition: "Connectionism is a computational modeling framework inspired by the principles of information processing that characterize biological neural systems, which rely on collections of simple processing units linked together into networks. These units communicate in parallel via connections of varying strength that can be modified by experience. Connectionist networks have a wide range of theoretical and practical applications because they exhibit sophisticated, flexible, and context-sensitive behavior that mirrors human cognitive performance in many domains, from perception to language processing. By emphasizing the commonalities underlying various cognitive abilities, connectionism considers how a basic set of computational principles might give rise to many different forms of complex behavior. Thus, connectionism supports a novel way of thinking about the nature and origins of mental life, as the emergent consequence of a system based around principles of parallel processing, distributed representation, and statistical learning that interacts with its environment over the course of development." ("Abstract and Keywords," Oxford Handbooks Online, accessed July 15, 2018, http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199842193.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199842193-e-5.)


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Interpreting Love Narratives in East Asian Literature and Film Copyright © 2019 by John R Wallace is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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