COOL CLASSES: “Warriors and Outlaws in China and England”

COOL CLASSES: “Warriors and Outlaws in China and England”

Class name: “Warriors and Outlaws in China and England”

Taught by: John R. Coleman Professor of History and East Asian Languages and Cultures Paul Smith


Here’s what Smith had to say about his class:

“Warriors and Outlaws in China and England” offers an opportunity to read and compare the two most iconic outlaw epics of England and China: Water Margin, about Song Jiang’s band of brothers in their marshy Liangshan lair in Shandong Province, and the many ballads centered on Robin Hood and his band of merry men in Sherwood Forest. Originating in the 12th and 13th centuries and achieving mature textualization around the 16th century, the two story cycles epitomize the sometimes virtuous and always chaotic resistance to misused authority. In the class we explore the values embodied by the outlaw heroes of China and England, compare the societies that produced and revered them, and sample the many afterlives of the tales in Anglophone and East Asian movies and popular culture. And no less importantly, we have a blast doing it.

Two factors prompted me to create this course: jealousy of those of my colleagues who get to teach and write about great literature, rather than the dusty bureaucratic records that are my bread and butter; and a deep conviction that we can understand no single culture–especially whichever one we regard as our own—without putting that culture in a larger comparative context. This course gives me a chance to preach that perspective while exploring the great Robin Hood and Water Margin texts with smart, eager student colleagues.



See what other courses the Bi-Co Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures is offering this semester.

Cool Classes is a series that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford experience.

Images: Song Jiangming (=Song Jiang), the Timely Rain (Kyûji-u Sôkômei), from the series One Hundred and Eight Heroes of the Shuihuzhuan (Suikoden hyakuhachinin no uchi), 1853 (Kaei 6), 10th month, by Totoya Hokkei, and Robin Hood theater poster c. 1895, Frederick Warde’s superb production of Runnymede by Wm. Greer Harrison with Frederick Warde as Robin Hood.

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