Interpreting Love Narratives in East Asian Literature and Film
John Wallace, UC Berkeley
Copyright Year: 2019
Publisher: University of California, Berkeley
Conditions of Use
Broad theoretical frameworks that inform the interpretation of the featured texts are covered to a degree that enables students to make use of them in interpretive projects without providing an overwhelming level of detail. Theoretical and... read more
Broad theoretical frameworks that inform the interpretation of the featured texts are covered to a degree that enables students to make use of them in interpretive projects without providing an overwhelming level of detail. Theoretical and technical terms are treated thoroughly in a cross-referenced glossary at the end of the textbook that is easy to navigate. The practice of adding an asterisk to every instance of a term in the glossary is somewhat distracting, however, as many paragraphs are littered with asterisks.
Notions of love are explored from multiple cultural contexts, starting with European traditions and extending to East Asian traditions that are likely to be less familiar to typical American undergraduates. These ideas are all treated neutrally and thoughtfully, situated in the contexts of their cultures of origin.
The content that covers traditional types or concepts of love from various cultures reflects modern perspectives reasonably well and will not be likely to become superseded soon. The commentary and interpretive activities that focus on contemporary texts will need to be updated as the critical understanding of them change, and relevant new texts will need to be added, but many films with lasting significance are likely to help this textbook age well.
The prose quality is very high without being inaccessible, although the aforementioned use of asterisks to denote glossary terms makes for fraught reading online. A better approach would be to hyperlink the first occurrence of each term on a given page and dispense with the asterisks entirely. Complicated philosophical and religious concepts are treated elegantly and accessibly for readers encountering them for the first time.
The use of the glossary allows the author to make reference to key terms in advance of fully describing or exploring them, and each chapter begins with a list of new technical terms to be covered. Contrasting frameworks for understanding different kinds of love are developed against one another in a way that reinforces their meaning for students.
The text is organized around interpretive practice using theoretical frameworks that are explored beforehand. This makes the text somewhat rigid rather than modular, as the theoretical groundwork needs to be addressed prior to interpretive projects, and the subject matter being explored is too narrow to make any single reading easy to extract or reorder for a professor who would like to follow a different path through the material. That being said, the text itself is divided into sections that are readily digestible.
Given the relative unfamiliarity that American undergraduates are likely to face when exploring these East Asian texts and concepts, this text does an excellent job of building a theoretical framework that allows them to practice hands-on interpretation using key technical terms. The specialization of the course material is balanced by an approachable and thoughtful organization of it.
The interface is easy to navigate and free of any errors that I could see, blending multimedia clips of films and images seamlessly.
The style is sophisticated, as befits the sophistication of the material covered, without being opaque or overly academic. It is well written throughout, and even conversational in the style of an inviting, in-person lecture.
The range of materials is impressive, using Western touchstones to establish access points to East Asian frameworks for thinking about kinds of love. The nuanced differences among cultures as well as human universals regarding attitudes and behaviors around several types of love are treated with clarity and dignity throughout.
Although its focus is not on film analysis as such, this text provides some excellent examples of applied film criticism that would be helpful for advanced film studies students.
Table of Contents
- I. About this book and this course
- II. A Theory of Interpretation for Cross-Cultural Reading
- III. Method - Elements of (Course) Interpretive Projects
- IV. Method - Designing and Completing (Course) Interpretive Projects
- V. Cultural Contexts - Traditional Thought Systems in East Asian Love Narratives
- VI. Glossary of Key Terms and Concepts
About the Book
This book explores the role of traditional East Asian worldviews, ethical values, and common practices in the shaping of East Asian narratives in literature and film. It offers a specific method for this analysis. The interpretive goal is to arrive at interpretations that more accurately engage cultural information so that narratives are understood more closely in terms of their native cultural rather than that of the reader/interpreter. Current neuroscience related to processes of perception and the attribution of meaning form the basis for the theory of interpretation offered in the first half of the volume.
About the Contributors
John Wallace, University of California Berkeley