G R E A T    B O O K S :  A S I A N   C L A S S I C S


Prof. Heinz Insu Fenkl
JFT 618, X2743, proffenkl@aol.com
Office Hours: TF: 12:30-1:45, and by appointment



This course is an introduction to the ancient cultures of Asia through their seminal literatures. By examining selected literary/religious texts, we will attempt to understand fundamental ideas that form the worldviews of some of the great cultures of Asia. Throughout the semester, we will be studying texts that give insight into Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism -- religious/philosophical systems that form the infrastructure of contemporary Asia and which have a profound influence even today. Although we will be reading "old" texts, a significant amount of our time will be spent in drawing comparative or illustrative examples from contemporary Asian and Western culture, including the culture of science.


Course Objectives
Upon completing this course, students should be able to:
• Name the works on the syllabus as well as their attributed authors approximate period during which the works were created.
• In oral expression and written essays, describe some characteristic aesthetic, moral/ethical, and rhetorical features of any work on the syllabus and discuss the relation of these features to worldviews of the cultures from which they were produced.
• In written essays, compare and contrast the aesthetic, rhetorical, or moral/ethical features in any two works on the syllabus.
• In oral expression and written essays, describe, interpret, and analyze underlying aesthetic, stylistic, rhetorical, moral/ethical, or political principles or ideas that inform the works on the syllabus, with an understanding of their historical and cultural context.

The Research Project
Depending on your personal interests, you may fulfill this assignment as a research paper or as an experiential project with research elements. A research paper might pursue, in more depth, a topic introduced during the course (e.g., the Buddhist idea of world as illusion) or it might take a comparative approach (e.g., comparing the Tao Te Ching and the Gnostic Gospels or the figures of Krishna and Christ). If you choose the experiential option, you might study Hatha Yoga, Qi Gong, origami, or a form of meditation and use yourself as your own experimental subject to inquire into the tradition or practice in question. This option also requires that you do adequate textual research (though the research may be integral to the experience -- e.g., if you spend several weeks studying and consulting the I Ching). As part of the research project, you will be required to participate in a library research exercise and draft a paper proposal.


Attendance and Participation - 10%
Project Proposal (including Library Research) - 15%
Midterm (TBA) - 25%
Research Project (12-15 pages) - 25%
Cumulative Final (TBA) - 25%  


Texts (Recommended for purchase)
The Cloud Dream of the Nine, James Gale, tr.
Eastern Philosophy for Beginners, Jim Powell & Joe Lee

Recommended Texts (you may wish to purchase)
Bhagavad Gita, Juan Mascaro, ed.
Tao Te Ching, Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English, tr.
Buddhist Scriptures, Ed Conze, ed
Other texts will be distributed in class or be available online.


Little Buddha

Course Schedule
NOTE: Because of the interlinked nature of the texts and the religious/cultural/philosophical ideas we will cover in this course, it is especially important to move on to subsequent subjects with a clear understanding of prior subjects. For this reason, I will provide specific assignments as the needs of the class become clear. Below is a rough guideline for how we will pace the semester. Weekly assignments and readings, as well as a general course template, will be posted on the class web page, so be sure to consult it if you are planning ahead.

WEEKS 1-4: Hinduism: Bagavad Gita, Yoga
WEEKS 5-9: Taoism: Tao Te Ching, I Ching
WEEKS 10-13: Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana
WEEKS 14-15: Interrelationships, Review

Daily Course Schedule





SUNY New Paltz Policies


Academic Honesty:

It is expected that the work you submit belongs to you and you alone. Any act of plagiarism or cheating will result in a failing grade on the assignment and the notification of the Dean of Students. Plagiarism includes using anyone else’s ideas or words without giving him or her credit, whether the author is a fellow student, a published author, or a web page on the Internet. (Keep in mind that ideas taken from class lectures or discussions require citation also.) It doesn’t matter how much you change the words if you are basically paraphrasing someone else’s ideas. If you want to engage with or acknowledge someone else’s ideas, include a clear and thorough citation. If you have any questions about plagiarism, feel free to speak to me. 



SUNY New Paltz will make reasonable accommodations for persons of documented physical, emotional or learning disabilities. Students should notify the Director of the Office of Disability Services and their faculty of any needed accommodations as early as possible in the semester. Information on services and campus polices can be found online in the Student Handbook.