©2007 Clayton D. Brown

China's Cultural Revolution
Freshman seminar, every semester

In 1966, what had once seemed the best disciplined and most stable of dictatorial states dissolved into anarchy, and those youth who under Chairman Mao’s direction turned society upside down became China’s “lost generation.” Only after the Chairman’s death did sweeping reforms allow the Chinese people to publicly reflect, recount, and even criticize. This opening of the floodgates spawned histories, memoirs, films, and novels, but each tells a different story with a different agenda. This course examines the many narratives of China’s Cultural Revolution in an effort to better understand how each source engages historical memory while responding to its own times.

Traditional China
Fall Semesters

Beginning with the earliest evidence of human civilization in the region, this course traces the emergence of political states within China and their eventual unification into a single empire, an institution that persisted for millennia. Throughout this process the development of literature, religion, philosophy, and material culture in Chinese society all played a role in shaping the character of what became modern China. (As the first of a two part series, this course is followed by Modern China offered spring semester).

Modern China
Spring Semesters

For millennia the Chinese viewed their emperor as the Son of Heaven and their empire as the center of the world. Following Columbus and the Age of Exploration, however, in the sixteenth century Europeans began arriving in China in unprecedented numbers, precipitating a crisis in Chinese society. This course examines the dynamics of China’s relationship with the outside world and the subsequent transition that China made from empire to nation. Modernization continued in the twentieth century and with it came conflict with the United States, a legacy that continues to inform our relationship with the world’s most populous nation.

WWII in the Pacific

During WWII, as Hitler and the Nazi regime conquered Europe, Japan was committing its own atrocities as it forged a Pacific empire. The Japanese attack on US territory at Pearl Harbor in 1941 provoked the US to enter the conflict, and hostilities only concluded years later when Japanese civilians became the first (and to date only) victims of atomic warfare. What role did Japanese traditional culture play in the war and how did two enemies become Cold War allies? This course explores the origins and legacies of the Pacific War, a specter that still haunts the peoples of Asia.

East Asia in the Modern World

The twenty-first century is already being hailed as Asia’s century. Today this region holds a quarter of humanity and, after America, the world’s largest economies. In an effort to better understand East Asia, this course explores the recent history of China, Japan, and Korea and their complex and evolving relationships with each other and with us. In the twentieth century, after undergoing dramatic transformations to become modern nation-states, the United States became involved in both hot and cold wars in these countries, resulting in shifting alliances and divided nations. Our future is irrevocably tied to this region and our prospects depend on sound understanding and successful engagement with the peoples of East Asia.

Senior Seminar: Museums, Monuments and Memory
To be offered Spring 2010

This course explores human society’s compulsion to create, visit, and reinterpret symbols of our past. Offering first a theoretical framework for the concept of collective memory, we then examine case studies from Memphis and around the world, with particular focus on Asia, exploring such topics as the poetics and politics of exhibitions, ritualized memorialization, the nationalization of objects, and tourism and community. The curriculum integrates course readings and a field work practicum, with students choosing a local site for research and analysis. Vicarious visits to world-renowned sites for comparative purposes are made possible with media presentations, the internet, and computer-generated digital 3D models of national icons such as the Forbidden City in Beijing. Each student will offer a final essay that draws from course readings and their own field data, and present their findings to the class using appropriate visual aids. Through these exercises we approach the question of and how and why humans generate and perpetuate collective memory.

Senior Directed Inquiry: East Eurasian Minorities
Spring 2009


Modern East Asia
Summer 2004, 2006, 2007

Beginning with traditional China, Japan, and Korea, this course examines the dynamics of the Western presence in Asia in the nineteenth century and the dramatic transition these civilizations made from empire to nation. Modernization continued in the twentieth century and with it came wars involving the U.S., resulting in divided nations. Now in the twenty-first century East Asia faces new challenges and unprecedented potentialities.

Modern East Asia
Spring 2004
World War II in Asia
Fall 2003
Ancient Western Civilizations
Spring 2001
History of Islam
Fall 1999, Fall 2000
History of Asia
Summer 2000
World History
Spring 2000