Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

Precepted by Robert Steed

All Modules

A Brief Exploration of Japanese Poetry

Over the course of this module we will read and explore the work of a few major pre-modern Japanese poets in translation, putting them in their historical, cultural, and religious contexts along the way, but always focusing on the poetry itself. Group discussion is strongly encouraged. Poetry and poets covered will include that of the Manyōshū, Saigyō, Princess Shikishi, and Bashō. Time permitting, we can add to the list.

A Careful Reading of The Mountain of Silence

Kyriacos Markides's classic exploration of Eastern Orthodox thought and mysticism rewards slow, careful, contemplative reading and discussion. Various aspects of Orthodox mysticism and religious practice are addressed in a series of conversations that the author has with "Father Maximos," a priest and monk trained in the spiritual atmosphere of Mt. Athos. Please join us as we use this text as a gateway into understanding Orthodox and more generally sacramental forms of Christian thought and practice, all in a friendly, non-partisan, and open group setting.

A Cultural History of Anime

In this module we will look at the historical development of anime, with special attention to its uses in re-imagining post-war Japanese culture and society. From Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors to mushroom-cloud explosions and kawaii aesthetic, come explore how anime shapes Japanese (and others’) perceptions of Japanese history and culture.

An Intensive Reading of the Tao Te Ching/Daode jing 道德經

"The Way that can be talked about is not the lasting Way": so begins this classic text of world literature and Chinese philosophical and religious thought. The Tao Te Ching has been read, interpreted, and applied in a variety of ways throughout Chinese and world history. We'll do a close reading as well as explore the larger commentarial tradition surrounding it, using it as a gateway to explore further dimensions of East Asian culture and to spark conversations within the class.

A Sip of Tea and Tea Culture

In this module we will explore the cultural history of tea production, tea consumption, and tea-related cultural forms and practices. Primary focus will be on Asia, with side-expeditions to other parts of the world. White, green, Oolong, red (black), the Silk Road, tea bricks, tea ceremonies, tea-and-Zen, tea as world commodity, tea as entheogen---we can explore all of this and more!

Beginning Japanese 1

Come join us as we begin to learn basic Japanese, focusing on the four areas of reading, writing, speaking, and listening comprehension. Over the course of this module series we will start by learning: the characteristics of the three scripts (hiragana, katakana, and kanji); how to read and write hiragana; to be able to say and understand set phrases (social interaction-related); how to formulate a simple declarative sentence (AはBです structure); how to formulate a simple interrogative sentence; how to read orally; and vocabulary relevant to dialogues in the textbook. 一緒に日本語を勉強しましょうか! (Shall we study Japanese together?!)

Beginning Japanese 2

Building on the material covered in Beginning Japanese 1, we will cover lessons three and part of four in the Genki textbook, including: introduction to and learning to use katakana; solidifying usage of hiragana; introduction to kanji (around 10-20); developing communication abilities beyond stative sentences, focusing on the introduction of non-stative verbs; new vocabulary; continuing the development of fluency in the four aspects of language mastery.

Beginning Japanese 3

Focusing on chapters three (depending on how far we got in Beginning Japanese 2), four, and five in the textbook, we plan to improve our understanding of particles, verb categories and conjugations, describing where things are, forming the past tense of verbs, and increasing our abilities to use and "conjugate" adjectives----which do have tense in Japanese. As always, we will also be increasing our vocabulary and kanji knowledge. This module should be especially exciting because after laying various foundations in the first two units, we now begin to be able to actually have short conversations and form everyday useful sentences.

Beginning Japanese 4

Picking up from where we leave off in Beginning Japanese 3, we'll review what needs solidifying from the first two modules and advance to new material in Genki. We will focus especially upon verb, adjective, and noun tenses, as well as continuing to build vocabulary, katakana, and kanji knowledge, as well as oral skills.

Beginning Japanese 5

Continuing from where we ended in Japanese 4, we will advance our knowledge of Japanese grammar, vocabulary, speaking, listening, and kanji as we work our way through the Genki textbook.

Beginning Japanese 6

Continuing from where we ended in Japanese 5, we will advance our knowledge of Japanese grammar, vocabulary, speaking, listening, and kanji as we work our way through the Genki textbook.

Beginning Japanese 7

Continuing from where we ended in Japanese 6, we will advance our knowledge of Japanese grammar, vocabulary, speaking, listening, and kanji as we work our way through the Genki textbook.

Beginning Japanese 8

Continuing from where we ended in Japanese 7, we will advance our knowledge of Japanese grammar, vocabulary, speaking, listening, and kanji as we work our way through the Genki textbook.

Beginning Japanese 9

Continuing from where we ended in Japanese 8, we will advance our knowledge of Japanese grammar, vocabulary, speaking, listening, and kanji as we work our way through the Genki textbook.

Beginning Japanese Series

Come join us as we begin to learn basic Japanese, focusing on the four areas of reading, writing, speaking, and listening comprehension. Over the course of this module series we will start by learning: the characteristics of the three scripts (hiragana, katakana, and kanji); how to read and write hiragana; to be able to say and understand set phrases (social interaction-related); how to formulate a simple declarative sentence (AはBです structure); how to formulate a simple interrogative sentence; how to read orally; and vocabulary relevant to dialogues in the textbook. 一緒に日本語を勉強しましょうか! (Shall we study Japanese together?!)

Chinese History for Fans of Chinese Media

If you are a fan of any form of Chinese popular media such as CDramas, films, wuxia pian (martial arts films and novels) and so on, you will almost certainly find yourself exposed to a wide array of different historical settings and contexts. In this module we will explore those moments and periods in the history of China that often appear as settings or references in Chinese popular media as a way to broaden and deepen our understanding and enjoyment of it.

Classical Chinese 1

This is the textual language of the early classical Chinese philosophical and literary tradition, bearing a relationship to modern forms of Chinese like that of classical Latin to a modern Romance language. Just as one does not need to know Italian to study Latin, no prior knowledge of modern forms of Chinese is needed to study the classical language. This language served as a kind of "lingua franca" throughout East Asia for much of history, much like the role Church Latin served in medieval Europe. In this module we will begin building the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary to eventually be able to engage with the texts associated with Chinese thinkers such as Confucius, Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Mozi. If a cohort forms, we can continue this study within a continuing sequence. We will focus exclusively on developing the ability to read it as a literary language.

Classical Chinese Series

This is the textual language of the early classical Chinese philosophical and literary tradition, bearing a relationship to modern forms of Chinese like that of classical Latin to a modern Romance language. Just as one does not need to know Italian to study Latin, no prior knowledge of modern forms of Chinese is needed to study the classical language. This language served as a kind of "lingua franca" throughout East Asia for much of history, much like the role Church Latin served in medieval Europe. In this module we will begin building the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary to eventually be able to engage with the texts associated with Chinese thinkers such as Confucius, Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Mozi. If a cohort forms, we can continue this study within a continuing sequence. We will focus exclusively on developing the ability to read it as a literary language.

Daoism: The School of the Way

In this class we will explore some of the major texts and movements within historical Daoism, especially Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Daoist alchemy and long-life practices. We will also examine how some of these Daoist concepts are incorporated by Ursula K. Le Guin into her speculative fiction.

Discovering, Understanding, and Loving Haiku

Known as the shortest form of poetry in the world, haiku overwhelm us with their beautiful imagery and evoke incredible emotions. Join preceptors Robert Steed and Pilar Barrera in this module where we’ll explore the historical, religious and cultural background of haiku, read and analyze a variety of haiku by different authors, and play with haiku as you’ll have the opportunity to write your own!

Encountering the Japanese Weird through Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan

Japanese ghost stories are famous for their many chilling, sometimes funny, and creepy ghosts and yokai. Lafcadio Hearn, a Greek-later-Japanese writer popularized these stories in his book Kwaidan. In this module, we will discuss the stories, the settings, and their cultural and religious background.

Expanding and Practicing Japanese Vocabulary 1

This is a supplementary module to the Japanese language course. In this vocabulary-centered module taught by preceptors Pilar Barrera and Robert Steed we will explore different vocabulary related to daily life topics such as parts of the house, food, animals, as well as the use of certain important grammar structures. Using lots of pictures, students will have the opportunity to use and practice the vocabulary while exploring important cultural elements.

Exploring Journey to the West 西遊記

One of the most beloved of all classical Chinese novels, Journey to the West features Monkey, Pig, Sand-demon, White Horse, and the monk Tripitaka as they make a pilgrimage from Tang-dynasty Chang’an to India to bring back Buddhist scriptures, having outrageous adventures all along the way. Full of humor and wit, this is a major work of East Asian fantastic literature. Come along with Monkey and the gang for a tour through this foundational text!

Exploring Mushi Shi 蟲師

We will watch and discuss Mushi Shi, paying special attention to aspects of Japanese religion and culture which are woven into the fabric of the story. The class will be discussion-oriented, framed by preceptor commentary. This is a beautifully designed series that rewards slow and relaxed contemplation.

Exploring Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義

Considered to be one the major classics of pre-modern Chinese literature, Romance of the Three Kingdoms focuses on a story of political and military struggle featuring an impressive array of characters, many of whom have become touchstones of Chinese cultural heritage and artistic interest. This novel has spawned a wide arrange of operas, stories, video game series, musical compositions, television and web series, as well as garnering much academic attention since it was first published in the 14th century. Join us as we read, discuss, analyze, and place in its cultural and historical contexts this major work of Chinese historical fiction.

Exploring Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book 枕草子

Sei Shōnagon 清少納言 is a major writer of the Heian period (794-1185) whose Makura no Sōshi 枕草子 (The Pillow Book) has intrigued and delighted reading audiences for centuries. Colorful, witty, incisive, charming, thoughtful, melancholy, poetic---these qualities and more characterize this diary of the famous lady of the court. Join us as we read this text in-depth and place it within the frame of the flow of Japanese culture and history.

Exploring The Analects 論語 of Confucius

In western internet memes, lots of sayings are attributed to Confucius. He did not say most of them. In this module we will engage in a slow reading and interpretation of The Analects , our primary source for Confucius's discourses and dialogues. Your preceptor will also situate this text in currents of historical thought from Warring States China and larger Confucian tradition. Once we are done, you will have gained many skills, including a decent ability to distinguish "Confucius" the meme-able quote machine from the Confucius of the Analects and Chinese historical tradition.

Exploring The Ghost Bride

Join us as we explore Choo’s delightful debut novel, which has also been made into a Netflix series. The story focuses on Li Lan, a young Chinese woman, who lives in 1890s colonial Malaya with her father, who returns one evening with a proposition — to become the bride, a ghost bride, of the recently deceased heir to the fabulously wealthy Lim family. After a visit to the Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her growing desire for the Lim’s living heir, Tian Bai. She is drawn into the multifold realms of the Chinese afterlife, with their ghost cities, funerary paper offerings, wandering spirits and rigid bureaucracy. Li Lan must navigate her way through this web of complicated relationships both to save her life and meet her destiny.

Exploring the Themes of Miyazaki Hayao through Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away

For this class we will take the two films of the title as the primary media through which we explore some of Hayao Miyazaki's major themes appearing throughout most of his work. These include themes of regard for nature, tensions between human society and the natural world, the prominence of shōjo (young female protagonists,) and questions of identity, of friendship, and of trust. Time permitting, we can consider even more.

Exploring The Three Body Problem

First ever Asian winner of the Hugo award for best novel, as well as winning the Chinese Yinhe (“Galaxy”) award for best novel, and nominated for the Nebula award for best novel, and serving as the source material for an upcoming Netflix series by the same name, The Three-Body Problem is an exploration of both humanistic and technological themes in the context of Chinese history and contemporary society, all set in a narrative of alien invasion. There are few novels better for beginning to explore Chinese science fiction, so please join us as we take a deep dive into this fascinating masterpiece!

Content advisory: Graphic depictions of historical violence.

Introduction to Early Buddhism

In this module we will explore the formation and development of early Buddhist traditions, focusing on the life of the historical Buddha, the Deer Park Dharma Discourse, the formation of the Sangha (Buddhist monastic community), and the foundational teachings of the Four Noble Truths, the Three Marks of Existence, and the Chain of Dependent Origination.

Introduction to Mahayana Buddhism

Building on the "Introduction to Early Buddhism" module, we will explore the development of Mahayana Buddhist traditions, focusing especially on Madhyamika and Yogacara trends, the Zen and Pure Land Schools, the Heart Sutra, the Lotus Sutra, and interactions with Chinese religio-philosophical systems, especially Daoism, and the fascinating culture of the Dunhuang caves.

Introduction to Vajrayana Buddhism

Building on the previous two Intro to Buddhism modules in this sequence, we will explore the colorful and varied forms of Vajrayana Buddhism, focusing especially on developments in Tibet, but not ignoring the larger world of esoteric Buddhism. The various sects, arts such as the creation of sand mandalas, ritual practices, and various forms of teaching will all be explored.

Japanese History for Fans of Japanese Media

In this module we will cover a general overview of major periods, events, and personages that often crop up in Japanese films, dramas, anime, and manga. For example, are you a fan of the manga and drama series Jin? When Dr. Jin finds himself in the Edo period, do you want to know more about that historical context? This module should help with that and much more! Join us for a light and fun overview of Japanese history useful for engaging with Japanese media more deeply.

Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT): N5 Test Prep

This module is offered for those Japanese language students who wish to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, level N5. We will not be learning new language skills in this module. Instead we will be reviewing and repetitively practicing the precise set of skills tested on the JLPT N5 test, as well as covering various test-taking strategies. We'll cover all the sections in the exam and, apart from working in class, we'll have some homework assignments to further develop test-related skills. Upon passing the test, participants will receive an official certification of language skill level from the Japanese government.

Le Guin's Earthsea Series

Ursula K. Le Guin explores themes of power, love, nature, gender, art, politics, and more through her richly-developed world of Earthsea, drawing upon literary, philosophical, religious, and anthropological interests in doing so. We will walk on the islands of Earthsea and dive into its waters as we discover beloved, and maybe hidden or controversial, aspects of Le Guin’s masterpiece.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
The Earthsea Series consists of 3 modules exploring a different Cycle of Le Guin's expansive work:
• Module 1 explores A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan,
• Module 2 explores The Farthest Shore and Tehanu, and
• Module 3 explores The Other Wind and Tales from Earthsea
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
NOTE: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series.

Le Guin's Earthsea Series: A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan

This present module is for Module 1 of the Earthsea Series, exploring A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan.

Ursula K. Le Guin explores themes of power, love, nature, gender, art, politics, and more through her richly-developed world of Earthsea, drawing upon literary, philosophical, religious, and anthropological interests in doing so. We will walk on the islands of Earthsea and dive into its waters as we discover beloved, and maybe hidden or controversial, aspects of Le Guin’s masterpiece.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
The Earthsea Series consists of 3 modules exploring a different Cycle of Le Guin's expansive work:
• Module 1 explores A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan,
• Module 2 explores The Farthest Shore and Tehanu, and
• Module 3 explores The Other Wind and Tales from Earthsea
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
NOTE: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series.

Le Guin's Earthsea Series: The Farthest Shore and Tehanu

This present module is for Module 2 of the Earthsea Series, exploring_The Farthest Shore_ and Tehanu.

Ursula K. Le Guin explores themes of power, love, nature, gender, art, politics, and more through her richly-developed world of Earthsea, drawing upon literary, philosophical, religious, and anthropological interests in doing so. We will walk on the islands of Earthsea and dive into its waters as we discover beloved, and maybe hidden or controversial, aspects of Le Guin’s masterpiece.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
The Earthsea Series consists of 3 modules exploring a different Cycle of Le Guin's expansive work:
• Module 1 explores A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan,
• Module 2 explores The Farthest Shore and Tehanu, and
• Module 3 explores The Other Wind and Tales from Earthsea
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
NOTE: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series.

Le Guin's Earthsea Series: The Other Wind and Tales from Earthsea

This present module is for Module 3 of the Earthsea Series, exploring_The Other Wind_ and Tales from Earthsea.

Ursula K. Le Guin explores themes of power, love, nature, gender, art, politics, and more through her richly-developed world of Earthsea, drawing upon literary, philosophical, religious, and anthropological interests in doing so. We will walk on the islands of Earthsea and dive into its waters as we discover beloved, and maybe hidden or controversial, aspects of Le Guin’s masterpiece.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
The Earthsea Series consists of 3 modules exploring a different Cycle of Le Guin's expansive work:
• Module 1 explores A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan,
• Module 2 explores The Farthest Shore and Tehanu, and
• Module 3 explores The Other Wind and Tales from Earthsea
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
NOTE: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series.

Nature and Shinto in Anime

Shinto, usually identified as “the indigenous religious tradition” of Japan, heavily influences the aesthetic and worldview of many anime films and series. Join us as we explore aspects of Shinto practice and how they influence and shape the films <iSpirited Away and Princess Mononoke, as well as the idiosyncratic but popular series Mushi Shi.

Plant-based Entheogens, Shapers of History and Consciousness

In this module we will explore the roles that various plant-based entheogens have played, actively and passively, in shaping human consciousness and history. Tea, coffee, chocolate, nutmeg, cannabis, coca, alcohol, opium, pipe-weed (tobacco), and ayahuasca will all be discussed, both in their historical contexts and for their entheogenic properties. Time permitting, we can cover more.

Religion in the Life and Works of J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien drew upon a wide range of religious, philosophical, and metaphysical sources in shaping his legendarium, including Greek, Norse, Germanic, and Celtic paganisms, Catholic Christianities, Eastern Orthodox and Jewish mysticisms, various Neo-Platonisms, and western esoteric traditions among others. Join the discussion as we explore in some depth these sources and how Tolkien weaves them into his web of story-telling and world-building.

She Watered It With her Tears: Grief, Mourning, and Death in Tolkien's Legendarium

Among the many themes Tolkien contemplates through his legendarium, that of grief and mourning is prominent. In this class, we will unfold the implications of expressions of grief and mourning in his work. For example, why do lamentations matter, and how might they offer healing? Why does Nienna weep? Are there cases of “inappropriate” grief? What roles do grief and mourning play in the creation of wisdom and beauty? Does Elven grief have special characteristics? What about that of Dwarves and Humans? We will explore these topics and more.

The Fantastic in East Asia

Come join us as we explore various aspects of the weird, the strange, the uncanny, the dreamlike, and the visionary in East Asian literature, religion, folktales, poetry, and popular media. Whether it is ecstatic visions in Daoist texts, shamanistic expressions in Chinese poetry, gumiho and ghosts in KDramas, or stories such as that of the Yuki Onna (Snow Woman) in Japanese folklore, we’ll explore them all (and perhaps more!) in this class.

To Repair Arda: Tolkien's Dwarves through Jewish Mysticism

J.R.R. Tolkien explicitly and publicly associated his subcreated race of the Dwarves with the Jewish people. This raises all sorts of interesting questions and problems, not least of which is why does he do this, and what within Jewish culture is he referring to? Usually scholars point to Dwarven language and Dwarven history for this association, but in this class we will explore the possibility that at the deepest level Tolkien is also drawing upon aspects of Jewish mysticism to support his claim.

Warring States Era Chinese Philosophy: Attaining Flow

Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism, Mohism---these Chinese philosophical systems all have their foundational roots in the Warring States period of Chinese history (475–221 BCE), and as such share a set of common interests, even if their proposals for attaining those interests greatly differ. In this module we will cover the basic concerns of each of these systems, paying attention to their differences as well as their similarities, and perhaps most importantly, seeing how their proposals for the attainment of human flourishing may still have something to offer to contemporary people.

Yōkai and Legends: Exploring the Weird in Japanese and Latin American Cultures

Ghost stories are an important element from all cultures, but in weird and, of course, mysterious ways, there seem to be similar legends and stories of Yōkai in Japanese and Latin American Cultures. From the similarities of Obon with Día de los Muertos to different legends such as Kuchisake onna and La Llorona, we will discuss these legends within their cultural context and have fun with these weird and fantastic beings.

Zen History and Thought: An Overview

In this module we will examine the origins and development of Zen Buddhism from its roots in Mahayana and Daoist thought through its formative years in China and its spread to Korea and Japan. Among other topics, we should have time to cover the Patriarchs of Zen, the Five Houses of Zen, and major figures within the tradition. We will also gesture towards Zen's impact on East Asian arts and culture more generally.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].