East Asian Languages & Cultures Major

We engage students in a broad and deep exploration of culture and society in East Asia, particularly China and Japan. Majors undertake rigorous language training and comprehensive study of the region’s culture and society. Though our minors need not study a language, we encourage them to enroll in our Chinese and Japanese language courses which span beginner to highly advanced levels.

Curriculum & Courses

Our demanding language program embraces the full range of communication skills—speaking, listening, reading, and writing—in Chinese or Japanese. Majors must attain third-year-level competence in Chinese or Japanese, though we encourage and enable them to move well beyond this level.

Our cultural studies curriculum begins with entry-level EALC courses on China and Japan. Majors then go on to EALC classes that reflect their specific interests at more advanced levels. We also draw upon the Bi-College’s broader academic resources by requiring majors to pursue relevant coursework in other departments. Many fulfill this requirement with classes that illuminate East Asia from the perspectives of Anthropology, Economics, Political Science, Sociology, and Growth and Structure of Cities.

  • Major Requirements

    I. Language requirement (2 credits)

    EALC majors are required to have completed the third year level of either Chinese or Japanese with a minimum grade of 3.0 by the time of graduation. We require EALC majors to take two semesters of either Chinese or Japanese on campus, at a level appropriate to their in-coming language abilities. Students who have already fulfilled this requirement as confirmed by the language placement test, may forego the two semesters of an East Asian language (they will still have to fulfill their College language requirement), and shall substitute two EALC courses approved by the major advisors. The University of Pennsylvania offers Korean language instruction, but it does not count towards the Bi-Co EALC major language requirement.

    II. Three core courses (3 credits)

    EALC majors must take THREE core courses from the following:

    • One 100-level course on China from among EALC B110 (Introduction to Chinese Literature), EALC H120 (Confucianizing China), or EALC B131 (Chinese Civilization); and
    • One 100-level course on Japan: either EALC H112 (Myth, Folklore, and Legend in Japan) or EALC H132 (Japanese Civilization); and
    • EALC B200/EALC H200/HIST H200 (Methods and Approaches to East Asian Cultures).
      • EALC B200/EALC H200/HIST H200 is required of all EALC majors and is recommended for Global Asia minors. We urge majors to take 200 in the spring of their JUNIOR year. Majors who plan to be abroad in spring term junior year must take EALC 200 spring term sophomore year.
      • EALC B200/EALC H200/HIST H200 is the designated departmental Writing Intensive course (30 pages of writing), which Bryn Mawr now requires of all departments.

    Students must earn a grade of 2.0 or higher in each of these courses to continue in the major and be eligible to write a senior thesis.

    III. Three departmental elective courses (3 credits)

    Majors must take THREE additional non-language courses offered by members of the Bi-Co EALC Department.

    • One of these courses must be at the 300 level.
    • One of the 200-level electives may be fulfilled with an advanced topics course in Chinese or Japanese.

    Majors cannot satisfy the departmental electives with courses outside the department, or by taking courses abroad.

    IV. Two non-departmental courses related to global Asia (2 credits)

    Majors must choose two non-Departmental electives at the 200 or 300 level that are related to their study of East Asia or the wider Asian world. These two courses may be in a department or program in the Quaker Consortium (Tri-Co plus Penn), or an approved study abroad program.

    V. The Senior Thesis (1 credit)

    In the capstone experience undertaken in the fall term of the senior year, students employ their skills and undertake a scholarly investigation. The aim is to create and execute an extended research project centered on a primary written or visual “text” in Chinese or Japanese. The senior thesis brings together threads of conversations among scholars on the student’s chosen topic. The student combines language and research skills to think about and interpret the meanings of sources in context. At the end of the term, seniors present their findings to the faculty and other students in final oral presentations.

    Senior Project

    Students majoring in EALC are required to take EALC B200/ EALC H200/HIST H200 (Methods and Approaches to the Study of East Asia), ideally in the spring term of their junior year. This course serves to familiarize majors with our expectations regarding research and writing and criteria for evaluation. Students use the skills acquired in this course in the framing of their senior thesis. A main emphasis of this proseminar is the use of secondary sources to explicate and interpret primary sources, that is, engagement with existing scholarship on a text or artifact to put forward new ideas. Most students should emerge from the seminar in their junior year with a good idea of the sort of topic they will pursue for the senior thesis essay. The main purpose of the thesis is to use a body of secondary literature to situate, analyze, and interpret a primary source or set of primary sources.

    The senior thesis is a one-term process that takes place in the fall semester. In EALC B398/EALC H398 (Thesis Seminar), students work closely with an advisor to establish a topic, perform bibliographic research, and write an essay of 30 to 40 pages. Students also present their work in a formal 20-minute talk at the close of the semester. While most majors will have settled on a topic and begun to do some research over the summer, all must commit to a topic approved by their advisor by the second week of the fall term. The order of required work leading up to the final submission of the thesis incremental and builds on itself. The weekly schedule for senior thesis work is available on the departmental website.

    You will settle on a topic by the end of the second week and will submit various exercises such as a work schedule, a close reading of a piece of the primary source, annotated bibliography, literature survey, and so on.

    We meet four times as a group over the course of the semester. Most of the term consists of individually scheduled meetings with the primary advisor. As explained below, the project and research are independent, but these nearly weekly meetings with the thesis advisor are absolutely essential. The seminar culminates in a public presentation of the student’s project; two bound copies and one electronic copy in PDF format are due at the end of the term. Careful planning and conscientious work during this semester are absolutely essential. A project of this scope requires independence, discipline, and steady, consistent effort. The incremental assignments outlined in the weekly schedule for senior thesis are designed to help enforce that discipline, but the student is ultimately responsible for the success of the final thesis.

    Senior Project Learning Goals

    You will learn how to: frame, research, and write a worthwhile research project centered on a primary source and using an array of secondary sources. This involves surveying literature in the field, discerning an interesting topic, and presenting findings or results in writing and in a brief formal talk.

    Four Goals of the EALC Senior Experience:

    • Independence
      You will devise your own thesis topic and are responsible for researching it. You will receive guidance from your advisor, from the department members leading your seminar, and from librarians. You will construct your own customized bibliographies appropriate to your topic. The research and writing process, while overseen by faculty, is clearly one that is largely independent in nature.
    • Connection to the Field
      This thesis is your way of joining the scholarly conversation about the text you have chosen. This means reviewing secondary literature in the relevant subfields and engaging it critically.  (Examples of these subfields might be areas of such scope as, for instance, “the history of the family in Song China” or “avant-garde art circles in 1960’s Tokyo.”)
    • Creative Use of Knowledge and Skills Acquired in the Major
      You will draw on your previous study of East Asian languages and your coursework in specific areas to choose your topic and research and write your thesis. In part two above, we urge you to join a scholarly conversation, here we ask you to make explicit what you have been able to contribute to that conversation. These contributions often involve the reevaluation of earlier scholarship or the application of the existing theoretical insights of others to new source materials. Your contribution might also include the translation of significant portions of your primary source.
    • Sharing the Work
      Seniors are required to orally present their work to their fellows and to the department in a panel format based on the academic conference model.  In these public presentations, you will take twenty minutes to introduce your topic, your methodological approach, selected aspects of your bibliography, and some of the particulars of your analysis of the text at hand. Each presentation will be very different from the next as it is uniquely your own. You are required to devise a slideshow with text and images to accompany your oral presentation. It is here that we are able to encourage and assess your ability to communicate the substance of your work to peers and mentors in a clear, concise, and engaging fashion. You will prepare both bound and electronic copies of your final draft and may choose to make the work available on the web.

    Senior Project Assessment

    If all of the incremental tasks in the thesis project are done satisfactorily and submitted on time, the student should expect to reach a baseline grade of 3.0. Assuming that all assignments are successfully completed, thesis grades 3.3 and above will be awarded based on merit, with 3.7 being excellent and 4.0 being outstanding. The incremental assignments are there to guide students through the process of researching and writing a long, complex essay, and not to guarantee that students get an “A.” The grade for the semester will therefore be assessed both for the quality of final thesis and for the student’s ability to meet the deadlines, submitting satisfactory work along the way. Please note that successful completion of all incremental assignments is a minimum requirement for passing the class.

    The thesis is the student’s chance to demonstrate the skills acquired in four years of college. We expect to see an original contribution to the discussion of a topic, not a mere reiteration of the opinions and findings of others. Students are expected to demonstrate that they have joined the scholarly conversation on a topic. Among other qualities, we are looking for five basic elements in evaluating the theses:

    • Ability to present an articulate and original argument.
    • Accuracy in the use of scholarly conventions of citation and documentation.
    • Clear and effective writing.
    • The critical use of sources.
    • Consultation of scholarship in Japanese or Chinese.

    In order to assess the student’s performance in the senior thesis project, the three or four faculty members involved in the seminar gather in late December to discuss three aspects of the students’ work:

    1. the quality of the thesis as a finished product (this is the foremost criterion for evaluation);
    2. the ability of the student throughout the term to submit satisfactory work in a timely fashion while incorporating feedback from the faculty advisor and peer readers;
    3. the content and performance of the final oral presentation.

    The faculty members typically spend between 30 to 40 minutes on each student in these conversations, so it is often extended into two meetings. During the conversations, the faculty members focus on details of the student’s thesis, including but not limited to: clarity of argument, quality of writing, accuracy of citation style, skill in use of secondary sources. (See supplemental materials for a fuller description.)

    Requirements for Honors

    The departmental faculty awards honors on the basis of superior performance in two areas: coursework in major-related courses (including language classes), and the senior thesis. The faculty requires a minimum 3.7 average in major-related coursework to consider a student for honors.

Associated Programs and Concentrations

Research & Outreach

EALC majors produce a thesis, a work of original research, on a topic that falls within an EALC faculty member’s area of expertise. By the close of junior year, each student prepares a thesis proposal. That summer, many conduct primary research while studying abroad. Students focus on writing during the fall of senior year and submit a final draft early in the spring. The Department’s senior seminar course, which combines group sessions and one-on-one meetings with faculty advisors, offers our majors critical guidance and support as they produce this capstone work.

After Graduation

EALC majors graduate having honed general communication and analytical skills as well those specific to comprehending and thriving in China and Japan. Prepared to enter graduate programs in East Asian Studies or related areas, they are also equipped to enter a range of careers in China and Japan and those in the U.S. that require a deep understanding of East Asian culture and its languages.

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You can find detailed instructions and information on the Application Instructions page. If you need to contact us directly, please send an email to admission@haverford.edu.

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