This course offers an advanced introduction to the literary history, cultural norms,
poetic forms and textual traditions of 17th to 19th century Southeast Asia through a
comparative study of three epic poems: Tum Teav (Cambodia), Khun Chang Khun
Phaen (Thailand), and Tale of Kieu (Vietnam). We will explore the dynamics of desire
and transgression, duty and sacrifice, kinship and kingship, and the interplay between
folk, court, Buddhist, Confucian, and Hindu values. Finally, we will consider the
contemporary currency and iconic status of these works in Southeast Asia and in
diaspora; what makes a national canon, and why these epic tales of love, loss and war,
remain strangers to the west.