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Lorraine and Tom Pangle, Co-Directors BAT 2.116, C4100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-6648

David M Sena

Assistant Professor Ph.D., University of Chicago

David M Sena


  • Phone: (512) 471-7965
  • Office: WCH 5.104c
  • Office Hours: SPRING 2014 TTH 2:30-4pm
  • Campus Mail Code: G9300


Courses taught:
Introduction to China; Early China: History and Archeology; World of the Confucians; Self-Cultivation in Traditional China; Writing and Authority in Early China; Introduction to Classical Chinese;


Early Chinese history, language, and culture

CTI 345 • Writing/Authority: Early China

34210 • Fall 2014
Meets M 300pm-600pm MEZ 1.206
(also listed as ANS 379, HIS 364G )
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Course description

This course examines the critical role of writing in one of the world's oldest literate civilizations. Beginning with the origin of Chinese characters in the Bronze Age, we examine the crucial role of writing in staking claims of political, social, and religious authority in ancient and early Imperial China (ca. 1200 BCE-200 CE). Aiming to situate writing within the cultural practices in which it was generated, we explore a diverse array of textual artifacts, including inscriptions on bone, bronze, and stone and manuscripts on bamboo and silk, in addition to texts in the received literary tradition. Topics include the magico-religious dimensions of writing, the sociology of writing and textual production, and the role of cannon and commentary in articulating and challenging imperial claims of legitimacy.

Course readings
Selections from the following texts, available electronically:

  • Primary sources:
    Book of Documents
    Book of Poetry
    Analects of Confucius
    Records of the Historian
    Songs of Chu
  • Secondary scholarship:
    Mark Edward Lewis, Writing and Authority in Early China (1999).
    Edward L. Shaughnessy, Rewriting Early Chinese Texts (2006).

class participation: 20%
informal writing: 15%
short paper: 20%
midterm exam: 20%
final paper: 25%

CTI 375 • World Of Confucians

34150 • Spring 2013
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm MEZ 2.122
(also listed as ANS 372, R S 352 )
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Course Description
In this course we examine the philosophy and historical context of classical Confucianism.  Focusing on the translated writings of Confucius, Mencius, and Xunzi, as well as on recently discovered texts found in ancient tombs, this course examines the systems of thought in early Confucian writings.  In addition to discussing the history of ideas, we will also pay close attention to the cultural background of the period and to the social context in which these texts were written by considering such issues as literacy and the transmission of specialized knowledge in ancient China.  The focus of the course will be on the classical period (sixth through third centuries B.C.E.), but we will also consider the legacy of Confucian thought and institutions in the early empire and beyond.

Course Goals
The primary goal of this course is to help you develop your ability to read closely and understand seminal texts from the classical period of Chinese literature.  A fundamental principle in this course is that we cannot fully understand classical Confucian texts without considering the social, intellectual, and cultural milieu within which these texts were generated.  Therefore the second goal will be to learn how to use social and cultural history as a method for enhancing one's understanding of texts.  Third, in focusing on Confucian thinkers and texts, we aim to understand the philosophical content of this important tradition, to understand the how these ideas fit within the larger social and intellectual context of ancient China, and to assess their relevance to our own lives.


class participation: 20%
informal writing: 15%
short paper: 20%
midterm exam: 20%
final paper: 25%


The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. Trans. Roger T. Ames and Henry Rosemont, Jr. New York: Ballantine, 1998 [PL 2478 L328].

The Essential Mengzi: Selected Passages with Traditional Commentary. Trans. Bryan W. Van Norden. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2009.

Hsun Tzu: Basic Writings. Trans. Burton Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1963 [B 128 H66 E55].

Additional readings available electronically.

CTI 375 • Self-Cultivatn In Tradit China

34212 • Spring 2011
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm WEL 3.402
(also listed as ANS 372, R S 352 )
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How does one transform oneself into a better person? This question lies at the heart of so many philosophical and religious traditions throughout the world. This was especially so in pre-modern China, where concern with self cultivation is fundamental to many intellectual and religious discourses, including Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. In this course we will examine ideas and practices in Chinese culture related to self cultivation as they are represented in writings drawn from a wide selection of philosophical, religious, and occult traditions. Far from providing a uniform understanding of this issue, these texts provide diverse examples of motivations, beliefs and techniques related to self cultivation. Whether the goal was to attain moral perfection, sagehood, immortality, buddhahood, or just tranquility, these beliefs and practices of self cultivation demonstrate a concern for human refinement that is deeply embedded within the culture of traditional China.

This course carries a University Writing Flag.


Philip J. Ivanhoe, Confucian Moral Self Cultivation, 2nd ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2000), ISBN: 0-87220-508-8.

Philip J. Ivanhoe and Bryan W. Van Norden, Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2006), ISBN: 0-87220-780-3.

Additional readings on Electronic Reserve.

class participation: 20%
informal writing: 20%
short paper: 15%
midterm exam: 20%
final paper: 25%

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