Representative Works of Modern Chinese Literature (FYSEM-110CL-01)

July May Fourth Movement Wusi yundong (五四运动). Liang Yulong (梁玉龙) 1976. Shanghai renmin chubanshe. Landsberger collection, International Institute of Social History.

Instructor: Ying Wang

Modern Chinese history is not complete without mentioning some of the May Fourth writers such as Lu Xun and the New Culture Movement that he and a group of modern Chinese writers spearheaded at the turn of the twentieth century.

The twentieth century started with the downfall of the Chinese monarchy, numerous humiliations at the hands of Western countries, and the establishment of the Republic of China in 1911. Disillusioned with traditional Chinese culture following the failure of the Chinese Republic and in the spirit of reform and renaissance, a group of young writers, educated in both China and the West, headed toward a new direction in Chinese literature. They abandoned the classical Chinese language, were keenly interested in social development and betterment, attacked Confucian tradition, and adopted Western ideals.

This first-year seminar will read representative works of these writers and try to understand their sociopolitical impact while appreciating the artistic qualities of these writings. The readings are selected from the works of several influential writers of the time, including Lu Xun, Yu Dafu, Ba Jin, Mao Dun, Shen Congwen, Lao She, and two female writers, Ding Ling and Zhang Ailing.

Through these readings, the class pays close attention to some of the key issues of the time, such as revolution, women’s emancipation, social injustice, intellectuals’ self-criticism, China’s survival at the time of war, utopia, etc. Predominately using a realistic approach, this group of writers adopted different Chinese and Western literary techniques in their writings; in our class, comparative analyses will be carried out to address this aspect.

In addition to the selected works of the aforementioned writers, some relevant scholarly critiques are recommended to the class to read. The seminar will be carried out through lectures, group discussions, individual research projects, oral presentations, and writing assignments.

This class is a speaking- and writing-intensive course, and it is taught in English. All of the works of Chinese writers selected for the class are in English translation.