Chinese Literature and Culture

New Course for Summer 2019!
E Asian 433: Visual Cultures in Socialist China

This three-credit undergraduate seminar teaches topics in the study of the visual cultures of East Asia from antiquity to the present. It examines broadly illustrative texts and genres, major historiographic, theoretical, and methodological issues, and the technologies of vision and visuality in China, Japan, and Korea.

In Summer 2019, this seminar will focus on cultural productions in the socialist period (19491978) of the People’s Republic of China, with particular attention to the intersection of culture and politics, of aesthetics and ideology. We approach socialist visual cultures through three questions: (1) what is culture; (2) what is visuality; and (3) what kind of role did visual culture play in the socialist construction and mobilization. To that end, we will go through key texts and genres (re)invented during this period, starting with a pre-history in the Yan’an years and concluding with nostalgic remembering of socialism in the contemporary Chinese society.


  • Introduction & Building Blocks: the Yan’an years
  • Cinema and Film Industry
  • National Style of Arts
  • Youthful China
  • Gender and Socialism
  • Body Culture
  • Dancing into Revolution
  • Performing Revolution (I): Opera Reforms
  • Performing Revolution (II): Model Operas
  • Listening Culture
  • Spatial Practices
  • Socialist Domesticity
  • Imagining the Globe

  • Science and Education
  • Socialist Legacies

Survey of Modern Chinese Literature

Spring 2016 syllabus:

Summer 2017 syllabus:

New Course Proposal 1:
Animals in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

Modern Chinese literature was born with the symptomatic anxieties over humanity. This course explores the “literature for human” by examining, paradoxically, the figure of animals. The perspective from the nonhuman agents allows us to revisit important themes in modern Chinese literature and culture, including modernity, war, revolution, and nation-building. More importantly, we will discover new texts that are both of interest and speaking to canonical works, such as children’s literature and science fiction. Our topics include but are not limited to: social Darwinism, animalization of the female body, human-animal intimacy, the making of the masses, the interface of animal science and literature, and disputing humanity in sci-fi works. Students will not only get familiar with major genres and works in modern Chinese literature, but also gain a critical perspective to rethink what constitutes human subjectivity.

New Course Proposal 2:
“Chinese Body as Archive: from Ancient to Contemporary China”

This interdisciplinary course reads ancient and modern Chinese literature with the histories of medicine, disease, and science. The Chinese body is both a site of our exploration and archives inscripted with cosmology, religion, social hierarchy, sexual norms, racial biases, and biopolitics. Our topics include but are not limited to: “wind” as a literary force and a component of the body in Book of Songs, physiognomic descriptions of the body figure in Three Kingdoms, forensic literature on rape in the late imperial China, sexuality in erotica such as The Plum in the Golden Vase, the pathologization of Chinese body in the nineteenth century, aesthetics of androgyny in literature of the People’s Republic of China, neoliberal differentiation of the body quality in Yu Hua’s novels, and artistic works by Gunther von Hagens, Ai Weiwei, and Xiang Jing.