This survey course introduces students to major literary movements in 20th- and 21st-century China through selective works by representative authors. It has two major aims: (1) It invites students to explore how individual authors--at different historical moments and in different social positions--have responded to historical changes that radically unsettled their senses of self and nation and also how their literary expressions may reveal the shifting subjectivity of modern China and Chineseness. (2) At the same time, it introduces students to the academic discipline of literary criticism, develops or deepens students' critical close reading and textual analysis, and invites them to discover the joy and reward of plunging into a reading experience and coming out with interpretations of their own making.
While the course does attend to important historical flash points unique to Chinese history, it also explores literary themes that resonate globally, beyond the context of modern China. Varying slightly by semester, these themes could include the relation between politics and literature, revolution and revolutionary arts, alternative modernities, writerly authority and the individual self, gendered authorship, memory and trauma, ethnic governance and resistance, class divisions, ecological damages, labor migration, etc. This course assumes no prior knowledge of China or Chinese language, and all texts will be taught using English translations.