What you'll learn

  • Survey the transformation of contemporary Chinese literature through direct engagement with five books and author interviews

  • Explore contemporary China from a range of perspectives including politics, ethics, culture, and gender

  • Understand how literature (particularly in the context of China) can become a source of political intervention and articulate tensions between authoritarianism and individual freedom.

  • Develop your own approaches to modern literature, culture, and history via close reading, critical discussion, and analysis

  • Express ideas more clearly and confidently through the study of primary and secondary sources

Course description

How can literature and literary analysis allow us to understand the dynamics of contemporary China? ****

China’s historical and cultural transformations, and its imaginary and actual engagements in everyday life are vividly dramatized by five Chinese authors featured in this course. Taught by Harvard faculty member Professor David Wang, this course will employ the tools of close reading, discussion, and analysis to explore issues that concern the Chinese people, and ponder the power (and limitations) of literature in imagining China anew.

Featured Books and Authors ****

  • China in 10 Words by Yu Hua (ISBN: 978-0-307-73979-7)
  • Red Sorghum: A Novel of China by Mo Yan (ISBN: 978-0-14-016854-9)
  • Lenin's Kisses by Yan Lianke (ISBN: 978-0-8021-2177-6)
  • Waiting by Ha Jin (ISBN: 978-0-375-70641-7)
  • The Song of Everlasting Sorrow by Wang Anyi (ISBN: 978-0231143431)

This course features interviews and discussions with the authors. More Information about each of these authors is available in the syllabus.


Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University

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