Topics in Chinese Studies

After the death of Mao Zedong and fall of the Gang of Four in 1976, the ideological stranglehold that had suffocated literary production during the Cultural Revolution gave way to a flourishing of literary exploration and experimentation. This course will look closely at the trajectories, developments, disjunctions, and transformations of literature beginning with the initial post-Mao period and moving through to the present-day. The first part of the course will examine literature from the 1980s, paying close attention to the complex intellectual scene of the “Culture Hot” (wenhua re) and the numerous and diverse schools of literature that arose during this dynamic period. We will then move on to the literature produced after brutal suppression of the 1989 Tian’anmen protests of 1989, which is generally noted for its increased commercialization, popularization, and the death of a “humanistic spirit.” Finally we will look at more recent works of literature produced in the 21st century, examining new genres such as internet literature while revisiting recent productions from earlier major writers, such as Yu Hua and Mo Yan, with whom we began the course. Overall we hope to pursue several overarching, guiding questions: How is literature of the post-Mao period both closely related to and markedly distinct from both the revolutionary May Fourth writing of the early twentieth-century, as well as the Chinese literary tradition in general? What political and theoretical anxieties continue to drive a diverse array of literary activities, and how have these changed over the past four decades? How have changing social and economic conditions both shaped and been reflected in literature? Finally, what can our examination of post-Mao literary transformations tell us about the current state of Chinese society and what the future might hold?

Topics vary from semester to semester.






Fall 2022

Todd William Foley
MW: 3:30 PM - 4:45 PM 7E12 123 (SB)
Xudong Zhang
TR: 4:55 PM - 6:10 PM; TR: 4:55 PM - 6:10 PM GCASL 275