Course Code


Course Name

Modern Chinese Literature


Wednesday 8:30 am -11:15 am




Prof. Gao Yunwen

Teaching Assistant


Course Description

Critical changes in literature and culture took place across the twentieth century in China. These changes were in response to the self-strengthening demands of young revolutionaries after decades of war and national humiliation. Over several decades, Chinese writers experimented with Western literary genres, including realism, romanticism, imagism, modernism, critical realism, magical realism, postmodernism, and so on. Chinese writers constantly probed the issue of literary modernity and attempted to redefine China and Chineseness by incorporating Western influences into classical Chinese aesthetics.

This class explores Chinese literary tradition in the twentieth century and early twenty first century through fiction (novels, short stories, poetry, etc.) and films from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China. Major themes we will discuss include socio-political reformation, gender relations, urban space, the environment, and individual subjectivity. Creatively engaging with Western influences and classical literary traditions, Chinese writers and filmmakers we examine showcase how the Chinese reconstructed modern literature in relation to China’s nation-building process. All readings are available in English translations of Chinese originals. No prior knowledge of Chinese is assumed or required.



1)  Demonstrate a basic familiarity with modern Chinese literature and culture;

2)  Critically analyze important literary texts and films in relation to their historical

3)  Develop reading, writing, and presentation skills in a professional manner

Course Outline

I. The Obsession with China

Week 1 (Sept 6)         Course Overview & The Origins of Modern Chinese Literature


Week 2 (Sept 13)       May Fourth Movement: Literature and the Nation


Week 3 (Sept 20)       May Fourth Movement and the Salvation of Women


Week 4 (Sept 27)       New Women on Screen


Week 5 (Oct 4)          Iconoclasts of Modern China


Week 6 (Oct 11)         Instructor out of town, no class


Week 7 (Oct 18)         The Lyrical Tradition of Modern Chinese Literature


Article Analysis Due by Oct 20


II. The Lure of the Modern

Week 8 (Oct 25)         New Sensationism and the Rise of Urban Centers


Week 9 (Nov 1)          Constructing the New Woman


Week 10 (Nov 8)        Women’s Writing and the Quotidian


Term Paper Proposal due by Nov 10


III. New China and the Age of Revolution

Week 11 (Nov 15)      The Beginning of the New Era and Root-Seeking Literature


IV. The Postmodern in Chinese Literature

Week 12 (Nov 22)      Hong Kong and the Post-colonial Identity


Week 12 (Nov 29)      Imagining the Post-human: From Science Fantasy to Science Fiction


Term Paper Due by Nov 30




Assessment & Assignments

1)  Participation (15%) 

2) Pop Quizzes (3% each – 15% total) 

3) In-class Literary Analysis (10%) 

4)  Article Review (10%) 

5)  Group Presentation (15%) 

6)  Term Paper Proposal (5%) 

7)  Term Paper (30%) 

Honesty in Academic Work

Students should submit the papers to the Veriguide system and print out the Veriguide receipt and scan it into a PDF file before submitting to the Blackboard. See the website:
Any cases of plagiarism will be severely penalized and reported to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, which could result in failure or expulsion from the University.

Use of AI tools is strictly prohibited in this course.