Learning English with wax cylinder recordings. From a 1910s advertising circular found in The English Student 英文雜志.

Spring 2022 Courses

“The China Debates” (CHIN 303): This course offers ways for students to investigate how debates about politics and culture take place within the People’s Republic of China, with reference to contemporary social issues in the United States. Taking advantage of a wealth of new material that has recently been translated into English, students will learn about the positions of public intellectuals known as the New Left, Liberals, New Confucians, etc. Building on this work, we will examine a range of contemporary issues in Chinese society, particularly the management of race and minority nationalities and the emergence of class politics within the PRC and between the PRC and other parts of the world. We will also explore ways to think critically about how China is discussed in North American media and in academic research—particularly in light of heightened tensions between the PRC and the United States and growing anti-Asian racism and racist violence in the US.

“What is China?” (CHIN 150): This course fulfills William & Mary’s COLL 150 writing requirement. Through a variety of readings in the cultural history of China, we will address some of the key questions that face the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), and the Chinese diaspora. These questions include: disputed histories of China’s territories and frontiers, the relationship between the majority Han ethnic group and minority groups, the question of “conquest dynasties” and assimilation, the relationship between standardized Mandarin and local languages, the status of Islam in China, and the meaning of tradition in the People’s Republic after 1989.

Although these questions can be examined from many perspectives, the approach used in this course is cultural history and literary history. We will read both scholarly and primary texts closely to understand how the problem of China as a state and Chinese as a language have taken shape since the beginning of the nineteenth century. This course will also focus on how to write about a supposedly “distant” culture for an educated audience. We will work to learn some of the tricks of the trade that are needed to produce clear explanatory prose that serves as the groundwork for convincing academic writing in any subject.

Fall 2022 Courses

Science Fiction and Scientism in Modern China: This course explores science fiction from China as it appeared in print, pictorials, comics, and film from the early 1900s to the present. Not every source we read is “hard” SF: some readings will lead us to think about the overlap between SF, popular ideas about science and technology, and the everyday world. With that in mind, we will use the lens of science fiction and SF-adjacent sources to think through some of the following questions: How is science tied to development and the idea of a modern society? What kind of audiences are created, called forth, or interpellated through SF? How does SF reflect on scientism (faith in the power of scientific knowledge of techniques) in Chinese politics and intellectual life?

Elementary Chinese (CHIN 101): After a few years away from teaching language, I look forward to working with students on the fundamentals of Mandarin.