C LIT 596C (Special Studies in Comparative Literature)
CHIN 582A (Topics in Chinese Literature and Cultural Studies)
Winter Quarter 2006


The Figure of History
in Modern Chinese Fiction and Film


Recent research has often noted the prevalent interest in historical constructs in modern Chinese fiction, be it through the figure of the sublime, testimony and antitestimony, or "the monster that is history." What agendas stand behind such inquiries, and how did they influence the formation of the scholarly field of modern Chinese literary studies?




TTh 1:30-3:20 Parrington 322




Yomi Braester


office: C-504 Padelford


office hours: BY APPOINTMENT


e-mail: yomi@u.washington.edu

course website:




Instructor: Yomi Braester yomi@u.washington.edu

Seminar participants:
Hua-Ling Linda Chang hualing@u.
Natalie Chin natchin@u.
Laura Eshleman laurabe@u.
Gu Yizhong yizhong@u.
Danny Lin dannyhl@u.
Sterling Swallow sterls@u.
Yang Yang gnayy@u.

• Gain familiarity with the fields of modern Chinese literary studies and cultural studies outside the PRC: institutional history and canon formation, prominent scholars, landmark works, and critical terms.
• Explore the role of historical narratives in the development of Chinese literature and film as well as in the scholarly discourses on them
• Discuss representative literary works, combining close reading and ideological analysis.
• Become comfortable with talking and writing critically but not in an overly confrontational manner
• Devise strategies for dissertation writing: choice of texts and thesis, placing oneself in the field, putting together a writing schedule

1. Presentation of secondary text: every two participants will choose a book from the secondary texts listed below, make a joint informal presentation and prepare for facilitating in-class discussion.
2. Presentation of primary text: Based on the chosen secondary text, each participant will choose a single primary text (or film, when applicable), distribute it among the other participants in advance, make a short informal presentation and prepre for facilitating in-class discussion. Typically, one week will be devoted for each secondary source, followed by a week for discussing primary texts.
- By Thursday, 1/12: choose a secondary source you will present; if needed, prepare a master Xerox. A week before your discussion of the primary text, distribute a Xerox
of the text, in Chinese and English.
3. Book review: Each participant will write a 1,000-word review on the secondary source chosen for the presentation (due two weeks after the presentation).
4. Final paper: approximately 15 pages. Details will be discussed in class.
5. In addition, students are encouraged (but not required) to give a formal 15-minute presentation.

Weeks 1 and 2 — methodological introduction (facilitated by Yomi):
• Rebecca Karl, Staging the World: Chinese Nationalism at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Introduction).
• Michel Foucault, “What is Enlightenment?”
• Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History” (AKA “Theses on the Philosophy of History”)
• François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition
All texts are available on e-reserve, under Braester C LIT 596

Weeks 3–10 — suggested secondary texts:
• Ban Wang, The Sublime Figure of History: Aesthetics and Politics in Twentieth-Century China
• David Der-wei Wang, The Monster That Is History: History, Violence, and Fictional Writing in Twentieth-Century China
• Yomi Braester, Witness Against History: Literature, Film and Public Discourse in Twentieth-Century China
• Qingxin Lin, Brushing History against the Grain: Reading the Chinese New Historical Fiction (1986-1999)
• Papers in Xudong Zhang and Arif Dirlik, eds, Postmodernism and China:
- Dai Jinhua, “Imagined Nostalgia”
- Xiaoming Chen, “The Mysterious Other: Postpolitics in Chinese Film”
- Liao Chao-yang, “Borrowed Modernity: History and the Subject in A Borrowed Life”
- Yang Xiaobin, “Whence and Whither the Postmodern/Post-Mao-Deng: Historical Subjectivity and Literary Subjectivity in Modern China”
- Jeroen De Kloet, “‘Let Him Fucking See the Green Smoke Beneath My Groin’: The Mythology Of Chinese Rock”

The syllabus can be modified to fit participants’ interests. Some suggestions for optional texts:
• Ban Wang, Illuminations from the Past
• Xudong Zhang, Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms
• Tang Xiaobing, Chinese Modern
• Gang Yue, The Mouth that Begs
• Wendy Larson, Women and Writing in Modern China


Presentation Schedule:

week 3
Laura - Wang, The Sublime Figure of History intro, 1-3
  primary text: Zhang Ailing, "Writing of One's Own" and Lu Xun, Wild Grass
week 4
Natalie - • Papers in Zhang and Dirlik
  Primary text:
week 5
Yang - Lin, Brushing History against the Grain
   Primary text:
week 6
Yizhong - Braester, Writing Against History 4-9
  Primary text:
week 7 Sterling and Danny, Wang, The Monster that is History
week 8
 Primary texts:
week 9 Linda - June Yip, Envisioning Taiwan
   Primary text: