Chinese 560 Pro-seminar in Chinese
Chinese Urban Film in a Literary Context
How do urban literature and film inform our understanding of modern material conditions and ideolologies? How do narrative structures and cinematic images celebrate the metropolis and convey the anxieties associated with it? What are the specific symbols associated with Beijing, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Shanghai? How have these changed from the 1920s to 2000?

The course is intended for all graduate students interested in these questions. Most texts exist also in translation, and most films are subtitled. However, students in the AL&L Ph.D. program are expected to read the literary texts in the original Chinese.



Hours:  T,Th 1.30-3.20

Classroom:  MGH 085

5 credits



Instructor :    Yomi Braester
  office: C-504 Padelford
  office hours: and by appointment
  course website:



Grading Components

Policies and Procedures

Assigned films and texts

Class Schedule





     (1) 10 weekly reports: students are required to hand in a typed reading response, one page long, for each week's assignments. The reports should point at passages of special interest to the student.
     (2) Presentation: a 20-minute presentation on the topic the student chooses for the final paper.
     (3) Final paper: Approximately 20 pages long, typed.

Grading components

Weekly reports 20 (10 x 2)
Presentation:   10
Final paper: 70


Assigned films and texts

The assignments reflect a wish list, and will be modified according to students' interests and in accordance with the average reading speed of the class.

Films and drama, on reserve at the Odegaard Media Center:
- Cai Mingliang, Vive l'amour (Aiqing wansui )
- Chen Guo, Durian Durian (Liulian piaopiao)
- Chen Guo,
Made in Hong Kong (Xianggang zhizao)
- Lou Ye, dir., Suzhou
- Guan Jinpang (Stanley Kwan), Rouge (Yanzhi kou)
- Ning Ying, On the Beat (Jingcha gushi)
- Shi Runjiu, dir., A Beautiful New World (Meili xin shijie)
- Wang Ping, Sentinels under the Neon Lights (Nihongdeng xia de shaobing)
- Wong Kar-wai,
Chungking Express (Chongqing senlin)
- Wong Kar-wai, In the Mood for Love (Huayang nianhua)
- Wu Yonggang, The Goddess (Shennü)
- Xie Fei, Black Snow (Benmingnian)
- Yang Dechang, Terrorizer (Kongbu fenzi)
- Yu Kanping, dir., Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing? (Da cuo che)
- Zeng Jianfeng, Count me in (You wo yige)
- Zhang Yang, Shower (Xizao)
- Zhang Yimou, Keep Cool (You hua haohao shuo)
- Zhang Yuan, Beijing Bastards (Beijing zazhong)
- Zhong Jieying, Beijing Patriarch (Beijing daye)
- Zhou Xiaowen, No Regrets About Youth (Qingchun wuhui)
Literary texts, on reserve at Odegaard library:
Lao She, Camel Xiangzi (Luotuo Xiangzi)
- Mu Shiying, Grave (Gongmu)
- Wang Shuo, Playing for Thrills (Wan'r de jiushi xintiao)
- Wei Hui, Shanghai Baby (Shanghai baobei)
- Xi Xi, Marvels of a Floating City (Fucheng zhiyi)
- Zhu Tianwen, "Fin-de-Siecle Splendor" ( "Shijimo de huali")
Secondary literature, on reserve at Odegaard Library:

- Ackbar Abbas, Hong Kong and the Culture of Disappearance
- Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project; "Some Motifs in Baudelaire."
- Wu Hung, selected papers
- Leo Ou-fan Lee, Shanghai Modern.
- Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space
- Edward W. Soja, Postmodern Geographies

For recommended secondary literature, see here.

CLASS SCHEDULE (subject to change)

NOTE: Screening times in blue refer to screenings administered for an undergraduate course on similar issues. There is some overlap of material, and students are encouraged to attend the screenings to watch the films on a larger screen and to experience the films' reception by an American audience.


week 1
  Discussion: Semiotics and the city
  Reading: Lefebvre, The Production of Space  (chapters 1 and 4)
  film clips show in class
  Friday, 10/5 Screening: Shower
week 2  
Discussion: Shanghai, Paris of the East
Films: (1) Goddess  
  Readings: Mu Shiying, "Shanghai de hubuwu" (in Gongmu); Lee, Shanghai Modern  (selection)
  film clips show in class
  (no screening this week)
week 3  
  Discussion: the future of Shanghai nostalgia
  FIilms: (1)Sentinels under the Neon Lights; Beautiful New World ;
(3) Suzhou
  (no reading)
  Friday, 10/19 SCREENING: Rouge
week 4
Discussion: the archeology of Hong Kong
  Films: (1) Rouge  (2) In the Mood for Love
  Reading: Abbas, Hong Kong and the Culture of Disappearance  (selection)
  Friday, 10/26 SCREENING: Chungking Express
week 5  
Discussion:Hong Kong as a parable
  Films: (1) Chungking Express  (2) Comrades, Almost a Love Story  
  Thursday meeting cancelled
  Friday, 11/2 SCREENING: Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing?
week 6  
  Discussion: methodology; Durian Durian
  Bei Dao talk on Thursday -- no class
  Friday, 11/9 SCREENING: Vive l'amour
week 7  
  Discussion: Taipei deconstructs
  Films: (1) Papa Can You Hear Me Sing  (2) Vive l'amour
  Readings: Xi Xi, Marvels of a Floating City; Zhu Tianwen, "Fin-de-siecle Splendor"
  Friday, 11/16 SCREENING: A Beautiful New World
week 8  
  Discussion: Taipei in the eye of the camera
  Films: (1) Terrorizer   (2) Yi Yi
  Readings: Jameson, "Remapping Taipei"
  11/15, 2:30-5:00 East Asian faculty and graduate students event
(no screening this week)
week 9  
  Discussion: the demolition of Beijing
  Films: (1) No Regrets About Youth  (2) Beijing Patriarch
  Reading: Wu Hung, selections
  Friday, 11/30 SCREENING: Suzhou
  Friday make-up session:
  Films: (1) Shower  (2) Count me In
week 10 Discussion: Beijing punks
Films: (1) Black Snow    (2) Beijing Bastards   (3) Frozen
Friday make-up session:
  Films: (1) Keep Cool   (2) On the Beat
  Readings: Benjamin, selections
  Friday, 12/7 SCREENING: Frozen
make-up meetings  
  Discussion: postsocialist Beijing
  Reading: Wang Shuo, Playing for Thrills
  Paper presentations