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Course ‘Contemporary Chinese Literature & Culture’: voluntary workshop
Martin Woesler (visiting scholar in EALC)

Harvard College/GSAS: Fall 2010-2011
Martin Woesler
Location: 9 Kirkland Place, 2nd floor seminar room
Meeting time: F., 10-12, starts Fri. Oct 1, 2010
House warming party for colleagues, students, and friends,
same evening Oct 1, 6.00 p.m. 144 Raymond St, Cambridge MA 02140
Credits/Exam group: none

Defines Chinese contemporary identity, assesses web literature, deals with déjà vu phenomena in modern and contemporary China, documents post-socialist discourses of the emerging critical public in the mediasphere by Han Han, Ai Weiwei.

This voluntary workshop takes place off the path of the curriculum and is addressed to students who are interested in ongoing research on contemporary Chinese literature and culture. Students from any field are welcome to participate in this interdisciplinary workshop and may choose one of the practical projects offered in this workshop (see beneath).

Course Description
During the past 30 years, China has become the most rapidly changing society in the world. After surpassing the economically disastrous system of centrally planned economy 1949-1978 and abandoning parts of the communist ideology with the crackdown on its own people in 1989, the Chinese people in all fields of society undertake pioneer steps on their way towards the new Chinese identity of the 21st century. The Chinese want to fill the ideological vacuum left by the communist ideology, which proofed to have failed in 1989. Materialistic satisfaction failed to reinvent the Chinese self. The propagated "3rd way" of liberal economy and restricted freedom of mind proofed to be a cant. The first winners of the nationwide quest for meaning of life are a revival of Confucian values and the regaining of strength of patriotism, driven by the economical successes and the new role as the second superpower next to the United States, discovering harmony in soft power. Especially the freedom of travel and the internet have stimulated the need for freedom of mind.

The workshop analyzes the self perception and foreign perception of the Chinese identity in all fields of society like politics, economy, legal system, philosophy etc., concentrates on culture and literature, esp. cult literature, and tries to find patterns of perception. It analyzes web literature and post socialist discourses in the internet. It strives to identify today’s identification-building opinion leaders like Han Han and Ai Weiwei, myths and canonized literature like Honglou meng and Lunyu, and compares today’s realizations and discourses with Republican and Qing ones. Moreover, it aims to describe the current state of the Chinese identity, which appears somehow more homogeneous than other national identities like the US national identity due to many reasons.

A more detailed syllabus will be available in the first session October 1, 2010.

Practical projects
Setting up a website simultaneously displaying Chinese literature and its translation(s) using the examples of Honglou meng and Lunyu, establishing the review process of the new European Journal of Sinology, outlining the creation of a textbook for Chinese Studies, translating research results from Chinese into English and vice versa.

Course web site: