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2019 MLA Panel: Teaching Classical Chinese

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    Xiaowen Xu

    Dear Friends,

    Please find the following details for your information. We look forward to your participation!

    Panel Title: Teaching Classical Chinese as Cultural, Philosophical, and Literary Texts

    Keywords: classical Chinese poetry, pedagogy, translation, reception, text selection
    Sponsoring Entity: LLC Pre-14th-Century Chinese

    Presentation ID# 6025: Teaching Classical Chinese Poetry through Linguistic and Visual Translation and Juxtaposition
    Luo Hui (
    Victoria U of Wellington
    MLA Member
    Expertise and Scholarship: Luo Hui teaches in the School of Languages and Cultures at Victoria University of Wellington and directs the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation. His research interests focus on the transmission and reception of Chinese literary and visual texts, particularly in cross-cultural and transnational contexts.

    Presentation ID# 6026: Teaching Classical Chinese Poetry through Reception Studies
    Yue Zhang (
    Valparaiso U
    MLA Member
    Expertise and Scholarship: Yue Zhang obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and is an Assistant Professor in Chinese Studies at Valparaiso University. He has taught various courses on Chinese language, literature, and culture as well as the broader topic of East Asian civilization. He has published multiple peer-reviewed articles and book chapters as well as a translated monograph on pre-modern Chinese literature and culture in English and Chinese, particularly poems on history.

    Presentation ID# 6023: Teaching Poetry: Difference and the Speaking Dead
    Michael Fuller (
    U of California, Irvine
    MLA Member
    Expertise and Scholarship: Michael Fuller is a professor at the University of California, Irvine where he has taught classical Chinese literature and thought for twenty-five years. He works primarily on the intersection of literary and intellectual history in the Tang and Song dynasties. He is the author of An Introduction to Literary Chinese, as well as Drifting among Rivers and Lakes: Southern Song Dynasty Poetry and the Problem of Literary History, and An Introduction to Chinese Poetry: from the Canon of Poetry to the Lyrics of the Song Dynasty.

    Organizer and Presider
    Xiaowen Xu (
    U of British Columbia
    MLA Member
    Expertise and Scholarship: Xiaowen Xu is an instructor of applied Chinese at the University of British Columbia. For the past two terms, she has been teaching classical Chinese prose and poetry courses to heritage students. She is currently working on designing and developing MOOC in the field of Chinese literature to heritage students at UBC. She holds two Ph.D.’s: one in East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto (2014); the other in English from the Beijing Foreign Studies University (1997). Her research interests include the intertextual relationship between historiography and prose fiction in Chinese literature, the concept of the “fantastic” in Chinese classical tales and vernacular stories, and modern Chinese fiction.
    Abstracts of presentations:

    Abstracts of presentations:

    When the pre-14<sup>th</sup> century Chinese texts are used in North American university classrooms, be it to the undergraduate or graduate, there is always a pedagogical question of text selection and presentation. classical Chinese poetry, with its cultural, philosophical, and literary significance to the long history of Chinese literature, can be engaging as much as challenging in our teaching. This panel focuses on the topic of teaching classical Chinese poetry to North American university students and explores a wide span of pedagogical achievements and new possibilities. The three papers in this panel discuss how classical Chinese poetry can be approached and presented from a variety of pedagogical perspectives, and each paper provides us with a departure point for further discussion and practice.

    First, Dr. Michael FULLER’s paper “Teaching Poetry:  Difference and the Speaking Dead” presents how we can bring the students to an awareness of special features and form of classical Chinese poetry, as he does in his most recent publication, An Introduction to Chinese Poetry.  In the paper he explores the challenge of teaching Chinese poetry in a mixed class (some native Chinese speakers, some with no background at all) using English as the language of instruction.  To begin to let students hear the compelling voices of a vastly different time and place, he begins with simplicity and identity within cultural difference (a difference between both Western and contemporary Chinese culture and that of early China). He uses a chronological approach through which students start with the rather simple poetry of the early tradition and then get increasingly acclimated to the distinctive poetic forms, poetic language, and cultural commitments as the tradition develops.  To help students see the increasingly subtle uses of form, he provides a multi-perspectival approach to translation to attempt to get around the problems of rendering the Chinese texts, since the features of Chinese poetic form and language are not easily reproducible in English.  Binding the reading of poetry together, to make it more than just words, he returns throughout the course to the problem of how we—here and now—make sense of experiences, and then extend the processes of reading experience to the ways in which the Chinese poets explored how to articulate the ordering of meaning in the world with increasing depth. He illustrates these three aspects of bringing poetry to life and voice through the presentation of a poem from his textbook, An Introduction to Chinese Poetry.

    Dr. LUO Hui also focuses on the poetic form of classical Chinese poetry in his paper “Teaching Classical Chinese Poetry Through Linguistic/Visual Translation and Juxtaposition” and provides us with a different angle to approach it. He considers the pedagogical merits and applicability of two non-traditional methods of teaching classical Chinese poetry to tertiary students that are non-native speakers of Chinese: 1) teaching classical Chinese poetry by thematically grouping and juxtaposing classical poems with modern vernacular poems; and 2) teaching classical Chinese poetry through a process of two-way translation – first rendering the Chinese original into English, then visually ‘translating’ the English text into a script that resembles classical Chinese – a process inspired by the artist Xu Bing’s Square Word Calligraphy. While the first method highlights the formal and stylistic features of classical Chinese poetry by bringing it into contrast with the modern vernacular, the second method draws attention to the structural and hermeneutic features of the Chinese script that differ from English while attempting to bridge those differences. Both approaches are informed by a pedagogical thinking that is inter-textual and tans-lingual, one that treats classical Chinese poetry not as part of an archaic language to be systematically mastered, but as a literary genre, or artistic form, that could be familiarized, comprehended, and enjoyed, one poem at a time.

    Finally, in his paper “Teaching Classical Chinese Poetry through Reception Studies” Dr. Yue ZHANG shifts the panel’s pedagogical study more toward the reception of classical Chinese poetry by the students in the U.S. and Canada. He argues that as reception studies trace poetic development from the reader’s perspective to illustrate how the social, political, and intellectual atmosphere influences the way readers evaluate literary works, this methodology reveals the complexity of ways in which readers inherit, appropriate, edit, or even manipulate earlier sources. Furthermore, this approach sheds light on the changes in intellectual horizons and literary styles over the course of time. He points out that Classical Chinese poetry is one of the major popular literary genres that scholar-officials frequently wrote and appreciated in both public and private life in pre-modern China. He introduces the theoretical background of reception studies, as well as course structure and organization of the Classical Chinese Poetry classes he has offered in the U.S. and Canada over the years. His paper not only investigates how reception studies is applied to teaching Chinese poetry through two pedagogical studies, focusing on choosing and demonstrating text, but also discusses major sources available online or in print.

    Thank you,

    Xiaowen Xu

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