Chinese Language and Literature Courses

The course is designed for students who are of non-Chinese origin and were not raised in a Chinese-speaking environment; or who are of Chinese origin but do not speak Chinese and whose parents do not speak Chinese. The course develops beginning learners’ functional language ability—the ability to use Mandarin Chinese in linguistically and culturally appropriate ways at the beginning level. It helps students acquire communicative competence in Chinese while sensitizing them to the links between language and culture.


This course is designed specifically for Mandarin heritage students who possess speaking skill but little or no reading and writing skills in Chinese. The course utilizes students’ prior knowledge of listening and speaking skills to advance them to the intermediate Chinese proficiency level in one semester. Close attention is paid to meeting Mandarin heritage students’ literacy needs inmeaningful contexts while introducing a functional vocabulary and a systematic review of structures through culturally related topics. The Hanyu Pinyin (a Chinese Romanization system) and traditional/simplified characters are introduced. Prerequisites: Consent of instructor.


Elementary Cantonese 3B is designed for non-Chinese heritage learners with no prior knowledge of Cantonese, a regional variety of Chinese, introducing students to its use through oral, written and visual texts related to daily life. Topics include meeting people, shopping, leisure activities, telling the time, discussing daily routines, describing people and family members, and transportation, and students will compose texts in Cantonese that show the relationship between language and culture. Finally, the course develops students’ awareness of socio-culturally situated language use and their ability to compare and negotiate similarities and differences between the target culture and their own culture. Prerequisite: Chinese 3A or consent of instructor.


The second sequence introduces students to Chinese literature in translation. In addition to literary sources, a wide range of philosophical and historical texts will be covered, as well as aspects of visual and material culture. 7B focuses on late imperial, modern, and contemporary China. The course will focus on the development of sound writing skills.


The course further develops students’ linguistic and cultural competence. In dealing with texts, students are guided to interpret, narrate, describe, and discuss topics ranging from real-life experience and personal memoir to historic events. Intercultural competence is promoted through linguistic and cultural awareness and language use in culturally appropriate contexts. Prerequisites: Chinese 10A; or consent of instructor.


The course further develops students’ linguistic and cultural competence. In dealing with texts, students are guided to interpret, narrate, describe, and discuss topics ranging from real-life experience and personal memoir to historic events. Intercultural competence is promoted through linguistic and cultural awareness and language use in culturally appropriate contexts.
Prerequisites: Chinese 1X; or consent of instructor.


This course continues the development of critical awareness by emphasizing the link between socio-cultural literacy and a higher level of language competence. While continuing to expand their critical literacy skills, students interpret texts related to Chinese popular culture, social change, cultural traditions, politics and history. Through linguistic and cultural comparisons, students understand more about people in the target society and themselves as well as about the power of language in language use to enhance their competence in operating between languages and associated cultures. Prerequisite: Chinese 100A.

This course is designed to assist students to reach the advanced-mid level on language skills and to enhance their intercultural competence. Students read the works of famous Chinese writers. Movie adaptations of these writings are also used. In addition to reading and seeking out information, students experience readings by interpreting and constructing meanings and evaluate the effect of the language form choice.
Prerequisites: Chinese 100B or 100XB. If you have not taken Chinese 100B or 100XB, to enroll in this class you must first take the online Chinese Language Placement Exam and be interviewed. Students are responsible for following the instructions at to complete the placement process. They must also accurately inform instructors about their language proficiency level. Any student who enrolls in a class below his/her level will be dropped from the class.


The second half of a one-year introductory course in literary Chinese, continuing the topics from the first semester, and giving basic coverage of relevant issues in the history of the language and writing system. This course examines the canonical texts of the late-imperial period, placing them in the context of literary culture of the Ming-Qing. The course focuses on a different set of texts each time it is taught; the aim is to introduce students to the primary issues in scholarship of late-imperial fiction and drama over a period of several years. Prerequisite: Chinese 110A.


This course is an introduction to the study of medieval Buddhist literature written in classical Chinese. We will read samples from a variety of genres, including early Chinese translations of Sanskrit and Central Asian Buddhist scriptures, indigenous Chinese commentaries, philosophical treatises, and sectarian works, including Chan (Zen koans). The course will also serve as an introduction to resource materials used in the study of Chinese Buddhist texts, and students will be expected to make use of a variety of reference tools in preparation for class. Readings in Chinese will be supplemented by a range of secondary readings in English on Mahayana doctrine and Chinese Buddhist history. Prerequisites: Chinese 110A; or one semester of classical Chinese. Prior background in Buddhist history and thought is helpful, but not required.

This course discusses Taiwan’s social and cultural transformation throughout its history of colonization, economic development, and democratization. Students are expected to gain a better understanding of Taiwanese history, literature, and culture, new skills in the reading and analysis of textual and cultural artifacts, and the ability to rethink colonialism, nationalism, and resistance in the era of globalization. Prerequisites: Chinese 100A/100XA (may be taken concurrently); or consent of instructor.


Vernacular fiction in late imperial China emerged at the margins of official historiography, traveled through oral storytelling, and reached sophistication in the hands of literati. Covering the major genres and masterpieces of traditional Chinese novels including military, martial arts, libertine, and romantic stories, this course investigates how shifting boundaries brought about significant transformations of Chinese narrative at the levels of both form and content. Prerequisites: None.


The subject of this year’s seminar is Cao Xueqin’s 18th-century novel The Story of the Stone (Honglou meng紅樓夢) and its referents. Critics conventionally read Stone as though it described the lived world of its author.  More than any other pre-modern novel, Stone has generated a wealth of secondary materials regarding the material world which its author is presumed to have known.  We will consider this tradition of reading and ask what has allowed it to adhere, looking at examples from both traditional commentary and contemporary scholarship. We will examine the writing regarding the visual and material culture of the novel, and extend this investigation to analyze the novel’s complicated relation to the question of reference.  We will also look at some of the dramatic sequels to the novel and ask how these dramatizations might illuminate the ways in which the novel created an anticipatory quality of reference that made possible its own sequels. 



The advent of Chinese literary modernity is often associated with the introduction of the modern vernacular language in the early twentieth century. This process, however, was preceded and augmented by a fundamental restructuring of prevailing genre hierarchies, as well as the gradual institutionalization of new systems for the categorization of cultural production. In this seminar, we will familiarize ourselves with various 'genres' of genre theory, while undertaking a concurrent exploration of how genre has worked to constitute new infrastructures for reading and writing in the early twentieth century. The course will culminate with a series of case studies of particular intermedial genres understood as local and contingent inflections of transnationally circulating forms through which the experience of modernity has been mediated.

In recent years, the proliferation and ubiquity of screens across the globe has raised new questions about the ontology, archaeology, and ecology of media. What is a screen? Is it a technical device, a material surface, an optical portal, a spatial construct, or a living environment? Or is it a psychic mechanism, a social interface, a cultural articulation, and a political instrument? How are these questions considered beyond the dominant scope of Europe and North America?

This course examines the histories and theories of the screen from a comparative perspective. By pursuing the divergent, parallel, and intersecting histories and theories of the screen between China and the “West” from antiquity to the present, we interrogate existing notions and assumptions of media, technology, human, and environment to the effect of destabilizing boundaries of both culture and media.

Locating the screen’s deep and plural histories in a variety of settings and arrangements–from religious murals to painted screens, from architectural constructs to optical illusions, from advertising walls to museum installations, from theatrical spectacles to portable media, from surveillance technologies to medical devices–our class will test the limits of a wide range of methodologies from phenomenology, psychoanalysis, critical race and postcolonial studies, philosophy of technology, and platform, infrastructure, and network studies. We will rethink the screen in expanded and innovative ways and consider the critical purchase regarding its theoretical, historiographical, aesthetic as well as political implications.