How do we grasp the present? According a model of linear time, as the present moment is tugged towards the future, a sense of belatedness befalls as it is assimilated into the past. In this class, we take as our object of inquiry the backwards gaze and futuristic imaginaries that inform our understanding of the contemporary in the People's Republic of China. How do filmic and literary works mediate and represent the present through evocations of earlier periods in the twentieth century and projections of the future? In the Chinese context, how does the socialist legacy figure in the experience of contemporaneity? Through frequent in-class writing activities and lively discussion, students will hone their ability to read critically and analytically, pose interesting questions, and construct convincing arguments based on literary and visual analysis. By the end of the course, students will write a 8-10 page final research paper on a topic drawn from our class discussions. A passing grade in this class satisfies the second half of the Reading and Composition (R&C) university requirement. No previous knowledge of Chinese is required.