SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia

Modern Chinese Literature in Translation

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Full Year

This course provides an opportunity for students from a wide range of academic backgrounds to gain a solid understanding of modern and contemporary Chinese literature. Taught in English, and based entirely on translated texts, the course is ideal for students with little or no Chinese who are nevertheless drawn to one of the most vibrant literary cultures in the world. For students from Chinese-speaking countries or graduates of Chinese studies programmes, the course offers both basic training in theories of literature and guidance in using Chinese-language materials for research, thus providing a firm foundation for further research into an exciting field.

The course is thoroughgoing and wide-ranging, and whilst seminal texts by core writers provide its fundamental structure, the course is equally concerned with the essential genres of fiction, poetry, and essay, with the field and practice of literature, and with the key movements that have shaped the Chinese literary landscape. As a result, the range of material explored is eclectic, and ranges from the canonical greats of the Republican period, through the high Communist period, to more recent works which reflect an increasingly cosmopolitan China. The course explores such themes as nationhood, gender, the urban/rural divide, ideological interventions, war and colonialism, the trauma of the Cultural Revolution, and the challenges of globalization; and it investigates these thematic concerns as they intersect with modernism, socialist realism, the avant-garde, and postmodernism.


Minimum good second class honours (or equivalent).

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of the course, students can expect to be well-versed in approaches, methodologies, and theories of modern Chinese literature. Students will also have acquired the background knowledge necessary to read Chinese literary texts in the political, social, and cultural context of their production.

Graduates of the course can expect to use their skills in a range of professional arenas. Academic research, TV and media, journalism, advertising, business and commerce, the financial sector, the civil and foreign services, other government-related projects, NGOs, and development agencies rank among the possibilities, but the course also provides general research skills that can be put to work in a variety of other environments.


2 hours seminar-based lecture and discussion.

Method of assessment

One essay of 4,000 -5,000 words to be submitted by day 1, week 1, term 2 (40%) and one essay of 6,000-7,000 words to be submitted by day 5, week 1, term 3 (60%).

Suggested reading

A comprehensive reading list will be made available to students at the beginning of the course.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules