Literature, Politics and National Identity in Modern China

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2, Year 3 of 3 or Year 4
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
China and Inner Asia Section

Module overview

This module offers a survey of modern Chinese literature and is available as an open option to students on any other undergraduate programme within SOAS. 

Taught in English, and based entirely on translated texts, the module is open to students with all kinds of Chinese language proficiency, from no Chinese at all to Chinese mother-tongue.  
For both students with a high proficiency of Chinese, and for students with no previous knowledge of Chinese and Chinese literature, the module provides with the necessary skills to read, interpret and analyse English translations of modern Chinese literary texts, and their context. The module also offers training in literary criticism and guidance in using materials for research. 

The module is thoroughgoing and wide-ranging, and whilst seminal texts by core writers constitute its fundamental structure, the module is equally concerned with the general literary field, and the key movements that have shaped the Chinese literary landscape.  

The range of material explored is eclectic, and ranges from the canonical greats of the Republican period, through the high Communist period, to today’s main literary trends, intersecting with themes as nationhood, gender, the urban/rural divide, consumer culture, political dissent, and more. 

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to 

  • Recognise and discuss the main themes circulating in the modern literary field, and analyse the most prominent literary texts of the time. 
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the significance of key historical events to reading and interpreting Chinese literature of this period. 
  • Demonstrate ability to work individually in researching, synthesizing theoretical approaches. 
  • Show confidence in articulate ideas and knowledge for seminars and written course work. 


Total taught hours: 20 hours. 1 hours of lecture and 1 hour seminar per week for 10 weeks. 

Independent study: 130 hours 

Total hours for module: 150 hours 

Method of assessment

Research exercise of 750 (20%); a 2000 word essay (80%). 

Suggested reading

Most of the primary readings are available in the Lau, Joseph S.M. and Howard Goldblatt (eds.) The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature, New York: Columbia University press, 2007 

Secondary reading 

  • Wendy Larson, Women and Writing in Modern China. Stanford” Stanford University Press, 1998. 
  • Bonnie S. McDougall, Fictional Authors, Imaginary Audiences: Modern Chinese Literature in the Twentieth Century. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2003. 
  • Marston Anderson, The Limits of Realism: Chinese Fiction in the Revolutionary Period, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. 
  • Leo Ou-fan Lee, Shanghai Modern: The Flowering of a New Urban Culture in China 1930-1945, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999. 
  • Mao Zedong, "Yan'an Talks". 1942. 
  • Michel Hockx, Internet Literature in China, New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. 
  • Shuyu Kong. Consuming Literature. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005. 

All the secondary readings are available in SOAS Library. 


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules