Summer 2023 - HUM 382 D100

Selected Topics in Asian Art and Cultures (4)

Change and Survival

Class Number: 4138

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jun 28 – Aug 4, 2023: Tue, Thu, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



An in-depth study on a specific aspect of Asian cultures in the modern period, including art, film, media and/or literature.


Change and Survival: Contemporary Chinese Writing in Translation

China in the last century has been a turbulent time of revolution, reforms and changes. How have Chinese people survived these various episodes of violence, trauma and changes? How have Chinese writers captured those personal memories and socio/political history? What kinds of narrative devices have they employed to express their sympathy and understanding of the complexity of humanity?

This course introduces some representative works by contemporary Chinese writers. Through a close reading of these works, we will try to reach some understanding of both humanity and narrative from the very specific perspective of contemporary Chinese writing. The aims of the course are to:

1) Discover contemporary China literature through close reading of three fictional /non-fictional works and explore how Chinese literature expresses some common subjects and themes in 20th century human experience: violence, change, trauma, survival and the importance of culture and education.
2) The method of the course combines critical literary analysis of core texts with historical/cultural context and class discussions. By the end of the course, students are expected to gain a deeper understanding of contemporary China through literature and film, as well as developing broader skills
3) Develop generic skills of active critical reading and literary/cultural analysis, through weekly class discussion, presentation and the formulation and writing of a final paper.

In order to achieve these goals, in each class we will discuss one aspect/issue of narrative and representation through a specific text. The students are required to read assigned texts (including some cinematic texts) with a set of questions to reflect on, and discuss these questions with fellow students on Canvas. These texts and questions will then be further discussed in class through class discussion and group presentations. Active participation in seminars and developing a major research paper are required for successful completion of the course.


  • Class Attendance and Participation 25%
  • Presentation (30 min.) 15%
  • Canvas discussions/assignments (X4) 25%
  • Final Essay 35%


This course counts towards a concentration in Art and Material Culture as well as Public Engagement and Intellectual Culture for students declared in a Global Humanities major or minor program.

*If you are having issues enrolling in the course, please email for assistance.



Books are available online; all the films are available on Youtube with English subtitle.

Yu Hua, To Live: A Novel. Translated by Michael Berry. Anchor Books.

Ah Cheng, The King of Trees: Three Novellas. Translated by Bonnie McDougall,  New Directions.

Fang Fang, Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City. Translated by Michael Berry. HarperVia.


Sue Williams, China: A Century of Revolution (Documentary)

Dai Shijie, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (巴尔扎克和小裁缝).

Wu Hao, 76 Days (Documentary)

Zhang Yimou,  To Live (活着)


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at:

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university.


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.