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Study information

Introduction to Modern Chinese Literature

Module titleIntroduction to Modern Chinese Literature
Module codeMLM3008
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Yan Wen-Thornton (Convenor)

Dr Wenqian Zhang (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module gives you the chance to explore the major writers and works of Chinese literature from the twentieth century to the present, including fiction, prose, poetry and film. You will study these works from mainland China in their relevant literary, socio-political and cultural contexts (including Western influences). You will be able to explore and understand how Chinese writers and filmmakers reconstructed modern literature in relation to China’s nation-building process. All texts selected for study are available in English being translations of Chinese originals. 

No prior knowledge of Chinese is assumed or required. This module is taught in English and is designed both for non-Chinese speakers and native Chinese speakers.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to enable you to:

  • Gain an understanding of Chinese literary and political history from The Republic of China (1912-1949) and The People’s Republic of China (1949-present).
  • Gain a detailed appreciation of the key literary works including the most influential feminist writers, who made Chinese modern literature with a humanistic spirit.
  • Explore critical concepts in selected famous masterpieces of literary scholarship.
  • Acquire skills to appreciate and analyse intertextual content.
  • Acquire an understanding of approaches to literary adaptation into other mediums.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of the set texts and an understanding of the ways in which these texts might be interrelated.
  • 2. Demonstrate an appreciation of the historical context of the novels and how this may affect our reading.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. After initial input from the course tutor, independently apply and evaluate critical approaches to the material under analysis.
  • 4. Argue at length and in detail, engaging with both primary and secondary texts, about an aspect of the selected topic.
  • 5. Develop an appreciation of the key literary masterpieces of modern Chinese literature within their socio-political context.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Undertake independent research tasks on the basis of a taught course.
  • 7. Adopt an independent, critical approach to a topic in order to produce, by a deadline, a written argument of some complexity.

Syllabus plan

Lectures will present an introduction to the significance given in Chinese literary history and will discuss the relevant historical, cultural and theoretical contexts in the primary texts. Seminars will encourage close readings and analysis followed by critical discussion of the primary texts and selected secondary texts.  

Whilst the content may vary from time to time, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • The greatest writers in Republican Era (1912–1949)
  • Spotlight on key contemporary Chinese fiction writers.
  • Chinese modern female literature and women writers.
  • Adaptations-turning fiction into film.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching55 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1010 x 1 hour seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Conclusion
Guided Independent Study134Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan750 words1-7Written (and oral upon request)

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1003000 words1-7Written (and oral upon request)

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay (3000 words)Essay (3000 words)1-7Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension might be granted. The mark given for re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.


Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Selected Novels of Lu Xun (1921)
  • Collection of the Most Beautiful Poems By Xu Zhimo (1928)
  • Love in a Fallen City (1943) by Eileen Chang (1943)
  • Red Rose, White Rose by Eileen Chang (1944)
  • Half a Lifelong Romance  by Eileen Chang (1948)
  • Fortress Besieged by Qian Zhongshu (1947)
  • Red Sorghum by Mo Yan (1986 )
  • The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan (1988)
  • To Live by Yu Hua (1993)


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Deppman, H. C. (2010). Adapted for the Screen: The Cultural Politics of Modern Chinese Fiction and Film. University of Hawaii Press.
  • Hong, Z. (2007). A History of Contemporary Chinese Literature. Brill.
  • Hsia, C. T. (1999). A History of Modern Chinese Fiction. Indiana University Press.
  • Larson, W. (1998). Women and Writing in Modern China. Stanford University Press.
  • Lau, J. S., and Goldblatt, H. eds. (2007). The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature. Columbia University Press.
  • Lovell, J. (2006). The Politics of Cultural Capital: China's Quest for A Nobel Prize in Literature. University of Hawaii Press.
  • McDougall, B.S. (2003). Fictional Authors, Imaginary Audiences: Modern Chinese Literature in the Twentieth Century. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.
  • Michael, B. (2005). Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers. Columbia University Press.
  • Rojas, C., and Bachner, A. eds. (2016). The Oxford Handbook of Modern Chinese Literatures. Oxford University Press.
  • Wang, D. W. (2020). Why Fiction Matters in Contemporary China. Brandeis University Press.

Key words search

China, Fiction, Film, Culture, History, Politics

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date