Teaching Nineteen Eighty-Four in Mao Country
Every Wednesday evening six Chinese girls came to my apartment.Â By the middle of the Spring 2010 term at Xiangnan University in the home province of Uncle Mao and General Tso, I had come to depend on them to keep me happy.Â They were junior English majors and picked English names like Tina, Victoria, Christie, Helen, Cherries, Emilia, and Emma.Â Without their attention, kindness, and passion, I surely would have gone crazy as is so much the fate of many foreigners who come to China looking for love or a new life.Â But I am getting ahead of myself. It was a dismal cold day in March when I met…
The Government-Issued Literature Textbook
I describe the government-issued anthology textbook for Chinese Students. It is good, but has the obvious deficiency of containing only snippets of the greater works. A story by Steinbeck, for example, has only one chapter.Â So this is just one reason why I began the semester with an allegorical novel about following your dreams.
Will Chinese Students One Day Appreciate Thoreau?
With the fast pace of growth in China and its emphasis on modernism, I wonder if my students will one day come to appreciate Thoreau’s ideals, especially his love of nature and his concern for the environment.
In this literature class I help Chinese university students decipher passages in Thoreau’s essay, “Reading,” pointing out that it may take multiple visits to his works — a journey over a span of years — to gain more understanding. I also answer a student’s question into why Thoreau thought reading the classics, preferably in the original Greek and Roman, was so important.
Traditional Chinese Medicine & Elizabethan Theatre
With 16 teaching hours per week and a four day weekend it seemed that I had an abundance of free time.Â There were no office hours required, but I provided nine hours during evenings throughout the week for students wanting to talk about literature, culture, or life.Â It had to be evenings because the studentry were in classes all day long, day after day.Â But despite this I was practically on sabbatical. I had the free time to get literary, practice yoga, explore grimy Chenzhou, and plan my upcoming Tibet expedition.Â I contacted the Xiangnan University medicine school faculty to meet with them for a tour of their facilities, and…
Teaching Thoreau in the Heartland of China
I was teaching Thoreau in a time when the Chinese were migrating from the countryside into the cities. It was a new Industrial Ageâ€”but this one was taking place during the age of globalism, cell phones, and Hello Kitty. Experts estimated that a population greater than that of Americaâ€™s total population would move into Chinese cities within the next 15-20 years. Â There I was at the vanguard of this exodus where some of my students had left their families behind in the rice paddies.Â These students were their family’s only hope. But for those now living and working in the cities, there was the heady pleasure of shopping. The…