Christopher Rea, Professor of Modern Chinese Literature

Christopher Rea, Professor of Modern Chinese Literature


My name is Christopher Rea and I teach
modern Chinese language, literature, and cinema at UBC. I’m primarily a literary
and cultural historian focusing on the Chinese speaking world. I’m also a
translator of both modern and classical Chinese literature. My research is
eclectic, but one of its goals is to trace what might be called alternative
cultural histories: How did the ways that Chinese people talk about what’s funny
change in the modern age? What have modern Chinese writers had to say about
the idea of “literary cosmopolitanism”? Or, who are China’s cultural entrepreneurs —
people who make a career not just, say, as an author but also as a
cartoonist, filmmaker, editor, translator, radio personality, or consumer products
manufacturer? Or, why did people compile collections of stories about fraud at
certain historical moments in China — and other moments in the US or the UK? And
what can such patterns tell us about social history or about storytelling? My
current research project is another departure, a book called Chinese Film
Classics. One of the things I’ve done over the past decade is to expand UBC’s
course offerings on modern Chinese literature and cinema.
Besides fourth-year Chinese language, I teach courses on the city in literature,
the rural imagination, the modern Chinese novel, the literature of criminality, and
a research course on modern Chinese authors. When I arrived in 2008, UBC had a
single course on Chinese Cinema. I redesigned that as History of Chinese
Cinema, and then designed new courses on Global Chinese Cinemas, Hong Kong Cinema,
Chinese Film Classics, and Fiction and Film from Modern Taiwan. UBC is a
fantastic place to study modern Chinese literature and culture because of the
breadth and depth of our program, which is growing. My courses focus on how to do
things: how to interpret cultural history; how to assess the artistic quality or
cultural significance of literary texts; how to make sense of the various claims
that people make about China; how to write better; and how to have fun with
the Chinese language. I do you think it’s important to keep things fun, and that’s why my philosophy of research, teaching and learning is pretty much the same: just to
choose your own adventure!

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