I’m so modern and so contemporary…

Modern, Contemporary and Chinese literature!

This week’s multicultural literature review is incorporating modern Chinese literature like Diary of a Madman by Lu Xun, Sealed Off by Zhang Ailing, and the contemporary Chinese literature like Man of La Mancha by Chu T’len-Hsin. All three very interesting pieces of literature and all three having very similar themes that I would describe as a mixture of both transcendence and perception (how one view’s others or how someone will view oneself). As always, I will discuss great ways for teachers to utilize this theme within their classroom for a lesson and figure out elements of pop culture could be used to engage students in the teaching of these three stories theme’s.

To begin, the story Diary of a Madman by Lu Xun is very fitting of the mixed theme of transcendence and perception as the whole story is based around the way modern day individuals view other people from their own perspective. The world appears to have grown so judgmental that if one individual (or even multiple) do not act accordingly to the norms of society than they are simply an outcast. Those that are different will often be subject to ridicule or judgment for being/acting a certain way. Even to this day it seems that this modern Chinese literature seems to prove that certain cultural customs and beliefs will be affected. As time goes on those customs and beliefs could potentially cease to exist.

Sealed Off by Zhang Ailing is another interesting piece of modern literature that does fit the theme of transcendence and perception. This story seems like it takes place during World War II because the story starts off with air raid sirens going off in Shanghai where the Japanese took control of China during that era of the war. The tram passengers speak a lot about western culture such as the instance a medical student was seemingly drawing a skeleton and labeling the parts of the body. In addition, the main character Zongzhen discusses with another tram passenger going by the name Cuiyuan, who happens to be a teacher, about taking up a second wife, which she labels as a concubine. A concubine is relatedly a polygamous relationship where the concubine (or in modern terms: mistress) is of a lower status than the wife with the same duties. From the way Zongzhen tells the story (as it’s from his perspective) it’s possible that the two tram passengers fell in love, but that really cannot be determined so easily. If you tried to relate this story to that Confucianism I am not personally certain I would see it. The story really delves quite a bit into that of westernized culture and the way Zongzhen views the lives of others around him and of what he thinks they think of themselves. Not actually what they think of themselves.

The final story by author Chu T’len Hsen Man of La Mancha seems to me that it has that mixed theme of transcendence and perception because the narrator of the story, whose gender is not confirmed as masculine or feminine, is very concerned and obsessive about death, which is the primary topic in the story. It also seems that he/she concerns themselves with the thoughts of how others will view them once they die. At first glance this story doesn’t match that of Confucian writings of peace and enlightenment, but in a sense the story does (in my opinion), though it is still mainly a contemporary piece of Chinese literature. Even though death isn’t really all that peaceful of a topic, the narrator throughout the story oftentimes does appear to be at peace and content with the thought of death due to their near-death experience. I feel like instances where the narrator’s feeling of enlightenment came when he/she seems to find a sense of understanding about those who pay with cash over those who pay with a credit card. He/she states that those who pay with cash are warier of how they spend it and are tied to no one. Those paying with a credit card are only borrowing money, so they essentially are tied in some way. This thought of death can be a very relatable topic, which makes sense why it’s considered Contemporary Chinese literature. There are some people who do think and obsess over death. I am not one of those people. The human mind finds it hard to understand the concept and reality of our own death so it’s something I rarely think about. In the instances I do, I can see myself wondering how others will view me, but more my legacy as an individual rather than anything else.

In final, the theme of transcendence and perception is a valuable lesson to teach and I think high school aged students would really get the hang of it with the right method of teaching. I am always partial to writing as a use for teaching these stories, but I suppose that is because I am currently working toward an English teaching degree. This is a method of teaching that works for me and something that I relate to. According to the Scholastic website (link below) they suggest activities like dissecting a sitcom, connecting with music, spoofing a TV show, and amongst other suggestions. These seem like good ways to interact with students and for students to really interact with the topic. Let me know what you think!

© Donovan G. Ward

Multicultural Literature Review

Donovan Ward from CWP View All →

I am attending college online with Grand Canyon University (GCU) for an English Teaching degree for Secondary Education. The first question I was asked when I made the decision to embark on this journey to be a teacher was, "Why do you want to be a teacher?" My response: "It is not for the money." Regardless, I am looking forward to being a teacher and am on this blog as part of a college course. I have written (never published) books and poetry of all kinds and have a love for writing in general. I have never done a blog before so we will see how this goes. Let's do this!

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