Lingchei Letty Chen

‚ÄčAssociate Professor of Modern Chinese Language and Literature, Head of the Chinese Section
PhD, Columbia University
research interests:
  • Identity Politics
  • Memory and Postmemory Studies
  • Mimesis
  • Travel Theory
  • Narratology
  • Postcolonialism
  • Postmodernism
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    contact info:

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    • Washington University
    • CB 1111
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Lingchei Letty Chen's research interests include mnemonic writings of the Mao era. She teaches courses on modern Chinese literature.

    Recent Courses

    Special Topics Seminar in Modern Chinese Lit: After the Great Divide: Taiwan in Literature & Films

    How do Taiwanese writers and filmmakers imagine, depict, and construct various spaces in which they live that are changing rapidly? How do they record and narrate the transformation of landscapes, negotiate with political ideologies, and reject or reinforce certain identifications? To better understand Taiwan society and culture as a whole, we will examine films and fictions that reflect momentous historical moments of this island's recent past and its present cosmopolitan condition. We will focus on issues concerning ethnic relations, displacement, imagined nostalgia, sexuality, political transformations and so forth. All literary texts and films will be in Chinese language. Prerequisites: Near-native fluency in reading in Chinese, advanced training in literary critical theories. Designed for graduate students; seniors with instructor's special permission only.

      Finding China: From Sojourners to Settlers in the Chinese Diaspora and Chinese American Literatures

      When the first Chinese sojourners arrived in America during the California Gold Rush in 1848, the locals regarded them as inscrutable and inassimilable. Today, Chinese Americans are the American society's most productive and responsible citizens. From coolie to Fu Manchu, from Charlie Chan to the model minority, from Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan, from Kung Fu Panda to Yo-Yo Ma, this series of images tells some of the stories of the dynamics between immigrants and the local residents and the Chinese Americans' journey of assimilation. In this course, we will trace this historical trajectory by way of writers' and filmmakers' imagination and representation of the experiences of those Chinese who left their homeland in search for means to build a better life for their children back in the home country or here in the adopted land. We will explore questions such as: How do the Chinese diaspora long for their cultural origin "China" in their various lengths of living abroad? Does diaspora have an expiration date? Through works by writers such as Maxine Hong Kingston, David Henry Hwang, Gish Jen and Ha Jin, and filmmakers such as Wayne Wang and Ang Lee, we will also examine issues of community building, the politics of hyphenation (Asian-American, inter-national, pan-Asian, etc.), and the role of gender in identity construction.

        Modern and Contemporary Chinese Literature

        An introduction to the major writers and works of Chinese literature from the turn of the century to the present, including fiction, poetry and film. We will look at these works from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong in their relevant literary, socio-political and cultural contexts (including Western influences). Required of all Chinese majors, and recommended for Japanese and East Asian Studies majors. All readings in English translation. NO PREREQUISITE.

          Reading Seminar in Modern Chinese Literature: Envisioning a New China: The May Fourth Era, 1919-1949

          A broad but intensive exploration of modern Chinese writers and writing of the May Fourth Era (1919-1949), a period considered to be the beginning of modern Chinese literature. Primary materials addressed will include writings in poetry and prose as well as dramatic literature and cinema, and will be discussed both in their cultural context and in conjunction with related trends in critical scholarship. Topics will include major schools and movements, negotiations between traditional and foreign ideologies, and questions of nation, class and personal identity. Regular reading reports and a final research paper required. Prerequisite: Designed for graduate students but also open to seniors with instructor's permission.

            Selected Publications

            Writing Chinese: Reshaping Chinese Cultural Identity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan Publishing, 2006.

            WU Newsroom: "Professor of Chinese Literature Reshapes Cultural Identities, Creates Opportunities"

            Writing Chinese: Reshaping Chinese Cultural Identity

            Writing Chinese: Reshaping Chinese Cultural Identity

            This is a comparative study of the politics of Chinese cultural identity facing China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the US-Chinese, and the Chinese diaspora in the West. The author challenges current discussions of hybridity and nationalism by contrasting the experiences of Taiwan, Hong Kong and US-Chinese with those of China and the Chinese diaspora.