WGSS 127
Spring Grass: A Peek into Inequality in China Spring 2021
Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed ASIA 127 / WGSS 127 / CHIN 427 / ASST 127
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Class Details

Spring Grass (Chuncao) is a Chinese novel written by award-winning author Qiu Shanshan (1958-). Using the literary techniques of social realism, the novel chronicles the life of a young rural woman from 1961 to 2001. Spring Grass, the protagonist of the novel, was born in a rural village to a mother who preferred sons over daughters. At a young age, Spring Grass was deprived of the opportunity to attend school. Against all odds, she managed to marry for love, venture into the city, and become an enterprising migrant worker. This novel not only reflects the struggles of women in contemporary China but also captures the economic transformation of modern China since 1978 when the Reform and Open-Door Policy (gaige kaifang) was initiated. The novel was adapted into a television drama series and became an instant hit in 2008. This course takes an interdisciplinary, cultural studies and humanistic approach to studying a literary text, using literature as a means to help students better understand social and cultural issues. Through close readings of the novel, the eponymous TV drama series, documentaries, films, and short stories depicting rural life and women’s roles in China, as well as in-depth discussions of both primary and secondary sources that deal with the cultural, historical, and socioeconomic background of the unfolding story of Spring Grass, this course aims to provide a window for students to examine the issues of inequality in the Chinese village and society at large. Why would mothers be harsh to their own daughters and bar girls’ right to education? Why would young people leave their village and migrate to the city? Why would migrant workers leave their children behind in the village? Why would economic developments in China exacerbate the problem of gender inequality in society? Why would the ideology and cultural logic behind Mao Zedong’s proclamation “women can hold up half of the sky” add more burden to women rather than truly liberate them? Why would city people discriminate against country folks? After taking this course, students will gain a deeper understanding of the issues related to gender inequality (nannü bu pingdeng) and the urban/rural-gap (chengxiang chabie) in China. Throughout the course, they are also encouraged to critically think about how to achieve equity in different societies. This tutorial is conducted in either Chinese or English. Students wishing to take the course in English should register under ASST or WGSS and language learners wishing to take the course in Chinese should register under CHIN.
The Class: Format: tutorial; remote instruction
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 5125
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: active participation in tutorial meetings, five 4-5 page tutorial papers, five 2-page critiques, online writing portfolio as the final project.
Prerequisites: For students registering under CHIN, the prerequisite is CHIN 402 or a language proficiency interview conducted by the instructor. For students registering under ASST or WGSS, there is no prerequisite.
Enrollment Preferences: Enrollment priorities will be given to freshmen and sophomores who register under ASST or WGSS, and to Chinese language learners who register under CHIN.
Materials/Lab Fee: books and course packet.
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ASIA 127 Division I WGSS 127 Division II CHIN 427 Division I ASST 127 Division I
WS Notes: Writing is taught using the writing-as-process pedagogical approach. The writing process consists of invention, composition, and revision. Detailed writing prompts will be provided to students to generate and organize ideas for each essay. The instructor gives detailed feedback to students' first drafts and students are required to turn in a revised version. At the end of the semester, students will compile an online writing portfolio to include their best works.
DPE Notes: The issue of "inequality," including both gender inequality and regional inequality is the driving force behind the readings and discussions of this tutorial. Students are guided to develop an empathetic way of interpreting a literary work that features a rural woman/migrant worker. They will critically analyze the sources of inequality in the Chinese cultural context and explore ways to address such inequality.

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