EALAC proudly welcomed Assistant Professor Ying Qian to the faculty in 2015. Professor Qian, who received her PhD in 2013 from the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, combines a scholarly interest in Chinese literature, cinema, and politics with an artistic one in film making, criticism, and programming. She is completing a book manuscript, Visionary Realities: Documentary Cinema in China’s Revolutionary Century, and conducting research for a second one, which looks at writers, translators, and filmmakers working bilingually in China’s ethnically diverse border regions. Professor Qian’s documentary and short films have been exhibited and broadcasted in numerous countries, and her film criticism has been published in English, Chinese, and Czech newspapers and journals.
Allison Bernard (Premodern Chinese Literature)
Midday on November 10th, a group of EALAC PhD students and faculty gathered for a teaching workshop on the topic of East Asian humanities lecture courses. During the hour-and-a-half-long event, graduate students discussed teaching strategies and sought advice from a practiced panel of faculty mentors: Associate Professors David Lurie and Michael Como, Assistant Professor Guo Jue, and Postdoctoral Fellow Gal Gvili.
The well-attended and productive workshop was designed to engage graduate students and faculty members as colleagues at different stages of the teaching profession. Thanks to the energetic participation of faculty and student participants alike, the conversation was fruitful and extensive, benefitting considerably from the amiable atmosphere of informal yet professional exchange. Discussion points ranged from the nuts and bolts of producing a lecture lecture course (take note, present and future teachers: developing modular syllabi is a major time-saving investment) to broader issues of teaching philosophy; among them, the efficacy of using — and sometimes eschewing — technology in the classroom.
Of particular concern to workshop participants was the cumbersome format of the lecture itself. The new digital landscape of learning and scholarship poses existential questions to the lecture as a learning platform. The long-form, often monologue-driven, powerpoint presentation is quickly becoming ineffective as a teaching platform, appealing neither to faculty excited about engaging directly with students nor students who learn better by doing than by passive listening. While some participants had successfully developed lecturing approaches that avoided the most egregious pitfalls of the form, frustrations remained, particularly surrounding the unwieldy size of lecture courses and the spatial constraints of Columbia’s classrooms.
Without posing a universal remedy to the lecture format, workshop participants did identify opportunities for improvement. Equally exciting and daunting was the idea that a lecture could be conducted more like a discussion. By giving up some control to students and liberating the classroom from the dominance of powerpoint, lecturing professors could return to the basic principles of teaching: simplify, reinforce, and engage student curiosity.
The November 10th workshop evinces a growing trend within the department, whereby graduate students are taking the lead to convene and promote professional development events. The workshop’s organizer, Allison Bernard (PhD candidate in Chinese Literature), is one of EALAC’s two current Lead Teaching Fellows (LTFs). The LTF program is an interdisciplinary initiative of Columbia’s Center for Teaching and Learning now in its third year. For the second year in a row, EALAC PhD students have been selected to participate in the LTF initiative, which offers planning support and funding for new programming in fellows’ home departments. This most recent event follows a successful pair of syllabus development workshops, organized in the 2015-16 academic year by the inaugural EALAC Lead Teaching Fellow, Joshua Batts (PhD Candidate in Japanese History). EALAC’s second Lead Teaching Fellow for the 2016-17 year, Chris Chang (PhD Candidate in Chinese History), has also spearheaded a workshop on using WordPress to create a digital archive of one’s research. More programming by Allison and Chris will follow in the spring semester.
CTL Website on Lead Teaching Fellows Program: http://ctl.columbia.edu/graduate-instructors/opportunities-for-graduate-students/lead-teaching-fellows/
By: Allison Bernard (Premodern Chinese Literature)
New scholarship on medieval and early modern Chinese literature was among the exciting work showcased at EALAC’s March 10-11th international symposium, “Rethinking Authorship in East Asia and Europe.” While most symposium papers focused on Japanese literature, the event included presentations by several scholars of European literatures, as well as papers on Chinese literature by Columbia’s own Shang Wei and Princeton University’s Anna M. Shields. Professor Shields’s talk, “The Need for an Author: Creating Tang Dynasty Writers in the Five Dynasties (908-976) and Northern Song (976-1127)” examined the history of author biographies during the Tang-Song transition. Focusing on Tang poet Du Fu and Tang prose writer Han Yu, Shields argued that the revision of literati biographies from the 10th-c. Old Tang History in the 11th-c. New Tang History and in other later works strengthened connections between author and text and sought to stabilize narratives of these authors’ lives. Professor Shang’s talk, “The Story of the Stone and Issues of Authorship,” took up the complex matrix of authorial positions represented in the early chapters of The Story of the Stone. Asserting that the opening chapters manifest multiple authors and readers of the novel, Shang drew out the significance of the stone as both medium and protagonist. He also emphasized that the novel is uniquely positioned to engage issues of authorship alongside questions of media, genre, narrative, and commentary traditions of early modern China. Both papers were notable contributions to the symposium’s broader themes, which, among others, included the relationship between authorship and authority; the role of print media in making authors; and the historicity of concepts of authorship.