North Central College
Faculty mentors: Jinai Sun, Assistant Professor of Chinese and Stuart Patterson, Visiting Associate Professor and Chair of the Shimer Great Books School
Student fellows: Joy Herzog, Sophie Juhlin, Andrea Du, Cameron Teel, Madeline Derango, and Juliet Mathey
Understanding China through the Classic Novel Hóng lóu mèng
As China continues to develop as a global power, its leaders are turning increasingly to the past as a means for promoting a unified national identity as well as for improving relationships with other powers, including the U.S. Our project aims to understand such uses of the past by engaging with the contemporary reception of one of China’s four canonical “great novels”: Hóng lóu mèng, or Dream of the Red Chamber. Since its publication in the late 18 th century, this work has become one of the most important touchstones for Chinese self-understanding, individually and collectively. It is often referred to as an “encyclopedia of Chinese life,” both for its expansive scope and the intimate realism of its depictions of individual and collective identities.
Before traveling to China in July, Student Fellows will begin their encounter with Hóng lóu mèng and its contemporary readers through collaborative study online with university students in Beijing. These Chinese peers will join Student Fellows in annotating the novel and pursuing research into specific themes related to shared academic and professional interests. Their three-week stay in China will begin with seminars on the novel with these same Chinese university peers and visits to sites promoting the study and celebration of Hóng lóu mèng. Student Fellows will also engage with other readers, including high school and elementary school groups, and with scholars of the novel and its history. Finally, each Student Fellow will also engage in individual conversations with professionals in fields related to their career interests and who can help illuminate the contemporary relevance of Hóng lóu mèng to specific areas of Chinese life
Student Fellows will produce an ongoing multi-media blog in preparation for three distinct end-products: digital profiles highlighting each Fellows’ work on the team; e-portfolios showcasing individual research projects; and audio and visual materials designed to support the ongoing teaching of Hóng lóu mèng in high school and college classrooms. Their collaborations with Chinese peers will endure on a dedicated website to be maintained by the Mentors. One major outcome of the project will thus be a detailed examination of how classical literature and traditional culture generally is conceived and presented in China and the U.S., laying the groundwork for more refined, mutual understanding and a truly global awareness of the importance of works of the stature of Hóng lóu mèng.