Teaching an “Other” Literature in China: Is the Speaker of Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” a Good Son?

By Charles Lowe.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The paper will be on the topic of teaching an ‘other’ literature to graduate students in China. The approach will be anecdotal and will rely on my experiences teaching British and American literatures to graduate students in the Linguistics Program at Shanghai University of Economics and Finance. I want to look specifically at the students’ reaction to a Dylan Thomas poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” In U.S. classrooms, the students generally are not troubled by the son’s expression of anger towards his father. But in a classroom in China, the poem sparked a different sort of response — focusing on the speaker’s un-filial attitude. Before this experience, I was already well familiar with reading response theory. However, I had not experienced quite so viscerally the accuracy of Stanley Fish’s observation in There a Text in This Class?: The Authority of Interpretive Communities that “readers belong to interpretative communities” (14), sharing a common culture and history.

The paper will a) introduce the poem in the context of the course: b) describe some of the challenges that one may experience, teaching literature in China in contrast with those confronting an instructor in a U.S. classroom: c) consider what overall lessons can be drawn from the anecdotal experience both in regard to teaching and to interpreting literature.

Keywords: Interpretive Communities, Teaching Literature, Diversity

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp.161-166. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.115MB).

Dr. Charles Lowe

Assistant Professor, English & Humanities, State University of New York at Alfred, Alfred, New York, USA

I am a Visiting Lecturer at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics on leave from the State University of New York at Alfred where I am an Assistant Professor. I have received a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. My area of specialization is in late 19th-century British Literatures. My articles and fiction have appeared in J Journal: New Writings on Justice, Guernica: A Magazine of Art and Politics, Fiction International, The Hardy Review, and elsewhere.


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