Thursday, September 02, 2010

Chinese Short Stories

I have been doing teacher homework where I have been reading and reading trying to find stories for my English short story class.  Last semester was pretty much a disaster where attendance in one class in the middle of the semester reached a low time self-esteem hitting low of zero students.  Ninety percent of the students out of three classes just stopped coming for the rest of the semester. 
What was I doing wrong? 
I have the class again but this time with juniors instead of seniors, and I will not be discouraged.  I will try to be all that I can be, a prepared teacher who has done her homework and planned a well thought out lesson.
This semester I have decided to compare Chinese stories with western stories that have similar themes. 
As I do my homework reading story after story from ancient China, with morals, happy endings and lessons on how to live life, how to treat your parents and the leaders of the country, I am having a hard time identifying with the characters, and often just want to stop reading and gouge my eyes out.  It makes me wonder, are the students also having a hard time connecting with the human behaviors in the western stories that reflect the raw reality and pain of life of people in a far away land? 
I think Lynn Holmes in her introduction to An Anthology of Chinese Short Short Stories selected and translated by Harry J. Huang, explains the difference between western stories and Chinese stories.  She writes, "...the purpose if there is one (behind Chinese storytelling): the expectation that each story will have a moral, a point, a positive value in our own lives or community."  In the multicultural society, she explains, "If fiction is designed to give us imaginative access to other selves, and since to be human is necessarily to suffer and to face the unpleasant, what we gain from our reading is an extra concentrated dose of simulated life."  There is quite a big difference between our cultures' literature.
I am hoping through this semester's class, I will be able to bridge the gap between the expectations of stories with morals and happy endings with stories that do not always show the rosy side of life, but the raw reality of it.  I hope that the students will be able to teach me about their literature and help me appreciate it more, and in turn I will attempt to help them appreciate and understand western short stories.
Wish me luck and stay tuned...  Will I drive all of my students away?  Will they keep coming to class?  What will I learn this semester?


ieva said...

I have never read any Chinese story (maybe I should) but actually there are huge amount of literature with moral and/or happy ending outside China as well.

Introduction Letters said...

I feel like reading history! thanks