Global Cultural Studies/Literature - Duke Kunshan University


At Duke Kunshan University, each major consists of an interdisciplinary set of courses that integrate different forms of knowledge and a distinct set of disciplinary courses that provide expertise in specific areas.

Global Cultural Studies/Literature
Cultural Studies is an interdisciplinary field of research and teaching that investigates the forms of life and culture produced in today’s interconnected world, and has seen tremendous growth worldwide. Combining the strengths of the social sciences and the humanities, and drawing on methods and theories from literary studies, cultural anthropology, history, sociology, media studies, film studies, communications, economics, etc., the major of Global Cultural Studies with a focus in Literature imparts students with skills and competency in examining issues as diverse as nationalism, political conflicts, human rights, immigration, trade, the environment, media, literacy, and education.

Required Courses

Divisional Foundation Courses
Interdisciplinary Courses
Disciplinary Courses

Recommended Electives for the Major

Courses listed below are recommended electives for the major. Students can also select other courses in different divisions as electives.

Career Path

The major in Global Cultural Studies with a focus in Literature imparts students with skills and competency in critical thinking, cultural analysis, foreign languages and communication for careers in education, creative industry, NGOs and international business and law. Graduates may also pursue further studies in languages, culture studies, literature, creative practice and other areas.

The Art of Interpretation 1: Written Texts

Training in close reading and analysis of text remains a foundational skill in the arts and humanities, whether the text is literary or documentary. This core course combines practical training in close reading of a variety of texts, with strategies of analysis that are theoretically informed without, however, offering a comprehensive treatment of theory per se. The course will focus both on reading and analysis of literary texts, and on the nuanced unpacking of documents (official, unofficial, personal) with a view to historical method.

The Art of Interpretation 2: Images and Sound

This class will train students to develop skill and sophistication in viewing and analysis of images, including art objects, film, and the new media; and in sound studies, including sonic culture, film music, and traditional musical arts. The goal is audiovisual literacy – the creation and interpretation of sound and image that has become central to the ways we experience and understand the world. This core course combines practical training (how to see, how to hear) with a variety of modes of analysis.

Empires and Culture

In 1800, Europeans controlled 35 percent of the earth’s land surface. By 1914, it was 84 percent. American and Japanese imperialism soon followed. Beyond political control and economic exploitation, culture was instrumental in legitimizing imperial rule through the discourses of civilizing mission, scientific racism, social Darwinism, and in the Japanese case, a co-prosperity for Asians through assimilation. However, colonized peoples contested imperialism and colonialism through cultural practices such as mimicry, “signifying”, literary practice, and critique of liberalism and humanism. This course examines how culture is inscribed in the workings and failings of empires and their legacies.

Critical Comparative Studies

Why do we compare cultures? What are the assumptions and parameters that make comparison possible in the first place? Shifting from the Eurocentric model of comparative studies, this course proposes a “convergence comparison” approach that addresses global forces and local/regional concerns to understand cultural differences and commonalities. For instance, instead of comparing Shakespeare and Japanese theatric performance, the course will investigate issues such as appropriation and critiques of Shakespeare in Asia that doesn’t assume an equivalency between Shakespeare and Japanese theater, but examines the various and contested reception of Shakespeare in Japan instead.

Culture and Industry

Apple is currently the most valuable company/brand in the world. Despite its technological origin, the company has always valued design, interface, affect, imagination and creativity—skills that the humanities and the interpretive social sciences offer and promote. This course examines how cultural studies, in its analyses of fandom, reception theory, cultural hegemony, etc., provide students the theoretical skills to understand, analyze and prepare for working in the emerging creative industries in China today. Some topics we will explore in the course include: cultural industry and modernity, popular culture and everyday life, representations of gender and sexuality in advertisement, the impact of new social media and information technology, and censorship.

Gender and Globality

Gender is a key principle that structures social differences and inequality. Globality is a condition characterized by time-space compression and ever-expanding connections across national boundaries. How does gender shape processes of globality, and how do gender roles and practices change as national/cultural regulatory systems are no longer able to maintain control over their definitions? Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, this course examines the intersection between gender and globality in contexts such as labor migration, gendered labor in transnational factories and the high-tech industries, marriage and family, sex work and state violence, new reproductive technologies, as well as queer identities and activism. The particular historical contexts we will discuss these themes include colonialism, the Cold War, post-socialism, and neoliberalism.

Migration, Inequality, and Culture

This course explores selected aspects of the vast history of migration, with an emphasis on works that illuminate how structures and ideas of power and inequality shape and are shaped by movement across borders. We will consider how diverse forms of migration impact and are in turn impacted by ideas about citizenship, language, food, race, gender, sexuality, and national belonging; and connecting the process and experience with the making and remaking of communities home and abroad. The course will focus on Chinese and Japanese migrations to Southeast Asia and the Americas from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Multidisciplinary perspectives from history, anthropology, sociology, literature, film studies, and law will inform our discussions.

Intro to Literary Theory Writ Large

What are the philosophical, historical, political and aesthetic formations of literature? Can the genre such as the novel be universalized across time and space? What is the relationship between literature and society, arts and politics, form and content? Rather than exclusively focusing on Western literary theory, this course takes a global approach and includes a representative diversity of traditions and theorists of literature and aesthetics : Walter Benjamin (Germany); Alain Locke (US); Lu Xun, Wang Hui (China), ); Natsume Soseki, Karatani Kojin (Japan), ); Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi (Nigeria, US), ); Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa (Chicana, US), etc.. The aim is to pluralize our point of reference on how literature is defined and implicated in the process of colonialism, neocolonialism and postcolonialism.

Critical Inter-Asia: Rethinking Local and Global Connections

This course considers a variety of literary texts from the perspective of the nexus of cultures and societies in Asia. It emphasizes critical, transnational and interdisciplinary perspectives on two or more Asian cultures and their interactions in the world. In addition to providing the critical theoretical tools to analyze the production and reception of inter-Asian texts, the course will cover a representative variety of texts including history, literature, current affairs, cinematic, visual, and pop-cultures. By framing these texts in their local, regional, and global contexts, a comprehensive critical analysis will be developed.

Digital Storytelling

This course introduces the theory, method, and practice of digital storytelling. Students will learn to analyze digital storytelling in various media forms and modes of production, and evaluate the cultural impact of new media narratives. They will explore digital storytelling affordances including text, video, audio, design, animation, and interactivity. Students will gain hands-on experience developing digital narratives and creating digital critiques. No specific digital media authoring experience is required.

Reading Empire: Anglophone, Francophone, Sinophone and Japanophone

We are familiar with categories such as Anglophone and Francophone that describe literature written in English and French outside of England and France, respectively. We are less, however, less acquainted with Sinophone and Japanophone literature as objects of study. What the various –phone literatures have` in common is the depiction and contestation against the imperial centers from the peripheries. From Achebe’s Things Fall Apart to Duras’s The Lover, from Yi Kwangsu’s Heartless to Tashi Dawa’s A Soul in Bondage, this course examines the histories, languages, and philosophies of literatures that challenge the normative and normalizing logic of empire beyond formal imperialism and colonialism.

Melodrama East and West

This course examines melodrama as a genre in literature and as a mode of representation in film and other media. In examining representative works the course pays attention to key issues in cultural theory, including: gender construction, class formation, racial recognition, and national identity-building. The course places equal emphasis on texts from US and Chinese cultures and uses a comparative method to explore the politics of cross-cultural representation in both societies, leading to a critical understanding of how China is represented in US melodrama, and vice-versa.

From Cool Japan to the Korean Wave: Popular Culture from East Asia

The hegemony of American popular culture notwithstanding, cultural products from Japan and South Korea are becoming significant players in the globalization of culture. From the de-Disneyfied anime to the hybridized R&B K-pop, these cultural products challenge American cultural domination, and inspire alternate forms of aesthetics, participation and enjoyment. This course examines the historical formation of Japanese and Korean popular culture, focusing on their contested cultural meanings at the national, regional, and global scales. Some of the issues we will consider include: cultural imperialism, fandom, the role of the state and the development of cultural industry, representations of race and gender, capitalism and transnationalism.

Online Novels and the Chinese Public Sphere

Online literature constitutes the largest readership and a booming economy in China today. Popular genres include science fiction, urban leisure, martial arts, historical fiction and horror. Successful online novels have millions of followers and are often turned into games, TV dramas and feature films. Subscribers are free to comment on the websites and the fictions they host. How do we understand the proliferation and success of this online literature and its relation to the public sphere? By analyzing the content and the form of online literature in China, the class examines the popularity of online fiction and its socio-economic conditions.

Chinatowns: A Cultural History

This course explores the intersection of space and ethnicity through the myriad ways Chinatown has circulated as memory, fantasy, narrative, and myth, in the dominant cultural imagination. Through this exploration, the course engages the lived realities of overseas Chinese communities, placing them in the broader context of Asian American history. It aims to show how, and changing conceptions of “Chineseness” have productively engaged with real Chinatowns from Japan to America, and the phantom Chinatowns of film and fiction. Employing multidisciplinary approaches including urban history, architecture and, ethnography, the course reveals how the Chinatowns of myth and memory intersect with the lived reality of overseas Chinese communities.

Games and Culture: Politics, Pleasure and Pedagogy

This course examines analog and computer games from a cultural perspective. It explores how prevailing cultures and values affect game design, their popularity, and user experience. By examining the design of games, the course treats How games, as cultural artefacts, and aims to understand how they engage broader cultural and political themes, such as imagining disaster, utopia and dystopia. By examining their popularity among different social, gender and ethnic groups, the course investigates contemporary cultural concerns such as gender politics and racial representation. By exploresing the user experience, especially in the arena of massively multiplayer role-playing games (MMRPGs), the course investigates questions of role-playing and identity, ethics, group behavior, competition, and politics.

Digital Tribes

This course tracks digital life and creative expression of groups online in a close study of images, captions and hyperlinked tags. It examines rituals, symbols and cultural patterns that structure everyday life of digital tribes online and investigates impact of digital and social media (Weibo, Twitter, Instagram Facebook, livestreaming apps) on the constitution of communities online and offline. Studying varied array of digital tribes: tribes of the deaf, of oil rig workers, of Hindu worshippers, of prison wives and laptop entrepreneurs, students learn about underlying myths, rituals, and cultural symbols that connect groups of people online.

Religion and Sexuality

This course offers a critical examination of the relation of religion and sexuality with special attention to Buddhist literature and experience. The course equips students with tools from religious theory, gender theory, and critical theory, which are then used to interpret a range of phenomena including: religious interpretations of sex, sexuality, and gender; the codification and normalization of these rules through texts, symbols, and practices; and recent challenges to these interpretations. Topics include homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, contraception, gender equality, clerical marriage, married clerics’ wives, and clerical sexual abuse. Places Buddhism in conversation with Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions.