When we learn about cultures that are different from ours, we start to better understand who we are and the world in which we live.

Xi Tian

For Professor Xi Tian, East Asian studies, learning the language and literature of another culture is essential to understanding one's own culture. "Language and literature provide a platform for appreciating the universal values that are common to the human experience. When students learn another language, they also learn about culture and the differences or similarities to their own experience," she says. "They are then able to reflect on their own culture and language. When we know about cultures that are different from ours, we start to better understand who we are and the world in which we live."

Students who grasp the rich context of cultures – through class readings, films or dialogue – are more empathetic, according to Tian. "When we study Chinese language and culture, we reflect on Chinese society. It is important because understanding a foreign culture provides new perspectives that will supplement existing knowledge."

Tian's research focuses on satire in modern Chinese fiction and drama from the 1930s and 1940s. By analyzing the work of Lao She, Xiao Hong, Qian Zhongshu and Yang Jiang, she explores how satire arose as a response to social and political events and sentiments. "I examine the complexity and relationship between satirist, satirized object and reader," she says. "I am interested in how satire emerged as a trend that legitimized humor and humorous writing as part of serious literary practice in China."

Tian also studies the emergence of social and political satire on the internet in China today. "There is a lot of online literature in China, and authors are publishing novels chapter by chapter, or, in some cases, day by day. Readers subscribe and write comments that may or may not influence the work," she says. "I am researching how this new form of literature in China incorporates the unique features of the Chinese language and how social and political satire is included."

Posted Sept. 29, 2014

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