Xu
Office
Voter Hall 104
Tel
(802) 443-3430
Email
wxu@middlebury.edu
Office Hours
On leave 2022-2023.

First studied English language and literature at Nanjing Normal University in Nanjing, China; then came to the States to study English/American literature and Chinese/comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis.

Has taught various courses at Middlebury College since 2000, but regularly first-year Chinese drill classes, Classical Chinese, senior seminar on modern Chinese fiction in Chinese, traditional Chinese novels, love and sexuality in traditional Chinese literature, sometimes Chinese literary tradition in translation. Once or twice in a while taught humor in traditional Chinese literature or courses in world literature.

Has done research in vernacular fiction of late imperial China, especially the 18th-century novelistic masterpiece Hónglóumèng 紅樓夢/红楼梦 (Red Chamber Dream; also known in English as the Story of the Stone). Also interested in humor as a field of study, particularly in humor theories, literary humor, Confucian and Greco-Roman ethics and etiquettes of humor, etc. Recently wrote a little entry on Confucianism for Encyclopedia of Humor Studies (SAGE, 2014).

Enjoys all kinds of jokes including such olden Chinese humor as follows:

Hearing Confucius say that he wanted to go and live among the barbarians, someone warned him, “Think about their crudity. What are you going to do about that?” Confucius replied, “You see, once a gentleman lives among them, what crudity will there be?”                                                                                                                                                        From Chey and Davis, Humour in Chinese Life and Letters, p. 61

Confucius was reading a book when Laozi paid him a visit and asked: “What book is this?” “It is about ritual. You see, even a sage will read that sort of book.” Laozi replied: “Fair enough! A sage will read it. But why are you reading it?”                                                                                                                                                                                                           From Christoph Harbsmeier, “Confucius Ridens,” p. 139

Post-humorously, sometimes does such killjoy things as wondering, often fruitlessly, about meanings of jokes. E.g., maybe the self-important Confucius above violates the Daoist virtue of loving oneself without exalting or being full of oneself; hence the dig from the visiting Laozi, the father of Daoism and Confucius’s teacher (lǎoshī 老師/老师) of ritual as tradition has it.

Courses Taught

Course Description

Beginning Chinese
This course is an introduction to Mandarin (guoyu or putonghua). The course begins with simple words and phrases, the pronunciation and cadences of Mandarin, romanization, Chinese characters, and simple vocabulary items, all taught in the context of practical communication. Sentence patterns and other fundamentals of speaking, reading, and writing will be taught, including both traditional characters (used everywhere before the 1950s and still used in Taiwan and Hong Kong) and simplified characters (used in China). Students should have achieved active command of more than 600 Chinese characters and more than 800 compounds by the end of the sequence CHNS 0101, CHNS 0102, and CHNS 0103. 5 hrs. lect., 2 hrs. drill

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

Requirements

LNG

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Course Description

Beginning Chinese
An intensive continuation of CHNS 0101, this course is required of those wishing to take CHNS 0103 in the spring. Students may anticipate learning a significant amount of new vocabulary, sentence patterns and idiomatic expressions. Skits, oral presentations, writing assignments, and cultural activities are also part of this course. (CHNS 0101)

Terms Taught

Winter 2020, Winter 2022

Requirements

LNG, WTR

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Course Description

Beginning Chinese
This course is a continuation of the fall and winter terms with accelerated introduction of vocabulary, grammar, and sentence patterns designed to facilitate speaking and reading. Toward the end of this semester students will read Huarshang de meiren (Lady in the Painting), a short book written entirely in Chinese. (CHNS 0102 or equivalent) 5 hrs. lect., 2 hrs. drill

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021

Requirements

LNG

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Course Description

Intermediate Chinese
This course is a continuation of the first term's work, with the class conducted primarily in Chinese. (CHNS 0201) 5 hrs. lect., 1 hr. drill

Terms Taught

Spring 2022

Requirements

LNG

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Course Description

The Chinese Literary Tradition (in translation)
This course, an introduction to the works of literature that formed the basis of traditional Chinese culture, is a discussion-based seminar. It focuses first on texts written in classical Chinese from the earliest times up through the Song dynasty, including selections from early poetry and history, Daoist classics, stories of the strange, and Tang Dynasty poetry by Wang Wei, Li Bai and Du Fu. These texts shaped the traditional Chinese understanding of the world, and provided models of what was perceived to be powerful, beautiful language. In the second part of the course we will explore narratives written in the vernacular language, focusing on the literary significance and aesthetic value of drama, stories and novels long treasured by the Chinese. Students will gain a better understanding of traditional Chinese literary values, as well as Chinese society and worldviews. This class is not intended for native Chinese students who have studied Chinese literature in high school classes in China. (No background in Chinese culture or language needed.) 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020

Requirements

LIT, NOA

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Course Description

Advanced Chinese (Modern Chinese)
This course aims at further development of overall language proficiency through extensive reading of selected texts representing a wide variety of subjects and styles. Classes will be conducted entirely in Chinese except for occasional recourse to English by the instructor to provide a quick solution to problems of definition. The main text will be All Things Considered with supplementary readings selected to help students both continue to work toward competence in conversational Chinese and also begin to master a more sophisticated register of language. 4 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2021

Requirements

LNG

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Course Description

Clouds and Rain: Love and Sexuality in Traditional Chinese Literature (in translation)
This seminar explores a spectrum of traditional attitudes toward romantic love, sexualities, men and women seen through the prism of classical Chinese literature. Fiction and drama will be the main focus with due attention to poetry. Texts to be analyzed include, e.g., pre-6th-century B.C. and subsequent poems; 3rd and 4th-century and later stories of strange romances; the remarkable 7th-century tale of the Dwelling of Playful Goddesses and early 9th-century love story of “Yingying”; the marvelous late 16th-century romantic drama, the Peony Pavilion; the hilarious late 17th-century erotic novella, the Carnal Prayer Mat; and selected chapters from novelistic masterworks such as the late 16th-century and early 17th-century, Jin Ping Mei, and the 18th-century, The Story of the Stone (also known as Dream of the Red Chamber). (National/Transnational Feminisms) 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2020

Requirements

AAL, LIT, NOA

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Course Description

Early Chinese Novels (in translation)
This seminar focuses on pre-modern Chinese full-length novels, which rose and matured during the Ming-Qing period. Students will read from the "masterworks" of this genre, including Three Kingdoms (the epic deeds of heroes of the Chinese civil war of the second and third centuries), Outlaws of the Marsh (picaresque tales of Chinese Robin Hoods, as it were), The Journey to the West (a comic Buddhist-Daoist allegory better known in English as Monkey), The Plum in the Golden Vase (an erotic novel of manners), and The Story of the Stone-The Dream of the Red Chamber (widely recognized as a masterpiece of world literature); all are beloved and long treasured by the Chinese. We will also read an eighteenth century detective novel, Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee. We will not only trace the evolution of classical Chinese novels and consider their literary significance and artistic value; the course will also aim to provide a richer and deeper understanding of traditional China's history, society, culture, worldviews, beliefs, and sense of humor. (CHNS 0219 or CHNS 0220, or two Middlebury Literature courses, or by approval of the instructor.)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2022

Requirements

LIT, NOA

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Course Description

Classical Chinese I (in Chinese)
This course is an introduction to wenyan, the written language of traditional China. In this course we will emphasize comprehension of the literal and metaphorical meanings of short wenyan texts. Our approach will include grammatical analysis and baihua translation (i.e., from the Classical Chinese into modern Chinese); discussion will be conducted entirely in baihua. This course begins the two-semester sequence of Classical Chinese, which not only introduces students to wenyan but also provides a vital learning experience for any student seeking to attain a high level of linguistic and cultural proficiency in Chinese, including modern written discourse. (CHNS 0302 or the equivalent) 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

Requirements

LNG

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Course Description

Classical Chinese II (in Chinese)
A continuation of CHNS 0411. In this course students will read a wide selection of wenyan texts that sample the classics of ancient Chinese thought, including Confucius' Analects, the Daoist texts Laozi and Zhuangzi, Mohist arguments against war, Sunzi's The Art of War, and Legalist writings on law. Students will also learn to punctuate wenyan texts (which were originally unpunctuated) and compose sentences or short paragraphs in wenyan. All class discussion will be conducted in modern Chinese. (CHNS 0411 or the equivalent) 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

Requirements

LNG

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Course Description

Senior Seminar on Modern Chinese Literature (in Chinese)
A capstone course for all Chinese majors and for others who have attained a high level of Chinese language proficiency. Students will read and critique works by major Chinese fiction writers (and sometimes playwrights) and may also see and discuss a film or films from mainland China, Hong Kong, and/or Taiwan. All reading, discussion, and critical writing will be in Chinese. (CHNS 0412 or CHNS 0425) 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Spring 2021

Requirements

LIT, LNG, NOA

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Course Description

Senior Essay
(Approval Required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Winter 2023

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Course Description

Senior Thesis
(Approval required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Winter 2023

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Course Description

Senior Thesis Proposal
(Approval Required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

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Course Description

Senior Thesis
(Approval required).

Terms Taught

Winter 2019, Winter 2020, Winter 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Winter 2023

Requirements

WTR

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Areas of Interest

Vernacular fiction of the Ming-Qing period (1368-1911)

Humor