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American Literature in Yancheng

June 3, 2012

Thanks to a special introduction from an Auburn University colleague who taught previously in China, I was able to visit Yancheng Teachers University for a Fulbright Lecture.  Yancheng (“Salt City”) is located a few hours north of Shanghai and well off the usual tourist paths.  After dinner with my Yancheng Teachers University colleagues who had driven down to Nanjing Normal University the night before, we made the 3.5-hour car ride together to Yancheng the next morning.  Like most Chinese cities, it is a gritty and bustling place.   A fast-growing city traditionally based on agriculture and fishing, Yancheng now is home to 7 million permanent residents, 1 million migrant workers, 2 new Kia automobile manufacturing plants, and a number of large textile factories.  The university is home to about 20,000 students, including a substantial cohort from the far-western provinces like Xinxiang, which hosts a largely Muslim population.  These students are admitted to some Chinese universities using a kind of affirmative action program intended to bring improved education to members of ethnic minority groups in those provinces.

Professor Bi Fengshan of the English Department at Yancheng Teachers University was a wonderful host and gave me an excellent tour of the university and the surrounding area.  Here are some photos from the lecture visit; these provide a view of Fulbright lecturing here in China, including a typically large audience of students (in this case, about 130 undergraduate English majors and their instructors).  My talk covered 19th-century American literature and race relations, especially in the work of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), which was translated into Chinese in 1901 and has been well known here ever since.

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