We teach literary, film, and cultural texts across national and linguistic divides. We introduce students to critical theories, making them accessible and applicable to working environments and everyday life as well as to further studies. Students learn to see the world around them through diverse texts, mediums, and ways of seeing.
Teaching staff in the Department conduct research and offer instruction in the following five areas:
- Literature, Film, and related cultural phenomena
- Literary and Critical theory
- Gender and Sexuality
- Hong Kong, China, and Asia
- Postcolonial and Global Studies
A Note for Our Students: What is Comparative Literature at H.K.U? What is the core of our B.A.?
Sometimes our Comp Lit majors wonder, quite appropriately, what makes our BA hold together. Given all that we do, this is a very good question. We teach a range of cultural or ‘social’ texts, across several genres and mediums (most often but not always literature and film). These hail from around the world and different historical periods. Our classes also usually draw on cultural and critical theory and follow lines of inquiry, from gender and post-colonial studies to literary, visual, aesthetic, and global queries. While we are in some ways rooted in Hong Kong and China (which is already diverse territory), we also teach classes, texts , and topics as well as contexts from, for example, the USA, Europe, Africa, and other parts of Asia. Practically, we emphasize student writing in all our classes, which means our majors graduate with greater ability and practice in this very important skill.
Does this mean we are not really a literature department? Or are we more of a visual/film studies department? Or would we best be described as an inter-disciplinary, cultural studies department? The short answer to this is: Yes, to all of the above. We contain multitudes, to paraphrase an old poet.
It might also help to recall that “literature” used to have a far broader meaning, well before the rise of the novel and modern fiction or film; it was seen as synonymous with “learning.” So if you study comp lit at HKU, you will be studying ‘comparative learning.’ And the comparative part for us is not about, say, directly comparing the texts of, say, Dostoevsky and Daoism, or Wong Kar Wai and Karl Marx, but thinking broadly and globally via the routes of theory and contextualization. We can also say that the very idea of comparative literature, back in the day, was to think and study beyond any one national context or country.
Perhaps most simply, all Comp Lit majors will graduate having taken classes in literature, film, and theory, and will be able to make sense of and think through a real diversity of texts and contexts, East and West and North and South. They will have the power to interpret and make sense not only of texts but of problems and disputed ‘facts.’ What makes the major cohere is this broad, important dimension of communication and critical thinking.