“If you’re adventurous, brave enough, and receptive to new ideas, Comparative Literature is a good point of departure for knowledge acquisition”

Prof. LO KWAI-CHEUNG 羅貴祥 (BA 1985; MPhil 1990) is Director of Creative and Professional Writing Programme in the Department of Humanities and Creative Writing at Hong Kong Baptist University. His research interests range from cultural studies, creative writing, film studies to ethnic studies, East-West comparative studies and literary theory. Active in his academic research and creative works, he shares with us how a keen desire to expand the depth and breadth of knowledge has been the driving force in his career.


When he was still a secondary student, Prof. Lo already enjoyed spending time in bookstores. He discovered the fascinating books written by critics like Wong Kin-yuen (王建元)and Yip Wai-lim(葉維廉). Some Taiwanese literature also exposed him to how Chinese classical texts could be studied using contemporary Western theories like structuralism. Having read all these texts, he thought he knew what Comparative Literature was all about, only to realise later he had only scratched the surface.

In those days, Comparative Literature was still a part of ESCL (the Department of English Studies and Comparative Literature). While courses in both streams explore literary texts, those in Comparative Literature introduced him to a range of European literature. He read Kafka in a course taught by Prof. Rodney Davey, and learnt about Russian literature in depth from Prof. Jonathan Hall. “We also learnt about theories in a rather ‘dry’ and challenging way. There are hardly any examples! The professors all adopted different approaches, and Prof Ackbar Abbas’s teaching style made the materials more accessible.”

Besides regular lectures, intellectual stimulation is derived from discussions outside the classroom. Prof. Lo fondly recalled some picturesque moments in the Main Building, “After class, we would engage in invigorating discussions with our professors in their offices. This could last almost half a day, as we watch the sun goes down through the windows in Loke Yew Hall.”

This intellectual pursuit continued to motivate his postgraduate studies and cultural writing. During his MPhil studies, he would make his way from HKU to Joint Publishing(三聯書店) in Central to read the latest root-seeking literature. His editorial duties in Hong Kong

Economic Journal also prompted him to find out more about theories and books related to performance studies. Interested in an intensive study on theories, pursuing a PhD was his obvious choice.


Despite his broad research interests, his line of thought has been consistent throughout the years. “I have always been interested in European literature and continental philosophy. Some may think that’s Euro-centric, but I believe there’s room to create a dialogue by domesticating and adapting those ideas to our societies.” As part of the initiative to develop alternative theoretical frameworks, there is an Asian theory network which Prof. Lo is a member of. “We don’t want to just give up the theories’ legacies because of some biased, postcolonial criticism, and are still actively exploring ways to apply them to Asian societies. I also got a chance to meet Prof. Abbas from time to time
during our meetings!”


Prof. Lo shared about his humble goals as a teacher and scholar. Inspired by Prof. Leung Ping-kwan’s approach to teaching, he hopes to engage students in a similar way, “He used a lot of texts to introduce difficult theories, which really helped with understanding and engaging abstract ideas,” he recalled. Instead of recycling the same materials, he will update and adapt the materials each year to keep things interesting to students and himself. “I embrace challenges. When I no longer feel inspired about the things I teach, I know it’s time to teach another course, or perhaps even one that’s not directly related to my research. How can the materials be interesting to students if the teacher doesn’t feel excited teaching them?”

As a scholar, he observed how his research and involvement in community activities could create a ripple effect. “The knowledge we create in academia gradually trickles down to the community. I’m still active in the literary scene, and speaks at different community events from time to time. These activities allow us to communicate our ideas to the wider public, and at the same time they inspire my own research.”

Of all the roles he has taken over the years, being a learner is perhaps the most critical and pleasurable. The more he reads and understands, the stronger his intellectual curiosity—a spirit of enquiry that Comparative Literature has instilled in him. “There is this constant desire in me to find out more. Once you feel that you have known enough about an area, you naturally move on to something else. I’m not satisfied with what I know yet—and probably will never be.”