Reed Community

Wendell Britt

Chinese

September 1, 2014

Hometown: Wichita, Kansas

Adviser: Prof. Alexei Ditter [Chinese 2006–]

Thesis: “The Dystopian Present: Recontextualizing Yu Hua’s 1980s Fiction”

What it’s about: I focused on the works of Yu Hua, a writer from the Chinese avant-garde literary movement. By looking through a dystopian lens at four of Yu Hua’s short stories from the late 1980s, I hypothesized that it is possible to read decidedly more political critique/commentary into what was otherwise considered to be merely literary experimentation. The Communist Party had banned the speculative fiction genre as a societal pollutant, but it was never a hard and fast law.

What it’s really about: Writing a sci-fi thesis on works from a culture where sci-fi is banned.

Who I was when I got to Reed: Introverted and interested in doing only my own thing, I wasn’t motivated to learn things I hadn’t already decided were worthwhile. But the thing that jumped out at me about Reed was that it was fulfilling the promise of intellectual engagement on one’s own terms.

Favorite class: Post-Mao Literature and Film not only solidified my decision to be a Chinese major, but also inspired my thesis.

Cool stuff I did: I studied in China for six months, learned how to blues dance, led the Picters at Renn Fayre, and taught a class on Star Wars three years in a row at Paideia. I also led the Herodotones a cappella group, and was an admission tour guide. 

Favorite spot: The canyon underneath the (former) Theatre Building, and the Performing Arts Building terrace.

Random thoughts: Due to a registration error I signed up for a 300-level Chinese literature class the second quarter of my freshman year. It was one of the hardest classes I took. There are those moments where people say, “Why are you doing that major? It seems really hard.” You answer, “Yeah, it’s really hard, but I love it.”

How Reed changed me: Some days, when I ran the numbers, it seemed impossible to finish the amount of work I had in the available time. I always finished, though, and learned that a little bit of hustle goes a long way in getting stuff done. Reed pushed me beyond what I ever thought possible of achieving.

What I would tell prospies: This place literally throws experiences (and the funding to seek out those experiences) at you if you lift your head up from a book long enough to take advantage of them.

What’s next: I’m currently working as a customer experience specialist at Airbnb in downtown Portland.