WU, PROFESSOR OF CHINESE AND HUMANITIES
Perhaps no faculty member has personified Chinese culture to Reed students
more than Charles Wu. In keeping with his mission to serve as a
bridge for cross-cultural understanding and the colleges goal
to establish an inter-disciplinary Chinese studies program, Wu has worked
both inside and outside the classroom to immerse the campus in his native
In 1988 Wu and Hyong Rhew became the first-ever professors of Chinese
literature and language at Reed. The challenge to build a full-fledged
program appealed to Wu, a scholar trained in literature who had spent
many years teaching both English and Chinese. He helped lay the foundation
for a range of modern Chinese language courses and taught twentieth-century
Chinese literature courses in fiction, poetry, drama, and film. He also
helped develop Humanities 230, an innovative course that studies the foundations
of Chinese civilization through an inter-disciplinary lens.
As a native of China who moved to the U.S. in 1980, Wu brought to Reed
a unique bicultural perspective, one enhanced by both his Western academic
training and his intimate knowledge of the turbulent times that shaped
the contemporary literature he teaches. I have strived to ensure
the authenticity of the material I teach and share my insights based on
the latest critical theories as well as my own insiders
point of view, he explains.
Scholars in the West, Wu explains, have long studied Chinas traditional
culture. But the resurgence of the country is attracting increasing attention
to its more recent and lesser-known changes in an array of disciplines,
such as its recent sociopolitical history, intellectual history, literature,
cinema, and other art fields. Modern Chinese culture, says Wu, deserves
to be critically examined, but with the best possible academic objectivity
Thanks in large part to Wu, students can encounter modern Chinese culture
beyond Reeds classrooms. Wu helped create Chinese study-abroad opportunities
for students by forming affiliations with four Chinese universities. He
also plays a major role in bringing a Chinese language scholar and other
cultural events to Reed each year. I feel quite strongly that we
need a presence of Chinese culture on this campus for the curriculum to
make sense to our students, he explains.
His passion for infusing a cultural component has been instrumental to
the programs growth at Reed, Wus colleagues say. Hes
been very, very important in a holistic way, says Rhew. Douglas
Fix, professor of Chinese history and chair of Chinese humanities, adds
that he strongly hopes Wu continues to lure Chinese notables to campus
in his role of professor emeritus.
Wu says he does intend to remain connected with Reed through academic
collaborations, as well as to connect with the larger community.
For now he rejoices in reading the email stories of former students who
have embarked on careers related to China. Not surprisingly, he says these
ongoing relationships are the most rewarding part of his job. The
contacts these students have maintained with me after their graduation,
Wu says, are a constant source of joy.
|Freelance writer Dan Sadowsky wrote
about Kalista Smith 01 in the February 2002 issue of Reed.