Photo by Matt D’Annunzio

Wendell Britt ’14

Chinese

Hometown: Wichita, Kansas

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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

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