Literature courses at EdUHK teach students to think for themselves

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Key figures in the Xinchuan Literary Club. (From left) Lo Chun-yu, Dr Wong Leung-wo, Chan Ho-yeung and Chee King-fan.

The written word has the power to touch human hearts, stir the imagination, influence ideas, and cause people to see life and all it entails from a wide range of different perspectives. 

For such reasons, Dr Wong Leung-wo, an Associate Professor in the Department of Literature and Cultural Studies, has long appreciated the power of words and what they can help to achieve. As a prolific writer and poet, he has won the Artist of the Year award presented by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council for his work in the literary arts. And his continuing wish is to inspire students to have a similar appreciation for the power of words and to love literature. 

To that end, he founded the Xinchuan Literary Club (「薪傳文社」, XLC) at The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK). The Chinese word xinchuan (薪傳)  literally means passing the torch or passion for literature from one generation to the next. 

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Literature brings people together

For many people, love of the written word perhaps becomes inherent once they learn to read. And though the term “literature” may give the impression that some writing is too high-brow for the ordinary reader, there is no reason for that to be so. 

Indeed, Wong consistently makes the point that literature is very accessible and can bring people together. As do his students from the Bachelor of Education (Honours) (Chinese Language) programme (BEd(CL)) Chee King-fan, (Year Four, President of XLC), Chan Ho-yeung, (Year Four , Vice-President of XLC) and Lo Chun-yu, (Year Five, Vice-President of XLC).  

“My classmates haven’t always agreed on what good writing is,” says Chee. “But we’ve been able to influence each other’s choices, and that has led to open discussions and sharing.”

When the XLC meets, members share opinions about writers and learn about the thought processes and techniques behind good writing from fellow members and guest speakers. Mentored by Wong, the student-led club organises events and activities that are not bound by any too-formal formats. Meetings have even taken place on outlying islands, where members are encouraged to find inspiration and put pen to paper in less usual settings.

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Of course, students are not obliged to like all the works presented at XLC gatherings. One of the main aims is to introduce them to a much broader range of works than they would otherwise read. Wong notes that many members are from the BEd(CL) programme and the wider exposure to different types of literature will help them in their future careers as teachers.

Chan says the BEd(CL) programme is a “perfect match” for him, reflecting his interest in and appreciation of Chinese language and his enthusiasm for teaching. “My professors have inspired me to learn more,” he says. “One day I hope to inspire my own students too.” 

Lo’s journey with literature began when she when she was still young and listened to her grandmother reciting lines from the Three Hundred Tang Poems anthology every day. 

“At university, I began to work more on my own writing and to read more literature,” she says. “This led me to join the XLC club. My own writing has improved with the feedback from professors and peers.”

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Literature for everyone

As part of her coursework, Lo has done some practice teaching at a local secondary school. Most students there showed little or no interest in literature, but she took the time to understand their interests and abilities and to find material that appealed to them. 

“If students know that their teachers are there to support them, they perform,” Wong says. “Through my efforts to help others, I’ve also found that teaching has enriched my own life.”  

Chan in turn is looking forward to developing a career in teaching. “I hope to support my future students and encourage them to follow whatever path they choose to take. My aim is to teach them how to think for themselves,” he says.

Edited by Richard James Havis