Postgraduate taught 

Comparative Literature MLitt

China and the West: Intellectuals and Knowledge dynamics MODLANG5012

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Modern Languages and Cultures
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course will examine the intellectual interactions and knowledge dynamics informing China's transition from a sophisticated society largely independent of Western societies to a modern state actively participating in globalization. It will explore the historical, social, economic, political, religious and cultural movements and debates that contributed to the shaping of contemporary China.


One two-hour seminar per week in semester 1 (11 x 2 hour sessions)

Excluded Courses





There are two components of assessment for this course:

■ 1,000 word book review (20%).

■ 4,000 word essay (80%): essay title must be developed in consultation with the course convenor.

Main Assessment In: December

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity to:

• introduce students to a series of debates and movements of intellectual interactions between China and the West since the Enlightenment;

• develop students' knowledge of cultural and political transition within China in the 20th Century;

• encourage students to read across disciplines in exploring the modernization process in China and to support them in doing this;

• challenge students to reflect critically on what "modernity" is in the context of China and East Asia and how ideas and knowledge from the West shaped the modernization process;

•enable students to adopt a non-Eurocentric perspective to define and interpret the ways in which regions and nations are shaped by, and themselves contribute to, global social and cultural transformations and foster intercultural awareness and understanding.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


• analyse the subtleties and complexities of modernization in China and its relationship to the cultural, social and intellectual interactions with the West;

• (re)appraise the concept and experience of modernity in China from a comparative perspective;

• identify the importance of key cultural, educational and socio-political moments in modern China;

• situate the contemporary 'rise of China' within a longer-term pattern of cultural and social change, and draw on this history to develop a more complete understanding of the present moment;

• exercise critical reasoning that encompasses non-Eurocentric perspectives.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.