Category Archives: English-Chinese culture and education

English Literature Lecture 3: Narration and Point of View

English Lecture 3: Narration and Point of View

Today’s lecture: Introducing narrative and point of view in fiction

Welcome to Week 3 of our course Introduction to Literature.

This week we will examine literary ways of understanding narration and point of view in fiction.

In today’s lecture,I will introduce you to our three fiction texts, outline some of the key literary concepts about narration and point of view, and introduce some of the different critical theoretical ways of understanding these concepts, using examples from this week’s readings.

At the end of the lecture, I will give you this week’s written assignment, a short exercise on narrative and point of view. I will also remind you about this week’s workshop discussions, and the readings for next week’s lecture.

In this week’s seminars, I will ask you to complete the comprehension exercises and join in the group discussions that follow from your reading and listening about narrative and point of view. We will also review the results of last week’s class survey on literary genres.

Part One: Introducing some key concepts and our 3 example texts

OK, so let’s start part one of this week’s lecture here:

For today’s class, we will begin by working with three writers whose works are regarded as important parts of American and American-Chinese literary culture. The works we will read and discuss are:


  • Jay McInerney: an extract from his novel Bright Lights, Big City (1984)
  • Paul Beatty: extracts from his novel The Sellout (2016)
  • Yan Geling: extracts from her novel The Flowers of War (2012)

(For today’s class you will have read the extracts that were provided in a handout at the end of last week’s lecture and posted on your learning materials page. We have included below in today’s online lecture, in case you want to refer to them again).

First, listen to this audio file introducing today’s authors and their works, and the film versions that have been made of some of their fiction.

Audio Player

You can also follow the audio by reading this transcript.Now, let’s begin to learn some of the key concepts of narration and point of view.

The nuts and bolts of narration and point of view

nuts bolts

Please read this first power point presentation, (for best viewing, select reading view under the view button). Be sure to play the audio files as you read.

The presentation introduced some of the key literary concepts on narrative and point of view. Take a moment to review points 1-4, and 7 in this Narration and point of view concepts table.

Once you have finished reading and listening to the presentation and reviewed the concepts table.

Let’s have a ten minute break, and then proceed to part two of this lecture, where we will begin to employ the concepts in our reading and analysis of today’s fictional texts

Part Two: Using the concepts to understand the readings


The Flowers Of War - screenshot [2012.01.08_22.36.36]

First, please carefully listen to the Audio Player

The audio file refers to this excerpt from the Flowers of War.

Once you have listened to the file, please work in pairs to complete the following quick comprehension quiz (one of you can record your answers on your notepaper). Ill give you five minutes, then we’ll open it up for a group discussion.

Comprehension Quiz: Narrative and point of view in The Flowers of War

a.What kind of narration is being used in Yan’s novel?

b. What would have changed if the aunt had been the narrator, telling the story as she remembered it at a much later time (as in Yan’s original Mandarin version, 13 Flowers of Nanking?)

c. Are there any focal characters in the extract? If so, who?

d. Other than the Flowers of War, can you think of some fictional narratives that tell a national story?

e. How do different narrators and points of view affect the telling and reading of national narratives?

brightlightsbigcity nuts bolts


OK, next please read this second power point presentation, (for best viewing, select reading view under the view button).

Take a moment to review point 6 in the Narration and point of view concepts table. This presentation relates to the extract from Bright Lights Big City (the novel’s first chapter).

Be sure to follow the link provided to listen to Jay McInerney’s reading of an extract from his second person narrative At six a.m. do you know where you are? (on slide 2).

Quick Discussion

After we’ve all finished reading let’s open it up for a group discussion (5 mins) on this question: How did you experience the story’s second person narration? Who is the youth the narrator addresses? Who is the narrator?

sellout nuts bolts.jpg

Then read the third power point presentation. Be sure to play the audio file (on slide 5). Take a moment to review points 5, 8, and 9 in the Narration and point of view concepts table.

The presentation relates to this extract from The Sellout. We will discuss it further in this week’s seminars.

OK, now let’s now look at your homework for this week.

Written Comprehension exercise (due next week).

For this written comprehension exercise, you should read one of the following extracts:



Part A) Can you give your chosen reading extract a close reading, identifying how the writing shifts between the perspective and values of the implied author and the narrator’s voice and focus? Write your ideas in the form of a bullet point list (at least 6 points), and then give it to your paired partner to read, while you read their bullet point list. Then you should each write your comments on each other’s close-readings.

Part B) Then see if you can provide a critical analysis that pays attention to the context. How might some knowledge of this historical period and the life of Charles Dickens potentially add to understanding this passage? Once again, write your ideas in the form of a bullet point list (at least 6 points), and then give it to your partner to read, while you read theirs. Again, you should each write your comments on each other’s critical-readings.

Submit Part A And B together using the online submission page. Make sure your partner’s comments are included (handwritten on the page or typed on a copy of your page).

You may find it helpful to listen to this audio file on the two novelists, the novels, and their historical contexts.

Next week we will have another group discussion, based on your written work. What did you find in your close readings and critical readings? How do the theoretical methods compare?

Finally, two reminders:

  1. In this week’s small group seminars, we will review our knowledge of narrative and point of view. Make sure you have done the readings, including the excerpt from Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, and Chapter Two Of The Norton Introduction to Literature, including one of the three short stories.
  2. The readings for next week’s lecture on character includes chapter three of The Norton Introduction to Literature. Please read at least one of the short stories by Toni Morrison, and David Foster Wallace. Please also read the following extracts (we will discuss them in the lecture):

Now follow this link to the seminars for today’s lecture.

Matt and Jian’s English class 2: Let’s go and eat in Tuscany, Italy

—Ninmen Hao!

Welcome to our second English language class. Last week we talked about Steve’s Food Blog, and the street food he wrote about. Steve like the pad thai in Thailand, the satay in Indonesia and the burrito in Mexico.

Rural Tuscany, Italy.

First, we will read a little about the some of the food of Tuscany, and I will explain some of the word and phrases. Then we will a break for 20 minutes.  Then a little more reading and explanation and some group discussion. 

Let’s have a look at this map of Tuscany:


tuscany provinces map
Florence is west  (xi) of the town of Pisa, famous for its leaning tower, and north-east (dōngběi) of the island (dǎo) of Elba, where the French Emporer (Fàguó huángdì) Napolean Bonaparte was held. At the very south-west  (dōngnán) of Tuscany is the island of Montecristo, famous for the 19th-century novel (xiǎoshuō) The Count of Montecristo by Alexander Dumas


The food of Tuscany


Like China, Italy is a country with a great food culture whose history stretches back over thousands of years. Italian food is also similar to Chinese food in the way that each region has its own specialties (tèchǎn).

In Tuscany, these include “gelato” (a kind of ice cream (bīngqílín) originally invented (fāmíng) in the 16th century), pecorino (a kind of cheese [qǐ sī]), Brunello wines (a kind of hóng pútáojiǔ), and beef steak (niúpái). Many towns (chéngshì) within the region have their own famous local (běndì) foods. For example, the town of Prato has the “biscotti di Prato” (the biscuits (bǐnggān) of Prato), and the “mortadella di Prato” (a kind of sà lā mǐ made from pork [zhūròu]).

tuscan gelato

These foods are made from locally grown produce (dāngdì chūchǎn de nóngchǎnpǐn). The cheese and ice cream come from local Tuscan dairies (niu nai chang), the beef (niúròu) for the steak and the pork for the mortadella comes from cattle (huángniú) and pigs (zhū) raised on local farms (nóngchǎng), and the wine comes from the red grapes (hóng pútáo) of the Tuscan vineyards (pútáo yuán).

brunello grapes

Some of the ways of making these specialties have continued since the Middle Ages (Zhōngshìjì). Brunello wines have been grown (zhòngzhí) Tuscan vineyards since the 14th century.  The process (guòchéng) of distilling (zhēngliú) the wine often takes ten years or more. Because it takes so long to make, and the wine tastes very good, it is expensive (guì).

Gelato was said to have been invented in the 16th century.  The recipe for mortadella di Prato is also very old. It made with traditional ingredients (pèiliào), including the spices (xiāngliào) cinnamon (ròuguì),  nutmeg (ròu dòukòu), cloves (dīngxiāng), salt (yán) and pepper (hújiāo), the herb (cǎoyào) coriander (xiāngcài), and a splash (fēijiàn) of Alchermes liqueur (a sweet wine from Florence that is often used in sweets [táng] and cakes [dàngāo]).

prato mortadello shop

These kinds of time-consuming (hào shí de) ancient techniques (jìshù) are highly valued (gāodù pingjia) in Italy’s “slow food” (màn shí) culture, which was founded in 1986 by Arcigola, a group united by the desire to stop fast food (kuàicān) culture, like McDonald’s, and instead reconnect the local farmer (nónghù) to the local table (zhuōzi), thus preserving the sweet life — “La Dolce Vita” — the traditional lifestyles (chuántǒng de shēnghuó fāngshì) and culture of the Italian people (Yìdàlì rén).

Like Chinese food, the time and the way to eat something can be as important as the way it is made. For example, Biscotti di Prato is a dessert (diǎnxīn, also a xiao chi, but for the home, not the street), which should be eaten in the afternoon (xiàwǔ) or evening (wǎnjiān), preferably with a small glass (xiǎo bēi) of the sweet (tián) Tuscan “vin santo” (“holy wine”, shèng jiǔ , in which you should dip (zhàn) the biscuit.

biscotti di prato e vino2

Some questions about Tuscan and other Italian food.

  1. What are some of the famous Tuscan foods?
  2. What is special about the Tuscan foods described?
  3. What is slow food? Which of the Tuscan foods above are slow foods? Are there Chinese slow foods? What are they? How are they made?
  4. What are your favourite Italian foods? Tell us something about them, why you like them, where you have eaten them.

Tanggu English Reading Room: Learn Language & Culture with Literature, Film, and TV



The Reading Room holds sessions for beginner, intermediate and advanced level English speakers.

We use literature, newspapers, film and tv series and podcasts to help you improve your English skills (spoken and written), and your knowledge of American, English and Australian culture and society, as well as the ways that Western culture understands China.

We work with medium class sizes (up to 12 people) as this is the best (and most enjoyable) way to learn, and we also provide individual and small group tutorials for spoken and written English and culture, and for academic writing.

American books we use include Number the Stars, The Giver, The Westing Game, Brave New World, The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, The Sellout, The Underground Railroad, Beloved, 

American-Chinese books we use include A Case of Two Cities, The Flowers of War, The Shanghai Girl, 

English books we use include Great Expectations, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, .

English-Chinese books we use include A Concise Chinese-English Book for Lovers,

Australia books we use include:  Lockie Leonard, Human Torpedo, Jasper Jones, Bliss, Monkey Grip, Cloud Street,  The Slap

We also use other world literature including Norweigan Wood,  Perfume, The God of Small Things, The Reader

Our mission

Our mission is to better prepare Chinese Secondary school students to attend and succeed at American, British and Australian high schools or Universities by providing them with a progressive and interactive, globally focused academic English curriculum.

Our team

Dr. Matt Lu Merefield has a PhD in cultural studies with 10+ years teaching and research experience in British universities, including with students from international backgrounds.

Ms. Lu Jian

Lu Jian has more than 3 years experience tutoring students in English and Chinese language in England and China

Matt and Jian work together to bring you a British-Chinese learning experience.

Matt and Jian’s English class 3: Let’s go to Florence, in Tuscany, Italy

—Ninmen Hao!

Welcome to our third English language class. Last class we talked about some of Tuscany’s traditional food culture, and the traditional way of making and eating that food.

This week, we will read about some of the architecture and history of Florence, the capital of Tuscany, explain some of the word and phrases, and have some group questions. Then we will have a break (for 20 minutes). Then in part two, we will read a little about the some of the art of Florence and have some more group discussion. 

Part One: Florence, architecture (jiànzhú) and history (lìshǐ)

Tuscany is an Italian province (Yìdàlì shÄ›ng) famous (zhùmíng) for its history and culture (wénhuà). The region’s (dìqÅ« de) capital is the medieval town (zhōngshìjì chéngzhèn)  Firenze, which the English call Florence. Florence is renowned (wénmíng) for its beautiful  (piàoliang, hÄ›n mÄ›i) architecture, including the bridge — the “Ponte Vecchio ” —  which means the “old bridge” (lÇŽo qiáo). There has been a bridge crossing  (héngguò) at this narrow (xiázhÇŽi) part of the river Arno (Arno hé) since the time of the Roman Empire (LuómÇŽ dìguó). However (rán’ér), the bridge we can cross today is the result of reconstructions (chóngjiàn) that started in the 14th century. Florence: Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio and the river Arno in winter (dōngtiān)


The Ponte Vecchio is lined by a series of small shops (xiÇŽo shāngdiàn) which originally (bÄ›nlái)  included butchers (túfÅ«), fishmongers (yú fàn), and grocers (záhuò diàn). In the 16th century the ruling Medici family built a covered passage called the “Vasari Corridor” (zÇ’uláng), (after its architect [jiànzhú shÄ«] Georgio Vasari) over the shops so they could walk safely (Ä€nrán), and privately (sÄ«zì), from their residence (zhùzhái), a new villa (shù) on the southern bank (án’àn) of the Arno river called the Pitti Palace.

The route of the Vasari Corridor
view from vasari
What the Medicis saw (view from the Vasari Corridor)

The wealthy (fùyù) Medicis using the corridor complained (bàoyuàn) about the smell (wén) of the food shops and had them replaced(gēnghuàn) with Goldsmiths (Jīn jiàng) and Silversmiths (Yínjiàng) shops. To this day the bridge remains famous for the jewelry shops (zhūbǎo diàn) and their long history.

Elisa Piccini at her family Goldsmiths “Piccini Fratelli”. The second picture shows their workbench (gōngzuò tái) and the third picture shows their clay molds (niántÇ” táoyÄ›) for jewelry

At the end of the Ponte Vecchio is the “Piazza della Signoria”, (which meant the square [guÇŽngchÇŽng] of the ruling body [zhízhèng jÄ«guān]). The origin (láiyuán)  of the square goes back to the thirteenth century when the area was owned by the Uberti Family, at the time the most powerful (wÄ“iwÇ”) family in Florence.


The square is overlooked (hÅ«shì) by the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace, GÇ” Gōng), originally named the “Palazzo Popolo” (Palace of the People). The Palace, which was completed in 1322 gave the square a key role in the city’s political life (zhèngzhì shÄ“nghuó). From the fourteenth century, Florentines (Florence de rén) gathered (jùjí) here for important political occasions and rulers — such as the Medicis  — often addressed (jÄ«ngcháng jiÇŽnghuà) the citizens (shìmín) from the Palace.

At this time Europe was ruled by city-states (shì-zhōu) like Florence and Venice, not nation-states (mínzú guójiā) like Italy or France. The Medicis were very powerful (wēiwǔ), and Florence was very wealthy (fùyù).

Part Two: Some Art (yìshù) of Florencefer

Florence is also famous for its art (yìshù). If you walk around the “Piazza della Signoria” you can see some of the historical sculptures (xíng). statue of david1The most famous one is the statue (diāoxiàng) of David by Michelangelo, sculpted around 1501-1504.  The statue of David in the square is a copy (käpÄ“), and the original is in the “Galleria della Accademia” (the Accademia Gallery [guÇŽn]).  The statue represents (biÇŽoshì) the biblical hero (yÄ«ngxióng) David, famous for defeating (jíbài) the giant (jùrén) Goliath, an enemy (dírén) of King Saul. Because of the hero it represented, the statue came to symbolize (biāozhì) the defense (bÇŽowèi) of civil liberties (mínquán) of the Republic of Florence (1115-1532).

The Square is also overlooked (hūshì) by the Uffizi Gallery, whose art work (yìshù pǐn) display continues (jìxù) through the Vasari Corridor:


Maybe the most famous art work in the Uffizi is the Birth of Venus:

birth of venus
Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus  (1482-5) maybe the most famous  Renaissance painting in the Uffizi Gallery,

Caravaggio is another famous Renaissance painter. Some of his art works are housed in the Uffizi Gallery.

His oil painting (yóuhuà) emphasized darkness (hÄ“i’àn) and light (guāng). Many later artists were influenced (yǐngxiÇŽng) by his style (yàngshì), including the female artist (yìshùjiā) Artemesia Gentileschi.

Judith and Holofernes Caravaggio
Judith beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio, 1599-1602

Some Questions about the capital of Tuscany

  1. Tell us about the city’s famous bridge.
  2. Tell us about the city’s famous square.
  3. Tell us about the city’s famous corridor.
  4. If you have been to this city, what did you see? What did you like or dislike?
  5. Have you been to another famous Italian or European (Ōuzhōu de) city? If so, can you tell us what you saw, and what you liked or disliked?
  6. How does Florence compare to Tianjin? What are the similarities? What is different? What do you like?