SEIS Academic Forum Series (No. 751)
Forum on American Studies
Our Lives, Our Future: China and the West
Speaker: Profs. John Blair & Jerusha McCormack
Discussant: Prof. Mei Renyi
Chair: Prof. Fu Meirong
Time: 3:00-5:00 pm
Date: 28 November, 2019 (Thursday)
Venue: Room 111, School of English and International Studies
About the Lecture
Scientists are convinced that the world has a precarious future. Industrial “progress” has succeeded in preparing the end of the world as we know it. The rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) assures that global warming will continue and become worse. It is now predicted that by the end of this century the ice at the earth’s poles will largely have melted. The effect? Sea levels will likely rise some 30 feet or more, flooding out major port cities around the world. The streets of New York and Shanghai will be largely under water. Several decades ago, Barry Commoner articulated four principles that could guide our response to this situation. Will they suffice? How can we work to change the present direction of the world?
About the Speaker
Professors John G Blair & Jerusha McCormack usually write and lecture together since they joined forces more than fifteen years ago. Together they produced a sourcebook of readings that represent Chinese and Western Civilizations over the last 3000 years or so. Its original title was Western Civilization with Chinese Comparisons (WCwCC). Now the 4th edition at Fudan University Press in Shanghai, it is entitled Comparing Civilizations: China and the West (CCCW). Their most recent study, published in the USA by Rowman and Littlefield, is entitled Thinking through China. It explains ten key words in Chinese, then uses these concepts to respond to persistent Western questions about China: Why, after centuries of missionary activity, is China not Christian? What about human rights? What about “democracy”? Does China seek to rule the world? The answers – based on the ten central Chinese words – differ sharply from standard Western understandings. They conclude that “the West is WEIRD” [Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic], hence an outlier in relation to the wider world as a whole.
In their earlier careers: Jerusha McCormack concentrated on Irish, English, and Anglo-Irish literature. She devoted several books to Oscar Wilde and his circle, culminating in The Man Who Was Dorian Gray, Palgrave Macmillan, 2000. At BFSU since 2004, she has taught graduate seminars in American Studies, British Studies and (more recently) Irish Studies, as well as co-teaching (over fifteen years) for the comparative course on China and the West, informally called WCwCC. John G Blair first taught American Studies here at BFSU in 1988, under the direction of Prof Frank Deng, seconded by Prof Zhu Yongtao: a very different China. He has returned several times since then concentrating on comparative studies. His books include Modular America: the Emergence of an American Way (1988), which won the Ralph Henry Gabriel Prize from the American Studies Association (USA) for interdisciplinary contributions to the field. He first taught WCwCC in 2003-04. It was for many years a required course for SEIS graduate students in English, in its later years taught by Chinese colleagues Yi Rui and Wang Yan; now, as an optional course, taught by Huang Qiang and Yi Rui.