Huiwen (Helen) Zhang

Helen Zhang

Huiwen (Helen) Zhang

Assistant Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature

Born in China, trained in Germany, teaching and researching in the US: this is Huiwen Zhang, Wellspring Assistant Professor of Chinese & Comparative Literature at The Universty of Tulsa, a remarkable 'hybrid' of three cultures. "I bring perspectives from three centers of civilization – China, Europe, and North America,” emphasizes Zhang, “and this enables me to uncover hidden contacts and integrate unrelated phenomena. At the same time, I can contextualize the foreign and re-contextualize the familiar for my students.”

This "tri-cultural" expertise allows Zhang to develop a unique curriculum infrastructure for a newly-approved minor in Chinese and a prospective major in Chinese Studies. Courses she designed from the ground up include Chinese through Literature (taught as a series of two consecutive courses in the fall and spring semesters), Chinese through Film, and Chinese Micro-blogging. This fall, Professor Zhang also teaches an Honors course titled Modernization and Its Discontents, presenting Chinese, German, and Scandinavian perspectives on the period of cultural modernization.

In the Chinese Micro-blogging class, each student will follow an influential, agenda-setting blogger on weibo.com, China's 200-million-user-strong networking site. Then, in a seminar format, students explore the Aesopian language used by today's Chinese activists to discuss a wide spectrum of social and political issues.

"I enjoy teaching at TU for three main reasons: program, faculty, and students," Zhang explains. "Coordinating my course offerings and scholarly endeavors not only benefits me but my students as well: the challenge and inspiration are doubled and mutual. And my creativity and joy spring from a department of multilingual talents who appreciate, represent, and realize a vision of world literature in a program that has the utmost vitality and nearly unlimited potential. The strong, reliable support of my colleagues and the unpredictable, ever-stimulating responses of my students inspire me.”

Zhang herself is a dedicated and hard-working learner. After receiving a B.A. and an M.A. from Peking University (PRC), Zhang qualified for a prestigious humanities scholarship to study in Germany and went on to complete a Ph.D. from Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg in 2008. Zhang's comparative nature brought her to American soil, where she worked as a Postdoctoral Associate in East Asian Studies and Comparative Literature at Yale University in 2009-2010. Yet she was an educator before she had even begun formally training for it. "My mother was a chemistry teacher and my father was a Professor of Literature, so I was literally 'born into' the profession," Zhang explains. "To me, teaching comes naturally."