How to Get an A with Professor Lin Chen

Lin Chen is a Senior Lecturer in the Writing Program at NYU Shanghai. His courses at NYU Shanghai include Writing as Inquiry and Perspective on the Humanities.

Professor Chen has taught and assisted in teaching a wide variety of composition and writing-intensive literature courses at the University of Washington and the University of California, Riverside. He holds a PhD from the University of Washington, a master’s from the University of California, Riverside, and a bachelor’s from Fudan University in Shanghai, China.

Chen’s research interests include British Romanticism, post-Enlightenment western literature, traditional Chinese poetry and poetics, literary theory and rhetoric and composition. His dissertation, “Tao Yuanming and William Wordsworth: A Parallel Study”demonstrates his ability to straddle the divide between the literary traditions of China and the West. His Writing as Inquiry class illustrates rhetorical writing, and his Perspectives on Humanities class focuses on the comparative study of Eastern and Western poetry as well as literature.

What do you think this course can give students?
Lin Chen: Writing is a necessary skill for almost all subjects. So, in this course, the students will practice their writing skills, while the exact topic is less important for this course.

What is the theme of your course?
Lin Chen: Basically, WAI is divided into several parts with a subtopic; there is no general topic for this course because the topic is not so important and the purpose of it is just to provide an opportunity for writing. As for me, I will first teach “What is writing” or “What is good writing”, in this way, the students can have a general idea about this writing course and also reflect on themselves. And then I will talk about Education, encouraging the students to think about what college is and what is the purpose of a college education. As for the third part, the topic varies, and sometimes I will even let the students choose topics that they are interested in.

What do you think is good writing?
Lin Chen: The requirement for the course is quite basic. What you are training for is to write argument essays, so what you need is to argue for your essay with rational and logical demonstration, and also you need to base your argument on certain materials instead of imagination. To sum up, what you should do is to practice these writing habits. (Actually, there are some higher standards for a valuable article, but this would exceed the requirement of this course.)

How to evaluate the writing of your students?
Lin Chen: I would be very cautious about giving extremely low grades.

How much time do you think your students should spend per week?
Lin Chen: Most of the students think that they should spend a lot of time on the course, and you know, the students are becoming increasingly busy these days and they hope to spend less time on this course. So, anyway, I would say about 5-6 hours per week.

What kind of advice do you want to tell the students?
Lin Chen: What I want to say is that I want the students to see the meaning of this course, because writing is a necessary skill for whatever you want to be in the future, so I hope the students can have enthusiasm in this course instead of feeling forced because it is a core curriculum. I believe this course is great for students if they are willing to engage. And also, I hope that the students can participate in the classes with everyone thinking actively, especially in this epidemic era so that I can receive more feedback and make the course as effective as possible.

(The interview with Professor Lin Chen was in Chinese and this is only a partial transcription.) 

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