New chapter in Asia's English writing

Updated: 2011-12-09 11:09

By Chitralekha Basu (China Daily)

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One of the reasons why the otherwise peripatetic Xu Xi has been living mostly in Hong Kong for the last two years is her commitment to facilitating the rise of new writing from Asia.

She helped design Asia's first low-residency master's in fine arts (MFA) in creative writing program - also the world's only one with a focus on Asia. It has run since 2010 under the aegis of the City University of Hong Kong's English department.

"I borrowed the model from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I'm the chair of the MFA in creative writing program," Xu says.

Low-residency is a good fit for Hong Kong, Xu says. Students are required to attend a weeklong summer residency and three mini-residencies in fall and spring every year, while the rest of the coursework is distance learning.

"We have too small a community to get a persuasively high standard of creative writing in English in Hong Kong," she says.

Students come from across the world. Most are Asians writing about their own cultures or bringing an Asian perspective to more general matters. But there are also non-Asians writing about Asia.

"We have benchmarked the program against the best in the industry, like Iowa (United States) and University of East Anglia (UK)," Xu says.

The students from the first two batches have already begun to get published.

The MFA program is Xu's way of trying to "expand the scope" of English-language literature coming out of Hong Kong, turning the city into a creative hub with an international character.

"We have students from 16 nationalities at the moment, and everybody seems to have a complicated background," Xu says.

"They all have a version of my life. Everybody has crossed borders in some sense."

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