From Iowa City to Kowloon Tong: On the Cold War origins of creative writing pedagogy in Hong Kong

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In the wake of Eric Bennett’s study Workshops of Empire: Stegner, Engle, and American Creative Writing During the Cold War (2015), a critical inquiry into the nexus between the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program (IWP) and Asian writers has burgeoned (Chen 2017; Liu 2017; So 2017). The present case study extends this new area by examining the cultural history of IWP’s relationship to creative writing pedagogy in Hong Kong through the prism of Hong Kong poet Dai Tian who attended IWP from 1967–8. IWP played a crucial role in the development of Hong Kong’s first Chinese-language creative writing course (called “Poetry Writing Workshop”) and fostered a poetics that continues to flourish in Hong Kong today. As the primary course instructor, Dai adapted not only IWP’s pedagogical methods, but also its poetics of clarity, concrete language, and everyday experience. The evolution of Dai’s poetics and his enduring influence suggests that IWP’s efforts against totalitarianism and Communism during the Cold War met with a paradoxical twist in the case of Hong Kong writers who were resisting another form of hegemonic power, namely, British imperialism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWriting in Practice: The Journal of Creative Writing Research
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

User-Defined Keywords

  • anti-colonialism
  • Cold War
  • concrete language
  • Dai Tian
  • Hong Kong
  • International Writing Program
  • pedagogy
  • poetry
  • University of Iowa


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