Interview with Dr. James McDougall, English, College of Liberal Arts at Wenzhou-Kean University

Dr. James McDougall is an associate professor of the English department at Wenzhou-Kean University. He has published numerous articles on the themes of globalization in modern poetry movements, cultural studies, and Chinese food culture. Dr. McDougall’s current project is to translate a late-Qing Chinese novel, The Bitter Student, found in A Ying’s Anti-Exclusion Act Literature. In today’s program, we are glad to invite Dr. McDougall to share his life experiences.

A foreigner with a Chinese heart

Dr. McDougall’s connection to China began when his grandfather brought back Chinese calligraphy from Hong Kong after World War II. Fascinated by the beautiful calligraphy and Chinese characters, he wanted to learn more about Chinese culture. During his high school period, McDougall read many Chinese literary works and fell in love with Zhang Ji’s Night Mooring at the Maple Bridge, and Lu Xun’s Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk. Besides, he confessed in the interview, “I really love Lu Xun’s identifying the character, Life is Transient, in his hometown’s morality play, as humorous and poignant.”

Later Dr. McDougall would volunteer in the Peace Corps and study Chinese at Sichuan Normal University where his teacher gave him the Chinese name, Mai Jianhui (麦剑辉). After he finished his bachelor’s degree, he decided to stay in Sichuan and learn Chinese systematically. “As I got deeper into the subject, I became more interested, the beauty of the language just delighted me,” Dr. McDougall explained.

Partnering with students to research into Chinese Exclusion Act

When Dr. McDougall returned to the U.S. to study at the University of Florida, he found an old copy of A Ying’s Anti-Exclusion Act Literature. Because the book did not have authoritative translations, the idea of translating the book himself popped into his mind. During the interview, Dr. McDougall shared, “It was a good way to study the development of modern Chinese literature as well as get more access to the history of early Chinese nationalist movements.” He also thought that the contents of The Anti-Exclusion Act Literature would help other scholars to understand Chinese history better.

Moreover, Dr. McDougall is responsible for students’ research projects in literature. To develop students’ interest in reading literature, he carries out some programs of translating literary works, which encourages students to develop their language and interpretive skills through translation.

WKU is like a copper coin

Even though Dr. McDougall has been dedicated to education for years, the unique combination of Chinese and American education at WKU excites him. “Students at WKU can get instructions from professors who have diverse cultural backgrounds and important learning experiences in global settings.” He also admitted that for Chinese students, a full-English learning environment might be difficult at first, but as long as the students have an open attitude and a goal to adapt to it, they will benefit from the unique opportunities that will arise, and become valued talents with global visions.

Dr. McDougall also used the copper coin as a metaphor for WKU’s unique learning environment. He explained, “The old copper coin with a square inside means stability and integrity. On the outside, it is round which means suavity and flexibility necessary for being able to get through a tough world.” He believes that all WKUers have the vision to set high goals, and he is excited to help them on their road to success. At the end of our interview, Dr. McDougall sent his wishes to all the WKUers, “Hopefully, all WKU students will pick out lofty peaks to summit, and experience the profound satisfaction of reaching new heights.”

Writer: GAO Yucheng

Translator: XU Haijie

Proofreader: LIU Yanxi, XIANG Wenwei