Tina Liu

Tina Liu

Name: Tina Liu


Honors in Comparative Literature

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

The superpower I want is to be omnilingual and innately understand and retain any language I come across. That’s no surprise, given that this is the Department of Modern Languages. But it would be so useful! Instead of spending months or years trying to learn a language and still missing subtle cultural connotations, you could know a language in its entirety within minutes.

What spurred you on to be an Honors student in the department?

Coming into university, I didn’t really know what I wanted beyond 1. no science, and 2. no research. Both my parents were professors (in Medical Statistics and in Theoretical Physics) who were mad at me for not being in science but absolutely against the idea of research because “being a doctor/lawyer is more employable and makes money.” I don’t remember why or how, but I ended up in C Lit 101 and absolutely loved it. The more Comparative Literature and English courses I took, the more I realized I had questions that weren’t really answered by what I was reading and that what I was reading was only creating more questions. Being an Honours student allowed me to address some of those questions. At the root, I just wanted to learn more about topics that I want to know more about and being an Honours student has allowed me to do exactly that even though the process of learning is obviously still very much ongoing.

What is the best thing about being an Honors student in the department of MLCS?

The professors in the department are all wonderful human beings and phenomenal teachers. They know how to push you beyond your limits without going too far, and are so supportive of your interests. Being a comparative literature student, my favourite thing is how the department encourages interdisciplinary study. I have a lot of interest in Chinese literature and MLCS has allowed me to branch out and pursue my interests and incorporate what I learn from other courses into my MLCS degree.

Cause(s) you care about

There are a lot of causes that keep me up at night. The world is getting increasingly authoritarian, extreme nationalism is on the rise, Antarctica is melting very quickly, there haven’t been enough policies to address institutional racism, warmongering has become a norm and at the time I’m writing this, there is the whole global pandemic thing happening. So there’s a lot going on.
But, more optimistically, I think the root cause of a lot of these issues comes from a lack of education that teaches critical thinking and the systemic devaluation of deep literacy. There are lot of structural reasons why people want to limit this type of education, social control being the more foremost, but I think promoting deep literacy is one of the best ways to address these problems: by empowering people to challenge and think for themselves to question what they are told, to consider their positionality, and to stop seeing social divisions as inherently bad.

Tell us about a topic you are excited to do research about (e.g., your current Honors thesis)

My honours thesis is a deconstructionist take on hypertextual theory, how hypertext has been largely placed in opposition to traditional texts, and how this reflects Derrida’s assertion that the Western metaphysical tradition is inescapable.
More broadly, I’m interested in how structures of hegemonic power permeate into our media, how hegemonic structures operate and function digitally, and how the control of information manifests on an apparatus that is supposedly democratizing. This isn’t a new issue, but the fact it continues to re-manifest with each technological development is endlessly fascinating. I love reading critical theory, but I’m growing increasingly interested in how these theoretical frameworks relate to digital apparatuses.

Any (survival) tip(s) you would like to share with fresh MLCS Honors students?

Don’t be afraid of uncertainty, and be willing to try something new! The class that convinced me I wanted to be a Comparative Literature major was a course on Classical Social Theory because it taught me that I wanted to do something more grounded in literature and representations of culture, and what convinced me I wanted to be an honours student in MLCS was actually an English class on posthumanism! So it’s okay to branch out and try something you don’t think you’ll like, or take a course that you know nothing about because I’ve always ended up pleasantly surprised when I did that.
Also, if possible, study abroad! Whether it’s for a semester, a year, or just a summer program, it’s such a worthwhile investment and you learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about the education system and teaching styles of other countries and as MLCS students, that experience is especially valuable given the nature of language and cultural studies and having your own experiences abroad to draw upon will make you a better student here.

The first thing you plan do after graduating.

I’m going to be starting my Masters in Information with a concentration in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto in the Fall! Although depending on how this pandemic turns out, I might end up taking a surprise gap year.
In the meantime, I’m reading 《 红楼梦 》 or Dream of the Red Chamber . I’ve always been a bit scared to read it because it’s such a complex book, but it’s also something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now. I always felt like I wouldn’t be able to adequately appreciate the story or all the intertextual references to Classical Chinese literature but I’m realizing that I’m never going to stop feeling this way no matter how much I read, so I might as well take the plunge and just go for it. So far, I’m very much enjoying it!