The Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) is generally acknowledged as the father of modern drama. But are his plays still relevant to the 21st century? The answer is definitely yes, according to Kwok-kan Tam, new Dean and Chair Professor of the OUHK's School of Arts and Social Sciences, who is an expert on Ibsen. 'Ibsen changed drama from being just entertainment to a platform for debating social issues. Topics that he tackled, such as the emancipation of the individual, especially of women, are faced by people in every culture and society. Instead of giving answers to the audience, he would like us to critically evaluate our social norms and conditions of life and think for ourselves. His impact is far from being limited to drama. I think he has played an important role in the emergence of modernist ideas such as individualism.'
After receiving his BA in English from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in 1979 and his AM and PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA in 1981 and 1984, respectively, Prof. Tam went on to work as a Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu. He was CUHK's Professor in English before he joined the OUHK. In addition to his work on Ibsen, he has made significant contributions to the study of the Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian, as well as to such broad topics as Chinese cinema, cultural globalization and Englishization in Asia.
Prof. Tam says comparative literature is a systemic study of world literature rather than merely the comparison of different literary works, and he believes that social sciences theories can enhance the study of literature. 'Interdisciplinary and transnational studies have become popular in many major universities in recent years. In face of the complexities of our increasingly globalized world, we need to have people who can think beyond traditional frameworks. I believe the OUHK should introduce more interdisciplinary and transcultural programmes.'
|Prof. Kwok-kan Tam has published 12 books and more than 100 articles, and has served on the editorial board of many international journals and book series.
A portrait of Ibsen.
|Prof. Kwok-kan Tam is the first Chinese academic to have his research articles published in authoritative Norwegian journals, such as Edda and Ibsen Studies. Many of his research articles and books on Ibsen and comparative literature have been published in countries in the West, contributing to a dialogue between Chinese scholars and their Western counterparts. His research achievements are internationally recognized as pioneering and groundbreaking.