Nicole King. “Meaningful Contexts: An Interview with Alan Liu.” English Subject Centre Newsletter, 12 (April 2007): 6-9.
The first set of English books a young Alan Liu owned were the Tom Swift books for children, targeted for young boys who were interested in gadgets of different kinds. He came by the interest honestly. An immigrant to the U.S. who arrived at age five from Hong Kong, Liu was born into an especially technologically focussed family. “My dad was a structural engineer and every one of my male relatives of his generation came over to the U.S. as an engineer of some sort–we had electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, industrial engineers.” And, as an undergraduate, Liu was on course to join this cohort of science-minded Lius.
But this is the story of an English Professor, who had a “secret life of technology” that is, before the internet landed: “when the World Wide Web came along circa 1993 or thereabouts, there was this little light bulb that went on in my head and it occurred to me that there was a way that I could bring my interest in literature and my interest in technology together in a common pursuit both in teaching and in research.” During our interview I was on a mission to find out the details of this joined-up thinking and to discover what the implications have been for Liu’s pedagogical approach to teaching English.”