Volume 69, Issue 1 | March 2008

Special Issue: China in the Twentieth Century

Author Title
Wang Ning Rethinking Modern Chinese Literature in a Global Context
Author Title
Sun Yifeng Opening the Cultural Mind: Translation and the Modern Chinese Literary Canon  
Translation has played a critical role in forming modern Chinese literary canon and continues to stimulate its change and expansion. It is instrumental to the exchange and synthesis of foreign narrative modes and aesthetic paradigms. There are obvious political, cultural, and literary reasons for the formation of a literary canon, and to a degree literary production is inseparable from cross-cultural (re)production. The literary canon appropriates and is also appropriated by translations. Many modern Chinese literary concepts derive from translations, especially of Western literary and theoretical writings. By investigating the assimilation of translations into the Chinese literary canon, this essay focuses on a hybridized political and cultural discourse that marks a radical shift in aesthetic and cultural sensibilities in modern Chinese literature. The effects of canon formation reveal the patterns of the canon's manipulation and expansion in the modern Chinese political, cultural, and literary context.
Ming Dong Gu Lu Xun and Modernism/Postmodernism  
Although Lu Xun (1881-1936) produces all his literary works in a period that coincided with the heyday of Western modernism (1910-1930), scholars both inside and outside China have made few attempts to study thme in the international context of the modernist movement. Because of Lu Xun's concern with the fate of the Chinese nation and his professed intention to be its spiritual physician, critical opinion holds that his writings are primarily political and cultural in thematics and realistic in formal representation. However, Lu Xun's vision of literature and his writing techniques also draw on features common to symbolism, surrealism, supernatural realism, grotesque realism, magic realism, and other experimental forms of writing. Since these are modernist, even postmodern, features, it would be of great interest to exploreLu Xun's relationship to the modernist movement that swept the West in the early twentieth century and the extent to which his writings anticipated literary postmodernism. I argue that his work should be viewed as a contribution to the international modernist movement from a non-Western, Third World country. Indeed, no history of international modernism is complete if it does not incorporate the incipient modernism that Lu Xun pioneered independently of the West.
Chengzhou He Women and the Search for Modernity: Rethinking Modern Chinese Drama  
Because the theories of Chinese modernity are mainly organized around a masculine norm and pay insufficient attention to the specificity of women's lives and experiences, it is of great significance to carry out research on women's complex and changing relationships to the diverse political, philosophical, and cultural legacies of Chinese modernity. This essay explores the relationship of women to Chinese modernity through a close reading of some canonical texts from modern Chinese drama. The transformations of woman in Chinese spoken plays during the first half of the twentieth century reflect the complex experiences of Chinese women in their search for modernity. The Nora figures in Chinese problem plays are symbols of individualism and subjectivism. The modern women in Cao Yu's plays, whose education is informed by feminist ideas, become subjects of their desires for consumption and love. The female fighters in the revolutionary drama further deconstruct the patriarchy of gender, and their stories influenced the new development of gender politics in modern China. In general, the discourses of women's liberation were refashioned on the different stages of modern Chinese drama in parallel with the development of modern Chinese society. The essay suggests that women were actually heroines of Chinese modernity.
Li Tonglu New Humanism  
Originally proposed by Irving Babbitt and Elmer More, and inspired by Buddhist and Confucian philosophy, New Humanism opposed the moral decline fostered by relativist and determinist beliefs and by an increasingly materialistic American society during the the early twentieth century. Brought back to China and transformed by Chinese scholars who had studied with Babbitt, New Humanism became a counter-narrative to the May Fourth movement, to Marxism, and to radicalism in general. This essay delineates the many roles New Humanism played in China, its internal contradictions, and its intricate relationship with hegemonic discourses by examining the literary practices of three New Humanists who demonstrate, respectively, ideal/academic, political, and transcendental ways of engagement.
Chen Yongguo Becoming-Obscure: A Constant in the Development of Modern Chinese Poetry  
Both historically and theoretically, this essay traces the development of modern Chinese poetry, including the Chinese symbolists of the 1920s, the Modernists of the 1930s, the Nine Leaves of the 1940s, the obscurists of the 1970s, and the post-obscurists of the Third Generation of the 1980s, to the Western source from which the Chinese New Poets learned the techniques of modern western poetry and introduced them into China by way of adaptation and imitation. At that point, a new leaf was turned in the history of Chinese poetry: the mingling of the foreign elements, especially the obscurant that was constant in Western poetry, with vernacular Chinese expression gave birth to the New Poetry.
Alexander C. Y. Huang Cosmopolitanism and Its Discontents: The Dialectic between the Global and the Local in Lao She's Fiction  
Modern Chinese fiction dealing with cultural others can be taken as a lens through which to re-read the cosmopolitan theory. At stake in the debate between communitarianism and liberalism are the viability of single cultural membership and its validity. Lao She's Self-Sacrifice (1934) and Dr. Wen (1936-1937) question the viability of global cultural membership. For Lao She, cultural hotchpotch—as suggested by Salman Rushdie—is not an option. These novellas dramatize the dialectic between the global and the local at a crossroads of Chinese nationalism and Western imperialism. Lao She's representation of Dr. Mao and Dr. Wen also pose challenging questions for his contemporaries and for twenty-first-century readers alike: Can one ever refuse to be defined by the local, either by birth or by acculturation? What are the implications and consequences if one so chooses?
Deidre Lynch The Political Campaign as Genre: Ideology and Iconography during the Seventeen Years Period  
The essay examines films produced during the Seventeen Years period (1949–66) and suggests that political campaigns may be akin to film genres. Insofar as generic distinctions of theme and style are produced according to the shifting interests of critics and producers, campaigns have produced a politically motivated typology. The examination of campaigns as genrelike offers an opportunity to rethink the connection not only between Maoism and its cultural manifestations but also between ideology and form in general.
Douwe Fokkema Chinese Postmodernist Fiction  
The title of this essay implies that there is a Chinese postmodernism that differs from American or European postmodernism. But the different postmodernisms also have a common basis, which can be found at the level of unstable signification. First, the author briefly sketches how the concept of postmodernism traveled from the United States to western Europe and Russia, with key roles for American critics such as John Barth, Leslie Fiedler, Ihab Hassan, and Matei Calinescu and, in Europe, writers such as Umberto Eco and the reception of Jorge Luis Borges and Vladimir Nabokov. To the author, Chinese postmodernism differs from other variants of postmodernism because of its different cultural-historical and literary-historical background. The literary background of Chinese postmodernism is as complex as China's history of the last hundred years. The "Red Classics" of socialist realism, modern Chinese literature of the 1920s and 1930s, and traditional fiction such as Journey to the West and Dream of the Red Chamber, but also foreign novels in translation and Chinese folklore, belong to the collective memory of Chinese writers and readers. Qian Zhongshu's Fortress Besieged (Wei cheng, 1947) is one of the rare early examples of Chinese modernist fiction. After 1978 Wang Meng, Zhang Jie, Wang Anyi, and others wrote fiction in a modernist style. The simultaneity of modernism and postmodernism is a clue to the interpretation of Chinese fiction of the 1980s and 1990s. Notably in the work of Han Shaogong we find both modernist and postmodernist features. In particular, the essay will focus on the metalinguistic criticism in Han Shaogong's highly successful novel Dictionary of Maqiao (Maqiao cidian, 1996). Postmodernist exuberant fabulation, partly inspired by Gabriel García Márquez and partly by traditional Chinese fiction, can be found in fiction by Mo Yan, Yu Hua, and Han Shaogong. Please Don't Call Me Human (Qianwan bie ba wo dang ren, 1989) by Wang Shuo, recently honored with a Chinese compilation of "research material concerning Wang Shuo" (Tianjin 2005), will also be discussed.
Sheldon H. Lu Popular Culture and Body Politics: Beauty Writers in Contemporary China  
This essay is a study of a group of women writers who emerged on the Chinese literary scene in the late 1990s and the turn of the twenty-first century. They have been called beauty writers (meinu zuojia), referring to the authors themselves being beautiful women. Their writings are characterized by an unabashed, unprecedented foregrounding of female sexuality. While their novels were censored by the state now and then, they circulate on the Internet and contribute to the formation of China's booming Internet literature. The initial core group of beauty writers has made a large impact on other aspiring female writers eager to explore and expose their sensuality and sexuality. The parading and pandering of female subjectivity via a body politics have become a major literary fad in contemporary mainland China.
Author Title
J. Hillis Miller Reading (about) Modern Chinese Literature in a Time of Globalization

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