Chinese Literature Dissertation Reviews: Foreign Echoes & Discerning the Soil

Dual Translation, World Literature, Chinese Poetry  Dissertation Reviews has posted Brian Skerratt‘s review of my dissertation, Foreign Echoes and Discerning the Soil: Dual Translation, Historiography, and World Literature in Chinese Poetry. Here’s how it begins:

Lucas Klein’s dissertation, Foreign Echoes and Discerning the Soil: Dual Translation, Historiography, and World Literature in Chinese Poetry, is notable both for its ambition and its erudition. In seeking to answer how the “Chineseness” of Chinese poetry, its quality of being or seeming natively Chinese, is produced in and through acts of translation, Klein not only tackles Modernist-inspired poetry from the twentieth century, where “Chineseness” is a salient issue, but also the monolith of the Chinese literary tradition itself, including such ultra-canonical figures as Wang Wei 王維 (692-761) and Du Fu 杜甫 (712-770). In practical terms, this impressive breadth of scope results in a dissertation in two parts: the first featuring studies of modern poet Bian Zhilin 卞之琳 (1910-2000) and contemporary poet Yang Lian 楊煉 (b. 1955), and the second reaching back to Tang Dynasty masters Wang Wei, Du Fu, and Li Shangyin 李商隱 (813-858). By avoiding the urge to arrange his chapters chronologically ― or, at least, by putting the modern before the pre-modern ― Klein refuses to allow “traditional China” or its poetic stand-in, Tang regulated verse, their place as the seat of pure Chineseness, untarnished by contact with the modern West; in fact, one of his goals is to situate the Tang Dynasty back into a global network of cultural interaction and exchange. The arrangement of chapters further serves to illustrate Klein’s methodology, which is to allow the insights of deconstruction, Marxist thought, translation studies, and contemporary avant-garde poetics to illuminate the distant past ― and vice-versa. Klein’s dissertation serves the larger goal of deconstructing the binaries tradition/modernity, native/foreign, textual analysis/high theory, and, most centrally, original/translation.

Chinese Literature Dissertation Reviews: Self-Articulation and Self-Accusation in the Works of Yu Dafu

Yu Dafu (1896-1945): Self-Articulation & Self-Accusation Dissertation Reviews has posted Luo Liang‘s review of Valerie Levan’s dissertation, Self-Articulation and Self-Accusation in the Works of Yu Dafu (1896-1945). Here’s how it begins:

To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world.
— Salman Rushdie, “Imaginary Homelands” (1991)

Valerie Levan’s meticulously crafted dissertation deserves careful reading and rereading for anyone interested in comparative literature, Chinese literature, Sinophone studies, and sociolinguistics. It is not only the first serious, full-length critical study of Yu Dafu’s 郁达夫aesthetic project in English; it is also the first of its kind in its comparative breath and analytical depth in terms of formal analysis of literary texts. The dissertation truly demonstrates the merits of a comparative approach to the “world republic of letters” (p. 10); at the same time, it offers thorough analyses of a major figure and a key genre in the history of modern Chinese literature and in the broad cultural context of the contemporary Sinophone world.

Chinese Literature Dissertation Reviews: Kuan-yun Huang’s Warring States “Echoes” of the Past

Warring States “Echoes” of the PastDissertation Reviews has posted Mick Hunter‘s review of Kuan-yun Huang‘s dissertation, Warring States “Echoes” of the Past. Here’s how it begins:

In Warring States “Echoes” of the Past, Kuan-yun Huang sets out to establish “a methodology for the study of quotations” (p. vi) through an examination of ancient Chinese practice as it emerges in multiple received and excavated sources. Although primarily interested in the intertextuality of the Guodian 郭店 manuscript corpus, a collection of bamboo strips discovered outside of Jingmen 荊門, Hubei province, in 1994, Huang takes the reader on a wide-ranging tour of the early Chinese textual record in his effort to compare those quotations with parallels elsewhere. In the course of his study, the quotations that dot Warring States literature are revealed to be textual icebergs of a sort, the surface manifestations of various “shared discourse[s]” consisting of certain “assumptions, vocabulary, rhetorical patterns, and even conclusions” (p. 233). Quotation was not simply a matter of borrowing material from a well-known text. As Huang demonstrates, quoting authors’ experience of quotable texts was mediated by a wealth of interpretive traditions, material which is crucial to understanding the nature of early Chinese intertextuality.

Chinese Literature Dissertation Reviews: Nathaniel Isaacson’s Colonial Modernities & Chinese Science Fiction

Chinese Science Fiction & Colonial Modernities Dissertation Reviews has posted Paola Iovene‘s review of Nathaniel Isaacson‘s Colonial Modernities and Chinese Science Fiction. Here’s how it begins:

Nathaniel Isaacson’s study of Chinese science-related literature and popular culture from 1903 to 1934 asserts the centrality of science fiction to efforts at cultural renewal in the early twentieth century and beyond. The main claim of the dissertation is that science, fiction, and science fiction played a crucial role in facilitating empire building, and that Chinese sf writers were deeply anxious about co-opting Western means for their pedagogical goals. Based on the premise that in the West the genre is inspired by the imagination of the colonial Other, the dissertation investigates how imagination and knowledge of the Other shapes Chinese sf. Hence, it argues that orientalism, and more broadly, the material and ideological consequences of the encounter with the West, are the most salient elements defining Chinese sf.

Chinese Literature Dissertation Reviews: Jeongsoo Shin’s From Bewitching Beauty to Effete King

Transgendering of the Peony in East Asia Dissertation Reviews has posted Sixiang Wang‘s review of Jeongsoo Shin‘s From Bewitching Beauty to Effete King: Transgendering of King Peony in Medieval Chinese and Korean Literature. Here’s how it begins:

The peony has come to have a variety of associations in the East Asian literary tradition. Its luxurious petals have signaled wealth and beauty while its peculiar, seedless manner of reproduction has come to symbolize sterility and empty luxury. It has even come to represent political power as a symbol of China as a nation, arguably one of its dominant associations today. In his fascinating account of the peony’s literary history, From Bewitching Beauty to Effete King, Jeongsoo Shin seeks to understand the evolving connotations of this one flower. Shin not only examines the literary traditions associated with the peony in medieval China, but traces the flower’s cultivation and literary symbolism as it traveled to Silla Korea (57 BCE–935 CE). As the peony’s gender was transformed in this process of transmission, it also acquired a separate set of symbolic resonances.

Chinese Literature Dissertation Reviews: Esther Sunkyung Klein’s History of a Historian

Sima Qian & the Author-Function Dissertation Reviews has posted Vincent Leung‘s review of Esther Sunkyung Klein‘s The History of a Historian: Perspectives on the Authorial Roles of Sima Qian. Here’s how it begins:

Sima Qian 司馬遷 (ca. 145 or 135 BCE-86 BCE) once famously declared that his monumental Shiji 史 記 (ca. 91 BCE) is intended not for readers in his own time but for those in posterity. The reason for such an authorial gesture, unusual in the early Chinese corpus, is unclear, but in any event he would not have been disappointed had he been able to witness the tremendous reception of the Shiji in the last two millennia. It is fair to say that the Shiji is one of the most widely read texts in the entire Chinese literary tradition. This is easily attested by the staggering amount of commentaries on it throughout the imperial period as well as the numerous articles and monographs devoted to its study over the last century. This voluminous scholarship represents an expectedly diverse range of readings of the Shiji, with the nevertheless common goal of articulating the significance of the Shiji as intended by its compiler Sima Qian by reconstructing an accurate and relevant context for its composition. Readings that disagree on the significance of the Shiji are essentially disagreements over how it should be properly contextualized in relation to its author and/or the supposed historical condition of the early Han, and over the last two millennia as many contexts motivating Sima Qian have been imagined as there have been readers of the Shiji.

Chinese Literature Dissertation Reviews: Richard Jean So’s Coolie Democracy

“Coolie Democracy”, US-China Exchanges 1925-1955 Dissertation Reviews has posted Nan Z. Da‘s review of Richard Jean So‘s Coolie Democracy: US–China Political and Literary Exchange, 1925–1955. Here’s how it begins:

Literary-critical study of China-US relations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is experiencing an exciting emergence, and Richard Jean So’s dissertation, Coolie Democracy, finds itself at the vanguard of this development in the field. This project combines language expertise with transnational methodologies that emerged from Americanists’ de-centering of the United States to forward a self-consciously comparative study of alternative forms of the democratic discourse from the 1920s to the 1950s. At the macro-level, Richard So makes a literary-historical argument and a political-theoretical argument. He looks at an “in-between” time in American literary history and the history of US-China relations from 1900-1950, a period that current scholarship strings along a series of flashpoints: anti-Chinese sentiments and policies in the late 1800s; the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Acts in 1943; the concurrent formation of Chinese-American immigrant communities and identities; and the official “break” between China and the United States over Communism and political allegiances on the eve of World War II. So recovers a forgotten segment in this period. So reconstructs, through meticulous and creative research, a series of unlikely Chinese-American exchanges and intellectual circles. These exchanges and collaborations coincided with the rise of the Leftist cultural front in the US, a movement So investigates for its transnational figures and their complicated translingual activities in China. This was a moment during which American and Chinese authors actively and directly engaged with each other to think out in literature the possibility of a politically united “Chinese America.” This by-and-large discursive “Chinese America” would be built upon a shared concept of “natural democracy” that comes organically of the texts of both nations, a concept that called upon the figure of the coolie to serve as an example of such democratic principles in praxis and as a cipher of mutual resistance against capitalism.

Lucas Klein on Daniel Dooghan’s Literary Cartographies: Lu Xun and the Production of World Literature

Lu Xun and World LiteratureDissertation Reviews has posted my review of Daniel Dooghan’s Literary Cartographies: Lu Xun and the Production of World Literature. Here’s how it begins:

In his entry in the 2004 report on the state of the discipline, Comparative Literature in an Age of Globalization, David Damrosch, doyen of world literature studies, reproduces a table showing the MLA citation index of Lu Xun 鲁迅 (1881 – 1936) over the previous four decades. According this bibliography, Lu Xun was referred to in 3 articles between 1964 and 1973, in 12 articles from 1974 to 1983, in 19 articles from 1984 to 1993, and in 22 articles between 1994 and 2003 (David Damrosch, “World Literature in a Postcanonical, Hypercanonical Age,” in Comparative Literature in an Age of Globalization. Haun Saussy (ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006, p. 49). Without question, in what may be the disciplinary “age of world literature” even more than “an age of globalization,” Lu Xun has entered into a certain kind of canonicity. Investigating and interrogating the specifics of that canonicity, and the ways in which Lu Xun is framed, understood, translated, and transformed via such canonicity, is the subject of Daniel Dooghan’s fascinating, revealing, and provocative dissertation, Literary Cartographies: Lu Xun and the Production of World Literature (University of Minnesota, 2011).

Dissertation Reviews: The Crowd in Early Twentieth-Century China

The Crowd in Early Twentieth-Century China Dissertation Reviewshas posted Roy Chan‘s review of Tie Xiao‘s In the Name of the Masses: Conceptualizations and Representations of the Crowd in Early Twentieth-Century China. Here’s how it begins:

In Western media and scholarship, Chinese crowds are often schizophrenically portrayed as either terrifying or emancipatory – from the manic frenzy of the Red Guards to the student fighters for democracy at Tian’anmen, from angry mobs destroying Japanese goods to heroic Hong Kong citizens defying Mainland “brainwashing,” the massive, nameless Chinese crowd looms large in the global imagination as a specter embodying the ambivalence at the heart of modern political democracy. While the “people” constitutes the source from which political sovereignty derives, it also harbors fears of irrational mob rule, the steamrolling of the individual, and the claustrophobia of the collective. Tie Xiao’s dissertation admirably charts the development of notions of the crowd in early twentieth-century intellectual discourse and aesthetic production. As he convincingly demonstrates, Chinese thinkers, while acknowledging the need for a political and social order that would be democratic in the broad sense, were also troubled by the antimony between terror and liberation that also lurked in the collective’s bosom. Moreover, the early twentieth-century Chinese engagement with the “crowd” took part in the processes of what Lydia Liu has termed “translated modernity” – the Chinese interest in crowds paralleled European interest in crowd psychology, as well as global aesthetic trends in representing the “masses” in both literature and visual art.

Chinese Literature Dissertation Reviews: Huang Yiju’s Wounds in Time

Aesthetics Afterlives of the Cultural Revolution Dissertation Reviews has posted Yiching Wu‘s review of Yiju Huang‘s Wounds in Time: The Aesthetic Afterlives of the Cultural Revolution. Here’s how it begins:

Yiju Huang’s dissertation is an investigation of the Cultural Revolution through its aesthetic and literary afterlives in the post-Mao era. The dissertation takes as its point of departure the widespread notion that the Cultural Revolution was a “colossal catastrophe,” and proceeds to examine the ways in which traumatic traces were embedded within works of literature, art, and cinema. Focusing on how people produce meanings in the aftermath of a major historical event, Huang argues against the attempts of the CCP to bring the subject of the Cultural Revolution to premature closure, in its attempt to transfer the country’s attention to a fetishized future of economic development and modernization. Instead of understanding the Cultural Revolution as exclusively belonging to a bygone era, Huang urges us to reopen the subject as “a nexus of unresolved and unfinished problems that spill beyond the threshold of the past” (p. 4).