Dissertation Reviews has posted Steve Poland’s review of Chen Minjie’s dissertation, “Friends and Foes on the Battlefield“: A Study of Chinese and U.S. Youth Literature about the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Here’s how it begins:
Youth literature is a powerful form of inter-generational storytelling, whereby one generation can pass along experiences of traumatic events to younger generations born into considerably different circumstances. In this capacity, youth literature also functions as a conduit of national myth-making and social reproduction, transforming a diverse multiplicity of individual lives into the recognizable types and tropes of desirable historical narratives. In her ambitious and insightful dissertation on the seventy-year role of youth literature in shaping postwar Chinese understanding of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), Minjie Chen interrogates the nation’s authorization of who gets to tell the war story in two ways. First, as indicated in the subtitle of the dissertation, Chen uses a comparative framework to analyze the different ways youth literature in China and the United States has (or has not) offered ethnic Chinese youth a narrative connection to Chinese experiences of World War II. Second, Chen provocatively challenges the hegemony of male, conflict-centered youth literature in China by producing an oral history of the wartime experiences of women in Yunhe 云和, Zhejiang, demonstrating how a different trajectory for youth literature in China may have looked through the authorship of marginalized and excluded voices. The dissertation utilizes a variety of methodologies to show how youth literature (including lianhuanhua 连环画, or “popular pictorial reading material”) has over the course of seventy years contributed to both historical memories and amnesia surrounding the Second Sino-Japanese War that retain political, economic, and social significance today.
Click the image above for the full review.