The Banished Immortal review

Source: LA Review of Books, China Channel (4/22/19)
The Banished Immortal
Rui Zhong reads Ha Jin’s biography of Li Bai

The rumors of how Li Bai (also known as Li Po) met his end are greatly exaggerated. The specifics are murky, ranging from alcohol poisoning to drowning while chasing after the moon’s reflection on the surface of a river. It may seem troubling how easily the pertinent details of one of China’s best-known literary icons are lost. However, given that Li often embellished his speech and never liked to stay in one place for too long, his multiple-accounts demise is oddly appropriate.

So begins Ha Jin’s portrait of the famed poet, The Banished Immortal. This title is the latest entry in Jin’s extensive bibliography of poems, short fiction and novels, but The Banished Immortal is his first foray into biography. Jin boasts accolades primarily for his prose works, with deal with the intermingling of politics and ordinary life in 20th-century China, including the National Book Award-winning novel Waiting. In The Banished Immortal, Jin flexes his fiction-writing muscles and his eye for political detail in order to characterize Li Bai’s showboating personality and to discuss how power and social systems worked in the world he inhabited. Continue reading

Boy’s Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Shana Ye’s review of Boy’s Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols: Fan Cultures in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan (HK University Press, 2017), edited by Maud Lavin, Ling Yang, and Jing Jamie Zhao. The review appears below and can be read online at:  http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/shana-ye/. My thanks to Jason McGrath, MCLC media studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Boy’s Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols: Queer
Fan Cultures in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan

Edited by Maud Lavin, Ling Yang, and Jing Jamie Zhao


Reviewed by Shana Ye
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright April, 2019)


Maud Lavin, Ling Yang, and Jing Jamie Zhao, eds. Boys’ Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols: Queer Fan Cultures in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2017. 292 pp. ISBN 978-9888390809 (hardback $60).

Many students in my Gender and East Asian Culture class are amazed by the almost omnipresent representation of androgynous pop idols, sexually ambiguous celebrities, and gender-bending TV shows in both Chinese mainstream media and fan communities. These cultural proliferations seem to contradict what they have in mind of what China is like from the perspective of their everyday North American lives. Some of the students, especially those with a feminist background who are concerned with the relationships between new forms of queer desire and transnational digital capitalism ironically reinscribe queer transgression into stereotypes of “Asian gender/sexual transitions.” For those who themselves are practitioners of boy’s love, cosplay, and queer cultural production, different media industries and grassroots fandom culture provide new windows through which to reflect on questions of nationality, belonging, cosmopolitan identity, and heteropatriarchy. Yet, a large number of the students still have trouble distinguishing China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea from one another. Continue reading

Wolf Totem and the Post-Mao Utopian review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Yiyan Wang’s review of Wolf Totem and the the Post-Mao Utopian: A Chinese Perspective on Contemporary Western Scholarship (Brill 2018), by Li Xiaojiang and translated by Edward M. Gunn. The review appears below and at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/yiyan-wang/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Wolf Totem and the Post-Mao Utopian: 
A Chinese Perspective on Contemporary Western Scholarship

By Li Xiaojiang
Translated by Edward Mansfield Gunn


Reviewed by Yiyan Wang
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March, 2019)


Li Xiaojiang, Wolf Totem and the Post-Mao Utopian: A Chinese Perspective on Contemporary Western Scholarship Tr. Edward Mansfield Gunn. Leiden: Brill, 2018. Ix-xviii + 574. ISBN: 978-90-04-27672-7 (Hardcover).

Li Xiaojiang 李小江 is a scholar well-known for her ground-breaking research and extensive publications on gender and women’s issues in Chinese society. Her monograph, Post-Allegory: A Rigorous Explication of Wolf Totem  (后寓言:〈狼图腾〉深度诠释) (Wuhan: Changjiang wenyi, 2010), is a remarkable departure from her usual areas of research. The version here being reviewed is a translation of the 2013 revised edition (修正版), Wolf Totem and the Post-Mao Utopian: A Chinese Perspective on Contemporary Western Scholarship (后乌托邦批评:〈狼图腾〉深度诠释) (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin), rendered into English by Edward Gunn. It offers, exactly as the subtitle indicates, “A Chinese Perspective on Contemporary Western Scholarship.”[1] Li’s analysis and positioning of the novel, Wolf Totem 狼图腾 (Jiang Rong 2004; translation by Howard Goldblatt 2009), as a “post” allegory, is a preparation for the core task of the book—to critique contemporary Western scholarship and to propose a new critical paradigm: post-utopian criticism. While Gunn faithfully translates the title of this revised edition as “the Post-Mao Utopian,” I use Li’s original term, “post-allegory” (后寓言), because it is her point of entry for and may help us understand her argument about “post-utopianism.” Continue reading

Fascism in Republican China review essay

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Jeremy Tai’s review of Revolutionary Fascism, by Maggie Clinton, and China’s Conservative Revolution, by Brian Tsui. The review appears below and online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/jeremy-tai/.

Enjoy, Kirk A. Denton, editor

Fascism in Republican China: A Review Essay

Revolutionary Nativism: Fascism and Culture in China, 1925-1937, by Maggie Clinton
China’s Conservative Revolution: The Quest for a New World Order, 1927-1949, by Brian Tsui


Reviewed by Jeremy Tai
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2019)


Maggie Clinton, Revolutionary Nativism: Fascism and Culture in China, 1925-1937 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017). 280 pp. ISBN: 9780822363620 (cloth), ISBN: 9780822363774 (paperback).

Brian Tsui, China’s Conservative Revolution: The Quest for a New Order, 1927-1949 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018). 304 pp. ISBN: 9781107196230 (cloth).

While many scholars have observed over the past few decades a resurgence of nationalism in the post-Cold War era, political commentaries warning of an imminent return to fascism have also proliferated in recent years as right-wing populism unsettles liberal democracies. Contemporary inquiries into fascism have certainly extended beyond liberal states to also scrutinize authoritarian ones, including China, which are no less entangled in the crises, restructuring, and social dislocation of the capitalist world system that incite desires to protect an imagined way of life. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is, of course, very much invested in memorializing its historic resistance to fascism, for instance, during anniversaries of the “Victory of the Chinese People’s Resistance against Japanese Aggression and World’s Anti-fascist War.” Present-day xenophobia and trade protectionism in the US and elsewhere also provide the conditions for Chinese leaders to take on the cosmopolitan appearance of “going out” and maintaining the global order of free trade. Yet, for all of the Chinese state’s ability to externalize the potentiality of fascism, whether by reference to the socialist past or capitalist present, certain developments in contemporary China suggest the presence of right-wing orientations to the nation and race, the state and territoriality, the role of technology, and political dissent. In particular, the reappearance of a discourse of national revival (民族復興) alongside flagrant examples of Han racism toward ethnic minorities and foreigners, the continuous narration of past humiliation that obscures contemporary power asymmetries, the ongoing Han settlement of non-Han regions and island-building in the South China Sea, the joining of censorship with biometric surveillance, the crackdown on labor and feminist activism, and the establishment of internment camps in Xinjiang all make the time ripe for reconsidering the history of right-wing thought and politics in modern China. Continue reading

Confession of a Jade Lord

Source: Daily Sabah (1/4/19)
A gem of Uighur literature: Alat Asem’s ‘Confessions of a Jade Lord’
By MATT HANSON

A gem of Uighur literature: Alat Asem's ‘Confessions of a Jade Lord'

A gem of Uighur literature: Alat Asem’s ‘Confessions of a Jade Lord

In 2013, Uighur novelist Alat Asem published ‘Confessions of a Jade Lord,’ earning the Jun Ma Literature Prize, and a translation into English in 2018. As vice-chair of the Xinjiang Writers Association, Asem, who was born in Xinjiang in 1958, has an ear for preservation in the midst of cultural endangerment

On March 13, 2013, Alat Asem, author of 11 novels and seven collections of short stories, dated the last page of his book, “Confessions of a Jade Lord.” The year began bitterly when Amnesty International reported the death of his colleague, fellow Uighur writer Nurmemet Yasin. In the wake of the 2009 Urumqi riots, the harsh climate in the westernmost Chinese region of Xinjiang continues to worsen for its indigenous peoples. Dark clouds drift in from Beijing, the seat of government in the People’s Republic of China, where the ethnic Han majority rules over 1.3 billion people uncontested. Among the country’s 55 recognized minorities, the Uighur people of Xinjiang are targeted for practicing Islam in the midst of the territorial bids and geopolitical crises that afflict Central Asia. Continue reading

New Li Bai biography by Ha Jin

Source: Sup China (1/9/19)
A New Li Bai Biography By Ha Jin, ‘The Banished Immortal,’ Looks At The Man Behind The Myth
By GINA ELIA

Li Bai towers over Chinese literature. But few have attempted, in English, to explain the man behind such household poems as “Quiet Night Thoughts,” “Waking from Drunkenness on a Spring Day,” and “Drinking Alone by Moonlight” — how an itinerant drunk with political aspirations would end up becoming the greatest poet in Chinese history.

The Banished Immortal Ha Jin

Li Bai (701-762), also known as Li Bo or Li Po, was a poet during China’s Tang Dynasty (618-907), amassing a legacy over his lifetime that would be surpassed by none. Yet few outside of the Chinese-speaking world know his name. Luckily, that may be about to change. Xuefei Jin (pen name Ha Jin), a National Book Award recipient (for Waiting) and creative writing professor at Boston University, has written a new biography of Li Bai called The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Baiwhich is available through Pantheon Press as of yesterday. His work gives the English-reading world access to a wealth of information about one of China’s greatest cultural icons, someone as revered as Shakespeare is in the West.

Ha Jin’s is not the first English-language biography of Li Bai. Sinologist Arthur Waley wrote The Poetry and Career of Li Po in 1950, and Jin cites from this book as well as from multiple other biographical accounts of Li Bai written in Chinese. Although I was not able to obtain Waley’s book, if the paper on Li Bai he presented to the China Society of London’s School of Oriental Studies in 1918, available freely online, is any indication, Jin’s biography is a much-needed English-language update on Li Bai’s life and legacy for the 21st century. Waley gives only a brief account of Li Bai’s life before devoting much of the rest of the book to translating his poetry. Jin’s book, on the other hand, is a 292-page, detailed account of Li Bai’s life from his birth to his death, interspersed with translations of his poetry throughout. Secondly, Waley is critical of Li Bai’s talent as a poet and patronizing toward his status in Chinese society. He even goes so far as to comment that Western scholars would never have selected Li Bai as one of China’s greatest poets, dismissing outright the popular opinions of Chinese scholars as though they do not matter. Continue reading

Mystifying China’s Southwest Ethnic Borderlands review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Yanshuo Zhang’s review of Mystifying China’s Southwest Ethnic Borderlands: Harmonious Heterotopia (Lexington 2018), by Yuqing Yang. The review appears below and at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/yanshuo-zhang/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Mystifying China’s Southwest 
Ethnic Borderlands: Harmonious Heterotopia

By Yuqing Yang


Reviewed by Yanshuo Zhang
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2019)


Yuqing Zhang, Mystifying China’s Southwest Ethnic Borderlands: Harmonious Heterotopia. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2018. vii-x + 251 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4985-0297-9 (Hardback $110.00); 978-1-4985-0298-6 (eBook $104.50)

In Chinese literary scholarship in the U.S., the literary and cultural achievements made by China’s ethnic minority groups (shaoshu minzu 少数民族) remain a largely uncharted territory in clear need of more serious investigation. Some recent scholarship on ethnic minority literatures in China includes Mark Bender’s edited ethnic poetry anthology The Borderlands of Asia: Culture, Place, Poetry (Cambria Press 2017) and the chapters on Tibetan literature and the ethnic concerns of the prominent modern writer Lao She (老舍) in Sinophone Studies: A Critical Reader (Columbia University Press 2013).

Despite the wonderful insights on minority literatures developed in these studies, single-authored monographs on non-Han literatures are severely lacking in our field, and Chinese literary studies in the U.S. as a whole seems to be dominated by a Han-focused perspective. Yuqing Yang’s 2018 monograph, Mystifying China’s Southwest Ethnic Borderlands: Harmonious Heterotopia contributes to enriching the research on Chinese shaoshu minzuliteratures. An ethnic Bai scholar trained at the University of Oregon and currently teaching at Minzu University of China, Yang charts the cultural myths and fantasies surrounding three minority regions in southwest China, revealing an entanglement between representation and reality—“textual and extratextual formats”—in the making of the Bai, Mosuo, and Tibetan identities in reform-era China (227). Continue reading

On the Margins of Modernism review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Angie Chau’s review of On the Margins of Modernism: Xu Xu, Wumingshi and Popular Chinese Literature in the 1940s (Edinburgh UP, 2017), by Christopher Rosenmeier. The review appears below and online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/angie-chau/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

On the Margins of Modernism: Xu Xu,
Wumingshi and Popular Chinese Literature in the 1940s
By Christopher Rosenmeier


Reviewed by Angie Chau
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright November, 2018)


Christopher Rosenmeier, On the Margins of Modernism: Xu Xu, Wumingshi and Popular Chinese Literature in the 1940s Edinburg: Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh East Asian Studies Series, 2017. vi, 139 pp. ISBN: 9780748696369 (Hardback) // ISBN: 9781474444477 (Paperback: March 2019).

Up to now, Xu Xu 徐訏 (1908–1980) and Wumingshi 無名氏 (1917–2002), two of the most widely-read writers in the 1940s, have been neglected in English-language literary studies of modernism during the Republican period. Christopher Rosenmeier’s On the Margins of Modernism: Xu Xu, Wumingshi and Popular Chinese Literature in the 1940s aims to correct that oversight by providing readers with ample translations and clear textual analyses of the writers’ (lesser known) works.

Focusing on popular literature published during the Sino-Japanese war (1937–1945), Rosenmeier’s study shows how Xu Xu and Wumingshi’s stories and novels appealed to a broad readership and drew upon the earlier literary experimentation of New Sensationists Shi Zhecun and Mu Shiying. Rosenmeier argues that because both authors “stayed outside politics” (2) and because their fiction, which navigates the border between romanticism and modernism defies easy categorization, Xu Xu and Wumingshi have been marginalized in the Chinese literary canon. Continue reading

Shanghai Literary Imaginings

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Andrew Field’s review of Shanghai Literary Imaginings: A City in Transformation (Amsterdam UP, 2015), by Lena Scheen. The review appears below and online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/field/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Shanghai Literary Imaginings: 
A City in Transformation

By Lena Scheen


Reviewed by Andrew David Field
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright November, 2018)


Lena Scheen, Shanghai Literary Imaginings: A City in Transformation Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, Asian Cities Series, 2015. 284 pp. ISBN: 9789089645876 (Hardcover), E-ISBN: 978904852223 1 (PDF).

There are innumerable Shanghais, an infinity of them perhaps, as Lena Scheen ponders at the end of her interdisciplinary book Shanghai Literary Imaginings: A City in Transformation, which probes the city’s transformation in the era of postsocialism and marketization through an original and insightful juxtaposition of literary texts, maps, and observations. And yet, what defines Shanghai as a city? We can ask historians this question and get many different answers: Shanghai is a city of sojourners; a hotbed of criminality; a honeycomb of opium dens; a cauldron of revolution; a sad city full of “fallen women.” The list goes on. Of course, these are definitions that fit better with the “old Shanghai” of our collective imagination, which existed or may have existed in the early twentieth century, rather than the realities of the city today. Continue reading

Recite and Refuse review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are please to announce publication of Paul Manfredi’s review of Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry (University of Hawaii Press, 2016), by Nick Admussen. The review appears below and at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/recite-and-refuse/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Recite and Refuse: 
Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry

By Nick Admussen


Reviewed by Paul Manfredi
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright October, 2018)


Nick Admussen, Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2016. V-viii, 219 pp. ISBN-13: 9780824856526. Hardback: $65.00

Nick Admussen’s book Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry can be characterized in the same terms as the poetry he describes: concentrated and condensed. The book’s modest size (some 165 pages plus an appended 10-page translation) relative to its scope, however, makes it no less effective because Admussen’s prose is lucid and his arguments almost uniformly intriguing. The essential argument of the work—that prose poetry is more process than product of creation and that authors of prose poetry so identified should be understood in the context of the entire social field giving rise to their works—is comprehensively addressed. In the Afterword, which serves as something of an artistic treatise, he summarizes as follows: “Creation becomes the creation not of a product but a set of connections: the power of creation is not then ownership or mastery, but definition, consensus, the ability to fix the shape of a structure” (164). Continue reading

The Feminist Awakening in China review

Source: SCMP (9/7/18)
The rise of China’s feminists: will activists spark social change, or burn out, asks writer
Author Leta Hong Fincher considers whether China’s Feminist Five will be remembered as icons who advanced society or mere footnotes in a patriarchal state’s history
By Joyce Lau

China’s Feminist Five (clockwise from top left) Li Tingting, Wu Rongrong, Zheng Churan, Wei Tingting, Wang Man. Picture: AFP

(clockwise from top left) Li Tingting, Wu Rongrong, Zheng Churan, Wei Tingting, Wang Man. Picture: AFP

Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China
by Leta Hong Fincher
Verso Books

The reach of Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China goes far beyond its main story, of a determined group of feminist activists.

At its core, the book is about the push and pull between a conservative government and an increasingly brazen population. It is a study of modern China – its politics and popular culture, and the dizzying rate of societal change in the digital era. While female activists serve as the heroines, a similar tale could be told of other groups working for social progress, whether in labour rights or the environment.

Betraying Big Brother begins in March 2015, with five young women preparing to mark International Women’s Day by handing out stickers to passengers on public transport. The colourful, cartoony stickers urge women to scream if they are sexually harassed, and encourage police to chase down the perpetrators. Continue reading

October Dedications review

Source: HKR Books (9/20/18)
Marija Todorova reviews Mang Ke’s poetry collection and considers the significant role played by translators in such projects.

Mang Ke, October Dedications, trans. Lucas Klein, Huang Yibing and Jonathan Stalling (Zephyr Press, 2018), 131pp.

October Dedications

Published under the title October Dedications, this selection of Mang Ke’s poems is arguably one of the most important titles published so far in the Zephyr Press Jintian series of Chinese poetry. The mission of Zephyr Press is to publish “outstanding literature from around the world, and it  seeks to foster understanding of other languages and literary traditions through the twin arts of poetry and literary translation.” The Jintian series, which is published bilingually on facing pages, includes some of the most well known poets in their respective countries, with the majority of translated titles being the first books to appear in English by these authors. The whole series carries the name of the underground literary journal Jintian (Today) – the first unofficial literary journal published in the People’s Republic of China, a journal established by Mang Ke together with Bei Dao. Continue reading

Imagining a Postnational World review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Ban Wang’s review of Imagining a Postnational World: Hegemony and Space in Modern China (Brill 2016), by Marc Andre Matten. The review appears below and online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/banwang3/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Imagining a Postnational World: 
Hegemony and Space in Modern China

By Marc Andre Matten


Reviewed by Ban Wang
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2018)


Marc Andre Matten, Imagining a Postnational World: Hegemony and Space in Modern China Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2016. xi, 362 pp. ISBN: 978-90-04-32715-3 (hardcover)

The nation-state system has dominated the Western picture of the world since the Westphalia Treaty in 1648. As Marc Andre Matten explains, “the Peace of Westphalia . . . marked the beginning of a new world order characterized by the concept of a sovereign state governed by a sovereign” (81). Rooted in the tenets of sovereignty, territory, and state equality, the nation-state model divides the world into separate entities along the lines of ethnicity, race, and culture. Although it is a superstructure built on the concepts of national sovereignty and accepted by non-European societies, international law has never stopped worldwide lawlessness, and the nation-state has been the perpetrator of ceaseless conflict, chaos, and domination. Continue reading

The Spatiality of Emotion review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Haiyan Lee’s review of The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China: From Dreamscapes to Theatricality (Columbia UP, 2018), by Ling Hon Lam. The review appears below and online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/haiyanlee2/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China: 
From Dreamscapes to Theatricality

By Ling Hon Lam


Reviewed by Haiyan Lee
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2018)


Ling Hon Lam, The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China: From Dreamscapes to Theatricality New York: Columbia University Press, 2018. ix-xiii + 339 pp. ISBN: Hardback (9780231187947)• $60.00 • (£47.00)

In the field of Chinese literary studies, it is rare to see names like Zhu Xi, Tang Xianzu, and Li Yu sharing the same pages with Heidegger, Foucault, and Lefebvre. It happens in The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China: From Dreamscapes to Theatricalitythanks to its author Ling Hon Lam’s vaulting ambition to retell the story of just about every topic near and dear to the heart of a literary scholar: representation, fictionality, theatricality, emotion, and performance, among others. Amazingly, this tall order is pulled off via an even taller order—a counterintuitive thesis that Lam presents at the outset and defends strenuously and successfully throughout the book: that emotion is less an inside-out psychological or neuro-chemical process than an outside-in spatial process. Continue reading