MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Yizhong Gu’s review of The Making and Remaking of China’s “Red Classics”: Politics, Aesthetics and Mass Culture (Hong Kong University Press, 2018), edited by Rosemary Roberts and Li Li. The review appears below, but is best read online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/yizhonggu/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.
Enjoy, Kirk Denton, editor
The Making and Remaking of China’s “Red Classics”:
Politics, Aesthetics and Mass Culture
Edited by Rosemary Roberts and Li Li
Reviewed by Yizhong Gu
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright May, 2018)
The Making and Remaking of China’s “Red Classics” not only reveals the mechanisms and operations of Maoist ideology within a variety of cultural products, it also teases out how aspects of the Maoist legacy have been inherited, twisted, and channeled to serve sociopolitical purposes in the reform era (chapters are broadly divided into those addressing issues from the “Maoist Era” and those from the “Reform Era”). In the process, this volume both instantiates a rigorous methodology for the scholarly analysis of “Red Classics” and demonstrates how socialist works of art and aesthetics continue to inform PRC cultural production in the present.
Since the origin of the term “red classics” is unclear, the volume wisely circumvents the question that could lead to a deadlock: which literary and art works can be counted as “red classics”? Instead, it adopts “the broadest understanding of the scope of the ‘red classics’” (ix), investigating not just literature but “films, TV series, picture books, cartoons, and traditional-style paintings” (xi). The editors address this array of media according to three key characteristics: “their sociopolitical and ideological import, their aesthetic significance, and their function as a mass cultural phenomenon” (xi). The volume engages in dialogue between English- and Chinese-language scholarship (two essays are translated from Chinese), a quite welcomed effort since Chinese scholarship on socialist literature is relatively limited for English readers. Although essays vary greatly in subject matter and discipline, the volume still reads like an organic whole (the volume emerged from a 2015 University of Queensland symposium). The authors cross-reference one another’s essays and trace some key theoretical features shared among “red classics” that will be of interest and inspiration both to China studies scholars and general readers who are interested in modern Chinese literature, politics, and culture. Continue reading