Contending for the ‘Chinese Modern’

Dear Colleagues,

When the 100th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement approaches, I’m pleased to announce that my book Contending for the Chinese Modern: The Writing of Fiction in the Great Transformative Epoch of Modern China 1937-1949 (604 pp.), published by Brill, has gone to the printer and will be available soon. This book studies the writing of fiction in 1940s China. Through a practice of political hermeneutics of fictional texts and social subtexts, it explores how social modernity and literary modernity intertwined with and interacted upon each other in the development of modern Chinese literature. It not only makes critical reappraisement of some renowned modern Chinese writers, but also sheds fresh lights on a series of theoretical problems pertaining to the issue of plural modernities, in which the problematic of subjectivity, class consciousness and identity politics are the key words as well as the concrete procedures that it undertakes the ideological analysis. –Xiaoping Wang <>

In the meantime, I would like to alert those who have not read my last book Postsocialist Conditions: Ideas and History in China’s “Independent Cinema”, 1988-2008, that a revised edition of the book will soon be published by Brill, and they can wait to refer to it until this new edition comes out.

Table of Contents


1 Debates of the Origin of Chinese Modernity and Its Substance 4
2 Semicolonialism and Modernist Writing 18
3 Field of Cultural Production and Literature as Social Institution 28
4 The Problematic of Historicity and Political Hermeneutics 32
5 Fictional Writing in the Great Transformative Epoch of 1940s China 50
6 Chinese Modernity in Ordeal: New Culture, New Youth, New Women 54
7 Literary Modernity and Modernization of “Modern Chinese Literature” 65
8 Structural Outline 70

PART 1: Negotiating with the Nightmarish Modern

Introduction 81

1 General Cultural Production in the Occupied Area 81
2 Some Thoughts on the Origin of Modern Chinese Literature 91
3 Zhang Henshui’s Early Efforts at Modernization of Chinese Fiction 117 

1 Aborted Dreams of “New Women”: Xiao Hong and Mei Niang 134

1 A Homeless Soul and a Misplaced Nostalgia: Exiled Experience and Xiao Hong’s War-Time Diasporic Literature 135
2 Articulating the Disenchantment of Colonial Modernity: Mei Niang’s Representation of the Predicament of Chinese New Women 171

2 Matrimonial Syndrome in a Besieged Society: Identity Complex in Eileen Chang’s “Boudoir Stories” 195

1 Individualism in Crisis and Cultural Nihilism 200
2 Identity Politics and the Political Unconscious in Writing “Triviality” 235 

Part 2: Rethinking the Disintegrated Modern

Introduction 271

1 The Restructuration of the Field of Cultural Production 272
2 The Diversified Writings of Fiction 277
3 Hu Feng’s Theory of “Subjective Fighting Spirit” 281

3 Alienated Minds Dreaming for Integration: Constrained Cosmopolitanism in Wumingshi’s and Xu Xu’s “Modern Literati Novel” 321

1 Wumingshi’s Middle Class Romance and “Anti-Bildungsroman” 328
2 Xu Xu’s “Modern Tales of the Strange” 345

4 “Subjectivity” and Class Consciousness: Intellectual’s Predicament and Lu Ling’s “Neo-Leftist Stories” 361

1 Individualism and Aborted Bildungsroman: the Cultural Politics of Lu Ling’s Stories in 1940s China 365
2 Politics of Recognition and Politics of Style: a Reading of Children of the Rich with Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind 393

Part 3: Contending for a “New Democratic Modern”

Introduction 417

1 The “Cultural Field” of Yan’an, Its Political Economy and Production 418
2 Forging a New Cultural-Political Nation: from “Use of Old Forms” to “Establishment of a National Form” 426
3 Re-integration of Culture and Politics: a Re-interpretation of Mao’s “Yan’an Talks” 447

5 “Problem Stories” as Part of the “National Form”: Rural Society in Transition and Zhao Shuli’s “Peasant Stories” 475

1 Rural Society in Transition and the “Standing Up” of the Masses 479
2 The “Alternative Modernity” of the Storytelling and Its Paradox 497

6 From Feminist to Party’s Intellectual? Identity (Trans-)formation and Ding Ling’s “New Woman Stories” 519

1 From an Anarchistic “New Woman” to a Cultural Worker for the Masses 520
2 Ambiguities and Contradictions in Creating a “New Revolutionary Culture” 543

Conclusion 568

For some blurbs:

This is truly a most comprehensive work in English on the literature and literary production of wartime China (1937-49). To put such diverse writers as Zhang Henshui, Hu Feng, Eileen Chang, Xu Xu and Zhao Shuli in one grand historical canvas, not to mention the vast geopolitical scope, is a great accomplishment.

——Leo Ou-fan Lee, Emeritus Professor of Harvard University and Chair Professor of Chinese Culture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

A story of many stories, this in-depth theoretical book identifies important literary moments in which China gets translated into a modern state. Wang Xiaoping presents the matrix of literary production by key luminaries of the 1940s, interpreting their texts as exemplars of the aesthetics of the modern. Seldom are clashing historical temporalities and cultural trajectories so fully present as they are in this extensively-covered book, which no doubt contributes much to those studying modern Chinese literature and culture.

——Rujie Wang, professor of Chinese literature, The College of Wooster, USA

Thought-provoking and nuancedly-written, this well-researched book provides a convincing narrative of the Chinese modern in its plural forms through analyzing the fictions produced in the tumultuous decade (1937-1949) of China, which profoundly transforms our understanding of Chinese modernity.

——Di Bai, professor of Chinese literature, Drew University, USA

A long-awaited book among the growing publications on modern Chinese fiction in English! It has greatly informed and improved our understanding of existing empirical and theoretical knowledge of modern Chinese literature. Xiaoping Wang’s resolute turn to a political and historical analysis via Fredric Jameson and other Marxian theorists brings to us an understanding of “Chinese modern” that is more in dialogue with the West than simply following the modern that came into being in the specific socio-political conjuncture in the West.

——Haomin Gong, Associate Professor of Lingnan University

For more information, click:

Xiaoping Wang <>


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *