China’s Second World of Poetry:
The Sichuan Avant-Garde, 1982-1992

By Michael Day
Leiden: Digital Archive for Chinese Studies (DACHS), 2005. 570 pp.

Reviewed by Heather Inwood
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March 2009)

Cover of Not-Not, a poetry journal published in Sichuan in the 1980s

Cover of Not-Not, a poetry journal published in Sichuan in the 1980s

China’s Second World of Poetry: The Sichuan Avant-Garde, 1982-1992, published online through the Leiden division of the Digital Archive for Chinese Studies in 2005, is one of a limited number of English-language monographs dedicated solely to the study of contemporary poetry from mainland China. It is also the first book of its kind to deal with a region and period of poetry production that has been previously neglected by non-Chinese scholarship–whether due to a lack of visibility outside of China, a lack of research materials, or both–and for this reason alone helps fill a yawning gap in the discipline. With his detailed depiction of the authors, texts, institutions, and publications that constitute a decade of avant-garde poetry production in Sichuan province, Day has made a valuable contribution not just to the field of modern and contemporary Chinese poetry, but to general understanding of the “unofficial gray areas” (p. 7) of contemporary Chinese culture, as well as where, how, and why these gray areas can still be found. While some readers may be daunted by the sheer density of insider knowledge displayed within this book (Day self-deprecatingly refers to a “seeming avalanche of the names of poets and journals,” p. 425), there is much here of interest about the relationship between literature and politics in 1980s China; the behavior of literary collectives in the post-Cultural Revolution era; the impact of western theory and knowledge on a nascent avant-garde literary scene; and the function of poetry politics on the creation, publication, and reception of poetic texts–even if Day himself shies away from emphasizing these broader connections as the main contributions of his study.

Day’s approach is less argumentative than meticulous, his emphasis on a combination of textual analysis and the sociological contextualization of poetry production rather than on any particular thesis or theory. In this respect, whilst making rewarding reading in its own right, this study would equally well make an ideal stepping point into more in-depth research of any one of the authors, groups, poetic trends or movements identified within. As the author asserts, any critic of contemporary Chinese poetry who does not possess an understanding of Sichuan’s Second World of Poetry puts himself or herself at risk of producing “overly formalistic aesthetically-oriented studies . . . based on necessarily simplistic, inaccurate generalizations” (p. 12). Indeed, aesthetics constitute more a complementary side note to Day’s research, used to inform close readings of select poems rather than as an organizing structure or ultimate scholarly goal. Discussions of poems are usually limited to a few sentences, before moving on to the next poem or poet, thus facilitating treatment of the publications and poetry movements under consideration as a “collective ‘story'” (p. 10). This is definitely the purpose of Day’s research, but also helpfully leaves the door open for future work by other more “aesthetically-oriented”–or theoretically oriented–critics. Such scholars would do well to make use of Day’s translations, which are quite excellent, managing to stay close to the original Chinese text and come across as both natural and frequently captivating in English translation. As a translator of poetry, Day clearly possesses a sensitive appreciation of the intricacies of the Chinese originals, as well as a fine poetic ear of his own. That many of the poems contained within this book read so well is also, of course, testament to the quality of much of the poetry in its original form (indeed, Day’s selection of Sichuan province as the geographical focus of his study was in part guided by his observation that “poets of the province appear to make more imaginative use of diction than poets from other parts of China” [p. 11]). It can be seen as further confirmation, if needed, of the widespread assumption that the best of modern and contemporary Chinese poetry is to be found outside of the literary establishment. Whether one calls this area of literary production underground, unofficial, avant-garde, experimental, popular, or something else, there is little doubt to be had that in terms of literary sophistication, diversity, and freedom from orthodox political restraints, this “Second World” contains the crème-de-la-crème of contemporary poetry from mainland China.

This “Second World of Poetry” (di er shijie), to which the book’s title refers, is a phrase coined by poet Zhou Lunyou in the first issue of the broadsheet poetry publication Not-Not Criticism, produced in August 1986 (p. 9). It is used by Day to describe

a subfield in the general field of contemporary Chinese poetry, inhabited by poets more responsive to, and more influenced by, each other and translated works than to officially published poetry and criticism (p. 9 and pp. 169-170).

It is the patterns of sociological and textual interaction and development between poets, their texts, and between Chinese and translated works, that lie behind the bulk of this study. After a short ten-page preface outlining his research area, methods of study, and reasons for focusing on Sichuan province, Day proceeds in the following twelve chapters to analyze the conception and development of the Sichuan avant-garde poetry scene. Beginning with underground poetry written by Zhou Lunyou in the 1970s, China’s Second World of Poetry moves chronologically through the key poetry groups, publications and texts to emerge in Sichuan in the 1980s, and finally to the prospects faced by contemporary avant-garde poets in the context of June Fourth and the rapid commercialization of culture in the early 1990s.

Chapter 1 provides a brief overview of avant-garde poetry nationwide, tracing the growing implications of the word “avant-garde” as well as the proliferation of poetry activity that can be labeled as such from the period 1978 to 1992. Chapter 2 looks at underground poetry written in the 1970s by Zhou Lunyou (b. 1952), the oldest of the poets discussed by Day. Day identifies some of the salient literary influences upon Zhou during this time, an eclectic range of works that include Complete Works of Lu Xun, North-South Dynasties Literary History (p. 37), Symbols of Depression by the Japanese literary critic Kuriyagawa Hakuson (as translated by Lu Xun), as well as a variety of works of Russian literature (p. 38). Given that self-education, often via the exchange and reading of banned works of foreign literature, was a risky pursuit during the Cultural Revolution, Day concludes that Zhou’s diverse literary tastes were evidence of his devotion to the art of poetry, as well as his distaste for the current state of literature in China (p.40). He also sees indication of Zhou’s reading habits in his markedly critical attitude toward contemporary events, epitomized in an objective rather than wholly eulogizing poem written to mark the death of Zhou Enlai in 1976 (pp. 41-12). Chapter 3 shifts from the individual poet to the first unofficial poetry journal to be privately produced in Sichuan province: The Born-Again Forest (Cisheng lin), a single edition of which appeared in April 1982. Containing works by fifteen poets, ten of whom were from Sichuan, this journal was intended to unite new Chinese poetry from across the country, an ambition in which it ultimately failed, according to Day (p. 77). It is notable not just for an absence of the anti-Misty Poetry rhetoric that was to characterize much of later Second World poetry discourse, but also for presenting “something new, a darker vision of individuals alienated from the country and culture in which they live” (Ibid).

In Chapter 4, Day moves on to one of the more well-known Sichuan poetry groups to have emerged in the 1980s, the Macho Men (Manghan) poets, a group that has attained a prominent reputation in British poetry circles in recent years, in part due to the residence of poet Hu Dong in London since the late 1980s. One of a multitude of poetry groups that grew out of university campuses in the early 1980s, the Macho Men are significant for their usage of the term “Third Generation” to refer to the new wave of poets writing in reaction to the by now famous (and increasingly canonized) works of the Misty poets in Beijing, as well as for an unprecedentedly provocative writing style. Their poems, incorporating sexual references, slang, crude language, irreverent images of violence, and a frequent disregard for poetic form as commonly conceived, elicit the question of whether Chinese readers were “ready for the realization that poems need no longer look like ‘poems,’ or need, for that matter, no longer ‘sound’ like poems?” (p. 94). This question relates to issues regarding the notion of the avant-garde, which will be discussed below. Chapter 5, “A Confluence of Interests: The Institution of the Anti-Institutional,” outlines the lead up to and establishment of the Sichuan Young Poets Association in 1984. Whilst ostensibly little more than a “province-wide talking shop” (p.123), the Association is nonetheless solid proof of the desire of many Second World poets to increase public awareness of their work beyond their immediate circle of friends (p. 114), and to work as part of a collective. It also produced the poetry journal Modernists Federation, the subject of the following chapter.

Analysis of the poetry contained within this journal constitutes the entirety of Chapter 6. Day considers in turn the writings of Ouyang Jianghe, Liao Yiwu, members of the “Wholism” poetry group (remarkable for its unfashionable espousal of traditional Chinese culture), Zhou Lunyou, the Third Generation (specifically Yang Li, Zhang Zao, Hu Dong, and others), Zhai Yongming (one of only six woman poets featured in the journal), other female poets including Li Yao and Li Juan, and Bai Hua. Modernists Federation was, Day concludes, “a showcase of groundbreaking, nationwide significance” (p. 168), and boded well for the growing public profile of Sichuan avant-garde poetry over the next four to five years. Chapter 7 examines two other unofficial journals produced by the Sichuan Young Poets Association: Day by Day Make It New (Ri ri xin–a title originating from the words of Confucius and later appropriated by Ezra Pound), and Chinese Contemporary Experimental Poetry (Zhongguo dangdai shiyan shige). Analysis of the poetry contained within these two publications and those already discussed leads Day to identify two increasingly distinct groupings within avant-garde poets from Sichuan: one tending towards an acceptance of the western tradition of high modernism and its expression in Misty poetry; the other reacting against the “purportedly authoritative (and thus restrictive) tenets” of the former, thus finding themselves aligned with their avant-garde counterparts in the west, such as Allen Ginsberg (p. 214). Although he does not say so at this point, these two trends were later to find themselves in open conflict at the end of the 1990s, when growing competition for publication opportunities and ownership of the concept of “1990s poetry” led to a stand-off between the newly labeled “Intellectual” and “Popular” camps of poets, a debate which continued well into the new millennium (this polemic is foreshadowed by Day on pages 321, 372-374, 402, 405, and 426).

Chapters 8 to 10 trace the continued development of the poets and groups covered up to this point in the years 1986-1989. Chapter 8 focuses on avant-garde poetry’s increasing inroads into the public eye, embodied in the publication of the ambitious poetry anthology “A Grand Exhibition of Modernist Poetry Groups on China’s Poetry Scene 1986,” and also in the acceptance of such poetry into major official literary publications like Poetry, Author, and Flower City. The fact that avant-garde poets were able to publish their works in journals such as these was partly due to the newly relaxed cultural atmosphere of 1984-1985, but also raises the paradoxical question of why such poets–many of whom had built their poetic philosophy upon a mutual rejection of and by the orthodox literary establishment–would actively seek to do so. Day sees this trend as evidence that “the quest for recognition had begun to move out of the Second World and onto the official poetry scene” (p. 263), in doing so slightly dodging this question (more on this below). The chapter also contains an interesting, if brief, discussion of the potential for 1980s China to produce postmodern poetry. Taking issue with one critic’s labeling of a poem by Ouyang Jianghe as “postmodernist,” Day proceeds to make the claim that

To this day, the term ‘postmodernist’ in the context of China only takes on meaning if Chinese facsimiles of contemporary western art are under discussion and this work is compared to western work of a similar nature. Given the political and illusory nature of ‘postmodernism’ and ‘postmodernity’, as expressed by Eagleton in The Illusions of Postmodernism (1996) for example, it is not clear what value this term has in a discussion of western poetry, not to mention Chinese. The use of such western terminology is indicative of the thirst of Chinese avant-garde artists and critics to enter onto the world stage and to be seen as up-to-date or authoritative within China–authority now being acquired from western practice, and attention, and not from the favor of the CCP cultural apparatus or Chinese cultural tradition. (p. 245)

Given that questions of whether China possesses (or has possessed/is capable of possessing) postmodern culture, and of whether China has entered a postmodern age, have been much debated by scholars of various disciplines, one finds oneself wishing that Day might have referred to other sources in order to develop this argument a little further. Indeed, the subject of postmodernism is dropped as abruptly as it is taken up, thus suggesting room for further debate on this highly contested issue from which Day chooses to abstain.

The next chapter explores three more unofficial journals from the years 1986 to 1989: Han Poetry (Hanshi), The Red Flag (Hongqi), and Woman’s Poetry Paper (Nüzi shibao). It is of particular interest for a discussion of issues related to the categorization and canonization of unofficial poetry. Remarking that it is still the big names of woman’s poetry (such as Zhai Yongming, Tang Yaping and Yi Lei) that receive the most attention outside of China, Day points to a number of valid reasons why greater numbers of poets have not made such a reputation for themselves. These include the availability of “short, manageable lists of poets and poetry of quality by Chinese and foreign critics” which mean the poets and poetry not on the lists often get overlooked; the immense volume of texts and publications from the Second World of Poetry; and the inaccessibility of many of these materials (pp. 301-302). He also accurately draws attention to the fact that the formation of a “canon” of unofficial poetry in the 1990s and 2000s has been overseen by a small number of activist poets and critics, exerting their influence in part through the use of inter-group poetry polemics such as those that dominated the late 1990s and the following few years (p. 302). Rather than taking this argument further, however, Day simply asserts that regardless of their poetry-political affiliations, the majority of Chinese critics are in agreement as to the quality and importance of the Not-Not (Fei fei) group of poets, which he treats in the following chapter. Again, Day’s unwillingness to press the issue leaves the door tantalizingly open to more in-depth analysis of the processes of contemporary poetry canon formation (and the effects of poetry polemics on these processes) in future research.

Chapter 10 provides excellent all-round coverage of the genesis and activities of the Not-Not group and their poetry journal, from its initial theory, naming, formation, through to a close look at the poetry of its core members, and a concluding discussion regarding the links between the group’s theory and the poetry they produced. Day poses the valid question of whether critics should judge a poetry group on their (in)ability to put their words into action in writing poetry that lives up to the theoretical or philosophical aspirations expressed by that group. In the case of Not-Not, the group has been criticized for precisely this failing, and yet still deserves credit for stimulating poetical experimentation in previously neglected areas such as language, thus creating “impetus for change” (p. 346), as well as for providing a welcome home for many female avant-garde poets who had often been eschewed by other unofficial Sichuan poetry publications.

Chapter 11, “After June Fourth 1989: In the Shadow of Death,” begins by observing the silence of most avant-garde poets in response to the events in Beijing and Chengdu in June 1989 (p. 347), before proceeding to examine one notable exception: a lengthy four-part poem by Liao Yiwu entitled Slaughter (Tusha). Slaughter is a gobsmacking poem: intense, loud, laden with repetition and punctuation, horrified and horrifying, and suffused with a pervasive sense of hopelessness with regard to not just the recent tragedies in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere, but also to what he sees as the more long-term “spiritual ‘slaughter’ of Chinese civilization”–the original inspiration for the poem, which was conceived of before June Fourth had taken place (p. 349). It is of no surprise that his authorship of this poem (and a subsequent partner-piece called “Requiem”) contributed to Liao’s imprisonment from March 1990 to February 1994. Zhou Lunyou’s three-year sentence in labor-reform camp from August 1989 is less easily attributable to any one poetic work, but equally speaks to the hazards facing avant-garde poets in the late 1980s who took part in potentially subversive literary activities or composition, such as the anti-“spiritual civilization” infused works of Zhou Lunyou’s Not-Not group.

The dangers of addressing June Fourth directly in poetry, according to Day, also lie behind the widespread fascination in avant-garde poetry of 1989 and beyond with the suicide of “poet-martyr” Haizi in March 1989. Day’s reading of these poems differs from that of Michelle Yeh, who has linked the obsession with Haizi to a more general (religious) “cult of poetry” that finds precedent for his suicide in a genealogy of well-known poets like Zhu Xiang, Qu Yuan and Li Bai (p. 365). For Day, the memorializing of Haizi in avant-garde poetry that continues after June Fourth 1989 becomes “escapism, self-indulgence, and a self-willed further marginalization of avant-garde poetry in its continuing attempt to remain aloof from politics in China” (p. 366). This seems a somewhat harsh assessment, given that any other form of engagement with the theme of death in the period immediately following June Fourth would have been met with hostility from the Chinese authorities, potentially resulting in dire personal ramifications for poets (like Liao Yiwu) who dared speak with their conscience.

The final chapter deals with the other major threats facing avant-garde poetry in post-1989 China: a renewed shunning by official literary publications; the fleeing of many authors from literary activities altogether; a rise in publishing and education costs (the “economic argument” regarding the marginalization of poetry is one which, Day points out, is often overlooked [p. 387]); and, perhaps most significant, a general shift toward a consumer-driven economy and its concomitant trends of pragmatism and the commercialization of culture. However, none of these threats ultimately depleted the considerable energies or prevented the publication of a large number of unofficial journals and their associated poets in early 1990s Sichuan (including The Nineties, Against, Image Puzzle, the renewed production of Not-Not, and Modern Han Poetry). Although Zhou Lunyou for one expressed disappointment at the “absolute absence of a critical consciousness and skepticism among China’s poets,” Day’s analysis of the poetry that was written during the period in question demonstrates that avant-garde poetry, while undoubtedly experiencing a different sociopolitical climate from that of the exuberantly idealistic 1980s, was far from dead.

Aside from those already mentioned, a few other points of interest emerge in the course of these twelve chapters that are worthy of a little extra discussion. First of all, Day has valuable insights into the reasons for contemporary Chinese poetry’s marginalization within the broader domestic cultural sphere–the very feature of this literary genre that perhaps best explains why more English-language scholarly books have not been published on the subject. Early on in the book, he borrows from Bourdieu to define avant-garde poetry as

a matrix of literary activities by poets for poets within a highly restricted subfield of culture, ultimately meaning that the poets themselves (and fellow traveler-critics) are the initial legitimizing agents and, thus, the decisive arbiters of recognition and consecration (and desecration) (p. 12)

In this sense, the “avant-garde” nature of the Sichuan unofficial poetry scene is guaranteed by the objectives of its members: the texts they produce are aimed at their peers, and not for the appreciation of a wider reading public or the official literary establishment. Bearing this in mind, any marginalization experienced by practitioners of contemporary poetry is to be expected: it makes sense that they do not spend their whole time pandering to the tastes of those in power, or those who possess a less refined understanding of modern poetic art (in effect, the vast majority of the Chinese population). Can we, then, go one step further to say that the marginalization of contemporary Chinese poetry is ultimately what these poets are aiming for? This certainly seems to be the case when Day accuses poets writing in 1989 and the early 1990s of “escapism, self-indulgence and self-willed marginalization” (p. 366).

Yet at other points, Day is equally sensitive to the contradictory yet “universal” (p.15) desire of many poets to gain publication in official literary journals and thus establish a greater public profile for their work (p. 15, 115-116, 184, 263, and 426). To call this a paradox seems an easy way out: the preference for cozy love-ins with fellow poets of shared philosophies and aesthetics (in other words, perhaps, self-willed marginalization) may appear to sit uneasily with the simultaneous desire to become more famous through being published in official, nationally distributed journals, but at the same time, which artist would not want to be both admired by peers and known to the masses? Fame–or notoriety–is not something many poets would readily turn down, and it seems this basic need does not necessarily preclude an avant-garde inclination in other senses of the word.

Contemporary Chinese poetry’s hot and cold relationship with official (state-owned and state-run) literary institutions is not simply a matter of whether or not it favors poets to be featured in official publications (which has had a “potentially delegitimizing effect” [p. 15] at certain points in contemporary poetry history, with the orthodox political associations of such publications often assumed to go against the spirit of the poetic avant-garde), but also of whether the poetry written by avant-garde identified poets is suitable for publication in tightly censored and ideologically charged media such as these. As aptly illustrated by the case of Liao Yiwu and others, there are very practical reasons why many poets whose works openly touch upon the themes of politics, sex, and violence (or use crude language to depict more mundane topics) are still unable to pass the government censors. One might make the argument that poetry is simply not the place for politics, but that would be both to ignore the genre’s long history of engagement with affairs of the state, and to overlook the sensitivity of the Chinese authorities toward any expression found within poetry (partly because of this history) that might be interpreted in a political way. When it comes to the mutually-entwined issues of censorship and marginalization, perhaps we need look no further, then, than the perpetual shadow thrown by the classical poetry tradition over its modern and contemporary successors. It is this shadow that is responsible both for denying contemporary poetry a larger audience (with so many potential Chinese readers still adhering to the logic that no modern poetry could ever surpass the achievements of Tang and Song poetry), and for guaranteeing that poets will continue to be regarded by the government as a potential challenge to its authority.

The other explanation provided by Day for the “self-willed marginalization” of poets of the Second World is their adoption of avant-garde strategies from the west–the Beat poets in particular. Day makes this argument at several points in his book, but states it most clearly in Chapter 10 when he says that “Not-Not adapted western avant-garde tactics and theory to use against poets and schools of poetry in dominant or publicly recognized positions” (p. 319). While it may be indeed be true that many of these poets were familiar with the poetry and position-takings of avant-garde poetry from countries like the U.S., this is not to say that they did not also have Chinese avant-garde poetry traditions to draw upon in their search for poetic prominence and prestige. Day’s research might have benefited from one or two comparisons with the poetry activities of Republican era China, for instance, the avant-garde tendencies of which have been well documented by Michel Hockx in his Questions of Style: Literary Societies and Literary Journals in Modern China, 1911-1937. Attributing “understanding of the avant-garde ‘game'” (p.431) purely to borrowing from the west also denies a certain universal logic to avant-garde behavior in the modern age, in which it makes sense to engage in oppositional position-taking and mutual desecration in order to publicize one’s own literary accomplishments and disparage those of the competition. Of course, this is by no means to say that all “avant-garde” artists automatically desire to partake in such behavior: for some, identifying as avant-garde (or being labeled so by others) has much more to do with aesthetic or philosophical inclinations than any supposed need to engage in competition or mutual mocking with one’s peers.

Over-emphasizing the importance of adopting avant-garde principles from the west might also be seen as somewhat counterproductive to the application of Bourdieu’s theory on the sociology of literature, Day’s usage of which is outlined and justified on pp. 12-15. Day employs Bourdieu’s concept of “habitus” at several points in his book, referring to it variously as “relevant acquired habits and the skills, knowledge, and tendencies the individual agent is born with, or into, and acquires through life experience (upbringing, formal education, and so on)” (p. 13), “background” (pp. 23 and 24), and “personal circumstances” (p. 216). Bearing in mind that Bourdieu’s understanding of habitus allows for a combination of both preexisting and learned dispositions, this concept could be explored further to question the relative importance of behavioral practices learned from the west. Bourdieu’s explanation of habitus as a “feel for the game” that “excludes and bypasses any calculation”[1] arguably suggests that the patterns of challenge and innovation that Day observes are evidence more of a naturally occurring cultural logic than of direct borrowing from another culture’s literary traditions. Indeed, if we assume that Sichuan’s Second World poets learned their avant-garde strategies from the Beat poets, does this mean to say that the Beat poets learned their behavior in turn from 19th century French writers like Flaubert and Baudelaire? Part of the problem here might be due to Bourdieu’s own lack of any clear statements regarding the specificity of his theories to the country and time period that he researches, but in general there is certainly much more that can be said on the subject of avant-garde theory and practice in contemporary Chinese culture.

Finally, a few comments are worth making on the medium used to publish China’s Second World of Poetry. Day’s decision to make this book a digital text available for free downloads is to be commended. Ongoing pressures to publish in print have meant that the freedoms and innovations allowed by online publication have yet to be exploited by many scholars. The biggest advantage for the author is, no doubt, the speed with which one’s work can be made available to a conceivably unlimited readership–and, conversely, the freedom from publishing houses’ concerns about audience reach and financial viability. From a reader’s point of view, Day’s e-book comes with perks that simply cannot be found in print. If downloaded in PDF format (almost instantly, and for free!), it can be saved to whichever portable electronic device one has nearest to hand, copied infinite times, printed out and leafed through by hand, and even bound and displayed on library shelves like any other print book. The PDF version is also fully searchable, which makes looking for certain key names and words a whole lot easier than in a printed text. Reading it online unfortunately results in a loss of searchability, but does allow one to repeatedly return to the clickable hypertext list of contents, and jump in a split second to the relevant chapter or section within a chapter. A link to the table of contents can be found at the bottom of every page, further facilitating interaction with the text. Given the technical possibilities afforded by the internet, it might be nice if future versions of e-books such as this included extra functionality, such as the ability to move from text to footnote to relevant entry in the appendices and bibliography, or to create one’s own index to search for a certain word or phrase (a function available, for example, on the Google Books website). For the time being, however, Day’s e-book already possesses significant advantages over its weighty, expensive, and often hard to find print counterparts. The DACHS Leiden website also contains links to an archive of digital materials that can be seen as supplements to the book or used as separate resources: an anthology of Day’s translations of twenty mainland Chinese poets; scans from the literary magazines mentioned in the book as well as documentary photographs of the poets and the author; an introduction and PDF file listing in English the contents of the 1986 “Grand Exhibition of Modernist Poetry Groups on China’s Poetry Scene 1986” (part of the focus of Chapter 8 of Day’s book) and an extremely comprehensive (at least as of the last time it was updated) Chinese-language list of websites and forums of contemporary Chinese poetry on the internet. All of these materials warrant further exploration by interested scholars.

This has been a long review of a long book, which should be considered essential reading for anyone in the field of modern and contemporary Chinese poetry, and is highly recommended for students and scholars interested in modern literature in general or the “unofficial gray areas” of contemporary Chinese culture. At times slightly light on theoretical analysis or a broader historical perspective, Michael Day’s e-book nonetheless marks an important milestone in scholarship in this field, and points to potential avenues both for researchers in this area and for those considering alternative means of academic publishing.

Heather Inwood
The Ohio State University


[1] Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature (New York: Columbus University Press, 1993), 189.