Sinophone Adaptations of Shakespeare review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Melody Yunzi Li’s review of Sinophone Adaptations of Shakespeare: An Anthology, 1987-2007, edited by Alexa Alice Joubin. The review appears below and its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/melody-li/. My thanks to Michael Hill, our translations/translation studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Sinophone Adaptations of Shakespeare:
An Anthology, 1987-2007

Edited by Alexa Alice Joubin


Reviewed by Melody Yunzi Li

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright February, 2024)


Alexa Alice Joubin, ed., Sinophone Adaptations of Shakespeare: An Anthology, 1987-2007 New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022. Xv + 288 pp. ISBN: 978-3-030-92992-3 (hardback).

Sinophone Adaptations of Shakespeare: An Anthology, 1987–2007 is a compelling collection of English translations of seven adaptations of Shakespeare’s tragedies in several stage genres from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. These works, which span two decades, not only transcend national and cultural boundaries but also remap Shakespearean and Sinophone literature. The anthology makes an important step toward remedying a problem in both Sinophone studies and Shakespeare scholarship: the scarce availability of primary research materials on East Asian adaptations of Western classics.

A comprehensive introduction by Alexa Alice Joubin gives readers an overview of adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays in the Sinophone world. It points out the significance of this anthology—that “Sinophone Shakespeare’s rich range of interpretative possibilities have much to teach us about non-Anglophone understanding of Shakespeare and Sinophone performance practices today” (2). Each adaptation offers a unique lens to understand new aspects of timeless Shakespearean classics, including HamletMacbeth, and King Lear. The plays selected for translation were staged in multiple traditional and modern performance genres, from Chinese opera to huaju spoken drama. Continue reading

A Cultural History of Modern Chinese Literature review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Thomas Moran’s review of A Cultural History of Modern Chinese Literature, by Wu Fuhui, translated by Rui (Myra) Ma. Too long to post here in its entiretly, find a teaser below. The entire review can be read at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/moran/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

A Cultural History of Modern Chinese Literature

By Wu Fuhui
Translated by Rui (Myra) Ma


Reviewed by Tom Moran
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2024)


WU Fuhui, A Cultural History of Modern Chinese Literature. Translated by Rui [Myra] Ma) and with Introduction by David Der-wei Wang. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020. xliv + 813 pp. ISBN: 9781107069497 (hardback).

An Illustrated History of the Development of Modern Chinese Literature (插图本中国现代文学发展史), published in 2010 by Peking University Press, is the culmination of the life’s work of Wu Fuhui 吴福辉, who died January 15, 2021. The Cambridge University Press 2020 English translation by Myra Ma, titled A Cultural History of Modern Chinese Literature (hereafter, History), is the subject of this review. The 813-page translation follows the 480-page original exactly; paragraphs break in the same places in both books, and all the footnotes in the original are in the translation, as are all the illustrations. The English version adds an index, which is unfortunately incomplete, and includes Chinese characters for names and titles on first mention, albeit inconsistently. The translation is an admirable achievement, but to make full use of the English version, one needs to also have read the Chinese original, as I discuss later in a detailed look at the translation itself, which will include attention to citation issues and other matters. I start with a brief biography of the author and then offer my take on his book, which is followed by a chapter-by-chapter summary of the book’s contents. I end by explaining why Wu Fuhui says writing his history was not like playing a record album and not like knitting a sweater, but was like creating a mosaic.

Wu’s conception of “modern Chinese literature” begins in a chapter on 1870s Shanghai, entitled “Wangping Street – Fuzhou Road: The Changing Scene of Chinese Literature” and concludes with the chapter “A Chronicle of Literary Events in the Year 1948 (An Era of Transition).” Even given this approximately seventy-five year parameter, History covers so much and in so much fascinating detail that it is an essential resource for experts and advanced students of modern Chinese literature. It is easily one of the best single-volume English-language references on modern Chinese literature that we have. I anticipate consulting it regularly. The book, it should be cautioned, is for readers who know the history of twentieth-century China and who know at least something about modern Chinese literature.  For example, to fully understand chapter 20, a reader has to already know what the Beiyang government was, who Duan Qirui was, what the Northern Expedition was, what the April 12th and March 18th Incidents were, and what the Shanghai concessions were and why they offered some measure of freedom of expression. The book also assumes readers already have some familiarity with the lives and careers of the more well-known May Fourth writers. This means that the book is not for beginning students or general readers, as does the $211.00 price.

Wu Fuhui was born in 1939 in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. In 1950, Wu’s family moved to Anshan, Liaoning province and, in 1959, Wu graduated from teacher’s college, after which he taught middle school Chinese language arts for almost twenty years. In 1978, at the age of thirty-nine, Wu enrolled at Peking University, where he studied modern Chinese literature with Wang Yao 王瑶 and Yan Jiayan 严家炎, graduating with a Master’s degree in 1981. Among Wu’s classmates in the same 1978 enrolling class—the first after the end of the Cultural Revolution—were Qian Liqun 钱理群and Wen Rumin 温儒敏. In 1987, Qian, Wen, Wu, and Wang Chaobing 王超冰, daughter of Wang Yao, published Thirty Years of Modern Chinese Literature (中国现代文学三十年). The revised edition by Qian, Wen, and Wu was published in 1998. Wu’s other books include a biography of Sha Ting 沙汀 (1990), a collection of critical essays titled Smiling in Shackles (带着枷锁的笑, 1991), Shanghai School Fiction in the Urban Vortex (都市漩流中的海派小说, 1995), and a book of essays on the literatures of Beijing and Shanghai, Travels in Two Cities (游走双城, 2006). In Chen Pingyuan’s 陈平原 view, Wu’s major contribution as a scholar before History was his work on the “Shanghai School” (海派) writers.[1]  [READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW HERE]

I Have No Enemies review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Jeffrey Kinkley’s review of I Have No Enemies: The Life and Legacy of Liu Xiaobo, by Perry Link and Wu Dazhi. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/kinkley/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

I Have No Enemies:
The Life and Legacy of Liu Xiaobo

By Perry Link and Wu Dazhi


Reviewed by Jeffrey C. Kinkley

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright November, 2023)


Perry Link and Wu Dazhi, I Have No Enemies: The Life and Legacy of Liu Xiaobo New York: Columbia University Press, 2023. xiv + 553 pp. ISBN: 9780231216760 (Paperback); ISBN: 9780231206341 (Hardcover); ISBN: 9780231556446 (E-book).

I Have No Enemies: The Life and Legacy of Liu Xiaobo, makes a magisterial contribution to Chinese intellectual and political history. It is a comprehensive biography of an intrepid human rights promoter, leader, and thinker who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize during his fourth imprisonment in the People’s Republic of China, prior to his being in effect—deliberately or not—consigned to death, which arrived in 2017, during his last, eleven-year sentence. Liu Xiaobo’s 刘晓波 major opinions and the changes in them are briefly summarized, explained, and compared in the context of his life and times, speech by speech, essay by essay. One major dividend is an inside history of a major part of domestic Chinese ideological debate and political dissent in the post-Mao age, in 500 well-documented pages, so often did Liu Xiaobo’s dialogues and exploits interact with those of other freethinkers. The book also reflects on the larger social history of contemporary nonofficial protest and agitation for reform, whose content and strategies were transmuted not just by the failure of June Fourth, 1989, but also by the spread of internet communication early in the twenty-first century. Wu Dazhi and Perry Link meanwhile proffer insights into the emotional life of their main biographical subject. He was blessed with a brilliant intellect, nearly photographic memory, and the ability to deliver memorable and charismatic speeches, despite a tendency to stutter in daily life. Liu Xiaobo was both an inveterate contrarian and an eternal optimist. And yet, in his later years, he was constantly worried about causing unhappy consequences for others (already at Tiananmen in 1989, and later, in the 2008 leadup to Charter 08). He appears to have been tormented in those years by survivor guilt and what he felt was his inadequacy and irresponsibility as a family man. The biography tends to agree with him on the latter. Yet Liu Xiaobo was undaunted about what might happen to his own person, even as he incessantly questioned the logic of his own intellect and agency, and the very moral underpinnings of his personal motivation. The reader sees also the trials and tribulations of Liu’s second wife, Liu Xia 刘霞. A unique love story unfolds in chapter 20, the last chapter before the Epilogue. Continue reading

The Narrow Cage review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Roy Chan’s review of The Narrow Cage and Other Modern Fairy Tales, by Vasily Eroshenko and translated by Adam Kuplowsky. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/roy-chan-3/. My thanks to Michael Hill, our translation/translation studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

The Narrow Cage and Other Modern Fairy Tales

By Vasily Eroshenko
Translated by Adam Kuplowsky


Reviewed by Roy Chan
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright October, 2023)


Vasily Eroshenko. The Narrow Cage and Other Modern Fairy Tales Tr. Adam Kuplowsky. Forward by Jack Zipes. New York: Columbia University Press, 2023. xlvii + 252 pp. Paperback ($24.99). ISBN-13 9780231557085

It might seem an odd proposition to suggest that solutions to the predicaments of colonial domination, racial injustice, capitalist exploitation, and in general all the myriad forms of human inequity may be found in a set of fairy tales. But this was exactly the ambitious project of Vasily Eroshenko (1890–1952), a writer who became, however briefly, a prominent figure in modern Japanese, Chinese, and world letters. He encapsulated a set of intriguing antinomies: blinded at the age of four, he went on to become an intrepid world traveler, leading a peripatetic life through England, India, Japan, and China. A subject of the Russian empire who was born within a Ukrainian cultural milieu near the border of present-day Ukraine, he primarily composed his stories in Japanese and Esperanto. While committed to the values of a universal humanism, he demonstrated time and again that humans were also the primary architects of unfreedom across race, class, gender, and species. His children’s fables are records of both innocence and cruelty, sketches of the possibility of universal love suffused with tearful melancholia.

That Eroshenko featured most prominently in Japanese and Chinese modern letters rather than that of his homeland (however it is defined between Russia, Ukraine, and the former Soviet Union) should serve as a reminder to how pivotal and productive these transnational engagements were in the intertwined development of both national literatures. As translator Adam Kuplowsky notes in his comprehensive and compelling introduction, it is difficult to ascertain the exact process by which Eroshenko composed his stories, and even to pinpoint in which language his stories were originally composed. Eroshenko existed for the Chinese reading public in translation (performed primarily by his champion Lu Xun), and yet the conventional model of translation in proposing a relation between source and target becomes blurry. Eroshenko’s patently exophonous approach to literary composition epitomizes the very project of universalist, international emancipation that he was deeply committed to; in our post-Cold War aversion to grand narratives of emancipation, universality, and humanism, Eroshenko’s wistful and even utterly utopian aspirations may sound odd to our cynical ears. Even childish. Continue reading

Hospital review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Mingwei Song’s review of Hospital, by Han Song, translated by Michael Berry. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/mingwei-song/. My thanks to Michael Hill, our translations/translation studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Hospital

By Han Song

Translated by Michael Berry


Reviewed by Mingwei Song

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2023)


Han Song, Hospital Tr. Michael Berry. Seattle, WA: Amazon Crossing, 2023. 413 pp. ISBN: 978-1542039468 (paper).

Han Song 韩松 (b. 1965) is one of the most prolific Chinese science fiction (SF) writers. Only a portion of his writings has seen publication, but this already includes about one hundred short stories and eight major novels: Mars over America 火星照耀美国 (2000), Red Ocean 红色海洋 (2004), Subway 地铁 (2010), High-Speed Rail 高铁 (2012), Tracks 轨道 (2013), Hospital 医院 (2016), Exorcism 驱魔 (2017), and Dead Souls 亡灵 (2018). Han Song is also a poet, a journalist, a chronicler of everyday events, and a writer of all sorts of social commentaries, ranging from editorials to blogs and micro-blogs. It is almost impossible to read all that Han Song has published, and he has many manuscripts that remain unpublished.

A disciple of Lu Xun 魯迅 (1881-1936), whose short story “A Madman’s Diary” 狂人日記 (1918) opened readers’ eyes to the invisible evils of society and led them to seek deeper truths that lurk beneath the surface, Han Song, a senior journalist for China’s Xinhua News Agency, knows too well that what is invisible matters even more than the visible in the broad daylight of present-day China. Like Lu Xun, he is drawn to the power of darkness, and Lu Xun-esque phantoms and paradoxical metaphors permeate Han Song’s chthonic literary visions. Han Song has suggested that “China’s reality has now become more science fictional than science fiction.”[1] If China’s formidable and forbidden, amorphous and alienated, uncertain and unpredictable reality is difficult or impossible to describe with traditional literary discourse based on the principle of mimesis, it comes into light in speculative fictional storytelling. Because of writers like Han Song, SF—this marginalized, insignificant genre—has achieved a meaningful status as a unique literary form to represent those unsettling, abstruse, clandestine images coming from the terra incognita bordering China’s proper “reality” and outside its ordinary literary landscape. Continue reading

Kingdom of Characters review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Gina Anne Tam’s review of Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern, by Jing Tsu. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/gina-tam/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Kingdom of Characters:
The Language Revolution That Made China Modern

By Jing Tsu


Reviewed by Gina Anne Tam

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2023)


Jing Tsu, Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution that Made China Modern New York: Riverhead Books, 2022. xix + 314 pp. ISBN: 9780735214736​ (Paperback); 9780735214729 (Hardcover); 9780735214743​ (E-book)

Jing Tsu believes that Americans do not understand China well. With an eye on deteriorating US-China relations in the past several years, the prolific literary scholar has repeatedly made public her concern about the information gap between China and the West, a reality she sees as increasingly dangerous. Scholars who have deep, lived experience in China, she contends, have an increasingly important responsibility. She states that the “days of armchair scholarship are over,” instead imploring fellow specialists to do all we can to help readers understand China on its own terms—as a place that is textured and complicated, not a two-dimensional caricature of a dangerous and threatening hegemon.[1]

It was to further this goal that Tsu wrote Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern, a work that has topped best-seller lists and gained widespread attention by mainstream audiences around the world. The book is a history of Chinese language modernization as told through several compelling biographies placed vividly into the context of the tumultuous history of China’s twentieth century. It is meant, Tsu purports, to help bridge the understanding gap between the average American and citizens of China. Language, she believes, is a vector through which we can understand China today—from the state processes that control and shape culture, to the economics of technological advancement, to ideas about foreignness, nativity, and power. Continue reading

States of Disconnect review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Wenjin Cui’s review of States of Disconnect: The China-India Literary Relation in the Twentieth Century, by Adhira Mangalagiri. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/wenjin-cui/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

States of Disconnect: The China-India
Literary Relation in the Twentieth Century

By Adhira Mangalagiri


Reviewed by Wenjin Cui

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2023)


Adhira Mangalagiri, States of Disconnect: The China-India Literary Relation in the Twentieth Century New York: Columbia University Press, 2023. vii + 286 pp. Index. ISBN: 9780231205696​ (Paperback); 9780231205689 (Hardcover);  9780231556118​  (E-book).

This book sets an ambitious task to “rethink the transnational” through the conceptualization of what it calls “states of disconnect.” While its specific focus is on “the China-India literary relation in the twentieth century,” States of Disconnect aims at no less than reshaping the paradigm of comparison and supplying a critical vocabulary for a new ethics of transnational relation.

According to Mangalagiri, “states of disconnect”­—the key term of the book, the usage of which is directly informed by Judith Butler’s “contemplation on the meanings of ‘states’” (218)—not only refers in a literal sense to nation-states in disconnect, but also “describes the conditions of transnationalism in crisis a particular text inhabits and indexes” (21) and, most critically, designates “hermeneutic strategies for contending with disconnect and finding in the seeming ends of transnationalism—amid declining globalized hyperconnectivity and rising national parochialism—an ethics of literary relation” (30). Specifically, the book conceptualizes three such states: friction, ellipsis, and contingency. In addition to a brief explication given in the introduction, it provides detailed discussions in five chapters of case studies as well as a theoretical elaboration in the conclusion. Continue reading

A Certain Justice review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Paul Katz’s review of A Certain Justice: Toward an Ecology of the Chinese Legal Imagination, by Haiyan Lee. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/paul-katz/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

A Certain Justice:
Toward An Ecology of the Chinese Legal Imagination

By Haiyan Lee


Reviewed by Paul Katz

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2023)


Haiyan Lee. A Certain Justice: Toward An Ecology of the Chinese Legal Imagination Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2023, xii + 352 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0-226-82524-3 (cloth) / ISBN-13: 978-0-226-82525-0 (paper) / ISBN-13: 978-0-226-82526-7 (e-book).

A Certain JusticeToward An Ecology of the Chinese Legal Imagination represents a pioneering achievement in our understanding of Chinese legal culture as well as its significance in the context of judicial systems worldwide. Haiyan Lee has amassed and boldly explored an astonishing array of literature, ranging from the writings of Lu Xun 魯迅 (1881-1936) and Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) to the Cultural Revolution “model opera” (樣板戲) The White-Haired Girl (白毛女) and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.

The main goal of the study is to present an overview of how Chinese forms of justice have been conceptualized and practiced from the dynastic era to the present day. Lee endeavors to achieve this goal by exploring texts that have largely been overlooked yet possess the potential to address significant philosophical questions concerning truth, freedom, humanity, etc., particularly literary works that shed light on justice’s place in the complex realities of human life. The author’s views have been profoundly molded by a comparative perspective resulting from her experiences as an immigrant academic as well as from he “enduring fascination” with American legal culture (ix).

The theoretical framework applied in A Certain Justice features a “tension-filled triune” formed by justice, law, and morality (2). A second triune involves the Chinese ideas of qing 情 (human feelings), fa 法 (the law of the land), and li 理 (cosmic order), which Lee posits as being roughly equivalent with customary, bureaucratic, and divine forms of law (4-5). However, the heart of her analysis lies in the concepts of “high” and “low” justice as organizing principles “to make sense of the political-legal culture of a nonliberal society” (in this case China; 7-8), with the former highlighting the “legitimacy and moral supremacy of the ruler” (achieved via penal law) and the latter “fair treatment” of individuals (during civil law procedures; social justice). One of the author’s main arguments stresses the “subsumption of low justice under high justice,” with high justice consisting of actions rulers deem to be justified. Moreover, in order to ensure the attainment of high justice, low justice may on occasion be curtailed, made partial, or otherwise modified (5, 21, 27). Continue reading

Siting Postcoloniality review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Kyle Shernuk’s review of Siting Postcoloniality: Critical Perspectives from the East Asian Sinosphere, edited by Pheng Cheah and Caroline S. Hau. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/shernuk-2/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, MCLC

Siting Postcoloniality:
Critical Perspectives from the East Asian Sinosphere

Edited by Pheng Cheah and Caroline S. Hau


Reviewed by Kyle Shernuk

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2023)


Pheng Cheah and Caroline S. Hao, eds., Siting Postcoloniality: Critical Perspectives from the East Asian Sinosphere Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2022, xii + 331 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4780-1668-7 (cloth) / ISBN: 978-1-4780-1931-2 (paper) / eISBN: 978-1-4780-2395-1 (e-book).

Siting Postcoloniality: Critical Perspectives from the East Asian Sinosphere is an engaging volume that successfully expands our understanding of Postcolonial and East Asian studies, as well as these two fields’ many points of intersection. In his “Introduction,” Pheng Cheah traces the history of postcolonialism as a field and demonstrates how the histories of dynastic China, Republican China, and the People’s Republic of China are largely incompatible with existing models. In the East Asian context, Cheah identifies how individuals often changed subject positions over time, with the colonized becoming the colonizer or perhaps occupying both roles at once. He rightly argues that this reality challenges “two fundament axioms of postcolonial studies: the correlation of West and non-West with the opposition of colonizer and colonized and the power of colonial discourse as an ideology and technology of subjectification” (8). After rehearsing twentieth-century Chinese history and identifying the “semantic flexibility and referential elasticity” of the terms “Chinese” and “colonialism” (13), he articulates the volume’s two additional theoretical contributions. First, the volume exposes how the “mechanical application of Orientalist discourse analysis exaggerates the continuing hold of Western colonialism over the present”; second, it demonstrates that the “PRC’s position as a global hegemon is arguably secured at the infrastructural and ideological levels by networks and cultural resources that predate Western colonialism” (19). Importantly, this volume situates East Asia within prevailing debates of postcoloniality that simultaneously links it to postcolonial studies in other regions of the world. Continue reading

Made in Censorship review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Jeremy Brown’s review of Made in Censorship: The Tiananmen Movement in Chinese Literature and Film, by Thomas Chen. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/jeremy-brown/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Made in Censorship: The Tiananmen
Movement in Chinese Literature and Film

By Thomas Chen


Reviewed by Jeremy Brown

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2023)


Thomas Chen, Made in Censorship: The Tiananmen Movement in Chinese Literature and Film New York: Columbia University Press, 2022, xii + 248 pp. ISBN: 9780231204019 (Paperback). ISBN: 9780231204002 (Hardcover).

Censorship and restricted research access can spark creativity and open up new paths, as Thomas Chen’s Made in Censorship shows. I first experienced this myself during the 2000s, when I went to the flea market in search of documents after archive staff denied me access to what I wanted to read. That denial of access shaped my project in fruitful and beneficial ways. And when I encountered state-enforced amnesia about June Fourth, I was so bothered by the lies and erasures that I chose to write a book about the topic. So did Thomas Chen. Like so many other artistic and scholarly projects related to China, our works were sparked by censorship and, as Chen argues, made in censorship.

Chinese censorship literally shaped Made in Censorship. Chen received Chinese government funding that contributed to the publication of his thought-provoking book. Think about that.  The Chinese party-state funded a project that resulted in a book with the words “Tiananmen Movement” in the title, although Chen wisely framed his project in safe and innocuous terms while researching in China. Chen also participated in what he calls a “collaborative” and “collegial” (133) process of censoring a Chinese translation of one of his articles, a revised version of which appears in this book, revealing what censors excised. These backstories, which Chen recounts with thoughtful reflexivity, enliven and enrich the book. They support Chen’s point that cinematic, literary, and scholarly output about June Fourth is not only possible, but has been occurring continuously in China since 1989. Continue reading

Taiwanese Literature as World Literature review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Lingchei Letty Chen’s review of Taiwanese Literature as World Literature, edited by Pei-yin Lin and Wen-chi Li. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/letty-chen/. Normally, our literary studies book review editor, Nicholas Kaldis, would oversee publication of this review, but since he has a chapter in the book, I filled in for him. Enjoy.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Taiwanese Literature as World Literature

Edited by Pei-yin Lin and Wen-chi Li


Reviewed by Lingchei Letty Chen

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2023)


Pei-yin Lin and Wen-chi Li, eds. Taiwanese Literature as World Literature London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2022. 232pp. ISBN 9781501381355 (cloth).

The consequences of WWII and the subsequent Cold War exacerbated Taiwan’s long-held peripheral position in the international community. Taiwanese literature, as a result, has stood on the margin of Chinese literature. But that was last century. Now in the twenty-first century, Taiwan has moved into a more prominent position in global geopolitical and economic conflicts, particularly between the US and China, and Taiwanese literature has gained higher visibility through international circulation. In the past few years, we have seen more and more conferences, symposiums, and workshops featuring Taiwan and Taiwanese literature. Thanks also to the controversial notion of Sinophone, which has generated a great number of productive discussions and debates in the last decade or so, Taiwanese literature has attracted unprecedented attention from scholars around the world. With publications such as The Making of Chinese-Sinophone Literatures as World Literature (Hong Kong UP, 2022) and Taiwanese Literature as World Literature, which is under review here, it is not difficult to foresee how “Sinophone,” “world literature,” and “Taiwanese literature” will continue to be entwined in more scholarly work to come.

The edited volume, Taiwanese Literature as World Literature, is published by Bloomsbury Academic under the series Literatures as World Literature. It is not often that we see an Asian/East Asian scholarly work published by Bloomsbury Academic, a niche academic publisher known primarily for its imprints in British and European studies; The Arden Shakespeare and Methuen Drama, for example, are two of its prestigious imprints. A quick browse of its website and we find it has an “Asia Studies” umbrella category. Searching more closely its sub-categories, under East Asia Studies one finds only six titles; but fifty-one results under China studies; and twelve results under Asian Literature. The Literatures as World Literature series has twenty-eight titles, among which Taiwanese Literature as World Literature and Pacific Literatures as World Literature are Asia/East Asia related. Apparently for a niche academic publisher such as Bloomsbury Academic to expand beyond its traditional coverage, tapping into Asian studies and world literature studies is a smart route to go. For Taiwanese literature to have its distinct title in this series is certainly a laudable effort by the two editors, Pei-yin Lin and Wen-chi Li. Continue reading

Chinese Film: Realism and Convention review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Victor Fan’s review of Chinese Film: Realism and Convention from the Silent Era to the Digital Age, by Jason McGrath. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/victor-fan/. Given the obvious conflict of interest, I filled in for Jason McGrath, who would normally oversee publication of our media studies reviews. Enjoy.

Best,

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Chinese Film: Realism and Convention
from the Silent Era to the Digital Age

By Jason McGrath


Reviewed by Victor Fan

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2023)


Jason McGrath, Chinese Film: Realism and Convention from the Silent Era to the Digital Age Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2022, 404 pages. ISBN 978-1-5179-1403-5 (paper); ISBN 978-1-5179-1402-8 (cloth).

Chinese Film: Realism and Convention from the Silent Era to the Digital Age is one of the most ambitious, thought-provoking, and groundbreaking works on the subject to date. Besides being an inspiring piece of research, the book also provides a solid method of critical analysis that is highly accessible to university students of all levels, without compromising the complexity and nuances of its discussion.

Although titled Chinese Film, the book addresses an intersection between three concerns that go beyond the study of Chinese cinema: (1) What is realism and how is it related to the question of cinematographic reality? (2) Can we rehistoricize Chinese cinema based on how the cinematic works of each historical period negotiate their specific sociopolitical conditions and aesthetic values through modes of realism? (3) With our current knowledge of Chinese film theory and criticism, how do we fully incorporate them into the larger discourses of film studies in order to develop a method of analysis that can address Chinese cinema’s cultural and sociopolitical specificities and its situatedness in global cinemas?

McGrath explicitly addresses the first two concerns. The third concern, however, may not be entirely visible to most readers but is in fact McGrath’s effort to address the current debate on Asia as method: how one relates bodies of knowledge generated in Asia to Euro-American knowledge under the pressures of colonialism and imperialism, and how one uses such knowledge not as a universalizing theory, but as a method that can address the intricate relationship between the universal and the particular.[1] In my opinion, this is the most trailblazing contribution of this book, and I daresay that the method McGrath proposes is the method employed in the book itself. Continue reading

Liang Hong’s ‘The Sacred Clan’

Source: The China Project (6/30/23)
‘The Sacred Clan’: Liang Hong turns to fiction to explore rural China
Realism and the supernatural mix in Liang Hong’s “The Sacred Clan,” a collection of short stories that continues the author’s lifelong work of capturing rural China.
By Jonathan Chatwin

Illustration for The China Project by Derek Zheng

“Without some exposure to the Chinese countryside, nobody should say that they really understand China,” the translator Esther Tyldesley observes when asked about the significance of the work of writer Liáng Hóng 梁鸿.

Over the last 13 years, Liang has established herself as the pre-eminent chronicler of contemporary Chinese rural life. Her 2010 book, published in English as China in One Village, sold hundreds of thousands of copies in China and garnered a medley of literary prizes. It recounted Liang’s experiences as she returned from Beijing to her childhood village in landlocked and traditionally agricultural Henan Province; it was a bleak portrayal of an already traumatized countryside that was now suffering the indignity of being forgotten in China’s pursuit of urban-oriented development. “We have forgotten what a scholar once said,” she wrote in that book. “‘Modernization is a classic tragedy. For every benefit it brings, it asks the people to pay with all they hold of value.’”

Liang continued to write about her home village in two subsequent nonfiction books, to similar acclaim, but the professor of Chinese literature at Renmin University in Beijing has more recently turned to fiction to tell the story of rural China, publishing the novels The Light of Liang Guangzheng (2017) and Four Forms (2021). This summer, a translation of her collection of short stories, The Sacred Clan, is to be published, a book which, as Tyldesley says, “displays life in the rural areas of her province in all its messy, unvarnished, fascinating complexity.” (Tyldesley won a PEN Translates award for her translation of The Sacred Clan.) Continue reading

Dear Chrysanthemums review

Source: Mekong Review 8, 31 (May-July 2023)
No Fragile Flowers, These
By Christina Cook

Dear Chrysanthemums: A Novel in Stories (Scribner: 2023), by Fiona Sze-Lorrain

Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s novel Dear Chrysanthemums offers a provocative look at the defining events of the past half-century of Chinese history. The interconnected stories follow several female Chinese characters whose travails intersect during the Cultural Revolution or the Tiananmen Square massacre through to contemporary diasporic life in America and France. Sze-Lorrain empowers each of these characters to tell her own story, even if she doesn’t yet have the knowledge required to see its connection to the broader context. Each consecutive narration reveals more about a complex web of truths, both known and secret; of secrets both personal and national.

As a Singaporean-born French woman who has lived and studied in New York and Paris, Sze-Lorrain knows this complex web well. As a writer, poet, translator and editor, she has spent decades gathering people’s perspectives on modern Chinese history. Dear Chrysanthemums resonates with a rich and efficient prosody. The narrative structure is creative, with each story placing an increasingly complete puzzle on top of the last. In this way, the novel’s form follows its function, for fragmentation is a theme that lies at its very core. As the modus operandi of the Chinese state, fragmentation is the force that sets the events of the novel in motion; the force against which female protagonists fight to stay connected to a truth that aligns with their ethics and experiences. Continue reading

‘Beijing Sprawl’ review

Source: The China Project (6/23/23)
Jogging everywhere and nowhere: Xu Zechen’s ‘Beijing Sprawl’
In this collection of nine interconnected short stories, characters are constantly moving without really going anywhere.
By William McCormack

Illustration for The China Project by Derek Zheng

Cliché is generally considered toxic in writing, but Beijing Sprawl, a newly translated collection of connected stories, embraces it. Author Xú Zéchén 徐则臣 packs an entire book with storylines that echo, and although each piece has its own tragic, unexpected twist, they follow a similar structure as Xu features fragments of young migrants’ lives on the periphery of Beijing. It seems the resemblance is exactly Xu’s intention: For a book about urban migrants hoping to eclipse the tired rhythms of their own daily lives, the repetition comes across as a literary choice.

The connected stories unfold with a looping circularity that made me feel disoriented and déjà vu at the same time. The same images keep appearing: roasted yams, donkey meat, birds flying overhead. The book’s nine stories riff off one another, and their repetitive form gets at the frustrating contradiction inherent in Xu’s characters’ lives: one of constant motion and social immobility.

Muyu, an anxious 17-year-old who dropped out of high school and jogs incessantly to stave off his “weak nerves,” narrates each story. He has moved to Beijing to help an uncle post advertisements for his fake-ID business and pursue a vague but grand vision of something bigger. Muyu lives in tight quarters with roommates from his same village in Zhejiang Province who have only finished middle school, Xingjian and Miluo. Big talkers (and time wasters), the bro-y duo have also landed in Beijing wanting something more — they just don’t know exactly what. The three are joined by a rotating cast of other Beijing transplants, including a pigeon herder, a subway busker, and other young migrants, whom they recruit to defray the cost of their rented room on the very western outskirts of Beijing. Many are in and out as they make ends meet in the informal economy. Continue reading