China in the World review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Julia Keblinska’s review of China in the World: Culture, Politics, and World Vision, by Ban Wang. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/keblinska/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

China in the World:
Culture, Politics, and World Vision

By Ban Wang


Reviewed by Julia Keblinska

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2022)


Ban Wang, China in the World: Culture, Politics, and World Vision. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2022, xi + 215 pp. ISBN: 9781478010845 (paper).

Ban Wang’s China in the World: Culture, Politics, and World Vision examines how the nation of China was imagined in political discourse and cultural practice vis à vis “a broad spectrum of international outlooks”—that is, conceptions of “the world”—throughout the twentieth century (7). More than a mere history of such worldly outlooks, be they late Qing reformulations of Confucian social concepts of tiānxià 天下  and dàtóng 大同 (“all under heaven” and “great unity,” respectively) or later iterations of socialist internationalism, Wang offers a serious and urgent critique of Chinese Studies and a call to political awareness at a moment when Cold War logics threaten to flatten the nuance and complexity of our field. In accomplishing this task, China in the World is an elegantly efficient volume. Coming in under 200 pages, the text is comprised of an introduction and eight chapters, the initial six of which are devoted to focused historical case studies of literary and cinematic works, while the final two are more polemical, urging an interrogation of the state of the Chinese Studies classroom and articulating the imperative to critically “use the past to understand the present” (170). Continue reading

The Making of Chinese-Sinophone Literatures as World Literature review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Dylan Suher’s review of The Making of Chinese-Sinophone Literatures as World Literature, edited by Kuei-fen Chiu and Yingjin Zhang. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/suher/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

The Making of Chinese-Sinophone
Literatures as World Literature

Edited by Kuei-fen Chiu and Yingjin Zhang


Reviewed by Dylan Suher

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2022)


Kuei-fen Chiu and Yingjin Zhang, eds., The Making of Chinese-Sinophone Literatures as World Literature. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2022. xi + 249 pp. ISBN 9789888528721.

Listing just a few of the texts analyzed in the 11 chapters of Kuei-fen Chiu and Yingjin Zhang’s The Making of Chinese-Sinophone Literatures as World Literature is a good demonstration of this edited volume’s ambition:

  • A translation by Mao Dun 茅盾 of the Nicaraguan writer Rubén Dario’s story “El velo de la reina Mab” (The veil of Queen Mab);
  • a Taiwanese picturebook about a half-crocodile, half-duck creature’s identity crisis;
  • translations of pseudo-haiku by the poet Chen Li 陳黎 into subway posters, “poetry walls,” and dance pieces.

The editors and nine other contributors to this volume show an admirable lack of complacency in exploring the intersection between Chinese-Sinophone literatures and world literature. But despite the thoughtfulness of the essays collected here, I nevertheless retain some doubts about the volume’s overall framework.

Kuei-fen Chiu and Yingjin Zhang’s introduction, “Chinese-Sinophone Literatures as World Literature” is dedicated to explaining the somewhat unwieldy conceptual contraption of the title. At its core is “world literature”; Chiu and Zhang favor David Damrosch’s definition of world literature as encompassing works that are “actively present within a literary system beyond that of its original culture”[1] while acknowledging that even this effort to open up the category does not do away with the structures of publishing, scholarship, and prestige that favor a Eurocentric canon. Chiu and Zhang use the term “Chinese-Sinophone Literatures” as a way to “distance our position from a preoccupation with ‘China/center/major vs. non-China/periphery/minor debates” (8), charting a course between lumping all literature written in Chinese together and a Sinophone framework that excludes mainland literature and non-Chinese-speaking readers. Chinese-Sinophone literatures, the editors posit, are actively made into world literature as “the work travels beyond national boundaries and gains a new life in world literary space” (11, original emphasis). Chiu and Zhang emphasize a world literature defined not only by texts, but also by the translators and publishers who bring those texts across borders, by the genres used to package those texts for new audiences, and by the technologies and media used to disseminate these texts globally. Continue reading

The Suicide of Miss Xi review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Joan Judge’s review of The Suicide of Miss Xi: Democracy and Disenchantment in the Chinese Republic, by Bryna Goodman. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/joan-judge/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

The Suicide of Miss Xi:
Democracy and Disenchantment in the Chinese Republic

By Bryna Goodman


Reviewed by Joan Judge

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2022)


Bryna Goodman, The Suicide of Miss Xi: Democracy and Disenchantment in the Chinese Republic. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2021, 339 pages. ISBN: 9780674248823 (Hardcover)

The Suicide of Miss Xi: Democracy and Disenchantment in the Chinese Republic is a deeply researched thick description of a dramatic suicide that took place on September 8, 1922, a pivotal moment in the unfolding of China’s troubled Republic. Goodman extracts three key facets of the incident that have ramifications for a fuller understanding of the period: gender and the ambiguous status of the New Woman; the stock exchange and the fragility of both economic structures and economic understanding; and the law as manipulable force rather than final arbiter. The story is layered, the key protagonists flawed, and the outcome neither clear nor satisfactory. Miss Xi’s suicide thus stands in for the complexity and unsettledness of the period.

The book “illuminates a moment, after the fall of empire and before the rise of central party rule, when urban Chinese improvised practices of liberal democracy in public life” (24). The moment coincides with the May Fourth period with its forceful narratives of newness and its invocations of the power of Mr. Science and Mr. Democracy. The suicide of Miss Xi highlights how removed those narratives were from the messy contradictions of what Goodman labels the “vernacular” realm. She probes reactions to the suicide in the periodical press and in associational life (native-place associations, chambers of commerce, trade associations [a.k.a., “guilds”], the Jingwu Athletic Association, etc.) for evidence of democratic forces that struggled to assert themselves despite the lack of state scaffolding to support them. Her rich primary source base includes newspapers; associational, professional and women’s journals; and police, commercial, native place, diplomatic, private, and court archives. Through scrutinizing of these materials, she uncovers what she describes as an active “public without a Republic.” Continue reading

Feminisms with Chinese Characteristics review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Lina Qu’s review of Feminisms with Chinese Characteristics, edited by Ping Zhu and Hui Faye Xiao. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/lina-qu/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Feminisms with Chinese Characteristics

Edited by Ping Zhu and Hui Faye Xiao


Reviewed by Lina Qu

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2022)


Ping Zhu and Hui Faye Xiao, eds. Feminisms with Chinese Characteristics. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2021. xii + 380 pp.
ISBN: 9780815637257 (Paper); 9780815637394 (Hardcover); 9780815655268 (eBook).

Feminisms with Chinese Characteristics, an edited volume by Ping Zhu and Hui Faye Xiao, was published in 2021 by Syracuse University Press in the book series “Gender and Globalization.” In addition to its theoretical interventions, the volume’s originality stems from the way its editing philosophy and content reflect the same feminist politics. The volume is comprised of ten research essays and two interviews; among these, five are translations from Chinese and seven were written in English; half were published previously (between 2001 and 2017) and the other half are newly written. These twelve entries are interconnected through common themes such as the intersection of class and gender, socialist women’s liberation, Chinese feminists’ internal negotiation with the state, and the pivotal role of NGOs on China’s feminist landscape. As a result of Zhu and Xiao’s admirable efforts in selecting, translating, and editing, this polyglossic volume assembles diversified voices (in terms of time, space, language, and identity) of scholars and cultural icons from within and outside China, forming a dialogue that bridges Chinese and English academia. Continue reading

Mo Yan Speaks review

Source: LA Review of Books (5/31/22)
Uncle Tall Tale: On “Mo Yan Speaks: Lectures and Speeches by the Nobel Laureate from China”
By Astrid Møller-Olsen

Mo Yan Speaks: Lectures and Speeches by the Nobel Laureate from China

ALTHOUGH MO YAN’S claim to fame is undoubtedly as the Nobel laureate from China, the 23 public lectures gathered in Mo Yan Speaks present a truly “glocal” writer who has one literary foot firmly planted in the soil of his native Gaomi Township and the other tiptoeing into the arena of world literature. They show an author performing a balancing act between his international elite status and the local storytelling tradition present in his work.

Mo Yan (whose real name is Guan Moye) repeatedly draws on both these strands when presenting his literary persona. His public lectures combine anecdotes from his rural childhood with musings on literary style and namedropping of famous writers (who, with the notable exception of Wang Anyi, are all men). It is this duality of humble storyteller and Nobel laureate that defines the Mo Yan phenomenon, and it is his playful creation and shaping of this persona that make the speeches in this volume so entertaining.

In Mo Yan’s own words, the path of a writer includes straddling the spheres of knowledge and imagination: “I think a writer’s education can more or less be split up into two parts. The first takes place prior to becoming a writer, a kind of involuntary, impractical, meandering learning.” In Mo Yan’s case, the initial phase entailed listening to market storytellers, local opera troupes, and “pow-boys” (child raconteurs) with a passion for telling tall tales. The second part of Mo Yan’s literary education was spent in the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Art Academy, “at which point reading and writing fiction became my day job.” Continue reading

In Hong Kong, the search for a single identity

Source: NYT (5/18/22)
In Hong Kong, the Search for a Single Identity
To explain the city’s fraught present, two books look to its past.
By Amy Qin

Credit…Samantha Sin/AFP via Getty Images


INDELIBLE CITY: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong, by Louisa Lim
THE IMPOSSIBLE CITY: A Hong Kong Memoir, by Karen Cheung

The first Hong Kongers, so the myth goes, were rebels. In the fifth century a Chinese official named Lu Xun incited a rebellion against the Jin dynasty. He lost, and fled with his army to Lantau, one of Hong Kong’s islands, where they lived in caves and ate so much raw fish that, according to one popular version of the legend, they grew fish heads. Indigenous Hong Kongers, the so-called Lo Ting, are said to be these insurrectionist mermen.

In recent years, the Lo Ting have inspired television shows, artworks and plays in Hong Kong. To those who perpetuated the myth, it didn’t matter that the tale was utterly fantastical. What mattered was that the story was created by and for Hong Kongers. It was an alternative to the dominant narratives told about the city by the British and the Chinese. It was an effort by Hong Kongers to reclaim their own history.

Two new books advance that effort by centering the voices and perspectives of Hong Kongers. Louisa Lim’s “Indelible City” dismantles the received wisdom about Hong Kong’s history and replaces it with an engaging, exhaustively researched account of its long struggle for sovereignty. And in her pulsing debut memoir, “The Impossible City,” Karen Cheung writes eloquently about what it means to find your place in a city as it vanishes before your eyes. Each book sheds a different light on how longstanding forces converged to foment the sustained outpouring of anger and frustration that in 2019 shook Hong Kong to its core. Continue reading

Subjectivity and Realism in Modern Chinese Fiction review (3)

This is my short reply to Yunzhong Shu’s inquiry: I studied both Hu Feng and Lu Ling at that time. It’s not necessary to tell the whole process of how and when I sought its publication, save for the fact that it followed the academic standard and  integrity.  I only want to say that during that process, I find some reviews positive and very helpful, while some others just carelessly brushing my work aside without trying to understand how it organizes its arguments and its major points. Again, I hope to read more substantial and responsible reviews in the future.

Best Regards,

Xiaoping Wang

Subjectivity and Realism in Modern Chinese Fiction review (2)

As I read Subjectivity and Realism in Modern Chinese Fiction: Hu Feng and Lu Ling, I had the impression that the writing, reviewing and production of the book were all done in haste. Professor Wang claims his monograph was completed more than ten years ago as a byproduct of his dissertation, which contains a 44-page chapter on Lu Ling but nothing on Hu Feng. I am curious to know when Professor Wang submitted his manuscript to Lexington Books for review and what kind of review and production processes the manuscript had gone through before publication.

Yunzhong Shu <yunzhong.shu@qc.cuny.edu>

Subjectivity and Realism in Modern Chinese Fiction review (1)

Dear Colleagues,

I read Prof. Yunzhong Shu’s review of my monograph, and I would like to thank him for offering the review and I welcome the critique. I would like to provide some feedback.

Firstly, I admit that there are some grammatical errors in my book. The monograph was completed more than ten years ago as a byproduct of my dissertation. And when I revised it, I updated some messages based on some new publications of the same subject in the English world in recent years. Before the formal publication, Lexington Press told me that it would offer professional proofreading service. However, when I received the first version of the proof, I found many problems there and personally made more than 3000 changes by myself. I contacted the assistant editor complaining the ill service of the press’ proofreader, and suggested that either the press’ proofreader goes through the whole text once more, or I could hire a professional proofreader by myself, yet the assistant declined my suggestion and ensured me that the project manager and the team are “very capable and have worked hard to ensure your book went to the press in great shape.” As a non-native speaker, I chose to trust in the professional service of the press. This, to be sure, does not mean that I do not admit my fault of not insisting on more proofreading work by myself.

Secondly, even though the book is not an immaculate work, I do not think the grammatical issues would hinder the comprehension of my arguments for those readers responsible. Otherwise, the major part of the first and the second chapter would not have passed the peer review and was published in the English journal Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory in the year of 2012. Continue reading

Subjectivity and Realism in Modern Chinese Fiction review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Yunzhong Shu’s review of Subjectivity and Realism in Modern Chinese Fiction: Hu Feng and Lu Ling, by Xiaoping Wang. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/yunzhong-shu/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, MCLC

Subjectivity and Realism in Modern Chinese Fiction:
Hu Feng and Lu Ling

By Xiaoping Wang


Reviewed by Yunzhong Shu

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright May, 2022)


Xiaoping Wang, Subjectivity and Realism in Modern Chinese Fiction: Hu Feng and Lu Ling. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2022. xxxii + 201 pp. ISBN 978-1-4985-6619-3 (cloth); ISBN 978-1-4985-6620-9 (ebook).

Subjectivity and Realism in Modern Chinese Fiction: Hu Feng and Lu Ling consists of an introduction, nine chapters, and a conclusion. In the introduction, the author provides a brief survey of the leftist literary world in China during the War of Resistance, a summary of scholarly works on Hu Feng 胡风 and Lu Ling 路翎 published in English, and a section on his methodology and the structure of his book. Chapter 1, titled “Cultural Capital, Hegemony and the Zeitgeist,”  discusses Hu Feng’s wartime struggle for cultural leadership as a spokesperson for realism and his views on subjectivity. Chapter 2, “Intellectuals’ Politics and a Bourgeois Subjectivity,” examines Hu Feng’s views on critical realism, modern Chinese intellectuals, and bourgeois subjectivity. Chapter 3, “Subjectivity in Loss: Disintegration of Traditional Family and Emergence of Desire,” investigates issues such as “primitive unconsciousness” and “political anxieties” in connection with Lu Ling’s Children of the Rich (财主底儿女们) and Hungry Guo Su’e (饥饿的郭素娥). Chapter 4, “Subjectivity in Search of ‘Bildungsroman’ of Modern Chinese Intellectuals,” discusses moral relativism and the notion of “the people” in Children of the Rich.  Chapter 5, “Subjectivity in Vain: A Fable of the Failure of Bourgeois Social Reforms,” analyzes the mental experiences of Jiang Chunzu 蒋纯祖, a main character in Children of the Rich, together with some other characters in the novel. Chapter 6, “Intellectuals in Predicament: Other Stories,” categorizes characters along a spectrum from “weaklings” to those who “bust out by taking violent rebellious actions” (107) depicted in Lu Ling’s wartime stories. Chapter 7, “Politics of Recognition and Politics of Style,” uses concepts from Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind as tools to analyze the language and style in Children of the Rich. Chapter 8, “Self-Other Relationship and the Other as the People,” focuses on the mental states of Jiang Chunzu and his brother Jiang Shaozu 蒋少祖 as intellectuals influenced by the May Fourth enlightenment agenda. Chapter 9, “Lu Ling’s Theory and His Fiction,” approaches Lu Ling’s views on realism from a cultural-political perspective and discusses the similarities and differences between Lu Ling and Hu Feng. In the conclusion, the author briefly discusses the general significance of Hu Feng and Lu Ling in their historical context. Continue reading

Manhua Modernity review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Paul Bevan’s review of Manhua Modernity: Chinese Culture and the Pictorial Turn, by John A. Crespi. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/paul-bevan/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, MCLC

Manhua Modernity:
Chinese Culture and the Pictorial Turn

By John A. Crespi


Reviewed by Paul Bevan

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright April, 2022)


John A. Crespi, Manhua Modernity: Chinese Culture and the Pictorial Turn. Oakland: University of California Press, 2020. xiv + 236 pp., incl. 75 ills. ISBN 9780520309104 (paperback).

I have met John Crespi in person only once. I’ve always thought this a pity, because we work in similar areas and explore the same sort of material in our research. Our one and only meeting took place quite by chance in a reading room in the Shanghai Library more than a decade ago, at a time when scholars from outside China took library research and fieldwork for granted. I’d been told in advance by Michel Hockx that John would be in Shanghai at the same time as me, but I had made no plans to meet him. One afternoon in the library, on seeing what appeared to be an American man holding a copy of Zhongguo manhua (中國漫畫), I immediately guessed that this was John and promptly introduced myself. For both of us, the research into manhua and pictorial magazines that we carried out in Shanghai—on this occasion, and on subsequent visits—eventually resulted in our respective monographs.

In the introduction to his book, Crespi tells the captivating story of how he was introduced to manhua in the mid-1990s through piles of dusty volumes in an underground warehouse, a converted bomb shelter belonging to the “China Bookstore’s Old Periodicals Department” (1). Today, at a time when Chinese historical magazines of all types have become highly sought after as collectables in China and abroad, a story of exciting discovery and acquisition such as this seems like a dream of another age. The magazines John purchased at the time became the basis for his hugely valuable project, the digitization of the magazine Modern Sketch, and related websites at Colgate University and MIT’s Visualizing Culture project. Continue reading

Yesterday Today Tomorrow review

Source: Paratext (4/15/22)
Censorhip and Creativity: The Offense of Hong Kong Cinema
By Kuan Chee Wah
Review of Yesterday Today Tomorrow: Hong Kong Cinema with Sino-links in Politics, Art, and Tradition, by Kenny Kwok-kwan Ng (Hong Kong: Chung Hwa Book Co., 2021) (吳國坤,《昨天今天明天:內地與香港電影的政治、藝術與傳統》)

On October 27, 2021, Hong Kong legislators passed an amendment bill on the censorship law, which would allow the government to halt film productions deemed threatening to national security. The amendment was an extension of the national security law which Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in July 2020 in the aftermath of the 2019 social protests against the enactment of the criminal extraction bill. Aligned with the national security law, the newly amended censorship regulation bans films that may “endorse, support, glorify, encourage, and incite activities that might endanger national security,” and citizens who hold illegal screenings of these films will face heavy penalties and jail sentence (Yau, Leung, and Ng). Continue reading

The Father on the Moon

Source: Association for Chinese Animation Studies (3/24/22)
The Father on the Moon (Yueqiu shang de fuqin), by Hu Xiaojiang. Guangzhou: Huacheng, 2021.
By Sean Macdonald

“Humanity is far from understanding itself. The turning point of civilization’s recklessly unrestrained exploration of the abyss of consciousness has been slow to arrive. Actually, we already know that Hell is our ideal way home (31).”[i]Hu Xiaojiang, The Father on the Moon

Before I read this book, I was not aware of Hu Xiaojiang 胡晓江 as an independent comic book artist. Therefore, I am approaching this artist from the rather unique perspective of a book of short stories and illustrations. Comics, animation, and gaming have been growing as important cultural industries in China for the past two decades at least. From the limited amount of independent comics I have seen from China, including Hong Kong, such work shares a tendency to be idiosyncratic and personal (for want of better term), and often but not exclusively employs techniques that draw attention to the hand-made aspects of the art, features they share with independent comics outside of China. Although comic book artists often cringe at facile separations between mainstream and non-mainstream work, independent comics are first of all defined by numbers. The readership is lower. Distribution has a lot to do with this. But if a particular form or genre is permitted to thrive economically, niche markets can resolve this problem. Chinese studies has been slow to pick up on the importance of mass visual culture media like comic books and animation. Sometimes this is just a case of a lack of critical tools to discuss different forms of narrative and art. Sometimes it’s just a case of knee-jerk academic ideologies. Shocking as it sounds, some researchers have trouble with the idea of discussing predominant mass media forms. As if the novel isn’t a type of mass print media, for example. Or as if the only valid types of films for classroom discussion and research were independent documentaries and so-called auteur cinema, important in their own right but not the only point of entry for understanding media. Some academics might even question the existence of solid academic readings of certain forms of cultural production because they consider it beneath the cultural institution they represent. It’s a case of “Open up the floodgates, the cartoonists are coming to destroy real literature and film” or something like that. Thankfully there is academic freedom. Continue reading

Eurasia without Borders review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Xiaolu Ma’s review of Eurasia without Borders: The Dream of a Leftist Literary Commons, 1919-1943, by Katerina Clark. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/xiaolu-ma/. My thanks to Michael Hill, our translation/translation studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Eurasia without Borders:
The Dream of a Leftist Literary Commons, 1919-1943

By Katerina Clark


Reviewed by Xiaolu Ma

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March, 2022)


Katerina Clark, Eurasia Without Borders: The Dream of a Leftist Literary Commons, 1919–1943 Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2021. 464 pp. ISBN 978-0-674-26110-5

Is it possible to remap world literature from the communist perspective? If so, what possibilities might this approach open? Katerina Clark attempts to answer these questions in Eurasia Without Borders: The Dream of a Leftist Literary Commons, 1919–1943. In place of the current model of world literature, which persistently foregrounds the West, Clark takes as her starting point the historical vision for a Moscow-oriented Eurasian literature that forged connections between writers and languages in ways that continue to challenge how we study literature.

Clark frames her argument around the Communist International, or Comintern, as a political body that enabled leftists worldwide to conceive of Eurasia as a unified geographic and cultural entity. The Comintern worked to promote global communism from its founding in 1919 until it disbanded in 1943. Historical accounts of the Comintern and Comintern-sponsored literary activities usually conclude with its failure to achieve its initial revolutionary ambitions. In line with this narrative, Clark acknowledges that the implementation of the Comintern’s idealist vision encountered difficulties including “budgetary and language limitations, lack of specialists,” and lack of local intermediaries (26). Clark shows, however, that the Comintern’s unrealized ambitions still provided a platform for subsequent cultural interactions between what the organization saw as “oppressed” Asia and “proletarian” Europe. Continue reading