Women Writing China

Li Juan, a prominent Chinese essayist, will be discussing her experiences as female writer living and writing in a rural Chinese community.

About this Event

In partnership with the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, Sinoist Books brings you Women Writing China: Female Authors and Chinese Literature, featuring Li Juan, an acclaimed Chinese essayist writing from the extreme rurality of the Altay region of Xinjiang, and Christopher Payne, translator of Li Juan’s latest book.

We will be discussing Li Juan’s writing, specifically Distant Sunflower Fields (遥远的向日葵地), which charts the lives of three generations of women in Li Juan’s family; what is it to be a woman living in such a community, and how have her experiences as a female writer influenced and taken shape in text?

Christopher Payne will also be speaking about the intricacies of translation and his work with Li Juan. Continue reading

Rain in Plural review

Source: EcoTheoReview (1/18/21)
Unwinding Underground: A Review of Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s Rain in Plural
By Hannah VanderHart

Rain in Plural by Fiona Sze-Lorrain. Princeton University Press, 2020. 105 pages. $17.95.

The multiple layers and the angles of Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s fourth collection of poetry, Rain in Plural, offer many doors though which a reader new to Sze-Lorrain’s work might enter: music, philosophy, dance—along with homages and allusions to the work of other writers, other artists. Even before opening Rain in Plural, there is a door within another door: the book’s cover featuring an image of the painting “Déjà vu, Déjà Blue” (2004) by Howard Hodgkin, the title of which references the 1980 power ballad by Dionne Warwick.¹ The painting itself features oversized, multi-layered blues curving in large brush strokes over the carved figure of a square (a visual door). Through this rich visual entrance that reimagines music via a visual art form—a fitting welcome to the poems that follow—the reader meets a speaker immediately in the poem, “More Vulnerable Than Others.” “So what if I break / I will continue to eat mud / unwind underground,” the poem opens. The first lines catch the reader off-guard—if one has assumed “the others” to be other humans, or if one is not prepared for a slide into metaphor. Poems are notoriously sleight of hand this way—their meanings shift underfoot; the ground is not stable, but the net of language itself. To eat mud and “unwind underground” points to growth and thriving that cannot be seen, that is below ground. It opens up, among other things, the idea of not-knowing—how little the reader knows about what is going on even in the natural world around them, the plant world of the yard or the park or even the houseplant, let alone inside another human being. The sheer agency and authority of the speaker is enviable, the poem’s verbs acknowledging the botanical power to break and live on (and even propagate) through breakage, to flourish underground, as well as to

mask banned signs

chew holes in every tall grapevine

breed my roots after a nap

spread fronds as free

clothes free money Continue reading

Shakespeare and East Asia book launch

Join us for a book launch on how Shakespeare is connected to theater, film, and literature in East Asia.
Fri, February 19, 2021 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST

Book giveaway: Join us and ask a question during the event to win a free book.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/shakespeare-and-east-asia-tickets-136547261535

How did Kurosawa influence George Lucas’ Star Wars? Why do critics repeatedly use the adjective Shakespearean to describe Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019)? How do East Asian cinema and theatre portray vocal disability and transgender figures? The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs Book Launch SeriesNational Resource Center, and Institute for Korean Studies are proud to present a lecture by Alexa Alice Joubin on her latest book, Shakespeare and East Asia (Oxford University Press). The talk will be followed by a live Q&A with the audience moderated by NRC Program Associate, Richard J. Haddock.

Remembering and Forgetting the Traumatic Past

My essay, “Remembering and Forgetting the Traumatic Past,” which reviews Lingchei Letty Chen’s The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years and Margaret Hillenbrand’s Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China, has been published by the MCLC Resource Center. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/kdenton2/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for his editorial interventions.

Kirk Denton, editor

Remembering and Forgetting the Traumatic Past:
A Review Essay

The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years, by Lingchei Letty Chen
Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China, by Margaret Hillenbrand

Reviewed by Kirk A. Denton
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2021)

Margaret Hillenbrand, Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020. 292 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4780-0800-2 (paper); ISBN: 978-1-4780-0619-0 (cloth)

Lingchei Letty Chen, The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2020. 304pp. ISBN 9781604979923 (cloth)

In The Fat Years (盛世), a novel by Koonchung Chan 陳冠中, a character named He Dongsheng tries to explain to his captors—it’s too complex to explain here—why the Chinese people have forgotten an entire month: “What I want to tell you is that, definitely, the Central Propaganda organs did do their work, but they were only pushing along a boat that was already on the move. If the Chinese people had not already wanted to forget, we could not have forced them to do so. The Chinese people voluntarily gave themselves a large dose of amnesia medicine.”[1]

Much has been made of efforts by the state in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—famously referred to by Louisa Lim as the “People’s Republic of Amnesia”[2]—to repress memories that do not fit the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) politically-driven historical narrative, which emphasizes its central and singular role in driving the revolutionary past and modernizing the  present. It propagates this narrative through museums, party historiography, state-sponsored “main melody” films, textbooks, mainstream news media, etc. And it suppresses other forms of history that seek to recover memories of the Anti-Rightist Campaign, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the 1989 Tiananmen protest movement, and the plight of migrant workers in more recent times. Continue reading

Method as Method review

Source: Cha: An Asian Literary Journal no. 46 (1/15/21)
By Liang Luo

Carlos Rojas (special issue editor), Method as Method, V16: N2 of Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature. Duke University Press, 2019.

Twenty years ago, as a graduate student newly arrived in the United States from mainland China, I was propelled to wrestle with issues such as “Chineseness as a theoretical problem”, “the ethnic supplement”, “the logic of the wound”, and “the hegemony of Mandarin”, as discussed by Rey Chow in her introduction to Modern Chinese Literary and Cultural Studies in the Age of Theory. Many of the issues raised in that volume still resonate in the field today, not least in the recent revamping of the Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese (established in 1997) into Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature (inaugurated in 2019). As the second issue and the first special issue of the journal, Method as Method not only actively intervenes in the ongoing debate on theory and modern Chinese literature, but also energises the field with fresh insights, signalling a “methodological turn” in modern Chinese studies.

Taking Lu Xun’s work as its starting point, Carlos Rojas, in his editor’s introduction to the volume, titled “Method as Method”, proposes to denaturalise both theories and objects and attend to their mutual formations by inviting us to focus on methodologies. Here method is presented as a way to enable objects and theories to speak to each other in productive ways. In his essay “Translation as Method”, Rojas tests this promise by reading translation as a method for negotiating not between different languages or dialects but rather between difference voices. This translational approach, he argues, offers a way of examining the possibilities and limits of fictional writing when it attempts to manifest the voices of socially marginalised figures. For Rojas, both Lu Xun and Yan Lianke attempt to grant their readers a voice or a vision they want to convey but they themselves may not share or have access to (232). He further argues that a similar translational framework may be at work when critics attempt to access fiction’s own attempts at rendering these marginalised voices. Continue reading

Photo Poetics review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announced publication of Jiangtao Gu’s review of Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture, by Shengqing Wu. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/jiangtao-gu/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Photo Poetics:
Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture

By Shengqing Wu

Reviewed by Jiangtao Gu

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2021)

Shengqing Wu, Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture New York: Columbia University Press, 2020. 384 pp. ISBN: 9780231192217 (paper); ISBN: 9780231192200 (cloth); ISBN: 9780231549714 (e-book)

Reading Shengqing Wu’s new book Photo Poetics: Chinese Lyricism and Modern Media Culture, is like looking into a kaleidoscope of texts and images drawn from the late Qing and early Republican periods. The reading experience can be disorientating at times, but ultimately pleasurable and enriching, especially considering our otherwise barren knowledge of photo practices in China during this period.

Distinct from dominant discourses on the topic, which often privilege photography’s relationship with progressive and revolutionary cultures, Wu’s book is uniquely focused on the Chinese literati tradition and its engagement with the then-nascent medium. Counter to many May Fourth intellectuals’ disparagement of the tradition’s obsolescence and decay, Wu insists that the literati practice of lyricism was by no means “an ossified or dead entity” (27). Front-loaded with this argument, the book then asks us to consider the literati’s absorption of photography as evidence of the tradition’s longevity and vitality despite rapidly changing technological and social conditions. Continue reading

Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon

Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon: Refractions across the Transpacific by Clara Iwasaki (Cambria Press)
Cambria Sinophone World Series (General Editor: Victor H. Mair)
Hardback  9781621965473  $104.99  244pp. (Save 25% off hardback—use coupon code SAVE25).
E-book editions start at $30.99—Order from Cambria Press.

The texts that are examined in this study move in and out of different languages or are multilingual in their origins. Texts and authors do not move randomly; rather, they follow routes shaped by the history of contact between different nations of the transpacific. As these texts move into and out of the Chinese language or become multilingual, they necessarily do not always remain Sinophone. The works of the authors discussed are refracted out of Chinese literature into American, Malaysian, and Japanese literatures and, in some cases, back into Chinese again. Following their paths through multiple languages makes visible the ways that these trajectories are informed by, are arrested by, and bend around historical and geopolitical barriers across the Pacific. To this end, examining the path that these texts from a transpacific perspective allows for the possibility of not only multilingual but multidirectional movement. Continue reading

Yeng Pway Ngon dies aged 73

Source: The Straits Times (1/12/21)
Acclaimed Chinese-language writer Yeng Pway Ngon dies aged 73
By Olivia Ho

Yeng Pway Ngon's work spanned genres, ranging across poetry, essays, plays and more.

Yeng Pway Ngon’s work spanned genres, ranging across poetry, essays, plays and more. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – Yeng Pway Ngon, one of Singapore’s most eminent Chinese-language writers, died on Sunday (Jan 10) after a long battle with cancer.

The Cultural Medallion recipient and three-time Singapore Literature Prize winner was 16 days shy of his 74th birthday.

He wrote more than 20 works, including acclaimed novels such as Unrest (2002), Trivialities About Me And Myself (2006) and Art Studio (2011).

The latter two were selected by the journal Asia Weekly for its prestigious annual list of the 10 Best Chinese Novels in the World, alongside works by Nobel laureate Mo Yan and Yan Geling. Continue reading

Wai-yee Li lecture

2020/21 Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lecture
Elegance and Vulgarity: The Promise and Peril of Things in Ming-Qing Literature 雅俗分際: 明清文學的物情與物累, with Professor Wai-yee Li (Harvard University)
Wednesday January 20, 2021; 4:00 PM – 6:30 PM (Pacific Time)
Online via Zoom

Graphic by Anh Luu. Image credits: “The Landscape of Suzhou” by Shen Zhou (Ming Dynasty) 明沈周蘇州山水全圖 卷 “Landscape in Snow” by Shen Zhou 明沈周雪景山水

How is value assigned to things? What is the line between the refinement of good taste and the force of obsession? Is elegance compromised by self-consciousness? How can an object of appreciation be both commodity and anti-commodity (inasmuch as true appreciation and the greatest worth are not measurable in economic terms)? Are elegance or vulgarity determined by affirming social consensus or challenging it? How do the fellowship and competition among connoisseurs drive the definition of elegance? Why are “elegant things” associated with nature and reclusion but also embedded in social relations among the rich and the powerful? Can good taste become bad taste, and vice versa? Professor Wai-yee Li will discuss the figure of the vulgar connoisseur in Jin Ping Mei, the contradictions of elegance in a story by Li Yu (1611-1680), and the implications of redefining elegance and vulgarity in The Story of the Stone.

Free & open to the public. Registration required.

Research Seminar: Objectifying People and Humanizing Things in Chinese Literature 物我之間:明清文學的「人化」與「物化」母題 Continue reading

African writing in Chinese translation

Source: Bruce-Humes.com (1/4/21)
African Writing in Chinese Translation: 2020 Round-up and a Peek at 2021
By Bruce Humes

As Xi Jinping’s land and maritime Silk Road initiative reaches its tentacles further West into Africa, it’s not just accumulating alarming rates of China-driven debt and sucking up the continent’s mineral exports. Publishers in the People’s Paradise are now showing modest interest in importing what the authorities label  “cultural products.” In this case, contemporary African writing.

According to the latest statistics from the sole online mini-database in this niche, the bilingual African Writing in Chinese Translation (非洲文学:中文译本), lists 238 translated works by 100 African authors. That shows a healthy 63 percent increase over the 146 titles in early 2018.

African “diaspora” writer Chimamanda Adichie arguably generates the most buzz in China, and six of her books have been rendered into Chinese since 2013. But the second of Francophone author Alain Mabanckou’s novels also launched in a mainland edition during 2020. Both spend much of their time in the US.

The publication of My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite and Mabanckou’s Memoirs of a Porcupine suggest that China publishers are a tad more willing to experiment with new sources for disturbing psychological thrillers that involve homicide, a genre dominated by American and more recently, Japanese authors.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the 2020 newbies (December 2019, to be exact) was penned by a Zulu self-styled sangoma or diviner, Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa. His Indaba my Children, African Folk Tales is billed as a “graphic novel.” Continue reading

Detecting Chinese Modernities review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Jeffrey Kinkley’s review of Detecting Chinese Modernities: Rupture and Continuity in Modern Chinese Detective Fiction (1896-1949), by Yan Wei. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/detecting-modernities/. Many thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Detecting Chinese Modernities: Rupture and Continuity in
Modern Chinese Detective Fiction (1896-1949)

By Yan Wei

Reviewed by Jeffrey Kinkley

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright December, 2020)

Yan Wei, Detecting Chinese Modernities: Rupture and Continuity in Modern Chinese Detective Fiction (1896-1949) Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2020. 283 pp. ISBN 978-90-04-43127-0 (hardback), 978-90-04-43128-7 (e-book).

China has known and loved the “detective story” formula of Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle for more than 120 years. Detecting Chinese Modernities, a thoughtful, instructive, and well-researched monograph by Yan Wei, notes that after the first translation of a Sherlock Holmes story appeared in 1896, “detective fiction immediately became the most novel and popular Western literary genre among Chinese readers” (33). The mystery stories that swamped Chinese publishing in the first decade of the twentieth century were mostly translations, adaptations, and imitations, but soon Chinese authors contributed their own styles to the global fiction phenomenon. “The popularity of native Chinese detective fiction crested during the Republican period, in the 1920s to 1940s—the ‘golden age’ of the genre,” Wei affirms (4). After 1949, native crime and detective fiction fell on hard times, not only in the PRC, where it was banned for political reasons, but throughout the Sinophone world. Meanwhile detective novels flourished in Japan, in quantity and quality. Translations of them are bestsellers in the PRC today. Continue reading

‘Multi-ethnic’ literature collection

Source: Bruce-Humes.com (12/22/20)
“Multi-ethnic” Literature: Yilin’s 2020 Cache of Fiction by non-Han Writers
By Bruce Humes

As your year-end holiday lockdown fast approaches, it’s worth noting a new series of books by non-Han writers launched this year by one of China’s best-known publishers, Yilin Press — lit., “translation forest” — that is normally associated with marketing popular foreign-language fiction in Mandarin for Chinese readers.

The name of the series itself, Library of Contemporary Classics by China’s Multi-ethnic Writers (中国当代多民族经典作家文库), is notable because it employs the term “multi-ethnic” rather than the former very politically correct, ubiquitous reference to “minority ethnic” literature (少数民族文学) that must surely have rankled some.

I will write more about the worrisome outlook for mother-tongue, multi-ethnic literature out of China — given moves to severely restrict education in Uyghur, Tibetan and Mongolian, and the ongoing incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Turkophone people in Xinjiang — but for now, here are the titles in Yilin’s new series (so far available only in Chinese) with a bit of background info and links: Continue reading

Fanfiction is entering and upsetting the mainstream

Source: RadII China (12/9/20)
Chinese Fanfiction is Entering Into (and Upsetting) the Mainstream
By Gladys Mac

Header image: “Reunion: The Sound of the Providence”

Earlier this year, two popular TV dramas centered around tomb raiding were released in China. In April, Candle in the Tomb: The Lost Caverns premiered on major streaming platform Tencent Video; later in the summer and fall, two seasons of Reunion: The Sound of the Providence came out on rival sites Youku and iQIYI.

Both series are adaptations of successful online novels, and are credited with starting the Chinese tomb raiding story craze that is still ongoing. Peculiarly, both online novels began serialization in 2006, and both of them have an overlapping character, Chubby Wang. Given these similarities, it’s natural to wonder whether one of these authors plagiarized the other.

But it wasn’t plagiarism — the two series are the result of fanfiction.

Chinese fanfiction has been in the spotlight this year thanks to the huge AO3 scandal involving The Untamed star Xiao Zhan and certain sections of his fanbase, but this is just one indicator of how popular fanfiction has become in the country — and how it is beginning to spill over into the mainstream. Continue reading

Wuhan Lockdown Diary

Source: Words without Borders (May 2020)
Wuhan Lockdown Diary
Nonfiction by Guo Jing
Translated from Chinese by Hongwei Bao

Guo Jing, the first woman in China to win a gender discrimination case against a state-owned enterprise, chronicles daily life under the COVID-19 lockdown in Wuhan, China, in this excerpt from her Diary of the Wuhan Lockdown.

April 3, 2020

Yesterday, the Wuhan COVID-19 Epidemic Prevention and Control Headquarters issued a notice advising that the city lockdown needs to be continued. Many citizens left messages on the Chinanews social media account requesting government subsidies and calling for an end to the lockdown.

One person posted: “Give out some cash subsidies. I have not had any income for two months, and I still have to repay my mortgage.”

Another person posted: “For two months, I have not seen any government-subsidized vegetables. I can only buy them at a high price. Eggs are expensive, so are vegetables, and I have yet to find meat. The government provided a limited supply of subsidized meat, but it is mostly reserved for older people. I have lost more than ten thousand yuan (roughly 1,413 USD) in income. We cannot continue the lockdown like this. I will need to apply to leave Wuhan on April 8 so I can find a job elsewhere. Otherwise I will not be able to make ends meet this year.” Continue reading

Poetry on verge of extinction in Xinjiang

Source: The Guardian (12/5/20)
Poetry, the soul of Uighur culture, on verge of extinction in Xinjiang
Uighurs in the diaspora are fighting to keep the art form alive as poets and writers in Xinjiang are silenced or detained
By Lily Kuo (Taipei)

A Uighur woman look out from the window of an apartment Urumqi, China.

A Uighur woman look out from the window of an apartment Urumqi, China. Photograph: Ng Han Guan/AP

A few weeks ago Mamutjan Abdurehim was trying to remember a poem that he and his wife used to teach their four-year-old daughter. The rhyming couplets were easy to remember instructions on etiquette at the dinner table – to say bismillah before eating and to start with one’s right hand. He hoped that by helping his daughter recite the qoshaq, a traditional Uighur folk poem, she would remember where she came from even as the family was living overseas.

Memories like these are dear to Abdurehim who has not been able to see or speak to his family in Xinjiang in almost five years. His daughter is 10 years old now; his son would be 5. He believes his wife has been detained in an internment camp or sent to prison, one of more than one million Uighurs caught up in what human rights advocates say is a state-led campaign of cultural genocide. Abdurehim, now living in Sydney, asked his friends on Facebook if anyone knew the rest of the poem but no one could remember. Continue reading