Issue 33.1 of MCLC

I am pleased, and somewhat relieved, to announce publication of the Spring 2021 (33.1) issue of MCLC, my last as editor of the journal. Find below the table of contents, with links to abstracts. My editor’s note, in which I introduce the new editors—Natascha Gentz and Christopher Rosenmeier—and offer a few observations on my tenure at the helm of the journal, is available as a pdf download. If you are so inclined, take a look.

Subscriber copies will be mailed out shortly. If you have any questions or concerns about your subscription, please contact Jennifer Nunes at mclc@osu.edu. She will be overseeing subscriptions until the full transition to the new editorial team and new publisher is completed, hopefully by this fall.

With bittersweet emotions,

Kirk Denton

Volume 33, Number 1 (Spring 2021) 
Articles

A History of Modern Chinese Popular Literature review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of John A. Crespi’s review of A History of Modern Chinese Popular Literature, by Fan Boqun. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/crespi3/ . My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

A History of Modern Chinese Popular Literature

By Fan Boqun
Translated by Dong Xiang and Jihui Wang


Reviewed by John A. Crespi
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July 2021)


Fan Boqun. A History of Modern Chinese Popular Literature. Trs. Dong Xiang and Jihui Wang. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020. xxv+804 pp. ISBN: 978-1-107-06856-8.

Fan Boqun’s 范伯群 History of Modern Chinese Popular Literature is a comprehensive and sometimes quirky contribution to the study of a vast corpus of writing that has been overshadowed by literature associated with the May Fourth tradition. Originally published in 2006 as Zhongguo xiandai tongsu wenxue shi (中国现代通俗文学史), and now translated into English thanks to the dedicated efforts of Dong Xiang and Jihui Wang, the book stands as Fan’s magnum opus, the product of a lifetime of research on mass-market fiction, most of it originally published by installment in the tabloids, newspapers, and magazines of China’s major cities, especially Shanghai, from the 1890s through the 1940s. Fan’s term for this category of writing, “popular literature” (通俗文学), he devised to distinguish it from the ideological mainstream of “elite literature” (精英文学) that grew out of the New Literature movement in the late 1910s. The primary goal of Fan’s book is to integrate popular literature into the “family” of modern Chinese literature. As Susan Daruvala describes it in her helpful and concise introduction, Fan seeks to “transcend the structural dominance” of a literary history that gives prominence to elite literature by constructing “a new system of literary history based on ‘pluralistic symbiosis’ (多元共生) which would pay attention to the literary tastes and experiences of the entire population” (xxiv). Put another way, Fan aims to expand the canon of Chinese modern literature to recognize a vast and varied readership for works whose main purpose was to entertain rather than educate and enlighten. In so doing, Fan opens the door to a motley assortment of “pulp” genres—brothel novels, novels of exposure, historical romances, martial arts novels, detective fiction, and so on—whose long-term marginalization in mainland China’s orthodox literary historiography belies their huge popularity across more than half a century in China’s mainland. Continue reading

Video Lecture Series

The MCLC Video Lecture Series continues to grow. Since Christopher Rosenmeier and I launched it nearly a year ago, we have added several new lectures, including, most recently, Eileen Cheng’s “Lu Xun: The ‘In-Between.'” To register to use the lectures in the series, please click here to fill out a short form. Once you complete the form, you will be sent an email with the password.

Kirk A. Denton

On the Horizon of World Literature review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Daniel Dooghan’s review of On the Horizon of World Literature: Forms of Modernity in Romantic England and Republican China, by Emily Sun. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/dooghan/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

On the Horizon of World Literature: Forms of
Modernity in Romantic England and Republican China

By Emily Sun


Reviewed by Daniel Dooghan

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June 2021)


Emily Sun, On the Horizon of World Literature: Forms of Modernity in Romantic England and Republican China. New York: Fordham University Press, 2021. x+167 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8232-9479-4.

Narrating the encounter of Chinese and European literature in 1827 Weimar is almost de rigueur in accounts of “world literature.” Goethe is said to have inaugurated the term during a conversation with Johann Peter Eckermann, but this alone is of limited interest. What the term does is to crystallize for that moment a number of political, economic, and aesthetic projects that antedate and follow the conversation, offering a vision of a literary totality. The utopian spirit of that vision—however evanescent—has driven the boom in studies of world literature over the past two decades, and though the ensuing debates have questioned the nature and desirability of such an aesthetic utopia, they have also illuminated the vast network of global connections that enabled Goethe to make his pronouncement. These works on world literature, far from genuflecting to the poet’s example, reveal more about that network and the possibilities of world literature as a concept. Emily Sun’s On the Horizon of World Literature is one of these works.

Predictably, then, the introduction, “Reading Literary Modernities on the Horizon of World Literature,” begins with Goethe to illustrate its thesis and its method. Sun shows how the temporally and geographically distant concept of world literature manifests in China as part of a revolutionary project beginning at the turn of the last century (1-2). From this remote affinity she seeks to articulate how world literature “designates a framework for processes of textual classification, revaluation, and production in a plurality of connected yet differently inherited and inhabited lifeworlds” (2). In this framing capacity, world literature is inextricably linked to the discipline of comparative literature and to the possibility of cross-cultural comparison. Moreover, Sun retains some Goethean hope by offering world literature “as an ideal that continues to orient and motivate ongoing exposure to and exchange with the foreign” (3). Whatever its theoretical limitations, world literature for Sun is not just a term of literary criticism, but a metaphysical project: “the ‘world’ of ‘world literature’ does not already exist as the equivalent of a map or other representation of the inhabited globe, but rather continually comes into being as that which is activated and reactivated in the processes of exposure and exchange” (3). The texts analyzed in the book exemplify these processes, as does Sun’s staging of them. Continue reading

Translations/Translation Studies book review editor

I’m writing to announce that, after many years of service, Michael Berry is stepping down as the MCLC book review editor for translations. I want to express my heartfelt thanks to Michael for all his work over the years. He has contributed enormously to the journal’s scholarly mission. I am happy to announce that Michael Gibbs Hill has agreed to assume the position, which will now include, in addition to English translations of works of literature in Chinese, books in the growing discipline of Chinese Translation Studies. All inquiries about book reviews in these two areas should now be directed to Michael Hill at mghill@wm.edu. He will also be joining the journal’s editorial board. Please join me in welcoming him to MCLC.

Kirk Denton
MCLC

Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Kyle Shernuk’s review of Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon: Refractions across the Pacific, by Clara Iwasaki. The review appears below and at its online home. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon:
Refractions across the Pacific

By Clara Iwasaki


Reviewed by Kyle Shernuk

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June 2021)


Clara Iwasaki, A Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon: Refractions Across the Transpacific Amherst, New York: Cambria Press, 2020. ix + 230 pp. ISBN 9781621965473.

Clara Iwasaki’s Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon: Refractions across the Transpacific presents readers with new perspectives on four canonical figures of modern Chinese literature: Xiao Hong (1911-1941), Yu Dafu (1896-1945), Lao She (1899-1966), and Zhang Ailing (1920-1995). She brings needed attention to the roles of literary and cultural translation, textual reception and negotiation, and, of course, the transpacific networks across which the majority of these processes take place. As scholars of Area Studies continue to reevaluate the field’s Cold-War origins and imagine new roles for the discipline in the academy, Iwasaki’s book offers a framework that energizes Chinese studies by connecting it to the adjacent fields of Transpacific and Asian American studies. She develops an analytic framework for working horizontally across disciplines, one which combines their shared components and concerns to create a more holistic map of the networks that unite these Chinese writers and their textual legacies across the Pacific throughout the twentieth century. Continue reading

Butter Pancakes by Wang Zengqi

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of “Butter Pancakes” (1982), a short story by Wang Zengqi, translated by Xuezhao Li and Travis Telzrow. The translation appears below and at its online home.

Enjoy,

Kirk Denton

Butter Pancakes

By Wang Zengqi 汪曾祺[1]

Translated by Xuezhao Li and Travis Telzrow[2]


MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June 2021)


Wang Zengqi (1920-1997)

Xiao Sheng was moving to Kouwai with Dad.

Xiao Sheng was seven going on eight. All these years he had lived with Grandma. Dad’s jobs were always unstable. For a while he built the reservoir, and then forged steel. Mom was also transferred from one job to another. Meanwhile, Grandma stayed in their hometown by herself and complained about being lonely. So when Xiao Sheng reached three, he was sent back to his hometown. There, he ate many radishes, cabbages, millet cakes, and corn cakes, and he grew taller.

Grandma seldom disciplined him. She had other things to do. She always found some scraps of fabric to sew clothes for him: unlined upper garments, pants, cotton-padded jacket, and trousers. All of his clothes were made of stitched strips of cloth, one strip cyan, another blue. They were rather clean, though. Grandma also made shoes for him. All by herself, she stuck bits of cloth together and trimmed them into the shape of a sole; she then cut shapes out of the cloth and sewed the layers together; finally she put the sole and upper together. She was always saying: “Do your toes have teeth and a mouth to rip your shoes open?” “Are your feet made of steel so that your shoes fray so easily?” She made him food as well: millet cakes, corn cakes, radishes, cabbages, scrambled eggs, and small stewed fish. He would play outdoors all day long. Whenever she was done cooking, Grandma would shout from the doorstep: “Sheng’er! Come home to eat!” Continue reading

A Century of Chinese Literature in Translation review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Haiyan Xie’s review of A Century of Chinese Literature in Translation (1919-2019): English Publication and Reception, edited by Leah Gerber and Lintao Q. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/haiyan-xie/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

A Century of Chinese Literature in Translation (1919-2019):
English Publication and Reception

Edited by Leah Gerber and Lintao Qi


Reviewed by Haiyan Xie

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March, 2021)


Leah Gerber and Lintao Qi, eds., A Century of Chinese Literature in Translation (1919-2019): English Publication and Reception. London & New York: Routledge, 2020. xii + 187 pp. ISBN 9780367321291.

For the past several decades, translation studies have undergone several “turns,” such as that from linguistics to culture or that from culture to globalization.[1] None of these “turns,” however, seems to have escaped Eurocentric discourse, despite the many alternative voices from outside European countries. Against such a backdrop, Leah Gerber and Lintao Qi’s collection A Century of Chinese Literature in Translation (1919-2019): English Publication and Reception is an important contribution to the current “globalization turn” of translation studies, intervening in debates and issues concerning the field of translation studies, including the study of literature in translation from a non-Eurocentric perspective. This collection of essays, focusing on Chinese literature in translation, presents an impressive tapestry of topics, perspectives, and methodologies for a rethinking of the nature of translation and translation practice in today’s globalized context. It also demonstrates the editors’ effort to deconstruct some major stereotypes and dichotomies that, to various degrees, continue to haunt the nature of literature in translation. In doing so, this book also contributes to enriching our understanding of how Chinese literature becomes part of world literature through a “minor” culture of translation. Continue reading

A Modernity Set to a Pre-Modern Tune review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Brian Skerratt’s review of A Modernity Set to a Pre-Modern Tune: Classical-Style Poetry of Modern Chinese Writers, by Haosheng Yang. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/skerratt/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

A Modernity Set to a Pre-Modern Tune:
Classical-Style Poetry of Modern Chinese Writers

By Haosheng Yang


Reviewed by Brian Skerratt

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March, 2021)


 

Haosheng Yang, A Modernity Set to a Pre-Modern Tune: Classical-Style Poetry of Modern Chinese Writers Leiden: Brill, 2016. ix + 255 pp. ISBN: 978-90-04-31079-7

Classical-style poetry is an unlucky genre. If one has not experienced suffering and struggled in society, one can hardly write any satisfying poems. . . . The feeling of suffering is not necessarily described in poems immediately. Poems do not necessarily describe suffering directly either. But because of the suffering, one’s emotion can be stimulated more deeply; one will think about writing poems, will be more sympathetic when reading other’s [sic] poems, and will express one’s own feelings more easily, even though those feelings might be far apart from suffering (Yang, 221).

So wrote Nie Gannu 聶紺弩 (1903-1986) in a letter to a friend. Nie, like many Chinese intellectuals of his generation, had enthusiastically embraced new ideas and social progress—including the New Culture Movement, New Literature, and leftist revolution—only to become a victim of the new China he had helped create. After training at the prestigious Huangpu Military Academy, Nie began a career as a journalist and intellectual; he was critical of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government and later joined the League of Left-Wing Writers. However, only a matter of years after the Communists came to power in 1949, Nie was labeled a rightist and sent to the “Great Northern Wilderness” (北大荒) in Heilongjiang for four years of labor reform. After he returned from hard labor, he was arrested again as a counterrevolutionary and only released following another ten years of confinement. What makes Nie’s case interesting is that his time spent doing hard labor inspired him to produce poetry—and not just any poetry, but dense, highly allusive, classical poetry, exactly the form and style attacked so vehemently by the New Literature movement decades earlier. When the supervisor at the labor site instructed the prisoners to compose poetry, as part of a nationwide campaign to create “new folk songs,” Nie recalls, “I do not know why, but suddenly I thought about composing poems in the old style. Maybe the farther I was from the literary circle, the more I believed that only old poetry was poetry. . . . As a result, that might be the first time I wrote about labor, and also the first time I officially composed classical-style poetry” (qtd. 183). The extreme physical and psychological toll of labor reform led this writer in his late fifties to find solace in poetry, and that solace he found most naturally in traditional, classical verse, rather than the modern, vernacular poetry demanded by fashionable literary circles, which he himself had once advocated. Continue reading

Message from incoming editors

Dear MCLC community,

We are grateful, honoured, delighted (and hoping to avoid overwhelmed) to have been selected as the next editors for Modern Chinese Literature and Culture. Over the last two decades, the journal has flourished under Kirk Denton’s expert guidance, becoming a publication essential to both scholars and students in Chinese studies. Consequently, we are fully aware of the expectations facing us going forwards. We will rely on the expertise and support of Kirk, the editorial board, and all of you working in our field to help us maintain the journal’s high standards and excellence in the years ahead.

The journal will of course remain on the MCLC website as it is today. In a few months, we expect to make further announcements about the journal’s future publisher and what that entails. For now, we wish you all a happy and healthy year ahead. It can only get better!

Kindest regards,
Natascha Gentz and Christopher Rosenmeier

“Communist Rhapsody”

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Adrian Thieret’s translation of “Communist Rhapsody,” a story by Zheng Wenguang. “Communist Rhapsody” is a “scientific fantasy” written during the Great Leap Forward. I give a teaser below. For the entire story, go to: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/communist-rhapsody/. My thanks to Adrian Thieret for sharing his work with the MCLC community.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Communist Rhapsody

By Zheng Wenguang 郑文光[1]

Translated by Adrian Thieret[2]


MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January 2021)


Editor’s foreword (1958): In this era in which one day equals twenty years, people want to know what our country, society, and people’s lives will look like twenty years from now. The writer of this piece has adopted a daringly imaginative style in writing this relatively scientific fantasy. We call it relatively scientific because what he says isn’t entirely baseless. We call it fantasy because to achieve these things still requires the hard work of the people. However, we anticipate that with the efforts of all China’s people, this fantasy can certainly be realized. Today there are only unimaginable miracles; there are no unrealizable fantasies. Because this work is fairly long, we will publish it in two parts.

Part 1: Our Country’s Thirtieth Anniversay

Everything happened so suddenly…

In the morning on the eve of the holiday, Director Zhang said to me: “Get your things together, Keling, we’re leaving on the Red Arrow to Beijing to watch the celebrations!”

I nearly jumped with joy. But Director Zhang told me sternly that before leaving I first had to go to the department to ascertain whether the second phase of the engineering plan had been approved.

We were advancing into the Xinjiang desert, and I was the engineer on the special “War on Deserts Committee.” Our work was, in the amusing words of Director Zhang, “to erase yellow from the map.” The work had actually begun nearly twenty years ago. Back then, people had flown in planes over the great Gobi Desert to seed it with hardy plants such as black saxaul bushes, oriental raisin trees, cacti, and camelthorns that might check the flow of sand, absorb moisture from far below the surface, and slowly form a new green oasis. [Read the entire story]

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

New editorial team

After more than twenty years as editor of MCLC, I will be stepping down this spring. In December of last year, the editorial board met via Zoom to discuss the relative merits of four proposals submitted by parties interested in taking over the editorship. It was a difficult decision, but in the end we chose a two-person editorial team–Natascha Gentz and Christopher Rosenmeier–of the University of Edinburgh. I am delighted to welcome them as the journal’s new editors.

The new editors will begin their duties with the fall 2021 issue. However, effective immediately, they will be overseeing the submission review process. All new submissions to the journal should be directed to the new editors and sent to the following email address: MCLC@ed.ac.uk. At least for the time being, I will continue on as manager of the MCLC Resource Center, running the MCLC LIST/BLOG and supervising book reviews and editing online publications.

Details about the journal’s future publisher and the handling of subscriptions still need to be worked out, but they should be finalized by the beginning of 2022. Printing, subscriptions, and distribution will remain the same until that time.

It has been my honor and pleasure to serve the field over the years. With Professors Gentz and Rosenmeier in charge, MCLC will be in good hands.

Kirk A. Denton
Editor, MCLC

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

Vol. 32, no. 1 of MCLC

MCLC is pleased to announce publication of vol. 32, no. 2. Below find a table of contents, with links to essay abstracts. Those of you who are subscribers will be receiving your print copies in the next few weeks. If you have any questions about the status of your subscription or if you would like to initiate a new subscription, please contact Jennifer Nunes, my new editorial assistant, at mclc@osu.edu.

Enjoy,

Kirk Denton, editor

Volume 32, Number 2 (Fall 2020) 
Articles