Little Smarty Travels to the Future

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Little Smarty Travels to the Future (小灵通漫游未来), by Ye Yonglie 叶永烈 and translated by Lena Henningsen et al. Little Smarty is a 1980 comic book (连环画) based on a 1978 novel, also by Ye Yonglie. The translation includes all 150 panels from the comic book and English translations of each caption. Find below the first few panels of the translation. To read the whole text, go to: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/little-smarty-travels-to-the-future/. We will be publishing Lena Henningsen’s introduction to the text in the next few days. Enjoy.

Kirk Denton, editor

Little Smarty Travels to the Future

By Ye Yonglie 叶永烈, Pan Caiying 潘彩英 (adaptation),
Du Jianguo 杜建国 and Mao Yongkun 毛用坤 (illustrations)[1]

Tr. by Adrian Ewald, Lena Henningsen, Lars Konheiser, Elena Mannich,
Federica Monchiero, Franziska Roth, Joschua Seiler, and Sen Wei (Freiburg University)


MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2020)



Introduction: This is a science fiction comic book (科学幻想连环画). Through a reporter’s–Little Smarty’s–travel to Future City, [this comic book] vividly unfolds before [our] eyes future high developments in science and technology and the splendid prospect of limitless magnificence in people’s lives. It also tells its young readers: Only if [we] painstakingly study and only if [we] are bold in climbing scientific heights during the advance of the Four Modernizations, can [we] build our motherland to become as thriving and prosperous as Future City. Continue reading

Interview with Li Er

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Riccardo Moratto’s interview with the writer Li Er, entitled “Water and Ear: An Interview with Li Er.” The interview appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/moratto/.

Kirk Denton, editor

Water and Ear:
An Interview with Li Er

By Riccardo Moratto[1]


MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2020)


Li Er. Source: Baidu.

Li Er 李洱 is a renowned contemporary Chinese writer. Graduated from East China Normal University in Shanghai, he used to teach at Zhengzhou Normal University. He is deputy editor-in-chief of Mangyuan (莽原) magazine and director of the Research Department of the National Museum of Modern Chinese Literature. He is also the Vice-President of the Henan Provincial Writers Association. His works have been translated into English, French, German, and Italian. He is best known for his novel Brother Yingwu (应物兄) which won the Tenth Mao Dun Literature Prize (2019), one of the most prestigious literature prizes in China. He is also known for the two novels Coloratura (花腔) (translated into English by Jeremy Tiang and published by the University of Oklahoma Press) and A Cherry on a Pomegranate Tree (石榴树上结樱桃). 

Moratto: Thank you for accepting this interview. The pandemic is still gathering pace in most of the world. How have you spent these months? How is the situation now in the province of Henan?

Li: I am originally from Henan Province, but usually I live in Beijing. I moved to the capital in 2011 to work in the Research Department of the National Museum of Modern Chinese LiteratureI don’t know if you’ve ever had a chance to visit this museum. Founded in 1985, it is the largest literary museum in the world and serves as a resource, research, and exchange center for modern and contemporary Chinese literature. However, I often return to my native province. My grandmother has crossed the threshold of ninety, one more reason to visit her. As a matter of fact, just a week ago I happened to be in Henan: I accompanied some poets up on Mount Wangwu (王屋山).[2] We visited the Yangtai Temple (阳台宫), a Chinese Taoist shrine. To date, the only calligraphic work that still exists by the great poet Li Bai 李白 is entitled “Up toward the Yangtai Temple” (上阳台), and it describes this great Taoist temple. With regard to the current pandemic, both in Beijing and Henan Province there are no longer any isolation measures with consequent restrictions on movement. Basically, normal order has been restored by now. Continue reading

China Imagined review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Sean Macdonald’s review of China Imagined: From European Fantasy to Spectacular Power, by Gregory B. Lee. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/sean-macdonald. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

China Imagined:
From European Fantasy to Spectacular Power

By Gregory B. Lee


Reviewed by Sean Macdonald

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2020)


Elderly people, or honest people, all seem to adhere to the motto “the name is guest of the thing.” But being neither an elderly person, nor wishing to immodestly declare myself an honest person, I have sometimes put more emphasis on “name” than “thing.” I feel that in many everyday experiences, a “name” is anything but ordinary.  Under appropriate conditions, it can increase the value of the “thing” it represents. On the other hand, under inappropriate conditions, no matter how beautiful, elevated, or respected a thing is, a “name” can devalue the “thing” it represents. As for myself, with regard to putting stress on “name,” I have really not understood what it’s for.–Shi Zhecun[1]

There was an obsession with graft among officials. Many regulatory and supervisory methods are outlined, with itemized punishments for specific infractions. In a typical example, punishment is exacted for the discovery of poorly maintained granaries: we learn that when it comes to the Law, three mouseholes are equal to one rathole.–Dean and Massumi[2]

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing/Through the graves the wind is blowing/Freedom soon will come/Then we’ll come from the shadows.–Leonard Cohen/Hy Zaret, “The Partisan.”

Gregory B. Lee, China Imagined: From European Fantasy to Spectacular Power London: Hurst & Company, 2018. xxi + 231 pgs. ISBN-13: 9781787380165.

French Sinology and American and British colonial history share a date. The Battle of Lundy’s Lane, in the Niagara Falls region now shared by the US and Canada, occurred in 1814, the same year the first “Chair in Chinese and Tartar-Manchurian Languages and Literatures” was established at Collège de France. ​​American Chinese studies emerged from European Sinology, but like the US, Britain only started professionalizing “Orientalist” Chinese studies during WWII.

Professor of Chinese at Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 and Director of Institut d’études transtextuelles et transculturelles (IETT), Gregory B. Lee has been writing and teaching in Chinese studies since the 1980s. In 2011, Lee was elected a Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities. His work ranges from critical studies and translations of modern and contemporary literature, popular music and media, to recent autobiographical stories around his grandfather, an early twentieth century immigrant to Liverpool, as well as a dystopic fictional narrative of China in 2030. Lee’s writing could be described as a critique of state cultural policies in China and the West. In an earlier book, Chinas Unlimited, Lee shows the way racism created two separate British policies towards opium, one banning opium for English citizens, and one promoting the sale of opium to Chinese people.[3] Continue reading

Shuang Xuetao’s Fiction of Northeast China

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Qi Wang’s essay “Shadows and Voices: Shuang Xuetao’s Fiction of Northeast China,” a follow-up to her essay on Ban Yu published in MCLC’s online series last year. Below, find a teaser for the essay, which can be read in full at: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/qi-wang3/.

Enjoy, Kirk Denton, editor

Shadows and Voices:
Shuang Xuetao’s Fiction of Northeast China

By Qi Wang


MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2020)


Shuang Xuetao

A recent significant phenomenon in contemporary Chinese literature is the “New Northeast Writers Group” (新东北作家群). The term is used by critics to identify young writers, such as Ban Yu (班宇), Shuang Xuetao (双雪涛), Zheng Zhi (郑执), and a few others, whose stories and styles converge in their depiction of northeast China, a region that in the Mao era experienced industrial privilege but that has seen economic decline, unemployment, and social despondency in the reform era.[1] Mostly born in Shenyang in the late 1970s or the 1980s, these young writers are the sons of the workers who were laid off from their factories in the 1990s and faced a bleak future, a process that is amply chronicled in the documentary film Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (铁西区, dir. Wang Bing 王兵, 2003). Often speaking in first person, the authors, as the natural and “legitimate” inheritors of that difficult experience, tend to present their stories in a matter-of-fact prose consisting of many short sentences and charged with vernacular speech from daily life in the region.[2]

In this essay, I take up the short stories collected in two volumes by Shuang Xuetao (b. 1983), Moses on the Plains (平原上的摩西) and The Aviator (飞行家), [3] and offer a close look at the writer’s literary depiction of northeast China as especially reflected in two structural tendencies. The first is the use of personal as well as multiple narration, which allows not only a central “I” to report observations of the figures around him but also lets each of the multiple characters speak for themselves, resulting in a resounding multivalent dialogic texture. The second is the peculiar resolution of stories and crises through some sort of fantastic escape. Whether the effect of that escape is one of transcendence or of descent remains open to interpretation at the current stage of this still new literary phenomenon. Together, such features address a collective desire to understand and be understood while also, as the critic Huang Ping observes with much insight, being confronted with the question of where to go next after the publication of these voluminous and hearty personal and regional tales.[4]  This question about direction and mission applies to the creative potential and historical gravity of these young writers, as well as to the fate and future of the northeastern working class in the globalizing world. . . [read the essay in full]

Pandemic and the (Fanta)scientific

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Chiara Cigarini’s “Pandemic and the (Fanta)scientific: A Prism of Voices from Today’s China.” The essay appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/cigarini/.

Kirk Denton, editor

Pandemic and the (Fanta)scientific:
A Prism of Voices from Today’s China

By Chiara Cigarini


MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August 2020)


Cover of an issue of Science Fiction World.

Jing Tsu 石静远, professor at Yale University, wrote an article not long ago for the Financial Times dedicated to the topic of contemporary Chinese science fiction (SF), in which she argued that the uniqueness of its production could be attributed, among other things, to the genre’s ability to simultaneously address the government, scholars, and domestic readers, as well as to appeal to an increasingly broad international audience.[1] The composite and polyphonic nature of Chinese SF allows it to be appreciated by such a diverse audience. It gives voice to different points of view across Chinese public discourse: these may relate, for example, to the virtues and limitations of scientific progress, to liabilities in the management of the Covid-19 situation and pandemics in general, to freedom of thought and freedom of the press. By spreading scientific and SF-related ideas, these voices in some cases enhance (in spite of themselves) the state’s official narrative, whereas in other cases they produce a tune dissonant to state propaganda. Precisely for these reasons, such voices deserve to be listened to, now more than ever. Continue reading

Video Lecture Series goes live

As universities switch to online and hybrid teaching this year, we thought that it would be useful to have a repository of short video lectures on various topics in modern Chinese literature. That idea has resulted in the “MCLC Modern Chinese Literature Video Lecture Series.” Today we are announcing that the series is now officially live. It already includes nearly 50 lectures, and several more are due to be added soon. This is an ongoing project, and further videos will be added over time.

Our lecturers were initially drawn from a pool of scholars who had contributed essays to the Routledge Handbook of Modern Chinese Literature and The Columbia Companion to Modern Chinese Literature, but the project quickly expanded to include colleagues across the field in all stages of their careers. The support and willingness to contribute have been incredible, and we thank the participants for their hard work on short notice. We are also grateful to Mario De Grandis (The Ohio State University) and Guo Feng (University of Edinburgh) for their assistance.

Please excuse any poor audio and other technical issues. In a sign of the times, these lectures were recorded from home using whatever equipment was at hand. Our deadlines and turnaround times were short. We hope the lectures make up for it with their content and that they provide a useful resource for students learning about Chinese literature.

To gain access to the videos, please complete the Registration Form. By filling out the form, you agree to only use these videos for educational, non-commercial purposes, and that only students in relevant courses at your teaching institution will be given access. Once you have submitted the form, you will receive an email with the password. We ask that pariticipants in the project also register. The site can be accessed from the main menu of the MCLC Resource Center homepage (click the Video Lectures icon and go to the “Login” link) or directly from this link.

Sincerely,

Kirk A. Denton (The Ohio State University) and Christopher Rosenmeier (University of Edinburgh)

Wuhan Diary review

MCLC Resource Center is please to announce publication of Howard Y. F. Choy’s review of Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City, by Fang Fang and translated by Michael Berry. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/choy-wuhan/.

Kirk Denton, editor

Wuhan Diary:
Dispatches from a Quarantined City

By Fang Fang
Translated by Michael Berry


Reviewed by Howard Y. F. Choy
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2020)


Fang Fang. Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City Trans. Michael Berry. New York: HarperVia, 2020. E-book version: ISBN 9780063052659, 0063052652.

The COVID-19 outbreak from Wuhan has impacted not only China but the entire globe, with the highest numbers of infections and deaths in the United States reaching around 5,380,000 and 170,000, respectively, as of August 15, 2020.[1] In a time of pandemic, what is the role of literature, particularly the form of online diary—the daily-based documentary genre that first appears on social media and is then translated into foreign languages and published in print abroad? Must the translator bear the burden of xenophobia from the nation of the source language? How much courage does one need to translate a testament to COVID-19 from China? Such was the situation that Michael Berry faced in April of this year, when he was translating the last entries of Fang Fang’s 方方 Wuhan Diary (武漢日記) and received more than six hundred hateful comments and threats against him and his family on his Weibo 微博 account. [2] In his “Translator’s Afterword,” Berry makes it clear that he did not intend to “weaponize” the book as a tool to criticize China and that his translation has nothing to do with the CIA; instead, he “felt the pressing need for the United States, and the world for that matter, to learn from Fang Fang” (368) from her epidemic experience, compassion, conscience, bravery and “audacity to refuse to be silenced,” and to “speak truth to power” (373). Continue reading

Realistic Revolution review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Brian Tsui’s review of Realistic Revolution: Contesting Chinese History, Culture, and Politcs after 1989, by Els van Dongen. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/tsui/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton

Realistic Revolution: Contesting Chinese
History, Culture, and Politics after 1989

By Els van Dongen


Reviewed by Brian Tsui

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2020)


Els van Dongen, Realistic Revolution: Contesting Chinese History, Culture, and Politics after 1989 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019. xii + 276 pgs. ISBN-13: 978-1108421300.

At a recent conference on Maoist China I attended, a historian gave, in proxy, a presentation on the People’s Commune experiment. The scholar, who was with the school of Marxism at a prestigious Beijing-based university, cited Friedrich Hayek and Karl Popper as his inspirations. I was bemused, to put it mildly. “What does a scholar attracted to the doyens of Cold War liberalism,” I almost thought aloud, “have to do with Marxism?” Had I read Els van Dongen’s Realistic Revolution then, I might have been able to put my unease in better perspective.

Writing on the recent past is a risky business for historians. In the case of China, the Maoist era is now a burgeoning field. Yet, the same cannot be said of the decades after Mao Zedong’s death. The dust, it seems, has yet to settle. Van Dongen’s choice of topic and period is a bold one. She focuses on the period from 1989 to 1993, arguably the most tumultuous period in the history of the People’s Republic from Mao’s death up to the current epidemic and all-out competition with the United States. Confronted with the onslaught of the Tian’anmen crackdown, the Soviet bloc’s dramatic demise, and the marketization of society, Chinese intellectuals in the immediate post-Tian’anmen era were forced to adjust their priorities and commitments. The “high culture fever,” as Jing Wang puts it, of the 1980s gave way to a much more sober and somber but no less complicated intellectual culture.[1] This complex development is the subject of van Dongen’s study. Many of the figures van Dongen discusses are not only alive, but are still highly influential in their fields. Van Dongen’s training in Europe and current position in Singapore, both removed from China and the United States, have given her a unique outsider vantage point from which to scrutinize transpacific events. Continue reading

Hao Jingfang’s “Limbo”

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Ursula D. Friedman’s translation of Hao Jingfang’s 郝景芳 novella “Limbo” (生死域). A teaser is found below, but to read the entire story, go to: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/limbo/.

Kirk Denton, editor

Limbo

By Hao Jingfang 郝景芳[1]

Translated by Ursula D. Friedman[2]


MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July 2020)


1

The Lonely Depths, by Hao Jingfang

He ventured cautiously through this strange twilight city. The sky was gray, the city gray. There was a peculiar feel to this city, the air swollen with an impending danger. The skyline was punctuated by a relentless succession of high-rises—the buildings’ rebar skeletons were gray, their glass flanks tinted gray. The gaps between the buildings were inked an impenetrable charcoal-gray. The sky was choked by a dense layer of low-hanging clouds, the skyscrapers’ invisible crowns swallowed by the ashen haze.

As he strode deeper into this city of shadows, he took stock of his surroundings, on constant guard against potential dangers lurking behind hidden street corners. His pace was slow and measured.

He did not know where he was. The last thing he remembered was blowing through a red light along Beijing’s Second Ring Road at two o’clock in the morning. A black Maserati had come flying out of nowhere, striking his vehicle full-on and flattening him into a corner of the driver’s seat. His car slammed into the guardrail, metal and glass debris piercing his flesh like a rain of bullets. . . . Later on, he vaguely recalled the bluish gleam of the lights in the operating room, and the IV bag in the hospital ward . . . and then . . . and then . . . [click here to read the rest]

On the 9th Reel China Biennial

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of “Homecoming, Postsocialist Memory, and Subjects: On the 9th Reel China Biennial,” by Qi Wang. The essay, an overview of films screened at the 9th Reel China Biennial, held at NYU in November of 2019, can be read in its entirety at: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/qi-wang2/. Find a teaser below.

Kirk Denton, editor

Homecoming, Postsocialist Memory, and Subjects:
On the 9th Reel China Biennial

By Qi Wang


MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June 2020)


The Reel China Biennial is an independent Chinese film and documentary screening series that was inaugurated in 2001. In November 2019, New York University hosted its 9th edition, co-curated by NYU professors Zhang Zhen (张真) and Angela Zito (司徒安) along with Wang Xiaolu (王小鲁), a leading critic of independent film in China (fig. 1).[1] As in the past, this most recent program is fresh and comprehensive. It showcases twelve films created after 2015. Among those, nine are from 2018, and six are of feature length, going over ninety minutes each.

24th Street (24号大街, dir. Pan Zhiqi 潘志琪, 2018), a nominee for the Best Documentary at the 55th Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, observes the vagabond life of Su and Qin, a couple nearing retirement age who have lived together out of wedlock for over two decades (fig. 2). The two make a living by running makeshift restaurants to feed fellow migrant workers on construction sites, the latter a common sight in and near cities such as Hangzhou, where the first part of the film is set, due to the massive urbanization unfolding in China. Without a license and at the mercy of shifting conditions that range from weather and location to the police, the hardworking Su and Qin know distress and failure only too well. With their investment turning fruitless once again, they decide to return to their native Guizhou province and perhaps settle down there. . .  [read the whole essay]

New Studies in Socialist Performance

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Xiaomei Chen’s “New Studies in Socialist Performance: A Review Essay,” which reviews Staging Revolution: Artistry and Aesthetics in Model Beijing Opera during the Cultural Revolution, by Xing Fan, and Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy, by Emily Wilcox. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/xiaomei-chen/. My thanks to Jason McGrath, MCLC book review editor for media studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

New Studies in Socialist Performance: A Review Essay

Staging Revolution: Artistry and Aesthetics in Model Beijing Opera during the Cultural Revolution, by Xing Fan
Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy, by Emily Wilcox


Reviewed by Xiaomei Chen
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2020)


Xing Fan, Staging Revolution: Artistry and Aesthetics in Model Beijing Opera during the Cultural Revolution Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2018. 308 pp. ISBN: 978-988-8455-81-2 (cloth).

Emily Wilcox, Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018. 322 pp. ISBN: 9780520300576 (cloth).

This review essay examines two outstanding recent books in Chinese performance studies: Xing Fan’s monograph Staging Revolution: Artistry and Aesthetics in Model Peking Opera during the Cultural Revolution (Hong Kong University Press, 2018) and Emily Wilcox’s Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy (University of California Press, 2019). Both books are substantial and significant contributions to theatre studies, contemporary Chinese literary and cultural studies, and comparative Asian theatre history, with a sharp focus on aesthetic traditions in the context of intellectual and political history.

Xing Fan’s Staging Revolution focuses on the complexities of the “revolutionary modern Peking opera” promoted during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), also widely known as “model theatre.” She is among the very few in English language scholarship to fully delve into the aesthetic features of Peking opera (jingju 京剧) in the modern period, with an emphasis on five major components of jingju arts: playwriting, acting, music, design, and directing. Staging Revolution expands the scope of Barbara Mittler’s remarkable book A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture (Harvard University East Asian Center, 2013) and Rosemary A. Roberts’s excellent study Maoist Model TheatreThe Semiotics of Gender and Sexuality in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) (Brill, 2010)With a comprehensive study of the artistry of model theatre, Fan’s Staging Revolution has raised to a new level the academic study of the model theatre, and by extension, the cultural legacy of the Cultural Revolution.

The scope of her book, moreover, reaches beyond the period of the Cultural Revolution. Her succinct narrative of jingju history and practice—from the late eighteenth century to the Yan’an period of the 1930s-40s and on to the high Maoist period before the Cultural Revolution—delineates a rich history of the sociological and ideological functions of jingju and its artistic heritage and development, with the latter being the most innovative contribution of Fan’s book. Continue reading

Vol. 32, no. 1 of MCLC

I am pleased to announce publication of vol. 32, no. 1 (Spring 2020) of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture. Find below a table of contents for the issue, with links to essay abstracts. Subscribers will be receiving copies in the next couple of weeks. If you would like to subscribe, or if you have any questions about the status of your subscription, please contact Mario De Grandis at mclc@osu.edu.

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture
Volume 32, Number 1 (Spring 2020)

Articles

Illiberal China review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Gabriele de Seta’s review of Illiberal China: The Ideologicial Challenge of the People’s Republic of China, by Daniel F. Vukovich. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/de-seta/. My thanks to Jason McGrath, MCLC media studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Illiberal China: The Ideological Challenge
of the People’s Republic of China

By Daniel F. Vukovich


Reviewed by Gabriele de Seta

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright April, 2020)


Daniel F. Vukovich, Illiberal China: The Ideological Challenge of the People’s Republic of China London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019. 250 pages. ISBN: 9789811344466 (Paper); 978-9811305405 (Hardcover).

Daniel F. Vukovich’s Illiberal China is an unabashedly provocative book, both in the sense of stringing together provocations that spare no academic field or political camp (except, perhaps, the author’s own) and in the sense of being thought-provoking (if, at times, in a maddeningly disagreeable way). The title of this book is almost a détournement of Elizabeth J. Perry’s 2012 article “The Illiberal Challenge of Authoritarian China,”[1] which is herein repeatedly referenced and functions as a springboard for Vukovich’s own argument. A few pages in, it becomes rapidly clear how Vukovich has taken Perry’s sensible conclusion—that “under certain conditions, a robust civil society may actually work to strengthen and sustain an attentive authoritarian regime” (Perry, 15)—and subtly reshuffled the terms of her formulation: instead of the illiberal challenge posed by Chinese authoritarianism, the author identifies instead China’s illiberalism as a challenge to the liberal world. The latter is often equated with the West, which conveniently overlaps with the other target of the book’s critique: orientalism, and more specifically the brand of “Sinological orientalism” that was the target of Vukovich’s previous monograph (2013).[2] Illiberal China is chronologically situated after 1989—Vukovich has previously written about orientalist interpretations of the Tiananmen square protests[3]—and maps the vicissitudes of liberal and illiberal politics during China’s “definitive and even epochal” rise on the world stage (vii). Continue reading

Animation in the Sinosphere

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of “Animation in the Sinosphere: A Review Essay,” by Evelyn Shih. The essay reviews two recent publications on animation in China and Taiwan. The review appears below, and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/evelyn-shih/. My thanks to Jason McGrath, MCLC media studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Animation in the Sinosphere: A Review Essay

Puppets, Gods, and Brands: Theorizing the Age of Animation from Taiwan, by Teri Silvio
Animated Encounters: Transnational Movements of Chinese Animation, 1940s-1970s, by Daisy Yan Du


Reviewed by Evelyn Shih
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright May, 2020)


Teri Silvio, Puppets, Gods, and Brands: Theorizing the Age of Animation from Taiwan Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2019. 290 pages. ISBN: 9780824881160 (Paper); 9780824876623 (Hardcover).

Daisy Yan Du, Animated Encounters: Transnational Movements of Chinese Animation Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2019. 276 pages. ISBN: 9780824877644 (Paper); 9780824872106 (Hardcover).

Has the age of animation begun? And if it has, to whom does it belong? Two new books on Chinese and Taiwanese animation bring these questions into focus using materials that have thus far received scant attention in English-language scholarship. In global animation studies, by far the dominant loci for animation have been America and Japan—the former beginning with the worldwide stardom of Mickey Mouse, and the latter beginning with the post-WWII boom of anime, which subsequently drew interest to earlier animation and related media. The modes of animation that emerged from these locations have come to define the paradigms through which most scholars approach animation, and included among these framing paradigms is the specter of national cinema. While both Teri Silvio’s Puppets, Gods, and Brands: Theorizing the Age of Animation from Taiwan and Daisy Yan Du’s Animated Encounters: Transnational Movements of Chinese Animation engage with that framework, they also work to push the model forward with new perspectives.

Silvio challenges “Japanamerica” through the lens of post-colonialism, taking as her case study a past colony of Japan and a neo-colonial client state of the US: Taiwan.[1] More importantly, however, she broadens the field of animation studies by finding an interdisciplinary interface with anthropology and religious studies—that is, she engages seriously with media studies, especially areas such as fan and reception studies, film analysis, and production studies, but her strength is in cultural theory. The “age of animation” that she proposes in her title is not just an acknowledgement of increasingly sophisticated digital technologies and virtual realities reaching a new level of omnipresence in contemporary life; it also redefines animation as a mode of post-humanism. As she puts it, “animation in the narrow sense (a kind of cinema or video) is popular because animation in the broad sense (giving objects lives of their own) is good to think with—specifically, to think through what is happening right now in the intersections of technology and capitalism, of the global and the local, of the human and the nonhuman” (3). In one deft move, Silvio provincializes Japanese and American animation, which is after all just “a kind of cinema or video,” and finds a larger question that puts a relatively marginal mode of Taiwanese puppet animation at the center. Puppets, after all, are objects that exist precisely to have a “life of their own.” Continue reading

After Eunuchs review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Elise Huerta’s review of After Eunuchs: Science, Medicine, and the Transformation of Sex in Modern China, by Howard Chiang. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/huerta/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

After Eunuchs: Science, Medicine,
and the Transformation of Sex in Modern China

By Howard Chiang


Reviewed by Elise Huerta

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright April, 2020)


Howard Chiang, After Eunuchs: Science, Medicine, and the Transformation of Sex in Modern China New York: Columbia University Press, 2020. xx + 391 pgs. ISBN: 9780231185790 (Paper); Hardcover published 2018: ISBN: 9780231185783.

Since the late 1980s, China scholars have produced a steady stream of research on sex, gender, and feminism that has critically reframed the way the field approaches major topics such as love, labor, nationalism, and modernity. Despite the vast magnitude of  existing work on sexuality and same-sex desire, Howard Chiang’s After Eunuchs: Science, Medicine, and the Transformation of Sex in Modern China (2018) is the first book-length history of sex change to appear within the field of Chinese studies. In this meticulously-researched interdisciplinary study, Chiang unearths a plethora of archival evidence to not only shed fresh light on decades-long debates about shifting discourses of sex in modern China, but also to reveal the precise mechanisms and conditions that made such discourses possible. Chiang’s detailed close reading of visual and literary texts, his rigorous engagement with queer, Sinophone, and post-structuralist theories, and his sensitive treatment of the archive culminate in a coherent and convincing genealogy of sex in China, from the demise of eunuchism in the late imperial period through the emergence of public discourse on transsexuals in 1950s Taiwan. The book’s major historical intervention is its establishing of an unexpected relationship between these two phenomena, arguing that the conceptual foundation necessary for “transsexual” to emerge as an intelligible category in 1950s Taiwan can be traced back to a three-pronged “‘epistemic nexus’” that came to the fore during the early twentieth century (13). This nexus, which posited a new conceptualization of sex as composed of  “elements of visibility, carnality, and elasticity,” was constructed by Chinese sexologists and self-proclaimed “sexperts” who developed globally-circulating ideas within the context of examples from traditional culture, among which was the body of the eunuch (14). Continue reading