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

Paper Republic News #2

Source: Paper Republic (1/21/21)
Read all about it! – News #2
By Jack Hargreaves

Here it is, what you’ve all been waiting for, the definitive round-up of all things Chinese / literature / translation / everything in-between. It was brilliant after the first instalment to receive requests for newsletter subscription, which is definitely our aim — to have this drop in your inbox every two weeks — but for now it remains in its nascent form. If there’s anything you’d like to see more of, less of, just the right amount of, please comment below. If you’ve stumbled upon news we’ve missed, or on any stories or extracts (I’ve found zero (EDIT: two)), pop them in the comments too.

See you again in two weeks!

1. Acclaimed Chinese-language writer Yeng Pway Ngon 英培安 dies aged 73 — Author of Unrest (tr. Jeremy Tiang), Lonely Face (tr. Natascha Bruce) and much, much more. RIP.
2. Northwest Review open for submissions — they “really, really want to see as much translation as possible for Winter 2021!!” 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

The Roots of Anti-Asian Racism in the US

Alexa Alice Joubin, “The Roots of Anti-Asian Racism in the U.S.: The Pandemic and ‘Yellow Peril’.” Global Social Security Review Vol. 15 (Winter 2020): 50-59.

Abstract: COVID-19 has exacerbated anti-Asian racism—the demonization of a group of people based on their perceived social value—in the United States in the cultural and political life. Offering strategies for inclusion during and after the pandemic, this article analyzes the history and language of racism, including the notion of yellow peril. Racialized thinking and racial discourses are institutionalized as power relations, take the form of political marginalization of minority groups, and cause emotional distress and physical harm.

Journal website:

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:

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.

Li Tuo’s “The Pandemic and Contemporary Capitalism”

I’m happy to announce that Boundary 2has released my translation of Li Tuo’s provocative interview, “The Pandemic and Contemporary Capitalism,” originally published in the Beijing Cultural Review 文化纵横 last summer. The interview ranges across a broad series of topics, but, at its core, engages the profound difficulties for critical thinking in the contemporary world. How, Li Tuo asks, do we think about capitalism today in the wake of its long, entangled history with struggles for socialism? Does Bernie Sanders or America’s Occupy Movement offer resources for thinking the future otherwise? If not, then where can we look? Finally, where does China figure in all of this and why do so many thinkers exclude it from their analyses altogether?

Harlan Chambers

Asian Collections outside Asia

Edited by Iside Carbone and Helen Wang
Online publication, open access:

Carbone, Iside and Helen Wang (eds), 2020. Asia Collections in Museums outside Asia: Questioning Artefacts, Cultures and Identities, Transcultural Perspectives 2020, issue 1, thematic issue in Kunsttexte. Humboldt University. Berlin.

Introduction to Special Issue: Asia Collections outside Asia: Questioning Artefacts, Cultures and Identities in the Museum
–   Iside CARBONE and Helen WANG

Challenging the Framing of Asia and the Role of the KVVAK (Royal Asian Art Society in the Netherlands): The Asian Pavilion of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
–   Annette LOESEKE

Imagining the Orient: Early Collecting at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
–   Laura VIGO

The Museo Nacional de Arte Oriental in Buenos Aires: From European Taste for Oriental Art to Genuine Interest in the East

The Collections of the Orient Museum (Fundação Oriente-Museu do Oriente): Polysemy and Metonymy
–   Sofia CAMPOS LOPES Continue reading

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: 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

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: 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: 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


Kirk Denton, editor

Volume 32, Number 2 (Fall 2020) 

New party in HK calls for stability (and raises suspicions)

Source: NYT (1/16/21)
In Hong Kong, a New Party Calls for Stability (and Raises Suspicions)
Democracy advocates have called the Bauhinia Party a “Trojan horse” for the Chinese government. But Beijing’s local allies are wary of it, too.
By Keith Bradsher and Vivian Wang

Hong Kong’s Legislative Council in November. Businessmen in Hong Kong with ties to mainland China have created a new political party that some consider a “Trojan horse” for spreading mainland Chinese influence. Credit…Kin Cheung/Associated Press

BEIJING — They are businessmen, born in mainland China, who serve on top advisory committees to Beijing and profess patriotism for the motherland. One recently traveled to an obscure village in southeastern China to study Xi Jinping’s doctrine for guiding the country to greatness.

Now, they are seeking to bring that ardor to Hong Kong, as the founders of the city’s newest political party. They are calling for social stability to unify a deeply fractured society and mend a damaged economy.

“You cannot have a protest every day,” said Li Shan, the founder and chairman of the party.

The arrival of the Bauhinia Party has fueled furious speculation about the future of Hong Kong’s once-vibrant, at times unruly, political scene. The party, led by business executives who moved to Hong Kong from the mainland, is entering the fray amid forceful moves by the Chinese government to quash dissent, after huge pro-democracy protests in 2019 challenged its rule. Continue reading