MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Nick Admussen’s review of The Condition of Music and Anglophone Influences in the Poetry of Shao Xunmei, by Tian Jin. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/poetry-of-shao-xunmei/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.
Kirk Denton, editor
By Tian Jin
Reviewed by Nick Admussen
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2020)
Shao Xunmei (邵洵美, 1906-1968) is a fascinating figure. A poet, translator, critical essayist, and editor, his cosmopolitan, decadent, deeply Shanghainese voice both influenced and, in some ways, epitomized a certain strand of Republican-era literature. Shao also led a famously romantic life, some of which was captured by his literary collaborator, opium-partner, and lover, Emily Hahn, in a series of books and New Yorker articles. But Shao’s legacy has been much colored by leftist disdain for his upper-class background and rightist excoriation of his licentious tastes. Lu Xun said that “Money makes the world go round, maybe even the universe, but it won’t make you a good writer, and the poetry of the poet Shao Xunmei demonstrates this” (xvii). Dismissals like this meant that after 1949, even critical consideration of his writing became difficult, and the Cultural Revolution-era charge that he was engaged in international espionage (for writing a letter to Emily Hahn asking for money) was not vacated until 1985.
Tian Jin’s monograph, The Condition of Music and Anglophone Influences in the Poetry of Shao Xunmei, is therefore an early entry into the field of Shao studies, which is a decade behind the study of other writers from the same period. It is a short dissertation-style book with a healthy 42-page introduction that sets out Shao’s biography and reception history, especially useful since Shao has been left out of most literary histories. The book focuses on the way that tropes of music in Shao’s poetry and criticism are drawn from Anglophone writers, specifically Algernon Charles Swinburne, Edith Sitwell, and George Augustus Moore. As it does so, it uses feminist critique to demonstrate that Shao’s gender politics are affected by, and affect, his poetics. Continue reading