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Comparative literature in Taiwan flourished in the 1970s, focusing on the comparison of classical Chinese and Western literary classics. In the 1990s, this focus shifted to theory-based research centered on local sociopolitical issues. The literariness of actual comparisons and appreciation of literary works suffered as a result of this shift. The high level of specialization in the present academic system hinders interdisciplinary research, and, in this vein, translation studies has come to question the value of comparative literature. The resurgence of world literature has opened up new possibilities and repivoted attention back toward literariness and translation of texts away from the focus on contentious ideological issues. From the perspective of a Sinosphere with multiple literary centers, comparatists in Taiwan have an opportunity to leverage their diverse and rich cultural resources for the fostering of literary dialogues. Such discourse can connect literary works worldwide, and in the process revive the momentum of a discipline that promotes cross-cultural understanding and profound appreciation for the diversity of human civilizations.

In: Journal of World Literature
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The Bildungsroman as a sub-genre of narrative fiction depicts a person’s maturing journey in which one encounters harsh realities of the world, grows through diverse experiences, and eventually finds oneself and one’s place in the world; it is essentially about a person’s initiation into society. In this essay, I borrow R.W.B. Lewis’s coinage “denitiation” and delineate an alternative pattern to the socially oriented individual development in literature, one in which the hero’s encounter with the world leads to insurmountable disillusionment and ends with renunciation or retreat; it turns out to be an initiation out of the world. I illustrate the literature of denitiation with examples from European, American, and Chinese literatures.

In: Journal of World Literature
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Abstract

This essay lies at the intersection of several fields: the study of the novel, world literature, early modern studies, and global modernity. It analyzes the representation of the outside world in the Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber (aka The Story of the Stone) from the 18th century. There exist frequent appearances of foreign objects as well as glimpses of China’s trade with the West in the novel, and yet the literary work maintains a China-centered worldview. The essay situates the novel in the context of nascent world literature at that time and intervenes in the field of East-West comparative literature in the early modern period. The encounter with foreign objects and material culture is a shocking and exciting discovery as described in vivid details in this novel. Yet, China’s ambivalent attitude toward introducing and embracing foreign culture results in the belated emergence of world literature on its soil.

In: Journal of World Literature

Abstract

Adorno described the lyric as “a philosophical sundial telling the time of history”. Here I read two poets whose continued cultural dominance make their work an ideal site for defining the privileged access of lyric to the nature of things. Horace and Tao body forth deep-rooted cultural thinking in a specific language at a specific time, but share universal concerns with the art of living well. Horace’s Odes suggest the freedom that art confers; the continual return of Chinese poets to Tao’s oeuvre suggests they found there a touchstone for their own questing voice. These small lyrics enshrine theories of the natural world, the self and society which present an enlarged vision of the good life. Articulating variously the realities of sacrifice and struggle, the pull of necessity and freedom, the path of beauty and the role of poetry, Horace and Tao open up horizons for reading empathetically across cultures.

In: Journal of World Literature
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Chinese-Western comparative literature is a difficult area of study that requires a high level of competence in languages, cultures, and histories across the huge differences between China and the West. It also has the remarkable potential to make contributions to comparative literature and comparative poetics. This essay discusses the exemplary works of Zhu Guangqian and Qian Zhongshu as our predecessors and continues to explore the different relationship between parallelism and end rhyme as an example of making contributions to comparative poetics from the perspective of Chinese literature and criticism.

In: Journal of World Literature
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In: Journal of World Literature
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Abstract

The novel The Gadfly (1897) enjoyed enormous popularity in the Soviet Union, China, and other socialist countries in the twentieth century. The novel was first canonized in the Soviet Union, listed as an extracurricular reading for middle school students, and then canonized in China in the 1950s and early 1960s. Instead of inviting open-ended interpretations, the authorities endorse a politicized interpretation of the novel, portraying the Catholic hero “Gadfly” as a romantic revolutionary fighting for national independence. In contrast to its immediate success in socialist countries, the novel is hardly known and even largely forgotten in the West. This essay looks into the translation, circulation, and reception of the novel in the Soviet Union and China, particularly the political power structures inherent in the processes of its canonization in these socialist countries. Despite the political effort to elevate it to the status of a literary canon in the socialist bloc, the novel never entered a canon of world literature as such, which, I argue, should be tested out by its intrinsic literary values and appreciated by worldwide communities of enlightened readers, free from heavy-handed political interventions and ideological manipulation.

In: Journal of World Literature
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Abstract

This essay examines the tension between minzu (roughly an equivalent of “ethnic” and “national”) and world literature by investigating Tibetan-Chinese writer Alai’s Gesar and his other writings. For Alai, the tension between minzu and world literature is a moot question. He challenges many assumptions of both minzu and world literature through his metafictional rewriting of Gesar and alerts us to the power of differentiation. Alai’s unique views urge us to reflect on the politics of a non-Western ethnic writer writing in, to, and for the world.

In: Journal of World Literature
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Abstract

The extension of World Literature, a profoundly valuable concept, implies a degree of homogeneity among its objects which undermines the promise of this disciplinary field. Enlarging the scope of World Literature to include the vast corpus of Chinese writing only raises the stakes, for this corpus is internally heterogeneous, temporally differentiated, and does not always answer to the generic labels most commonly assumed in the constitution of comparables by investigators in World Literature. The present article pleads for a deeper temporal range and a greater categorical flexibility in the theory of World Literature, and above all for a suspension of the privilege tacitly granted to European neoclassical ideas of genre and style.

Open Access
In: Journal of World Literature
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Abstract

This essay will analyse how Goethe’s “Weltliteratur” is interpreted and re-invented in China in the twenty-first century mainly by reviewing selective essays published in the Chinese journal Comparative Literature in China. The analysis reveals how Chinese scholars strive to engage actively in the international discussions of the concept and to chart a map of world literature by offering Chinese perspectives. One such attempt is to trace a parallel development line of similar ideas in Chinese literary history whereas another is to emphasize the position of Chinese literature in the picture of world literature, especially by incorporating overseas Chinese literature into comparative literary studies with the intention to enlarge the scope of reference of Chineseness. These attempts reflect the growing confidence of Chinese scholars to secure our position in the global development of world literature and world literature studies.

In: Journal of World Literature