The present volume is the product of a joint effort made by scholars from across China (including Hong Kong), Japan and Europe. The book gathers sixteen papers devoted to literary and cultural criticism from a comparative point of view.
A perspective prominent in this volume is imagology, an approach first developed by Daniel-Henry Pageaux, and which focuses on specific images in literary and other texts. The study of the image of the “foreign” in national literary traditions, for instance, belongs to the traditional purview of comparative literature. Pageaux did more than uphold this tradition. He practically reinvented it using new theoretical concepts and perspectives (in particular, semiotics and reception aesthetics). On this basis, he was able to develop a theory and a methodology that are both usable and in tune with contemporary concerns.
The present book covers a wide range of topics in the study of images of Westerners in Chinese and Japanese literature. Individual contributions deal with issues such as the genesis of the Chinese term Foreign Devil, the occurrence of Westerners in modern Chinese and Japanese literature, and the Chinese and Japanese reception of indiviual western authors and artists such as, amongst others, Oscar Wilde, Vincent Van Gogh, and Madame Roland. Some papers examine individual authors such as Lu Xun and Takeyama Michio. Others examine historical periods or literary movements. The approaches followed range from historical investigations of linguistic practices to detailed literary analyses.
A great deal of stimulating and valuable discussion (as well as some indignation and hot air) has been stimulated by Edward Said, whose provocative study of
Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient appeared twenty years ago. This present book will, we believe, be recognized as a worthy addition to the many attempts that have since been made to sift the intrinsic and ingrained attitudes of West to East. The fifteen articles in
Oriental Prospects: Western Literature and the Lure of the East cover literature from the Renaissance through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to the modern period, some in pragmatic accounts of responses to and uses of experiences of the Orient and its cultural attitudes and artefacts, others contending more theoretically with issues that Edward Said has raised. Despite all the misunderstanding, prejudice and propaganda in the scholarly and literary depiction of the Orient still today as in the past, what emerges from this wide-range of articles is that no species of literary text or academic study can appear without risking the accusation of escapist exoticism or cultural and economic exploitation; and thus regrettably masking the essential and vital significance of the political and the real and imaginative trading between East and West.