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Editors Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Sean Macdonald

This paper is a discussion of the fantastic genre in literature and film. I employ the term genre in this paper in two ways. First, I attempt to define the fantastic as a genre of writing through the emblematic form of the zhiguai. Second, I link this genre of writing to fantastic film, a category of genre film that has dominated the market in China recently. One of the earliest forms of fiction in Chinese literature, zhiguai were often contrasted to textually verifiable historic writing. First, I contrast discussions of zhiguai to modern conceptions of the fantastic and Enlightenment and revolutionary conceptions of narrative and history. The zhiguai share some features with fantastic storytelling in Europe, notably the Gothic tale that emerged in the late eighteenth century. Second, I draw links between state intervention in religion and superstition and the early modern classification of fantastic literature and film. State anti-superstition campaigns in the early twentieth century would frame fantastic films as superstitious (shenguai dianying). Third, I discuss how the fantastic has been framed in the contemporary China. The modern and contemporary fantastic in China is a combination of Chinese and Western categories of the real and the supernatural.

Editors Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Xudong Zhang

Setting to the task of a logical exposition of this article from Mao’s Talks with regards to both historical context and philosophical content, a re-reading explores the “living historical document” as a theoretical possibility. The author indicates that the literary-artistic hypothesis of Talks consists in the political and military logic of “the revolutionary machine,” offering a politically autonomous character to artistic formulation while simultaneously drawing up a mechanics for the general relationship between the reconstruction of art and social relations in the country’s future. Successively, in an attempt to engage with an elucidation of Mao’s notion of “universal enlightenment” in the contemporary context, is an analytical emphasis on the implications of the material of Talks which embodies its cultural-political framework. This indicates that the revolutionary machine imposes a double function on the cultural-artistic worker as somebody who undertakes the responsibilities of both teacher and servant; who occupies the position of a “vanishing mediator” in the process of universal historical movement; and whose vanguard characteristics and ultimate existence possess no independent value but instead depend on and draw from their relationship with the historical totality. The author holds that this perspective supports the advancement of our cognizance with regards to the civilizing functionality and ethical constructiveness of the Chinese Revolution in world-historical context.

Elena Macrì

In his book Time in Ruins, the French anthropologist Marc Augé pointed out that “humanity is not in ruins, it is being built.” These words well fit both the present-day Chinese context and the figurative trend of new shanshuihua in which construction sites, cityscapes and artificial nature territories become the subject of depiction. New iconic elements that provide a visual and conceptual framework for artists’ construction of a different shanshui-type heavily indebted to Chinese social and environmental changes, these new coded depictions substitute the traditional representation of natural landscape, reflect the rise of a new sensibility about nature and challenge the idea of what landscape is in the context of Chinese contemporary art. By focusing on a variety of works related to the theme of artificial nature and representing paradigmatic images of physical and allegorical landscape, this paper aims to explore this visual and conceptual innovations introduced in the context of new shanshuihua and analyze the way in which artists use nature, trying to find a new aesthetic categorization for this artistic genre.

Mengtian Sun

Chinese science fiction (sf) writer Liu Cixin (b. 1963) has constantly been dubbed as China’s Arthur C. Clarke (1917−2008) ever since he won the 2015 Hugo Award for best novel. He himself humbly states on several occasions that everything he writes is just clumsy imitations of Arthur C. Clarke. One similarity between Liu and Clarke is the obsession with the imagination of the alien encounter. But their imagination of the alien other has one major difference: While the aliens in Clarke’s sf are mostly benevolent, those in Liu’s are mostly malevolent. This essay compares the differences between their alien encounter sf, focusing on Childhood’s End and The Three-Body Trilogy (Santi sanbuqu). I will especially look at how the narrative point of view and the consequence of the alien encounter differ in the two texts. And I argue that Childhood’s End is an unapologetic justification of (British) colonialism (dressed up as the benevolent Overlords) and propaganda for colonial logics, whereas Liu’s trilogy is a representation of the colonial encounter story written from the point of view of the (semi-) colonized, for whom this experience is characterized by dehumanization. The Three-Body Trilogy could be considered as resulted from the revival of the national humiliation discourse in the 1990s.

Veronica Hollinger

The current ecological crisis is the single most pressing problem for utopian projects today. The ever-expanding intersections of technology and capital in the Age of the Anthropocene are, if nothing else, invitations to consider the possibilities for utopian thought particularly as it is embodied in the formal structures of science fiction (sf). Science fiction is a genre whose origins in post-Enlightenment industrial modernity align it with globalization’s valorization of the scientific progress and limitless economic expansion that have contributed so much to the shape of the current crisis. This introduces a significant tension into science fiction’s efforts to imagine a way out of the crisis and toward some kind of utopian future that is not simply a repetition of the present. In the context of today’s climate crisis, what are the possibilities for utopian thought that succumbs neither to the anxieties that arise in the face of inevitable and radical change nor to an optimistic “techno-utopianism” that threatens to repeat all the errors of the past? What are the possibilities for utopian thought that takes account of human beings as an inter-relational species deeply imbricated with all life on Earth? I look at a variety of twenty-first-century Anglo-American sf stories through the lens of eco-philosopher Timothy Morton’s theory of climate change as a “hyperobject” and in the framework of sf writer Geoff Ryman’s “Mundane Manifesto” (2004)—his call for a kind of science fiction that recognizes the Earth as the only home that can sustain us.