This paper studies Su Xuelin’s imaginative and scholarly writing from the 1940s to the 1980s as a series of projects aimed at building a utopian world to reconcile the conflicting claims of Chinese nationalism and her Christian faith. In her short stories celebrating the Ming loyalists, Confucian and Catholic, who defended the Manchus unto death, she highlighted the image of the mountain as the center of their moralpolitical universe. She continued to work on the mountain in her scholarly articles and, under the influence of the European school of Pan-Babylonianism, traced the origin of Mount Kunlun, the Biblical Eden, and other sacred mountains to ancient Mesopotamia. On this basis, she postulated that Qu Yuan produced his rhapsodies by drawing from the repository of world mythologies brought to him by ancient migrations, the forgotten foundation of the Chinese civilization. Although Su’s work is limited to the medium of print culture, her seemingly disconnected projects coalesce to enact a fantastical world mediating diverse times and places. A representative of the Chinese Catholics, a knowledge community actively participating in what Henry Jenkins calls trans-media world-building, Su reimagined China and Christianity as both located in a global network of migrations and mutations.
Editors Frontiers of Literary Studies in China
This paper examines the performative significance of Lu Xun’s historical short stories collected in Gushi xinbian (Old stories retold, 1936) by focusing on the mediality of his idiosyncratic writing, which he himself called “facetious.” It revisits the young Lu Xun’s uneasy engagement with medical science as student documented in his lecture notebooks bearing corrections by his teacher as well as his early essays. This provides an analytical framework for discussing the stakes of his historical fiction as a critique of the discourse of scientific historiography which was increasingly gaining currency in May Fourth China. Lu Xun’s historical fiction is conspicuously not meant to function as a stable medium between the past and the present but betrays its opaque and even arbitrary mediality, which disrupts identity in historical representation and thus critiques ideological, “cultural” power inherent in scientific discourse that tries to establish that identity. The paper then reads Gushi xinbian as attempts at recovering history from such power and envisioning new possibilities of historical transmission in the midst of an aporetic search of a prehistory of Chinese modernity—attempts hinged on anachronistic textual moments whose meanings circulate in defiance of any identity of time with itself, thereby bespeaking an alternative power to “make” history.
This paper examines the visual representation of the famous poem The Song of Everlasting Sorrow in modern China. Painted by Li Yishi in 1929, this sequential set of paintings was based on the Tang poet Bai Juyi’s poem, written under the same title. First shown at the National Art Exhibition in Shanghai and then published as an illustrated book in 1932, Li’s work rekindled public imagination of the tragic romance. Li’s choice of subject, format, as well as style and its mixed reviews raise crucial questions regarding the notion of realism and the authenticity of historical representation. This paper argues that Li’s work revealed new transmedia aesthetics and cross-cultural fascination with China’s past that shaped the cultural identity of East Asia in the early twentieth century.
This article examines the effect and affect of historical representations in wartime Chinese theater and cinema, as well as the interplay between the two media. With the burgeoning of late Ming stories on stage and on screen, the fall of the Ming became a “chosen trauma” that connects the nation’s past with its historical present. However the traumatic fate of the nation was never the actual subject of representation, but served to enhance the affective power of tragic‐heroic figures. Focusing on A Ying’s Sorrow for the Fall of the Ming, one of the most popular wartime historical plays, the paper studies the narrative structure, performance style and adaptation strategy of the play to demonstrate how patriotic spirit was foregrounded as the key to national survival. It was through the audience’s resonation with the characters’ passionate speech on stage and on screen that individuals’ emotional attachment to the nation was consolidated, both horizontally across space and vertically through history.
“Make the past serve the present!” Thus goes Mao Zedong’s slogan on how to appropriate the ancient in revolutionary times. In my previous studies, I have argued that the Chinese writers’ engagement with the ancient gave rise to a platform of “necessary anachronism” in cultural transformation. This new project carries further this argument and draws attention to the transmediality in the leftist historical imagination. From the 1940s through the 1970s, the revolutionary representations of the ancient were simultaneously poetic, theatrical, intellectual, and cinematic, to say nothing about the calligraphic and visual adaptations they elicited. This current of reinventing the ancient manifested itself in the historical drama in wartime China and found a coda in the anti-colonial leftist cinematic adaptation of the historical play Qu Yuan in 1970s Hong Kong. Starting with a broader theoretical intervention into the issue of media, this paper emphasizes that the transmedial reinterpretation of the ancient in fact formed a mode of mediation between revolution and history, between politics and aesthetics. In the cultural regime of China’s long revolution, the transference or translation of the allegorical-anachronistic energies among different media was a key site of signification, contestation, and crisis.
Literary Theory, World Literature, and the Ethics of Interpretation
This essay concerns the unequal distribution of epistemic capital in the academic field of World Literature and calls for an epistemic shift: a broadening of our theoretical canon and the epistemologies through which we read and interpret world literature. First, this epistemic inequality is discussed through a sociological examination of the “world republic of literary theory,” addressing the limits of circulation of literary epistemologies. The current situation, it is argued, creates an “intellectual captivity,” the ethical and political implications of which are demonstrated through a close reading of the acts of reading world literature performed by scholars at the center of the field. A few possible solutions are then suggested, drawing on recent developments in anthropology, allowing for a redistribution of epistemic capital within the discipline of World Literature: awareness of positionality, reflexivity as method, promotion of marginal scholarship, and a focus on “points of interaction.”