Chinese Literary Culture in the Age of Globalization: Inter-Continental Perspectives

Abstracts

Alphabetical list by participant’s surname. Click on paper title to go to abstract and (coming soon), click on participant’s name for e-mail.

  • Jianguo Chen, Michigan State University
    The Rise and Decline of China’s Cultural Identity (Panel abstract)
  • Jianguo Chen, Michigan State University
    Pleasures of Exile and the Logic of Trans/national Practice—- the Politics of Contemporary Chinese Diaspora
  • Hsiao-hung Chang, National Taiwan University
    Fabric-ating China: Identity and Desire in Postcolonial Fashion Studies
  • Kuei-fen Chiu, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, National Chung-hsing University
    Writing Women Writers into Taiwan’s Literary History: Notes on Postcolonial Historiography in Taiwan
  • Yim-tze Kwong, Dept of Chinese, Lingnan College, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong
    The Concept of Transcendence in Shijing
  • Chaoyang Liao, National Taiwan University
    Catastrophe and Hope: The Politics of The Ancient Capital and The City Where the Blood-Red Bat Descended
  • Sebastian Hsien-hao Liao, National Taiwan University
    Nativism at the Crossroad: Fin de Siecle and Local Resistance
  • Sheldon H. Lu, University of Pittsburgh
    Jia Pingwa’s Ruined Capital and the Fin-de-siecle Malaise
  • Christopher Lupke, Bowdoin College
    Kicking the Habitus: Cultural Critique, Refracted Memories, and Representability Among China’s Elites
  • Tze-lan D. Sang, EALL, University of Oregon
    Lesbian Desire in fin-de-sciecle Chinese Literature
  • Yichin Shen, Fullerton University, California
    The Home, the Journey and the Border: The Fragmentation and Construction of Identity in Chuang Hua’s Crossings
  • Kwok-kan Tam, Professor, Department of English, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, N.T.
    Paradigm shifts in the study of Chinese literature & culture in Hong Kong, Taiwan and PRC, 1970s-1990s
  • Kuo-ch’ing Tu University of California at Santa Barbara
    Chinese Literature and World Literatures in Chinese
  • Ban Wang Associate Professor, Comparative Literature SUNY, Stony Brook
    Memory and History in the Mass Culture of Globalization
  • Rujie Wang, College of Wooster, Ohio
    The Rise and Decline of China’s Cultural Identity
  • Ben Xu, Associate Professor of English Saint Mary’s College of California
    Contesting Memory for Intellectual Self-Positioning: Radical-Conservative Pairing and New Cultural Conservatism in China of the 1990s 
  • Michelle Yeh, University of California, Davis
    Cultural Identity and Modernity: Crisis and Creativity in Modern Chinese Poetry  
  • Gang Yue, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Who Will Feed China? A Dialogue between Millenarian Environmentalism and Fin-de-siècle Fiction in the 1990s   
  • Brook Anthony Ziporyn, Harvard University
    Good Things to Eat: Lin Yutang and Chinese Cultural Identity 

Selected Abstracts (some abstracts are located in other directories)

 

The Rise and Decline of China’s Cultural Identity by Rujie Wang, College of Wooster, Ohio
First, a word about “identity.” The Chinese meaning of the English word, as an abstract concept in philosophical or psycho-social context in which it is most frequently used, is a living event and on-going saga yet to be told. Understandably, there has not been a chapter in Chinese intellectual history devoted to the problems of identity: personal, ethnic or cultural, which exist nonetheless. The problematic of identity, for which there has not been an appropriate Chinese word, is not product of philosophical speculation, (which already existed in Zhuangzi’s butterfly dream) but corresponds to a historical reality in China in which many people experienced this “crisis” or “doubling” in one’s self-conception and identity, the situation is not entirely different from what happened to Anglo-Saxon educated African natives depicted by Franz Fanon in his “Black Skin White Masks,” torn between the cultural values they embraced as civilizing surrogates of the West and their ethnic roots that are disparaged by the advancement of those very values. Lu Xun’s seven years stay in Japan, where he was exposed to wide range of Western social thoughts from Social Darwinism to Christianity, transformed him from a medical student into a controversial writer who rendered problematic various modes of being social in China. In his “The True Story of Ah Q” China’s cultural identity is pathologized as a form of sickness. Ba Jin’s two years in France also gave him a taste of intellectual homelessness, which he used to create a famous hero whose self-identity compels him to breaks from his own “Family.” Lao She’s stay in England where he read Dickens and Zola enabled him to deconstruct a Chinese person’s self-identity with the tools naturalism and economic determinism, reducing him to a product of his internal drives and external social conditions, just like a “Camel.” These stories show the fiction of identity, namely, a non-identity between reason and reality, which is one of the general conditions of modern culture in which everybody is rooted in the uprooted.

 

Pleasures of Exile and the Logic of Trans/national Practice—- the Politics of Contemporary Chinese Diaspora by Jianguo Chen Michigan State University
Diaspora seems a human existential mode. As the Book of Genesis tells us, in the beginning, there was exile. And “it is through exile that our ancestors proceeded to the true beginning of the world.” In a certain sense, “home” becomes meaningful only when exile begins. Thus, while Confucian ethical codes admonish that “One should not rove afar when one’s parents are alive,” Chinese culture has nonetheless formulated a remarkable diasporic tradition, especially in modern days. Since the early 1980s (when China adopted its “open-door” policy) there has emerged a general “exodus” of Chinese (mainly students and intellectuals) into the United States and other western countries, which has produced a noticeable impact on the homeland and the adopted land as well. Along with this diasporic movement has come up a trans/national literature in the form of “exile literature,” immigrant literature, and Liuxuesheng wenxue (literature of Chinese students abroad), written either in Chinese or English (such as A Chinese Woman in Manhattan, Shanghai Sojourners in Australia, Love in Tokyo, Studying in the U.S.A, and Foreign Devil), interpreting the diasporic experience of the Chinese as exiles, voluntary or involuntary. These diasporic writings, some of which have made it to The New York Times bestseller list and some were adapted into popular TV series back in China, have enjoyed an enthusiastic reading/viewing public on both sides of the Globe. The writers of these works ruminate over, from various perspectives, the complex realities of China in relation to an exiled mode of existence in the adopted land in the context of global capitalism. The wide spread of contemporary Chinese diasporic movement around the world thus stimulates much cultural urgency for a critical paradigm with which to study social and cultural implications of this trans/national phenomenon. I ask such questions as: What does it mean to talk about diaspora in the context of postcolonial conditions? How do third-world intellectuals form and reflect upon their “diasporic consciousness?” How do they negotiate their diasporic position between first-world reality and third-world conditions, between the western theory and local practice? The second part studies literary expressions of contemporary Chinese diasporic consciousness. It focuses on the problematic of contemporary Chinese diasporic writings in terms of gender, sexuality, cultural production, and trans/national capital and illustrates how such a diasporic discourse portrays and interprets diasporic experience as a trans/national allegory and how the complicity of this discourse relates to location(s) of culture. Since most Chinese, including many well-known intellectuals, chose to leave the country after the Tiananmen massacre only to live as self-imposed exiles, the question for them is not “What is exile?” but rather “Where is home?” (Amerasia, Vol. 1, 1995) The new realities these semi-exiles encounter necessitate a critical rethinking of the politics of “home” and “exile” in the postmodern and postcolonial condition.

 

Good Things to Eat: Lin Yutang and Chinese Cultural Identity by Brook Anthony Ziporyn, Harvard University
“What is patriotism but nostalgia for the good things we had to eat as children?” Lin Yutang once rhetorically asked. And yet Lin’s own relationship to his own cultural heritage belies the simplicity of this bon mot. In this paper I will be examining Lin’s construction of his Chinese-ness, particularly in relation to his Christian upbringing and the Christian theological heritage of “the West.” His two opposed treatments of “Chinese-ness versus Christianity” in The Importance of Living and From Pagan to Christian will be the main focus of our attention. After reviewing and analyzing the treatment of this theme in these two works, I will try to illuminate the nature of the conflict and the array of strategies Lin deploys in positioning his own identity at various stages in his life. This will involve us not only in a sort of crypto-Mencian consideration of the old “loyalty to father versus loyalty to state” dilemma, but also more general investigations into the highly tenuous and problematic nature of identity itself.

 

The Home, the Journey and the Border: The Fragmentation and Construction of Identity in Chuang Hua’s Crossings by Yichin Shen, Fullerton University, California
In his The Condition of Post-modernity, David Harvey associates modernity with the belief in linear progress, absolute truths, the rational planning of ideal social orders, and the standardization of knowledge and production. Post-modernity, on the contrary, rejects such belief and distrusts all global or “totalizing” discourses, meta-narratives, and large-scale theoretical interpretations. Instead, it embraces the notion of ephemerality, fragmentation, and discontinuity. Furthermore, post-modernity is preoccupied with identity, with personal and collective roots. Identity in postmodern thought is contradictory and fractured. Identity is a process; it is heterogeneous.Such theoretical position provides me a vantage point in examining the issue of identity in Crossings by Chuang Hua. In a narrative intermittently fragmented by dreams, metaphors, and memories, Chuang Hua weaves the story of Fourth Jane’s chronological, geographical, and emotional crossings. These crossings begin in childhood, when Fourth Jane moves with her parents from China to England and finally to the United States. As an adult she spends a long period in France. All together, there are seven ocean crossings and four major cultural transitions, and each crossing, paradoxically, further fragments, reinvents, and reinforces Fourth Jane’s sense of self-identity. In the paper, I would like to examine the effect of journey and displacement on Fourth Jane’s self-identity, the meaning of home and tradition, and the role of narrative in the construction of one’s identity. I’d like to argue that a coherent, unified, and fixed identity does not exist. Instead, identities, our own and those of others, are fragmented, full of contradictions and ambiguities. Identity is a construction. It can be displaced; it can be hybrid or multiple.

 

Contesting Memory for Intellectual Self-Positioning: Radical-Conservative Pairing and New Cultural Conservatism in China of the 1990s by Ben Xu, Associate Professor of English Saint Mary’s College of California
In China, much of the 1990s recollection and reevaluation of the 1980s cultural criticism is done in terms of a new pairing of radicalism and conservatism. Such recollection and reevaluation are often characterized by a condemnation of the 1980s cultural criticism and its pro-democracy and pro-enlightenment concerns as too “radical.” In this fin-de-siecle thinking, remembering the 1980s alleged radicalism has become a principle of division and difference, a self-conscious rupture without which the 1990s intellectual self-fashioning cannot begin. It turns the memory of the 1980s into a pivotal moment of asserting new cultural conservatism. New cultural conservatism of the 1990s manifests the twofold concerns with cultural traditionalism and political realism in the 1990s. Anti-radicalism makes it possible for new conservatives to use protective moderation and practice reality control to stress the limits imposed by the post-Deng political-economic order, which is characterized by a combination of political authoritarianism and economic liberalization. It shifts the focus of sociocultural reflection from critique to understanding: attention is given over not to the question of how men made their commitment to change, but to the social forces that shape their position in the existing order.Radical-conservative pairing may not help us to chart accurately the 1990s intellectual field, but it does provide an incentive to do so. It points up a curiosity that needs explaining: at the same time that rhetorical assaults on “radicalism” are on the rise, there is an embarrassing absence of radical thinking and a forced silence of radical voice in the intellectual arena. This goes some way toward explaining both the rise of neo-conservatism and the reasons why at another level radicalism is still compelling. The anti-radical rhetoric of neoconservative arguments should be seen not so much in terms of its relevance as an explanation of the necessity of intellectual moderation but as an ideology integral to post-Deng reality. The distinction between radicalism and conservatism in China thus becomes part of the analysis of the dynamics of the status quo and the intellectuals’ self-complacency and political apathy in it.

 

Cultural Identity and Modernity: Crisis and Creativity in Modern Chinese Poetry by Michelle Yeh, University of California, Davis
If modernity is a?? not the determining characteristic of the identities of modern societies, the relation between cultural identity and modernity is by no means unambiguous and self-evident. Compared with Europe and North America, China, among other countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, underwent modernization in a compressed timeframe and, more importantly, under imposed, involuntary circumstances, namely, the traumatic colonial or semi-colonial oppression and exploitation to which China was subjected. The concept and the reality of modernity are concomitant with and inseparable from a sense of loss and lack (of autonomy, dignity and pride, ability and strength). Paradoxically, the cultural identity of modern China is defined, first of all, by an identity crisis as a result of asymmetrical encounters with the imperialist other. To ask: “Who am I?” presupposes uncertainty and confusion about one’s identity. The onset of modernity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries not only marks a watershed in Chinese history, but it brings into sharp relief a new set of issues and problems thitherto unencountered, foremost among which are the apparent oppositions between Tradition and Modernity, China and the West.As a pioneer of modern Chinese culture, modern Chinese poetry epitomizes the tension between modernity and cultural identity on the one hand, and through creative work, on the other hand, suggests ways to resolve such tension. The paper will first give a brief summary of how identity crisis underscores the discourse on modern poetry at several important junctures, followed by close readings of a few poems that suggest alternative perspectives on the issue that has continued to concern Chinese poets, readers, and critics alike.

 

Who Will Feed China? A Dialogue between Millenarian Environmentalism and Fin- de-siècle Fiction in the 1990s by Gang Yue, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The Malthusian ghost has reincarnated in a peculiar image of the doomsday in Western environmentalism, prompting Lester Brown’s repeated “wake-up call” for a catastrophic future that China will starve the world. Angered by the international noise of “Chinese environmental threat,” official China and free- lancing nationalists join hands in their double gesture to attack the gluttonous overconsumption of the rich countries and reassure the world that China will be able to feed itself. World history, after the euphoric “end of history,” has entered a new chapter of yet a long-existing drama–the geopolitical transformation of the “earth” into the “world” and more recently the “globe.” In contemporary environmental discourse, these spatial metaphors may also serve the ideological erasure of their own temporal traces. Theoretical critique of the conquest of nature cannot ignore the fact that the planet earth is not equally shared and hence the historical workings of differential development and social injustice. Cultural studies and environmental studies combined has the potential for us to revisit the histories of colonization, the consequent redistribution of resources, the formation of the nation-state and other institutions of (unequal) power relations, and the ideology of (uneven) development and consumption. We must investigate the process of how the “earth” has been transformed into the “world” but more importantly into three or more worlds of deteriorating ecosystems and gross inequity. In this paper I intend to explore the possibility for a dialogue between environmental studies and cultural studies. The interdisciplinary tradition of Comparative Literature has much to contribute to this dialogue. Within this conceptual framework, the paper examines the environmental consciousness and implications of two fin-de-siècle texts: Mo Yan’s novel Jiuguo (Liquorland, 1992) and Yan Lianke’s novella Nian yue ri (Calendar, 1997). The modernist legacy of a metaphysical wasteland at the turn of the century cannot compare to the ruins of a wasted land of predatory carnivorism and ecological collapse at the end of the millennium. After a long detour, literary studies need to bring materiality back into its focal point.

 

The Concept of Transcendence in Shijing by Yim-tze Kwong, Dept of Chinese, Lingnan College, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong
As a poetic embodiment of the sense and sensibility of the early Chinese over 2000 years ago, Sliijing (The Book of Poetry) exhibits a variety of religious and cosmic visualizations of an unfamiliar world. Taking this general framework as a starting point., this paper focuses on the concepts of transcendence signified by the terms “Shangdi” (Lord-on-High) and “Tian” (Heaven) as seen in the poems of Sliijing.Essentially, the Zhou people’s religious and cosmic visualizations of Nature are rooted in their hopes and beliefs in relation to their agricultural existence. Central to these is the concept of a supreme deity in Nature called Shangdi, who appears in Shang dynasty oracle bone inscriptions as an anthropomorphic tribal Lord actively regulating the operation of the universe and human affairs. The Shancdi of the Shijing poems performs a wide range of functions, including, above all, protection of the agricultural economy. In the course of the early Zhou the concept of transcendence shifted from Shangdi to Tian, which is a less personal and more universalized concept, representing a cosmic moral order and the ultimate spiritual reality. Impartially guiding, the destinies of all, Heaven is visualized as sending down blessings or disasters in accordance with the condition of the human order, and as holding the right to transfer its mandate (tiamning) to a new ruling house of virtue if the existing ruler is deemed unworthy of it. Indeed in the poems Heaven often becomes the final listener to whom people pour out their grief, the ultimate authority to which they appeal for justice and mercy in order to remedy an intolerable state of affairs.

One can see that in the development of the concept of transcendence during the early Zhou, a more personalized religious worship of a protective Shangdi gradually gave way to a more universal and cosmic sense of a moral Heaven.

–submitted by Yim-tze Kwong, Dept of Chinese, Lingnan College, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong Fax: 852-2591-9891; email: charlesk@ln.edu.hk

 

Jia Pingwa’s Ruined Capital and the Fin-de-siecle Malaise by Sheldon H. Lu, University of Pittsburgh
Jia Pingwa’s novel Ruined Capital (Feidu) was the best-selling novel in China in 1993. In fact, it literarily ended the so called “Wang Shuo phenomenon” and changed the literary scene. Given the uncontested popularity of the novel, the paper will investigate the novel as an expression of popular ideas, values and attitudes in the minds of ordinary Chinese people in the 1990s.On the surface, the novel describes, in graphic details, the sexual adventures of the protagonist Zhuang Zhidie and his lovers. As it has been pointed out, the explicit and repetitive descriptions of sexual acts in the novel are unequaled in the history of modern Chinese literature. The readers’ interest in sex is the result of long time repression in Chinese society; reading the novel then becomes a vicarious defiance of government taboos. More important, the populace’s interest in sexuality is also an effect of the general climate of de-politicization, de-ideologization, commercialization, and consumerism in the post-1989 period. Such voyeuristic indulgence/sublimation in sexuality is an indicator of political frustrations.

The protagonist is a writer, an “intellectual” in Chinese society. Yet, his role radically departs from the position of the enlightener, the conscience of the people, and the “architect of the soul” as prescribed since the May 4th Movement. Being a writer means a celebrity status, the ability to make huge financial profits, and having multiple lovers. Thus the character epitomizes a decisive change in the function of the modern Chinese intellectual. (Compare intellectual-writers in the old mold, such as Liu Bingyan, and new writer-celebrities such as Wang Shuo, Jia Pingwa, and his character in the novel.)

In brief, the unrivaled popularity of the novel as a literary work is more than anything else an expression of the sentiments of broad segments of the people in mainland China in the 1990s, a complex of attitudes and values which may be called a “fin-de-siecle malaise.” The novel is symptomatic of a host of phenomena and attitudes at the end of the century as the Chinese economy transforms into a “socialist market economy” and political reform is still out of sight: money-worship, commercialization, corruption, depravity, sexual indulgence, and above all, the impotence of the Chinese intellectual to effect change. Indeed, unlike traditional Chinese eroticas, the ending of the novel offers no possibility of any form of redemption, religious, spiritual, or secular. The “ruined capital” stands for a social, political wasteland.

 

Paradigm shifts in the study of Chinese literature & culture in Hong Kong, Taiwan and PRC, 1970s-1990s by Kwok-kan Tam, Professor, Department of English, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, N.T.
Abstract: This paper will analyse the paradigm shifts in the study of Chinese literature from the 1970s to the 1990s. Various scholars, such as Liu Kang, William Tay and David Wang, have written on the change of methodology in the study of Chinese literature in the United States. However, one common feature among these various treatises is that they have focussed mainly on the various Western critical theories, such as the formalist, historical or psychoanalytical, used in the study of Chinese literature. In my paper I attempt to look at the larger issues that would involve the study of literature (not just Chinese) from a global perspective. What constitutes the modern methodology in the study of Chinese literature is its departure from the traditional method of the historical-biographical which, as James Liu puts it, originates from the metaphysical conception of literature as a manifestation of Dao. In my paper, I will emphasize that the study of Chinese literature is never separate from the trends in literary studies worldwide. I shall deal with three paradigms in the modern study of Chinese literature: (1) The historical/cultural paradigm–in this paradigm, emphasis is put on the study of modernity in Chinese literature and culture. Thus modern Chinese literature is seen in relation to cultural change in China. This paradigm seeks to reconsider the continuity and discontinuity in modern Chinese literature. The major works that deal with Chinese modernity will be discussed as an illustration of this paradigm. (2) The East/West comparative paradigm–in this paradigm, the study of Chinese literature heavily depends on the conception of the East vs. the West as two cultural traditions that form a dialogue. This paradigm was popular in Hong Kong as well as in Taiwan in the 1970s and 1980s that led to the rise of comparative literature. (3) The global/local–this paradigm seeks to see contemporary culture in a new light, which emphasizes the flow of culture in relation to the flow of capital, people and the media. In this paradigm, the interphase, as well as resistance and domination, between the global and the local is analysed in the processes of contemporary cultural formation. The various studies that deal with postmodernity in literature and culture in PRC, Taiwan and Hong Kong will discussed as illustration of the paradigm.

 

Chinese Literature and World Literatures in Chinese by Kuo-ch’ing Tu, University of California at Santa Barbara
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the development of Chinese literature has diversified to such an extent that there are various Chinese literatures in the world today. Chinese literature is not exclusively from China; it is also from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, as well as America, Japan, and Europe. Just like English literature, literatures written in Chinese are an expression of a diaspora across national boundaries with multicultural backgrounds. The population of overseas Chinese is estimated to be at least twenty-three million distributed in virtually every country of the world. The rapid spread of literatures in Chinese worldwide, combined with the increasing importance of China in the next century, has made this subject one that justly merits scholarly exploration.

In 1979, Mainland China adopted a new open-door policy. Since then cultural, political and economic interactions with the outside world have rapidly increased. As a result, the study of overseas Chinese literatures including Taiwan literature has become a distinct field of scholarly endeavor on the Mainland. In 1981, the first conference on Chinese literature from Taiwan, Hong Kong and overseas took place in the People’s Republic of China, and since then it has been convened every two years. The name of the conference in 1993 was changed to the “International Conference on Worldwide Literatures in Chinese,” indicating that the concept of a unified Chinese literature is being replaced by one involving diversified literatures written in the Chinese language from various countries of the world.

On the other hand, outside Mainland China, in 1986, the International Symposium on Commonwealth Literature in Chinese was held in Germany with participants from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. In 1989, the International Conference on Southeast Asian Literatures in Chinese was held in Singapore. In 1992, the Association of Chinese Writers of the World was established in Taipei, and similar geographical organizations have also been established in North America, Europe, and Australia, not to mention Southeast Asia. The existence of such organizations clearly shows that literary activities of Chinese writers have increasingly engaged the world’s attention and that since the eighties the development of Chinese literature has become a global phenomenon that has crossed national boundaries–literatures in Chinese worldwide have finally come into the limelight.

My paper will focus on definitions of various forms of literatures in Chinese or the local language, such as Hua-ch’iao wen-hsüeh (literature of overseas Chinese), Hua-i wen-hsüeh (literature of Chinese second or third generation), Hua-wen wen-hsüeh (literature in Chinese), and Shih-Hua wen-hsüeh (literatures of Chinese worldwide). By emphasizing the new concept of multiple literatures in Chinese or other languages–not used in academic studies heretofore–my paper will try to explore a new conceptual basis for critical approaches to Chinese literatures written worldwide, a new field that underlines the need for understanding intercultural issues in the world today. At the same time my paper will discuss several critical issues in an attempt to establish the subject as a new field of study.

 

Memory and History in the Mass Culture of Globalization by Ban Wang Associate Professor, Comparative Literature SUNY, Stony Brook
Transnational corporations and global markets are fast producing a consumerist, mass culture in China. The consumption of standardized products goes along with a massive absorption of standardized ideology, commercialized human relationships, entertainment habits, and practices of everyday life. Amid the loud celebrations of improved quality of living, individual freedom and enjoyment, increased wealth, and pop culture, there is the real danger that “high” culture is in sharp decline. The canons of cultural expressions constitutive of a distinctive “Chinese culture and tradition” extending to a rich depths of history are being forgotten or even on the way of being wiped out. In recent years attempts have been made to resist or ward off the leveling power of increasingly aggressive global cultures in China. Despite the wide differences, the basic impulse of these attempts is the preservation and renovation of whatever is valuable and enduring in Chinese culture. In this paper I will re-assess the precarious place of literature and film in the fast growing consumerist culture and argue for an innovative form, a compromise that may serve both consumerist and critical/creative interest. The focus on literature and film is symptomatic of the cultural dilemma in an increasingly globalized context. Literature has been vigorously turning to the realm of popular entertainment and the filmmakers are struggling to combine Western technology with Chinese elements. While these established cultural expressions provide vital links to tradition, history and memory, they are daily losing ground. Yet it is important that the higher forms of cultural expressions find a way to meet the challenge of the leveling effect of the consumerist culture. Resistance to the standardizing uniformity of consumerism will come, however, not from a vehement defense of the imagined purity and integrity of the canons of cultural forms, nor from the political re-assertion of nationalism, least of all from moral judgement of the decline of social mores. It is possible, I suggest, to find and identify instances of resistance in “works of art” which appropriate pop culture’s appeal and forms, and which modify “Hollywood” or global or postmodern features in conjunction with the attempt to preserve tradition and history. Using recent films and fiction as illustration, I will show how a particular use of memory and tradition in commercialized artforms and entertainment can contribute to the preservation and re-invention of Chinese culture on the basis of global and indigenous elements.

 

The Rise and Decline of China’s Cultural Identity (Panel abstract)
China’s cultural identity in the twentieth century is called into question in modern fiction, written by those who find themselves attracted to and/or profoundly perplexed by Western values. To the extent that this causes a “crisis” or fragmentation in one’s self-conception and identity, the situation is not entirely different from what happened to Anglo-Saxon educated African natives depicted by Franz Fanon in his “Black Skin White Masks,” torn between the cultural values they embraced as civilizing surrogates of the West and their ethnic roots that are disparaged by the advancement of those very values. This panel will examine the development of Chinese self-conceptions in many literary works and focus on the fragmentation of cultural identity. The ambivalent attitudes towards Western as well as traditional Chinese values shall be studied in relation to and understood in terms of diaspora, migrancy and the fiction of identity.

 

Nativism at the Crossroad: Fin de Siecle and Local Resistance Sebastian Hsien-hao Liao, National Taiwan University ? : xliao@ccms.ntu.edu.tw
Nativism, variously understood as Literary Nativism that spanned the years 1972-1979 or a larger cultural renaissance movement that included the former and spanned the years 1972-1989) was probably the most curious cultural phenomenon in the history of Taiwan. It was on the one hand the high tide of spontaneous Chinese nationalism in Taiwan and on the other ironically marked the turning point of identity discourse where the object of allegiance changed gradually from China to Taiwan. This change occurred due to factors that are geopolitical, economic, and cultural. Underlying all these factors was an entangled relationship between the urge to return to the native tradition and the myth of modernity. In fact, while both Nativism, which espoused Chinese nationalism, and Neo-Nativism or the Taiwanese nationalist movement, which grew out of it but reneged on Chinese nationalism around the end of the 80′s to embraced an anti-Chinese discourse, considered themselves “nativist”, their respective attitudes toward modernity contrast sharply with each other. While Nativism put up strong resistance against Western modernity, the Taiwanese nationalist movement curiously looked up to Western modernity. The reason is obvious: for the latter, modernity is insidious only when it is abused by the Chinese. And insofar as modernity foregrounds the backwardness of Chinese culture, Taiwanese nationalism actually finds an ally and the best at that in disparaging traditional Chinese culture. Thus, if and when they actually criticize the results of modernization, it is not modernity itself that was their target but the Chinese culture, which for them are notoriously incompatible with modernity. The reconstruction of Taiwanese culture then has to be carried out in association with a more “enlightened” reception of modernity. Obsessed with modernity, which for them equals sloughing off corrupt Chinese influence, the Taiwanese nationalist movement has been generally hostile toward postmodernity. For postmodernity verges dangerously on undermining the new nationalist project. Thus, even though the recent debate among artists and art critics over “Nativism” seems like a repetition of the literary Nativist debate twenty years ago, the two actually have little in common. This time round, the debate revolves around the value of postmodern art rather than modernist art. And those on the “Neo-nativist” side represent a far cry from the earlier Naturists. The Neo-nativists are in fact “modernists” with a mission–reconstruction of an exclusionary kind of Taiwanese culture, one that considers modernity “an incomplete project”, while the postmodernists share with the Nativists at least the anti-modernity and decentralizing tendencies.This Neo-nativism, or Taiwanese nationalism, reached a peak in the year of 1994, the 100th anniversary of the secession of Taiwan to Japan. The outburst of a “farewell to China” syndrome that characterized the “celebration” of the anniversary fully articulates a fin de Siecle vision where China eventually disintegrates and Taiwan emerges as a new nation. And yet, firmly rooted in the “myth of modernity” and lacking sufficient contact with PRC (government or people), these fin de Siecle “prophets” have too hastily construed “China” through the right-wing Western imagination as the “evil empire” and hence blunted their alertness and power of resistance toward Western and Japanese neo-colonial domination. The fin de Siecle call by the Taiwanese nationalist for “entering the new century” is therefore heavily tinted with a dubious cosmopolitanism where the rhetoric of decolonization is mixed with the dream of Westernization. Schizoanalysis and the Taiwanese perverse poets Joyce C.H. Liu, Fu Jen University ? : flcg1004@mails.fju.edu.tw

Eugene W. Holland pointed out the Deleuzean schizophrenia, a radical fluid form of semiosis free from identity-fixations, displayed in Baudelaire’s writing. The fact that Baudelaire represents a crucial turning-point in the history of Western culture at the emergence of modernism, according to Eugene W. Holland, could be explained by the historical “conditions of possibility” triggered by the schizophrenia resistance against the Symbolic Order. In the Chinese as well as the Taiwanese context, the Symbolic Order in the 1920s and the 1930s happened to be inscribed in the narratives shared by the nationalist urge for modernization.

Paradoxically this grand narrative for modernization vehemently suppressed in an ambivalent way the rise of modernism, or the Deleuzean fluidity of identity and plurality of semiosis, in the Chinese literary history. The aim of this paper is to re-investigate in the Chinese literary history, with emphasis on the Taiwanese literature, the thrust for the perverse, or for the negative form of creativity, underneath the wave of modernization. The French modernist poets’ interests in the negative form of beauty, such as those we find in Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Radiguet, has its obvious influence on some Chinese writers of the 1920s and 1930s, especially in the hidden desire for the perverse in Li Jinfa ?, Shi Zhichun (?) in China, and Yang Chichang’s (?) in Taiwan. But behind the scene of influence, there appeared to be an energetic and dynamic force in these writers attempting to cathect onto the images of the darkness. Yang Chichang’s theories of the “negative consciousness” and the “demonic beauty” found its recurrence in Taiwanese literature of later period, such as in Ya Xian’s pleasure in death in his Deep Abyss, and in Lin Yaode’s ? schizophrenia world of demons. These “Baudelaires in Taiwan” open up the moments, or the leaks, which offer traces of efforts to escape from identity-fixation and thus bring about the turning points of transformation in the history of Taiwanese literature. 

 

Catastrophe and Hope: The Politics of The Ancient Capital and The City Where the Blood-Red Bat Descended by Chaoyang Liao, National Taiwan University: cliao@ccms.ntu.edu.tw
According to David Kaufman, Walter Benjamin’s conception of history appeals to nachträglichkeit as a historical force which separates immanence as conformance with the existent from transfiguration as pursuit of the true. This separation, in turn, points to a utopian dimension, an underside of time, containing futuristic intimations of hope. Thus in the well-known elaboration of the chess-playing apparatus in “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” an ‘outmoded?form of thought-the theological-comes into contact with the most modern and provides ciphers of a fulfilled future. Toward the close of the century, when two works of fiction from Taiwan attempts to sum up decades of experience with the perverse aberrations of modernity in local society and politics, each recapitulates in its own way the Benjaminian theme of a constellation between past and present. “The Ancient Capital” juxtaposes a serenely classical Kyoto with a fallen Taipei, calling forth personal recollections and patterns of historical recurrence to constitute negating desire. The City Where the Blood-Red Bat Descended invokes an alliance between local magical practices and “outmoded” European demon lore to confront the catastrophic consequences of contemporary political corruption and to disentangle the temporalized layers of its main personality, Peng Shaoxiong. Both works seem to value shock, in the form of the intrusion of the past into the present, as a way to bring about new insights into a worsening community, a world on its way to predictable catastrophe. This paper will analyze the different ways in which this redemptive project is carried out in each work and assess whether and how the confrontation in each with differentiating time produces real, utopian hope. The City provides a paradigmatic representation of such hope because, taking up a clearly structural position, it recognizes a dimension of archaic desires which, as Ernst Bloch pointed out apropos of fascism, cannot be dismissed as merely atavistic irrationality. The rise and fall of Peng Shaoxiong, the arch villain of the work, recalls ancient ethnic feuding and premodern particularistic valuing of community identification, to be solved only with an appeal to the universalizing (cosmopolitan) practices of equally archaic religiosity. Hope is produced out of the very mediation of such disparate spheres of meaning by a transcending subjectivity. The case of “The Ancient Capital,” on the other hand, is complicated by a strongly defensive authorial stance, which ostensibly values the immediacy of experience at the expense of superstructural mediation. The turning of the hated city of Taipei by the narrator into a replica of the changeless utopia of Peach Blossom Spring strangely assimilates this hostile space to the admired but equally changeless Kyoto, revealing the close links between change and stasis, modernizing shock and pre-modern continuity. Herein lies the ambiguity of the narrator’s position vis-a-vis her homeland: the particularity of the place is alienating because the immediacy of experience is constantly turning into symbolically mediated regimentation; at the same time, Kyoto is loved precisely because it give consistent symbolic expression to particularistic experience. Thus particularity both opposes and aspires to the generality of the symbolic, requiring what Benjamin calls “sovereign decision” to solve the quandary, and thereby inevitably falling back on mediation as transcending subjectivity. Hope here inheres in the drive of history toward incongruities, which brings about, not postmodern revelry in heterogeneity, but the catastrophic encounters between the subject and its own unfulfilled desires.

 

Writing Women Writers into Taiwan’s Literary History: Notes on Postcolonial Historiography in Taiwan by Kuei-fen Chiu, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, National Chung-hsing University: kfchiu@dragon.nchu.edu.tw
Situating my discussion within the theoretical-historical context of cultural formation in Taiwan, I propose to examine an implicit crisis in postcolonial historiography by taking a detoured reading of the exclusion of a large corpus of women’s cultural products from Taiwan’s literary history. The (re)construction of Taiwan’s literary history, in its close link to the national liberation (independence) movement, has always been conceived as part of a counter-hegemonic project which seeks to undermine the legitimacy of the Chinese national narrative and wrest the control over cultural production from the repressive authorities. In other words, the writing of Taiwan’s literary history from a Taiwanese perspective is seen to contribute in a significant way to the clearing of a post-colonial cultural space in Taiwan and the construction of a Taiwanese (national) identity. Understandably, the issue of “political commitment” is given much weight in the historian’s evaluation of literary works. Granted that literary history is one of the institutional forms partaking in canon-formation, the postcolonial historiography as described above inevitably excludes a large corpus of writing from its narrative. Recent debates about canons show that canon-formation is not so much a problem of aesthetic judgement as a problem of literary reproduction and consumption. Literary works tend to have a better chance of survival if they can be read as contributing to the shaping or revision of a literary tradition. Read as part of a tradition, these works would be constantly reproduced. As the construction of Taiwan’s literary history takes place within the context of a broader political struggle, works that cannot be incorporated into this narrative of resistance tend to be written off the scene. This characteristic of postcolonial historiography may explain why a significant proportion of women’s writing is not treated seriously by the writers of Taiwan’s literary history. In Yeh Shih-t’ao’s (?) and Peng Jui-chin’s?seminal works of Taiwan’s literary history, published respectively in 1987 and 1991, the discussion of women writers?works is quite disproportionate to the heavy production of women writers over the past fifty years. Critics interested in the issue of the suppression of women’s writing in English literary history have tried to interpret it in terms of gender-inflected reading strategies or the conflict between popularity and literary standing . However, within the specific historical context of cultural production in postcolonial Taiwan, I would suggest that the exclusion of women’s writing has more to do with the problematic relationship of women’s literature to the highly politicized writing of Taiwan’s literary history. Women writers active in the 1950s and 1960s were mostly mainlanders who had migrated to the island with the KMT party. Those women writers in the 1970s given serious consideration in Yeh’s and Peng’s works are mainly “modernist” writers who opposed the Anti-Communist literature promoted by the KMT government. Women’s literary works since 1980s are largely brushed aside by the historians as few of them have a pronounced relation to the larger struggle and debates within the field of “Taiwan literature.” If it is true that literary works should be analyzed in terms of the historical condition of production, it is no less true that the production of theoretical writing is also constrained by specific historical conditions. Yeh’s and Peng’s Taiwan literary histories were written at a time when the Taiwanese national narrative/identity came into a fierce clash with the Chinese national narrative/identity. The stress on colonial oppression and the definition of Taiwan’s literature as essentially literature of anti-colonization was necessary if the historian wanted to re-tell the tradition of Taiwan’s literature from a Taiwanese rather than a Chinese perspective. However, as the conditions that gave rise to the urgent call for such a highly politically charged writing position no longer exists, we may begin to re-formulate the basic assumptions of postcolonial historiography in Taiwan and investigate the possibility of including “non-committed” works into the narrative of Taiwan’s literary history. In the last part of the paper, I engage this issue through a strategic reading of three politically “incorrect” pieces of fiction by women writers; namely, Li Ang’s “Hot Incense Burner ?,” Chu T’ien-hsin’s ?”Ancient City” and Chu Kuo-chen’s? “The Woman Who has Long-Island Tea Every Night ?”. I argue that the material agency of a work is indeterminate. Rather than focusing on the intention of the writer and evaluating the work according to the degree of commitment on the part of the writer, the historian of Taiwan’s literary history may place more attention on the interaction of literary works and contemporary socio-politico-cultural forces. No less than “committed” works, “non-committed” works may shed light on the colonial and post colonial conditions of Taiwan. A re-adjustment of the writing position may enable the historian to include more literary products from the past and the present into her discourse. More important, it opens up a space for a more insightful understanding of the history of Taiwan’s literature and of the works that have contributed to the shaping of that history.

 

Lesbian Desire in fin-de-sciecle Chinese Literature Tze-lan D. Sang, EALL, University of Oregon sang@OREGON.UOREGON.EDU
Towards the end of the last century, medical theories of homosexuality were invented in Europe, and women’s same-sex desire came to be assimilated into the discursive regimes of homoeroticism. These developments were later mirrored in the medical and literary writings in China in the 1920s. However, after a brief moment of recognition, lesbian sexuality underwent several decades of erasure in Chinese representations. It is not until now, as our century draws to its close, that lesbian desire has returned as a tantalizing and contested theme in transnational Chinese literature and popular culture. Moreover, we find Chinese female writers in Mainland, Taiwan and North America toying with lesbian desire in their seemingly confessional, autobiographical narratives. How do we understand this flirtation with a previously tabooed sexuality? What defiance and self-fashioning does it bespeak?This paper studies four female homoerotic narratives by writers across the Taiwan Strait: the “Ancient Capital” by Zhu Tianxin, “Last Letters from Montmartre” by Qiu Miaojin, “Private Life” by Chen Ran, and “A One-Person War” by Lin Bai. I analyze the different narrative strategies of these fictional autobiographies, focusing on the challenge that postmodern aesthetics poses to the politics of sexual identity. Each of these four works addresses the fluidity of desire and the fragmentation of the self differently, but they all bring out the instability of sexual identity as they explore and highlight the eroticism between women. How do we understand their hesitancy to pin down sexual identities? Is it yet more self-censorship and erasure? Or does it constitute an alternative discourse of sexual modernity?

 

Fabric-ating China: Identity and Desire in Postcolonial Fashion Studies
Hsiao-hung Chang, National Taiwan University : jiashin@tpts5.seed.net.tw This paper will take the recent international chic of Chinese style as a point of departure to explore the fabrication of identity and desire at the turn of the century. This fashion trend can be read socio-politically in light of the historic transition of Hong Kong sovereignty from Britain to the Mainland China on 1 July, 1997. It can also be examined psychically as a nostalgic lamentation for the lost empire. It thus turns out to be an overdetermined site/sight of ambivalence. Accordingly, this paper will approach this Chinese vogue from two different perspectives. The first focuses upon the imperialist fantasy which tends to fetishize the Oriental costume as a mixture of the exotic and erotic. The French fashion designer Paul Poiret and the English fashion designer John Galliano will serve as two examples of comparison: Poiret’s “A Thousand and Second Night” party in 1911 and Galliano’s “Chinese Prostitutes and “Calender Beauty of Shanghai” fashion show in 1997 will be analyzed both aesthetically and phantasmagorically as a revival of the decorative and the extravagant at the decadent fin de siecle. The second part will shift its focus to the current reception of the Chinese vogue in Taiwan. It will first trace back in history the development of Taiwanese fashion to explore how its dress code is influenced by Mainland China, the Japanese occupation and the West as Taiwan changes from originally an immigrant society to a modern, industrial society, and to demonstrate how the innovative blending of Chinese and Western dress style reaches its apex at the “Citizens of the Empire” movement in which the choice of cheungsam, kimono or Western dress might reveal different cultural, gender, and class identities. It will then try to map out the stigmatization of the Chinese style in local socio-political con-text (the connotation of the Nationalist regime, old-fashioned for elderly women or bar hostesses, the split identity of cultural and politically China, etc.) to argue the market failure of this Chinese vogue in Taiwan as a possible strategic counter-identity formation.

 

Kicking the Habitus: Cultural Critique, Refracted Memories, and Representability Among China’s Elites by Christopher Lupke, Bowdoin College
In Lu Xun’s (1881-1936) short story “New Year’s Sacrifice” (1925), the intellectual first person narrator is confronted by an illiterate peasant named Sister Xianglin. This confrontation involves a bizarre yet important reversal. Sister Xianglin asks the narrator whether there is an afterlife and then unwittingly captures him in a conundrum. If there is no afterlife, then what meaning do we have? If there is an afterlife, then might we suffer for our worldly deeds? Caught in this trap, the narrator is stripped of his intellectual pretense, and demurs before “beating a hasty retreat.” She renders silent the intellectual narrator. The confrontation becomes the source of consternation instigating the narrator to tell his story. This intriguing reversal of language, where the silent, represented one, the illiterate peasant, silences the one who actually controls the modes of representation, constitutes one of the decisive moments in twentieth century Chinese literature with regard to the problem of representability. What is the complex concatenation of processes, parties, and interests involved in the project of representing “China” through literary, cinematic, musical, and artistic means? This is the subject of my inquiry.From the Chinese educated elite through sinologists and translators, there are many levels to the whole enterprise of representation, including the way we as teachers of Asian Studies represent China to our students. I am particularly interested in the manner in which Chinese texts, both literary and cinematic, thematize the issues surrounding representation. In addition, I am interested in the attendant problems of cultural critique, filiality, the relationship of China to the West and Western values. As a method of understanding this complex web of issues, I have employed the scholarship of Pierre Bourdieu. Bourdieu’s work is relevant for several reasons. Pierre Bourdieu’s work concerns itself with the implicit, taken-for-granted, or almost transparency of fundamental aspects of culture. As he states in his classic The Outline of a Theory of Practice, the midpoint between individual, subjective action and social conditioning is the “regulated improvisation,” an unspoken yet readily appreciated boundary to the set of practices one deploys. Acceptable behavior falls within this “system of dispositions,” this habitus that allows one to act without guile and yet adhere to convention. Sister Xianglin’s irruption into the epistemology of the narrator in Lu Xun’s story represents her last ditch attempt to come to terms with her disorientation within the habitus of traditional China. With each subsequent inauspicious step, she loses the free use of speech and begins to repeat the story of her woes. She stands on the faultline of the traditional Chinese habitus, which though it seems natural, spontaneous and true, has in reality been cultivated and reinforced by the educated elite.

The educated elite have become the custodians of Chinese culture, responsible for its maintenance and representation. In the twentieth century, however, they have come to question the sanctity of its Confucian tenets. Western philosophical discourse has informed this radical critique of traditional Chinese culture notably regarding the issues of subjectivity, values, and language. The skepticism toward linguistic representation in works such as Ding Ling’s (1904-1985) “The Diary of Miss Sophia” (1927), where Sophia, whose name means “to know,” simultaneously reveals and conceals the shifting aspects of her identity. Miss Sophia’s ethereal existence probes the boundaries of Chinese subjectivity in the 1920s, seeming to question whether representability is even possible without a stable sense of what constitutes individual and cultural identity. Her passion for Ling Jishi, the half-Chinese half-foreign English-speaking intellectual, indicates her desire to move beyond the traditional sphere of Chinese culture and, advancing on Lu Xun’s critique, dismisses the traditional habitus.

This investigation of how China is represented is not simply a metatheoretical approach to Chinese studies. By beginning with an example from a Chinese text, I have tried to suggest that the problem of representation is actually thematized in Chinese literature and film itself. Indeed, this self-reflexivity is pervasive in modern Chinese literature. Wang Anyi, (b. 1954) for example, is a member of the post-Mao group of writers known for “seeking roots” (xungen ). As a method of shuffling off the power of Maoist discourse and the control that it held on the educated elite, a work such as Baotown (1985) is simultaneously an endearing tale of rural folk and a subtle yet searing attack on Communist Party control of the representational apparatuses. Wang Anyi casts Bao Renwen, whom I call the literate peasant, in the unique position of a mediating agent between the unrepresented peasant and the educated elite, anathema to the peasantry.

Renwen writes stories about various characters in the village, such as Bao Bingde’s loyalty to his insane wife, and the eventual heroic activities of Picked Up. But the major story that he writes, and what becomes the focal point of the narrative’s denouement, is the tale of the main character, Dregs, his death and investiture by the Communist Party as a hero to be emulated. Renwen’s narrative of this relationship raises interesting questions for the problem of representation and serves as the vehicle sustaining the latter one third of the novel. Having received the story submission at the provincial party headquarters, some cadres, “party hacks” as they are regarded in Chinese literary circles, seek out Bao Renwen, interview him, and decide to publish his piece after significant revision. Their offer to “revise” the text, however, contains an ulterior motive, for as it is transformed into a work of Communist hagiography Renwen ceases to see his own words in the story. However, after its publication, Renwen reads back the story to himself and his neighbors, over and over again, repeating key scenes to the relevant actors in their enhanced glory, so that they seem then to re-member the narrative as it is now written. The revision of his text by the party hacks reveals a re-adjustment, a re-presentation, a re-membering of the events of Baotown, enshrining Dregs for time immemorial in such as way as to serve their ends and insure that Renwen will remain a member of the subaltern group who are silent, who have no voice. The monument they build for Dreg’s grave is on a scale with the imposing monuments of the PRC, divorced from the simple life of the countryside.

Pierre Bourdieu is precisely concerned with the way in which the educated elite both intervene in and mask their power over cultural institutions, even as the strictures of the habitus seem invisible to those adhering to it. What seems spontaneous and just beyond the realm of linguistic description and consciousness, is in fact to a certain extent modified by this elite intellectual class for the purposes of its own “distinction.” Thus, culture derives from the word “cultivate,” as if to suggest that while we are all participants in the amorphous social web that we consider “this culture of ours,” we are not equal participants in it. Just how the habitus is altered is never quite clear, but in this study I aim to investigate at least some of the ways in which the traditional habitus is questioned and represented in a variety of cultural artifacts. The whole enterprise of representation is highly complex and involves several levels or stages, some of which I have tried to illustrate through this brief analysis of Wang Anyi’s Baotown.

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