Ye Shitao was a Taiwanese public intellectual who rose to prominence in the second half of the twentieth century. His encyclopedic A History of Taiwan Literature
was published in 1987, the same year that the island’s decades-long period of martial law came to an end. The book provides a thorough overview of the major themes and representative works of each stage in the development of Taiwanese literature from the days of the Qing Dynasty through the Japanese colonial period and the postwar era up to the 1980s.
Each chapter of the book discusses the historical context necessary to understand the concerns and influences shared by writers in each period, and Ye comments on both major and less prominent writers. Rather than a critical study driven by a particular theoretical approach or a central argument, the book is structured as a comprehensive reference work designed to be inclusive and accessible to specialists and non-specialists alike.
Thanks to the skillful translation work of Christopher Lupke (Professor of Chinese Cultural Studies, University of Alberta) this valuable resource is now available in English for the first time. In addition to the main text, Lupke also includes voluminous footnotes contributed by two Japanese scholars who specialized in Ye Shitao’s work. Lupke’s introduction adds contextual information about Ye Shitao himself, and the translator’s epilogue traces developments in the literature of Taiwan from the time of the book’s publication in 1987 to the present.
A History of Taiwan Literature
(Cambria Press, 2020) is an important resource for anyone interested in the intellectual, cultural, and political history of East Asia.
Steve Wills is Associate Professor of History at Nebraska Wesleyan University and one of the hosts of the New Books in East Asia series.