Lena HenningsenJun 25, 2022
Cultural Revolution Manuscripts
Unofficial Entertainment Fiction from 1970s China
Palgrave Macmillan 2021
Lena Henningsen’s Cultural Revolution Manuscripts: Unofficial Entertainment Fiction from 1970s China (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021) is a study of shouchaoben, or hand-written fiction, that entertained Chinese readers throughout the “long 1970s,” a period spanning the Cultural Revolution and its immediate aftermath in the late 70s and early 1980s. These manuscripts, copies of otherwise unavailable, often foreign, fiction and poetry, as well as original novels and poems, were “texts in motion.” They circulated throughout China together with their copiers and readers, youth sent-down during the Cultural Revolution, and often followed characters who were likewise moving, spies and scientists traveling within and beyond China.
Moreover, the text itself was just as unstable as its readers and characters were mobile: frequent copying resulted in the proliferation of multiple versions of any given narrative, thus troubling the clear-cut distinction between readers and authors. Henningsen’s careful survey of shouchaoben and related book forms, including “internal publications,” sketches out a lively and cosmopolitan reading culture. In the book, she shows that despite assumptions of cultural insularity and uniformity, paying attention to “reading acts” during the Cultural Revolution period shows that the “long 1970s” are not an abrupt, anomalous rupture in Chinese literary history, but a period that can be more fruitfully described in terms of continuities.
Please join me for a conversation with Lena Henningsen in exploring the rich archive of shouchaoben. Make sure to also visit ReadChina, to learn more about Henningsen's European Research Council grant funded research on Reading Acts in China and discover the resources her team has compiled here.
Julia Keblinska is a member of the Global Arts and Humanities Society of Fellows at the Ohio State University specializing in Chinese media history and comparative socialisms.