Roy Bing ChanMay 4, 2017
The Edge of Knowing
Dreams, History, and Realism in Modern Chinese Literature
University of Washington Press 2017
Roy Bing Chan's new book explores twentieth-century Chinese literature that emphasizes sleeping and dreaming as a way to reckon with the trauma of modernity, from the early May Fourth period through the end of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1970s. Informed by theoretical engagements with Russian Formalism, semiotics, psychoanalysis, Marxism, affect studies, and more, The Edge of Knowing: Dreams, History, and Realism in Modern Chinese Literature (University of Washington Press, 2017) considers how time was transformed with the rise of capitalist modernity, and illustrates the significance of a language of dreams and dreaming as writers sought to cope with this transformation and its consequences. Chan offers careful readings of the work of several writers as a way to tell this story, from Lu Xun's prose poetry to fiction by Mao Dun, Yang Mo, and Zong Pu. Chan concludes by reflecting on how this context might inform how we understand the notion of the Chinese Dream, and arguing that paying attention to the materiality of literary texts can help us discover the aesthetic resources for articulating hope. It's a fascinating study that makes significant contributions to how we understand the relationship between time, dreaming, and materiality in modern literature.