Modernity with a Cold War Face
Reimagining the Nation in Chinese Literature across the 1949 Divide
Harvard University Asia Center 2013
1949 was a crucial year for modern China, marking the beginning of Communist rule on the mainland and the retreat of the Nationalist government to Taiwan. While many scholars of Chinese literature have written 1949 as a radical break, Xiaojue Wang‘s new book takes a different approach. Modernity with a Cold War Face: Reimagining the Nation in Chinese Literature across the 1949 Divide (Harvard University Asia Center, 2013) offers a new perspective on mid-twentieth century Chinese literature by situating it within the international context of the Cold War. After introducing the cultural and political policies of the 1940s and 1950s as espoused by Mao Zedong, Chiang Kaishek, and the New Confucianists, Wang guides readers through a series of chapters that each explore the work of an author who was busily imagining a modern nation while writing from mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan. These case studies introduce a collection of fascinating writer-characters that include a historian who had a job writing labels for museum collections, a born-again revolutionary whose feminist writing had material consequences that followed her (and her corpse) after death, a translator of Rilke and Goethe, a compulsive re-writer who created a Nightmare in the Red Chamber, and many more. In the culmination of the study, Wang suggests a “de-Cold War criticism” as a way of thinking beyond the typical boundaries of literary history. Enjoy!