The World Embedded in Modern Chinese Literary Imagination


ACLS Fellowship Program



Named Award

ACLS Pauline Yu Fellow named award


Modern Chinese literary enterprise is marked by its world orientation, the very opposite of what Hannah Arendt terms “world alienation.” For Chinese writers, becoming modern is almost always synonymous with stepping out of a provincial mentality to immerse in, and interact with, the riches of the world. By revisiting celebrated works in the modern canon as consequences of what Chinese writers did with texts originating elsewhere, this study investigates the palimpsestic presence of foreign literary works both on their own terms, and as catalysts for literary creativity across linguistic borders. Writers that are brought into a critical dialogue include Wu Jianren and Edward Bellamy (utopian imaginations), Lu Xun and Nietzsche (the birth of the Chinese madman), Xiao Hong and Upton Sinclair (the awakening of proletarian consciousness), and four Nobel Prize winners: Mo Yan and Gabriel García Márquez; Gao Xingjian and Samuel Beckett (the rethinking of possibilities of literature).