From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in Twentieth-Century China by Ellen Widmer

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Ellen Widmer
Harvard University Press
Date of release


From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in Twentieth-Century China

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Book review

What do the Chinese literature and film inspired by the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) have in common with the Chinese literature and film of the May Fourth movement (1918-1930)? This new book demonstrates that these two periods of the highest literary and cinematic creativity in twentieth-century China share several aims: to liberate these narrative arts from previous aesthetic orthodoxies, to draw on foreign sources for inspiration, and to free individuals from social conformity.

Although these consistencies seem readily apparent, with a sharper focus the distinguished contributors to this volume reveal that in many ways discontinuity, not continuity, prevails. Their analysis illuminates the powerful meeting place of language, imagery, and narrative with politics, history, and ideology in twentieth-century China.

Drawing on a wide range of methodologies, from formal analysis to feminist criticism, from deconstruction to cultural critique, the authors demonstrate that the scholarship of modern Chinese literature and film has become integral to contemporary critical discourse. They respond to Eurocentric theories, but their ultimate concern is literature and film in China's unique historical context. The volume illustrates three general issues preoccupying this century's scholars: the conflict of the rural search for roots and the native soil movement versus the new strains of urban exoticism; the diacritics of voice, narrative mode, and intertextuality; and the reintroduction of issues surrounding gender and subjectivity.

Table of Contents:



David Der-wei Wang
part:1 Country and City
1. Visitation of the Past in Han Shaogong's Post-1985 Fiction
Joseph S. M. Lau
2. Past, Present, and Future in Mo Yan's Fiction of the 1980s
Michael S. Duke
3. Shen Congwen's Legacy in Chinese Literature of the 1980s
Jeffrey C. Kinkley
4. Imaginary Nostalgia: Shen Congwen, Song Zelai, Mo Yan, and Li Yongping
David Der-wei Wang
5. Urban Exoticism in Modern and Contemporary Chinese Literature
Heinrich Fruehauf
part: 2 Subjectivity and Gender
6. Text, Intertext, and the Representation of the Writing Self in Lu Yun, Dafu,and Wang Meng
Yi-tsi Mei Feuerwerker
7. Invention and Intervention: The Making of a Female Tradition in Modern Chinese Literature
Lydia H. Liu
8. Living in Sin: From May Fourth via the Antirightist Movement to the Present
Margaret H. Decker
part: 3 Narrative Voice and Cinematic Vision
9. Lu Xun's Facetious Muse: The Creative Imperative in Modern Chinese Fiction
Marston Anderson
10. Lives in Profile: On the Authorial Voice in Modern and Contemporary Chinese Literature
Theodore Huters
11. Melodramatic Representation and the "May Fourth" Tradition of Chinese Cinema
Paul G. Pickowicz
12. Male Narcissism and National Culture: Subjectivity in Chen Kaige's King of the Children
Rey Chow
Afterword: Reflections on Change and Continuity in Modern Chinese Fiction
Leo Ou-fan Lee



From May Fourth to June Fourth will he warmly welcomed. It should be of great interest to all concerned with literary developments in the contemporary world on the one hand, and on the other with the enigmas surrounding China's alternating attempts to develop and to destroy herself as a civilization.
--Cyril Birch, University of California, Berkeley

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