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EASC New Book Series: Modern China - Why Fiction Matters in Contemporary China

The USC East Asian Studies Center has launched an EASC New Book Series for the wider community. This series is organized by Li-Ping Chen, Postdoctoral Scholar & Teaching Fellow in the USC East Asian Studies Center, focusing on Modern China.

March 11, 2021 4:00pm to 5:00pm
In this session:
Why Fiction Matters in Contemporary China (Brandeis University Press, 2020)
AUTHOR: David Der-wei Wang (Edward C. Henderson Professor in Chinese and Comparative Literature, Harvard University)
DISCUSSANT: Carlos Rojas (Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Duke University)

Contemporary discussions of China tend to focus on politics and economics, giving Chinese culture little if any attention. Why Fiction Matters in Contemporary China offers a corrective, revealing the crucial role that fiction plays in helping contemporary Chinese citizens understand themselves and their nation. Where history fails to address the consequences of man-made and natural atrocities, David Der-wei Wang argues, fiction arises to bear witness to the immemorial and unforeseeable.

Beginning by examining President Xi Jinping’s call in 2013 to “tell the good China story,” Wang illuminates how contemporary Chinese cultural politics have taken a “fictional turn,” which can trace its genealogy to early modern times. He does so by addressing a series of discourses by critics within China, including Liang Qichao, Lu Xun, and Shen Congwen, as well as critics from the West such as Arendt, Benjamin, and Deleuze. Wang highlights the variety and vitality of fictional works from China as well as the larger Sinophone world, ranging from science fiction to political allegory, erotic escapade to utopia and dystopia. The result is an insightful account of contemporary China, one that affords countless new insights and avenues for understanding.