Cambria Press Author Carolyn T. Brown Speaks at the Library of Congress

Lu Xun

Dr. Carolyn T. Brown, former director of the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, recently gave a talk about her latest book Reading Lu Xun Through Carl Jung (Cambria Press, 2018) at the Library of Congress. Below are excerpts of her speech and here is the link to the video of the entire speech.

*This book is part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

How the book started

“This study began when I was a college sophomore in a course in modern Chinese literature in translation. I think we probably read his most iconic stories, certainly true story of Ah Q. Undoubtedly “Regret for the Past,” I don’t remember. But I do know that when I read one of his stories, “The New Year Sacrifice,” it was as if someone had like hit me in the stomach and I thought, “What has happened here?” I had never been to China and I don’t think I really knew anyone who was Chinese or certainly not well. But I do answer that question, but I’m not going to answer it here today. I do answer it in the book. But the question, my own reaction asked me to think both about my reaction and in a psychological sense and then to begin to wonder about what might be the psychological dimensions within the stories. Thus I was moved to ask about the psychological model by personal experience and I admit, as a former director of the Kluge Center, it wasn’t driven by intellectual curiosity, essentially, but by my experience.”

How this book is different

“unlike most studies, it’s not primarily about the man himself, it’s a study of text. Of course we know the man wrote the text, so they obviously trace back to the author himself, but that’s not the central concern. Similarly the work decent is the content and focuses on the structures. That is, I look at the patterns that repeat in foremost of the stories. … I’m using Jung’s concepts of the psyche as a model to explain what I was finding in the text.”

On Scapegoating

“The dog, who cannot defend himself becomes the scapegoat for the fact that the child was negligent and failed to do the assignment. More seriously this image can be projected onto entire groups. Where the community contributes some evil that has befallen it, to a group usually with insufficient power to fight back and tries to contain it. The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is one very clear example of political scapegoating of an entire group. And I’m sure it doesn’t take much imagination for you to look around our current world and see it still happening. But although a part of the self can be forgotten and rendered unconscious, it cannot be destroyed, because it is part of the self.”

On the spiritual or psychological illness that Lu Xun defined as undermining China

“My book argues that one way of viewing the spiritual or psychological illness that Lu Xun defined as undermining China, is to view his analysis as the split of the shadow from the ego within the whole self. And healing as the reintegration of these two parts. He investigates this, this idea in multiple domains, that of the nation, the community, the family and the individual self and imagines different outcomes in each domain. So one way to understand the psycho dynamics in the true story of Ah Q, is to view the story as an investigation into what happens when the ego splits off and expels the unwanted, unacknowledged, despised shadow side of the self and then tries to destroy it?”

On union concepts and national character in “The True Story of Ah Q”

“Analyzing ‘The True Story of Ah Q’ as a meditation on scapegoating, defined in terms of these union concepts, reveals dimensions of the stories, the story not previously noted. … I want to provide a few examples that reveal how viewing the true story of Ah Q as a meditation on scapegoating furthers our understanding of the story. … Ah Q’s signature feature, the one he’s know for as a character, is his stunning capacity to turn physical defeat into spiritual victory. That is, when he’s defeated in some kind of brawl he redefines the experience, such that he perceives himself as having achieved the upper hand morally and psychologically. At the time of its composition Ah Q’s capacity to turn defeat into victory was read allegorically.  It was read as a representation of China’s failures to respond to the challenges brought by the west. The notion that a nation had a particular character, a national character was very current at the time, and there was considerable discussion about China’s national character, what made it unique. And then given the problems, what deficiencies were in its — in this character. Because if it was getting beaten up by the West, at least in its perception, it must have been deficient in some way. Lu Xun, viewing himself as a doctor rendering a diagnosis, looked at what was wrong with the patient, china, in order to move the body politic towards health and a better future. He himself declared a few years later that in creating the stories he had attempted to — he had attempted to describe the souls of the Chinese people. So, from the beginning Ah Q was viewed as typical, not just a literary character, but typical of the Chinese national character. And what was considered his essential feature, was this capacity to turn defeat into victory. So, we should take a look at what that actually means.”

On sexual desire and power in “Soap”

“Lu Xun made the same argument in another story, which is much overlooked, “Soap.” That is he also showed there that society has encouraged men to disown their sexuality, project their desires onto women and then accuse women of having incited it. Certainly he viewed this as an issue of power as well, but also in psychological terms.”

On Lu Xun’s implicit model

“In the book I show that interpreting this structure through Jung’s conceptual framework shows that indeed Lu Xun had an implicit model of psychological illnesses and its causes. … the union approach, combined with a focus on the structure, gives new meaning to Lu Xun’s decision to take up the profession of literature in his hope of healing the spirits of the Chinese people.”

Reading Lu Xun Through Carl Jung is available directly from Cambria Press, on Amazon,
and Barnes and Noble.

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Jin Yong (1924–2018): Legend in Chinese Martial Arts Fiction and Modern Chinese Literary History

Today we mourn the passing of Jin Yong (Louis Cha) who was well loved for his wuxia novels, among his many other accomplishments.

Jin Yong

What made Jin Yong such a legend? As Ann Huss and Jianmei noted in The Jin Yong Phenomenon, “Jin Yong writes in what has been referred to by readers and critics as ‘the common language of Chinese around the world.’ [… and his]  writing has emerged as an interrogation of Chinese intellectuals’ project of modernity.”

In their seminal book, Huss and Liu argued that:

Most scholars of modern Chinese literature have studied Jin Yong’s novels within the boundaries of “martial art novels,” an approach which to a large degree has not only ignored the position of Jin Yong’s writing in the modern Chinese literary tradition, but also disregarded the impact of specific historical circumstances on the production of literary works. To remedy this weakness, our selection considers Jin Yong’s anti-Europeanized Chinese writings as works which efficiently rejuvenate long-neglected elements of the native literary tradition: huaben xiaoshuo, classical essay language, and the style of the Mandarin Duck and Butterfly School (Yuanyang hudie pai), all suppressed long ago by the New Literary Tradition. In addition to reclaiming the importance of Jin Yong’s language, our collection also engages Hong Kong, and the cultural and geopolitical space within which Jin Yong’s writings were produced from the 1950s through the 1970s. In this way, we go beyond the limits of literature, ushering the research of Jin Yong’s novels into the interdisciplinary world of political, social, cultural, and film studies.

They also add that:

the popularity of Jin Yong’s works offers us an opportunity to reconceptualize the relationship between high and popular culture, the canon and the uncanon, the modern and the traditional, the East and the West. A closer look at the wuxia project of this seasoned politician, businessman, and master of the literary jianghu will lead us toward a greater understanding of the complexity of the concepts of nation, globalization, and diaspora.

We are indebted to Jin Yong for what he has done for the Chinese literary world; his works will continue to, as Huss and Liu have noted, “lead us toward a greater understanding of the complexity of the concepts of nation, globalization, and diaspora.”

Jin Yong
The Jin Yong Phenomenon: Chinese Martial Arts Fiction and Modern Chinese Literary History, edited by Ann Huss and Jianmei Liu (Cambria Press, 2009)

This book is available in print and e-book editions.

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Celebrating Taiwan, home to some of the richest Sinophone literature in the world

Today on Taiwan’s National Day, we celebrate this important, vibrant island, which has given us—as Jonathan Stalling aptly puts it in Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers—”some of the richest Sinophone literature in the world.” Stalling elaborates that “unfixed, vibrant, and deeply engaged with a sense of place, Taiwanese writers—from the experimental poetry pioneer Hsia Yu to younger multimedia poets like Ye Mimi to powerhouse authors like Li Ang and Chu T’ien-wen—are continually pushing the boundaries of the possible and unlocking new directions for Sinophone literature in the twenty-first century.”

Stalling

Taiwan’s literary history is just as unique, as seen in Chia-rong Wu’s fascinating study, Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond, which explores “the discourse of the supernatural and beyond in response to the historical overview of Sinophone Taiwan.” Wu explores the zhiguai 志怪 genre and shows us how “ghost haunting may be allegorically associated with the historical, political, cultural, and even sexual dimensions of the world of the living.”

Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan

In showcasing the world of the living in Taiwan, Hou Hsiao-hsien is “considered by many cinema aficionados to be one of the most innovative, provocative, and enthralling directors,” as Christopher Lupke notes in The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien and further remarks that “linguistically and culturally speaking Hou Hsiao-hsien necessarily dwells in contested terrain, in the political penumbra between state and region, between national culture and transnational identity.”

Hou Hsiao-hsien

Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond and The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien are part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

Cambria Sinophone World Series Video
Watch the updated video for the Cambria Sinophone World Series

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Cambria Press Author Interview with Professor Christopher Rea

Before Crazy Rich Asians, there were the Chinese celebrities in the 1930’s. In his latest book Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities, Professor Christopher Rea (University of British Columbia) takes us into the world of Chinese elites and what they had to say about each other. Louise Edwards, Scientia Professor and Deputy Head of the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of New South Wales, hails Professor Rea’s latest book as “satirical, witty, and compulsive reading.”

So, what did it mean to be a celebrity in modern China? In Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities, Christopher Rea presents fifty brilliant pen sketches of Chinese cultural and political elites, written and edited in 1934 by Wen Yuan-ning, a Cambridge-educated ethnic Hakka from Indonesia and a master literary stylist. In this interview, Christopher Rea discusses what Imperfect Understanding reveals about the politics fame in China, then and now.

Cambria Press Publication Author Christopher Rea

Question: Professor Theodore Huters (UCLA) has called this collection “an extraordinary artifact of Chinese literary and social history.” Could you please elaborate on this and why it was so important for you to edit this book?

Christopher Rea: I got the idea for Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities while doing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University in 2012. Geremie Barmé, the Director of the Centre, invited me to co-guest edit with William Sima a double issue of the e-journal China Heritage Quarterly focused on the Chinese-edited English-language weekly The China Critic, which was founded in Shanghai in 1928. In the pages of the Critic I discovered a column of “Unedited Biographies” of Chinese celebrities, which I found to be often brilliant and consistently entertaining, even when I didn’t know much about the person being profiled. The editor of the column, Wen Yuan-ning, was a favorite professor of Qian Zhongshu’s, a writer whom I’m keenly interested in. I discovered that Wen not only edited fifty celebrity profiles for the Critic in 1934, but that he also released a book of seventeen of them under his own name in 1935 as Imperfect Understanding. His takes on Hu Shi, Xu Zhimo, Zhou Zuoren, Liang Yuchun, Wellington Koo, Gu Hongming and other cultural celebrities are insightful, funny, and often mischievous. In many cases, Wen knew them personally and would try to reconcile their personalities with their reputations. His instinct was to deflate the puffed-up biographies found in books like Who’s Who in China, and the results are refreshing.

As I read more of the essays and started researching the individuals involved, it became clear to me that Wen Yuan-ning is a literary voice who deserves to be rediscovered. His influence on the satirical style of Qian Zhongshu is unmistakable and his essays make good reading in their own right. Like many members of his generation, Wen’s literary career was cut short by war and politics—but in his case it likely had more to do with being elected to China’s legislature and later being appointed Ambassador to Greece. But what he left behind is treasure trove for the essay lover and the historian.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
CR: For starters, I hope that they enjoy discovering Wen Yuan-ning’s writings as much as I did. Imperfect Understanding contains much good humor, well-turned wit, and judicious character appraisal, along with flights of arch mockery, physiognomic satire, and poetry. Some pieces are quite touching. I hope that readers enjoy the results of some literary sleuthing that went into this book. For example, one of the best sources on Wen turned out to be writings by the New Yorker journalist Emily Hahn, who worked with him in Shanghai in the 1930s. One essay, the one on George T. Yeh (Ye Gongchao), I figured out was almost certainly written by Qian Zhongshu. I discovered that many of the essays—which were originally written in English—were translated and retranslated into Chinese many times in the 1930s and 1940s. And, as a literary historian, I learned quite a bit about celebrities outside my field, including plague fighters of Manchuria, Manila businessmen, university presidents from Singapore, rubber tycoons, diplomats, physicists, philanthropists, and musicians. Just the selection of persons profiled—the mix of professions, of male and female, living and dead—provides ample material for thinking about the politics of celebrity in in China’s age of print, and in its publishing center of Shanghai. Who was included or excluded from the list, and why? I also hope that this book inspires greater appreciation of how multilingualism has been a part of China’s literary sphere. Apart from some material in the appendices, this book is not a translation; Wen and his co-authors wrote in English. Finally, I hope that readers find useful all of the photographs, summary biographies, and bibliographic material about Wen Yuan-ning and his peers at the back of the book.

Q: What other research do you believe is needed on this topic?

CR: There’s plenty more research to be done on Wen Yuan-ning, besides the material I was able to get from Cambridge, Stanford, Taipei, and a few other places. Next steps might include tracking down his personal papers and archives in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan. Wen is just one of many talented writers of modern China who could write in English or another language besides Chinese, and much more work is needed to elucidate the multilingual dimension of modern Chinese literary history. We need more treasure-hunters in the archives, as many literary gems remain hiding in old magazines and journals, waiting to be rediscovered. The politics of fame has had a tremendous impact on modern Chinese culture, before and after the extraordinary example of Mao Zedong. Celebrities abound in contemporary China, for example, and our tendency is to interpret them based on the archetypes we’re most familiar with. Yet it’s clear, even before factoring in the latest digital twist, that not all of them fit the mold. Insofar as celebrity is a function of things like money, status, power, time, and attention, its configurations in Chinese contexts deserve our attention too.

Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Chinese Celebrities is part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

About Christopher Rea

Christopher Rea is an associate professor of Asian studies at the University of British Columbia. He holds an MA and PhD from Columbia University and a BA from Dartmouth College. His previous books include The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection (cotranslated with Bruce Rusk), China’s Literary Cosmopolitans: Qian Zhongshu, Yang Jiang, and the World of Letters, and The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China, which the Association for Asian Studies awarded the Joseph Levenson Book Prize (post-1900 China) in 2017.

About Wen Yuan-Ning

Wen Yuan-ning (1900–1984), also known as Oon Guan Neng, was born into a Hakka family on the island of Banka, and educated in Singapore, London, and King’s College, Cambridge. He taught English literature at universities in Peking, including Tsinghua University, and served as chair of the Department of Foreign Languages of Peking University. He subsequently became a contributing editor of the English-language weekly The China Critic (1928–1940, 1946) and editor-in-chief of T’ien Hsia Monthly (1935–1941), releasing his essay collection Imperfect Understanding in 1935. He was made a member of the Legislative Yuan in 1933 and in 1947 became China’s Ambassador to Greece, a position he held for twenty years. In retirement, he taught English literature at Chinese Culture University in Taipei.

 

 

Cambria Press Book Launch at iPreciation with Mabel Lee, Shen Jiawei, and Victor Mair

The Cambria Press double book launch at iPreciation on July 14, 2018,  was a great success! The audience was treated not only to fascinating talks by celebrity artist Shen Jiawei and Professor Mabel Lee about their  books Painting History: China’s Revolution in a Global Context and Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics  but also the introductory speech by distinguished guest of honor Professor Victor Mair and an impromptu speech by another eminent guest Professor Wang Gungwu. In addition, attendees were able to view the paintings of another Cambria author Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian, who has his major paintings held at iPreciation.

Cambria Press iPreciation book launch
Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation (Singapore)
Cambria Press iPreciation Mabel Lee Toni Tan Helina Chan Wang Gungwu Victor Mair Shen Jiawei
Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation (left to right): Mabel Lee, Toni Tan, Helina Chan, Wang Gungwu, Victor Mair, and Shen Jiawei
Cambria Press iPreciation Shen Jiawei Victor Mair books
Cambria Press iPreciation Shen Jiawei Victor Mair with books–Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics, Painting History: China’s Revolution in a Global Context, and Texts and Transformations: Essays in Honor of the 75th Birthday of Victor H. Mair 
Cambria Press iPreciation Mabel Lee Victor Mair
Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: In addition to discussing her two books, Mabel Lee also introduced another book she was involved in-Texts and Transformations: Essays in Honor of the 75th Birthday of Victor H. Mair edited by Haun Saussy
Cambria Press iPreciation Shen Jiawei book signing
Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: Shen Jiawei signing copies of Painting History
Cambria Press iPreciation book signing Victor Mair Shen Jiawei
Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: Victor Mair signing copies of Texts and Transformations, and Shen Jiawei signing copies of Painting History
Cambria Press iPreciation Victor Mair signing
Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: Victor Mair signing copies of Texts and Transformations
Cambria Press authors with books Mabel Lee Victor Mair Shen Jiawei
Cambria Press authors with their books: Mabel Lee, Victor Mair, and Shen Jiawei with Shen Jiawei’s painting of Chin Peng

More photos and a video will be posted soon, so stayed tuned!

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Cambria Press Publication Review: Central American Avant-Garde Narrative

Congratulations to Professor Adrian Kane on the excellent review of his book, Central American Avant-Garde Narrative: Literary Innovation and Cultural Change (1926–1936), in the journal Chasqui: revista de literatura latinoamericana.

Kane Book Cover

The review notes that:

While other studies have centered on poetry and manifestos, in Central American Avant-Garde Narrative Kane turns to the genre of narrative fiction to trace the ways in which authors from the isthmus use European techniques of literary experimentation in the 1920s and 1930s to renovate cultural traditions at home. Cosmopolitan authors such as Luis Cardoza y Aragón, Miguel Angel Asturias, and Flavio Herrera (from Guatemala), Max Jiménez (from Costa Rica), and Rogelio Sinán (from Panama) creatively incorporate regional elements within broader, international artistic concerns as they apply locally…

The book review also praises the book because it “fills gaps in the literary criticism of the region” and because ” it calls for a new approach to reading the works addressed and, at the same time, it provides a helpful review of particular strategies of innovation used in the avant-garde in general through the author’s close reading of the texts.”

Central American Avant-Garde Narrative is in the the Cambria Latin American Literatures and Cultures Series headed by Román de la Campa, the Edwin B. and Lenore R. Williams Professor of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Cambria Press Publication Review: Chinese Avant-garde Fiction

Congratulations to Professor Zhansui Yu on the outstanding review of his book, Chinese Avant-garde Fiction: Quest for Historicity and Transcendent Truth, in China Quarterly.

Chinese Avant-Garde Fiction

 

The book review notes:

“The experimental literary production of the People’s Republic of China during the 1980s, which was freed from many of the aesthetic strictures of the Mao era, deserves more scholarly attention. Zhansui Yu’s monograph aims to help fill this gap by focusing on the avant-garde fiction of Su Tong, Yu Hua and Ge Fei. … This is one of few monographs on Chinese literature that features a sustained engagement with the thought of Martin Heidegger … He convincingly makes the case that the common themes between these writers warrant a collective analysis for them. Yu’s painstakingly thorough reading and research will reward those seeking a broad introduction to the wide oeuvre of these three writers. As such, the chapters serve as a suitable catalyst for debate and discussion in university classes that cover these authors, as many of their works have been translated. For Chinese scholars curious about the thought of Heidegger, this book provides a handy and useful introduction.”

This book is part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Victor H. Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

Title: Chinese Avant-garde Fiction: Quest for Historicity and Transcendent Truth
Author:
 Zhansui Yu
Publisher: Cambria Press
ISBN: 9781604979688
252 pp.  |   2017   |   Hardback & E-book
Book Webpage: http://www.cambriapress.com/books/9781604979688.cfm

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