A Letter to China
The Age of Postmodernity and Its Heritance
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Part I: The Matrix of Civilizations
- 1 The Myth of Progress
- 2 Western Elements in the Art of Feng Zikai
- Part II: The Labyrinth of Postmodernity
- 3 1919–2019 China
- 4 Post-Maoist Era and the Westernization of Time
- 5 American and Chinese Literature
- Part III: Female Aesthetics
- 6 Women of Realism
- 7 Female Writing in Chinese Postmodern Literature
- 8 The Case of Wei Hui and Mian MianIt Is Not About China
- Part IV: Artistic Maladie
- 9 The Absurd Consciousness of Chinese Avant-Garde Art
- 10 The Oedipal Fate of Chinese Literary Avant-Garde
- Chinese Characters List
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Castelli, Alberto, author.
Title: A letter to China: The age of postmodernity and its heritance /
Other titles: The age of postmodernity and its heritance
Description: New York: Peter Lang, 2019.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2019055929 (print) | LCCN 2019055930 (ebook)
ISBN 978-1-4331-7641-8 (hardback: alk. paper) | ISBN 978-1-4331-7638-8 (ebook pdf)
ISBN 978-1-4331-7639-5 (epub) | ISBN 978-1-4331-7640-1 (mobi)
Subjects: LCSH: Postmodernism—China. | China—Civilization—1976– |
Postmodernism (Literature)—China. | Art, Chinese—20th century.
Classification: LCC DS779.23 .C37 2020 (print) | LCC DS779.23 (ebook) |
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019055929
LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019055930
Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek.
Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche
Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data are available
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About the author
Alberto Castelli is Associate Professor of Literature at Hainan University, China. He obtained his PhD at La Sapienza University, Rome. He also received his Master in Latin American Literature from Birkbeck University of London and his Master in Chinese Philosophy at Xiamen University, China. Castelli’s publications include The Modernity of Chinese Postmodern Literature: A Step Beyond Ideology.
About the book
This edited collection brings together a range of essays that examine the maze of Chinese postmodernity. The essays explore the global expansion of capital as a structural crisis represented in art and literature. It ultimately acknowledges the ambiguity of Chinese postmodernity, the overlapping cultural paradigms of Confucian ethics and a capitalist economy, residual of Maoism, socialist relations, and individualist philosophy.
This eBook can be cited
This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.
PART I:The Matrix of Civilizations
1 The Myth of Progress: Why Did Zheng He Not Go Eastwards?
2 Western Elements in the Art of Feng Zikai
PART II:The Labyrinth of Postmodernity
3 1919–2019 China: The May Fourth Prophecy and the Postmodern Turn
4 Post-Maoist Era and the Westernization of Time
5 American and Chinese Literature. Behind the Mask of Postmodernism: A National Failure
6 Women of Realism: Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, and Wang Qiyao.
7 Female Writing in Chinese Postmodern Literature: From Neorealism to Avant-Garde
8 The Case of Wei Hui and Mian Mian: It Is Not About China
9 The Absurd Consciousness of Chinese Avant-Garde Art
10 The Oedipal Fate of Chinese Literary Avant-Garde
This book was never written. What I wrote is indeed a number of articles, some of them published elsewhere, whose intellectual responsibility is toward the historical necessity of contemporary China. Some chapters have been published before in different versions. Chapter Five, “American and Chinese Literature. Behind the Mask of Postmodernism: A National Failure” has been adapted from an article published in Journal of Siberian Federal University. I thank the Siberian University for their permission to use it for a different purpose. Chapter Seven, “Female Writing in Chinese Postmodern Literature: From Neorealism to Avant-garde” appeared in Interdisciplinary Literary Studies edited by Astrid Meyer. I am thankful to Penn State University Press for permission to reprint this material. However, this chapter deserves some more clarifications. Bits and pieces of this article appear elsewhere in the collection. The discussion on Wang Qiyao is already in “Women of Realism: Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina and Wang Qiyao” (Chapter Six), the analysis of Can Xue’s The Hut on the Mountain is contained also in Chapter Ten, and the paragraph dedicated to Wei Hui composes the first section of Chapter Eight, “The Case of Wei Hui and Mian Mian: It Is Not about China” whose focus is not so much on Wei Hui as it is on the logic of her success abroad. Finally, the analysis of Ge Fei’s Flock of Brown Birds appears twice, in Chapter Five and Ten. The reason for the repetitions is in the essence of this essay collection. The essays ←vii | viii→here contained are linked by themes and motif, being the cultural representation of Chinese postmodernity the main theme and the unveiling of an age of crisis its motif. But these essays are also independent, they stand alone, they are thought to be published as singular pieces, and some of them have already been. Therefore, as I regard the abovementioned episodes as an indispensable moment in the economy of the singular piece, I decided not to write them off. I hope the reader will agree with me after having read them all.
I am indebted to people whose support and good judgment have been prodigal throughout all the two years of this project, scholars of great social commitment, surely the most crucial influence on my development as a scholar. I feel grateful for the help received from former students who, consciously or not, guided me into unexpected new venues for my research. I want to thank especially Mustang-Clara for having introduced me to the work of Feng Zikai and his cartoons. Without her, Chapter Two would not have been possible. Of course, I am indebted to numerous journals’ editors and assistant editors whose collaboration has been indispensable for editing the single articles. I wish to express my gratitude to Meagan Simpson and the other editors at Peter Lang, Divya among them. As the publication date was just a few weeks away, substantial changes were required: I am truly grateful for their time, expertise, and above all patience for guiding me through the acceptance and production process. Special thanks are due to the artist Zhang Huan for granting me his permission to reproduce his work 65 Kilograms on the book cover. I have tried to contact all the other artists I discuss in Chapters Three and Nine, but Zhang Huan has been the only one to replay my request or the only one with a down-to-earth approach. This is also an example of existential post-utopianism in Chinese context. Also on a personal note, I thank my mum and dad: Extreme humility and endemic disbelief have set further off the bar of my limits. Without them, I would have achieved my teenage dreams. But they were mediocre. On the same level of gratitude, I place my aunt and uncle, Pina and Mimmo, whose house in a fated year gave me an early love for literature and art, and imparted in me intellectual curiosity. I have benefited from many feedbacks and criticism on these essays, and this collection surely reflects those yearly interactions. I want to express my long-due appreciation to my friend and seasonal colleague Eileen Ryan for her painstaking work of proofreading, and to Oran Rauf for his friendship and research-support during the years this book was coming into being.
However, as it is just, the responsibility for any misunderstanding or perhaps mistake is fully mine. At last, this book is fondly dedicated to the memory of all those coronavirus victims, all those who died alone, buried without knowing in unknown mass graves.
This work builds on where my previous book The Modernity of Chinese Postmodern Literature: A Step Beyond Ideology (2020) had left, the labyrinth of Chinese postmodernity. Between the theoretical frame of modernity and postmodernity, the latter requires some working definition to proceed. Other terms have been proposed for what is now labeled postmodernism. In the 1950s, Arnold Toynbee, in the later volumes of A Study of History refers often -though without a systematic analysis- to a “post-Modern Age,” a negative scenario dating back to the last quarter of the nineteenth century, an age of social unrest, revolutions and wars. Frank Kermode in Modern Essays (1971) proposed the non-successful distinction between neo-modernism and paleo-modernism:
A certain extremism is characteristic of both phases. Early modernisms tented toward fascism, later modernism towards anarchism…The anti-humanism (…) of early modernism (anti-intellectualist, authoritarian, eugenicist) gives way to the anti-humanism (hipsterish, free-sexed, anti-intellectualist) of late modernism.1
I would not subscribe to these definitions for they do not stress the sense of rapture igniting postmodernity. By and large, the second half of the twentieth century comes with a general feeling of opposition to the dominant culture as much as modernism did. But while modernism was a minority-elitist culture, ←ix | x→postmodernism stands as the thrill of the middle-class, thus popular. On this point, I would argue, that “being popular” is not so much equivalent of being accessible to the public, surely it is not the case of Samuel Beckett (1906–89) and Alain Grillet (1922–2008), as it is being a product of the market, created by and for the market, at times subversive and submissive. That is the hidden paradox of our culture: If postmodernism is a product of the establishment, if it reproduces the status quo and its dominant logic, in Jameson’s line of argument an ‘established modernism,’ obviously it cannot be its antagonist. The paradox is in its double nature and simultaneously the ontological impossibility to be both. It happens that the bourgeoisie culture had triumphed and Man, the intellectual myth celebrated by the Enlightenment, the hero worshipped by Romanticism, had become an obsolete concept.2 The Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset (1883–1955) optimistically describes the absence of human forms in non-representational art as an expression of pure art; Modern art is an artistic art:
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- Publication date
- 2020 (October)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XXVIII, 274 pp.