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A New Literary History of Modern China

A New Literary History of Modern China

Edited by David Der-wei Wang

ISBN 9780674967915

Publication date: 05/22/2017

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Literature, from the Chinese perspective, makes manifest the cosmic patterns that shape and complete the world—a process of “worlding” that is much more than mere representation. In that spirit, A New Literary History of Modern China looks beyond state-sanctioned works and official narratives to reveal China as it has seldom been seen before, through a rich spectrum of writings covering Chinese literature from the late-seventeenth century to the present.

Featuring over 140 Chinese and non-Chinese contributors from throughout the world, this landmark volume explores unconventional forms as well as traditional genres—pop song lyrics and presidential speeches, political treatises and prison-house jottings, to name just a few. Major figures such as Lu Xun, Shen Congwen, Eileen Chang, and Mo Yan appear in a new light, while lesser-known works illuminate turning points in recent history with unexpected clarity and force. Many essays emphasize Chinese authors’ influence on foreign writers as well as China’s receptivity to outside literary influences. Contemporary works that engage with ethnic minorities and environmental issues take their place in the critical discussion, alongside writers who embraced Chinese traditions and others who resisted. Writers’ assessments of the popularity of translated foreign-language classics and avant-garde subjects refute the notion of China as an insular and inward-looking culture.

A vibrant collection of contrasting voices and points of view, A New Literary History of Modern China is essential reading for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of China’s literary and cultural legacy.


  • A New Literary History of Modern China stands far apart from the standard state-of-the-field collection. The publication of this book, with its range and breadth of scholarship, is an event without precedent in the field of modern Chinese literary studies. Some of the essays read like polished vignettes while some are whimsical, others build swiftly to a punchy thesis, and others again offer distilled wisdom on a crucial topic. The brevity of the essays holds the reader’s attention at a keen pitch—and more importantly incites more reading. A monumental volume.

    —Margaret Hillenbrand, University of Oxford


  • David Der-wei Wang is Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature and Comparative Literature, Harvard University, and Director of the CCK Foundation Inter-University Center for Sinological Studies.

Book Details

  • 1032 pages
  • 2-3/8 x 6-1/2 x 10 inches
  • Belknap Press