C.T. Hsia on Chinese Literature

C.T. Hsia on Chinese Literature

C.T. Hsia on Chinese Literature

C.T. Hsia on Chinese Literature

Synopsis

Best known for the groundbreaking works A History of Modern Chinese Fiction (1961) and The Classic Chinese Novel (1968), C. T. Hsia has gathered sixteen essays and studies written during his Columbia years as a professor of Chinese literature. Wider in range and scope, C. T. Hsia on Chinese Literature stands beside his two earlier books as part of his critical legacy to all readers seriously interested in the subject.

C. T. Hsia's writings on Chinese literature express a candor rare among his Western colleagues. Thus the first section of the book contains three essays that place Chinese literature in critical perspective, examining its substance and significance and questioning some of the critical approaches and methods adopted by Western sinologists for its study and appreciation. The second section has two essays on traditional drama -- one on the Yuan masterpiece The Romance of the Western Chamber and the other a sophisticated study of the plays of the foremost Ming dramatist T'ang Hsien-tsu.

The third section is the richest and longest of the book, containing six essays on traditional and early modern fiction. At least four of these -- on "The Military Romance" and the novels Flowers in the Mirror, The Travels of Lao Ts'an, and Jade Pear Spirit -- are among the author's finest works. Finally, the fourth section of the book, covering modern fiction, includes one essay on the novel The Korchin Banner Plains, an essay on women in Chinese communist fiction, and three concise yet illuminating studies of the short story during the three republican decades before Mao, the first dozen years under Mao, and in Taiwan during the 1960s.

Excerpt

I have been in this country for almost fifty-six years, earning a Ph.D. in English at Yale in three and a half years, preparing a history of modern Chinese fiction with a three-year grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, and teaching English at two colleges for five years after serving as a Visiting Lecturer in Chinese at the University of Michigan. For the next three decades, I taught and wrote about Chinese literature, first at the University of Pittsburgh in 1961–62, and then at Columbia University from 1962 to 1991. In July 1992 I was hospitalized for atrial fibrillation for ten days, and I have not been active as an American sinologist since, though my health has been improving in the last three or four years and I have become somewhat more active as a writer in Chinese.

The present volume collects sixteen critical essays and studies in Chinese literature that I wish to preserve, all published during my Columbia years. Part I contains three pieces that place Chinese literature in critical perspective, examining its substance and significance and the approaches and methods adopted by Western scholars for its appreciation and evaluation. Part II has two essays on traditional drama—one on the sequence of Yuan plays called in English The Romance of the Western Chamber, and the other on the five plays of the Ming dramatist T'ang Hsien-tsu. Part III is quite substantial, containing a review of a book on the Dream of the Red Chamber and four refreshingly new studies of the military romance and three novels dating from the Ch'ing and early . . .

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