Chinese Fiction of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries: Essays - Vol. 2

Chinese Fiction of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries: Essays - Vol. 2

Chinese Fiction of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries: Essays - Vol. 2

Chinese Fiction of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries: Essays - Vol. 2

Synopsis

It has often been said that the nineteenth century was a relatively stagnant period for Chinese fiction, but preeminent scholar Patrick Hanan shows that the opposite is true: the finest novels of the nineteenth century show a constant experimentation and evolution. In this collection of detailed and insightful essays, Hanan examines Chinese fiction before and during the period in which Chinese writers first came into contact with western fiction.

Hanan explores the uses made of fiction by westerners in China; the adaptation and integration of western methods in Chinese fiction; and the continued vitality of the Chinese fictional tradition. Some western missionaries, for example, wrote religious novels in Chinese, almost always with the aid of native assistants who tended to change aspects of the work to "fit" Chinese taste. Later, such works as Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle," Jonathan Swift's "A Voyage to Lilliput," the novels of Jules Verne, and French detective stories were translated into Chinese. These interventions and their effects are explored here for virtually the first time.

Excerpt

The eleven research essays in this volume, although written as independent pieces, share a common subject, Chinese fiction of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, particularly its relationship to the Chinese and western traditions. (The western tradition gradually became accessible to Chinese writers during the period.) This approach embraces influence as well as intertextuality, imitation as well as originality, and also intercultural transmission—a cluster of notions for which I would like to borrow the old term “literary relations,” but with a new meaning. My purpose is to describe, so far as I can, some of the movements in Chinese fiction during this period, especially in terms of creativity.

The first essay affirms the fact of artistic experimentation in the nineteenthcentury novel. Literary historians have never considered the nineteenth century a creative period for Chinese fiction, unlike the seventeenth century with its brilliantly innovative short fiction or the eighteenth century with its great and remarkably inventive novels. One gets the impression from histories of fiction that fresh creativity and experimentation disappeared until 1902, when Liang Qichao issued his famous call for a new fiction and launched a journal under that title. But we have only to examine the major novels of the nineteenth century, such as Huayue hen (Traces of flower and moon), Ernü yingxiong zhuan (Moral heroes and heroines), Haishang hua liezhuan (Flowers of Shanghai)— and, I would add, Fengyue meng (Illusion of romance)—to find not only that . . .

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