Lily Briscoe's Chinese Eyes: Bloomsbury, Modernism, and China

Lily Briscoe's Chinese Eyes: Bloomsbury, Modernism, and China

Lily Briscoe's Chinese Eyes: Bloomsbury, Modernism, and China

Lily Briscoe's Chinese Eyes: Bloomsbury, Modernism, and China

Synopsis

Lily Briscoe's Chinese Eyes traces the romance of Julian Bell, nephew of Virginia Woolf, and Ling Shuhua, a writer and painter Bell met while teaching at Wuhan University in China in 1935. Relying on a wide selection of previously unpublished writings, Patricia Laurence places Ling, often referred to as the Chinese Katherine Mansfield, squarely in the Bloomsbury constellation. In doing so, she counters East-West polarities and suggests forms of understanding to inaugurate a new kind of cultural criticism and literary description.Laurence expands her examination of Bell and Ling's relationship into a study of parallel literary communities--Bloomsbury in England and the Crescent Moon group in China. Underscoring their reciprocal influences in the early part of the twentieth century, Laurence presents conversations among well-known British and Chinese writers, artists, and historians, including Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, G. L. Dickinson, Xu Zhimo, E. M. Forster, and Xiao Qian. In addition, Laurence's study includes rarely seen photographs of Julian Bell, Ling, and their associates as well as a reproduction of Ling's scroll commemorating moments in the exchange between Bloomsbury and the Crescent Moon group.While many critics agree that modernism is a movement that crosses national boundaries, literary studies rarely reflect such a view. In this volume Laurence links unpublished letters and documents, cultural artifacts, art, literature, and people in ways that provide illumination from a comparative cultural and aesthetic perspective. In so doing she addresses the geographical and critical imbalances--and thus the architecture of modernist, postcolonial, Bloomsbury, and Asian studies--by placing China in an aesthetic matrix of a developing international modernism.

Excerpt

Modernism seems more than ever a genuinely international movement in this intriguing and path-breaking book. Examining the Bloomsbury and Crescent Moon groups at home and abroad, in England and China, Patricia Laurence asks us to see Chinese arts through the lens of British modernism, and the modern British legacy through contemporary Chinese eyes. We vicariously enter an educated and privileged circle that wrote, painted, and traveled. in China, these visionary avocations tended to merge and support each other. What was new in the twentieth century was the public embodiment of such pastimes in women, including Ling Shuhua— writer, artist, and finally, expatriate. Meantime, Bloomsbury “performed” the ancient Chinese literati’s “amateur ideal.” in Bloomsbury, women were not just present but preeminent.

The artists here reveal themselves not just through their works, but also in private letters, many of which were mostly overlooked until Professor Lau

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