The Lure of the Modern: Writing Modernism in Semicolonial China, 1917-1937

By Shu-Mei Shih | Go to book overview

APPENDIX
Later Modernisms
The War Years and Beyond

With the onset of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, literary activities initially came to a complete halt. Beijing soon fell to the Japanese; Shanghai became an “isolated island” (gudao), and the foreign concessions were surrounded by the Japanese army encamped on the outskirts of the city until they too fell into Japanese hands during the Pacific War. Most writers left the two cultural centers and dispersed to Nationalist-controlled inland areas, with a small minority of writers going to Communist-controlled territory. A younger generation of writers came of age in the 1940s, however, and started publishing formally experimental stories in the few literary journals available. Other writers came into prominence in such cities as Kunming, Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Chongqing. In contrast to the previous two decades, the era from 1937 to 1949 witnessed a decentralization of culture as a result of national disintegration and the resultant dispersion of literary figures, although the occupied areas remained productive loci after the initial halt in activities. In this appendix, I provide a preliminary commentary on 1940s literary modernism and beyond, and reflect upon the larger issue of the repetitiveness of modernism as endemic to the modernity project in the Third World context.

During the war, several existing literary journals continued publication and some new ones appeared in at least five major cities, publishing some of the same writers, although these writers were now of rather different persuasions. During the Japanese occupation, both Artistic and Literary Magazine (Yiwen zazhi) headed by Zhou Zuoren in Beijing and Wind and Rain Talks (Fengyutan) in Shanghai prominently featured modern Japanese literature. This of course had much to do with the institution of a formalized Japanese colonial cultural policy in these two cities. Many writers gathered in the

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