Colonial Taiwan: Negotiating Identities and Modernity through Literature

School of Chinese Manuscript Workshop for Professoriate Staff

Colonial Taiwan:
Negotiating Identities and Modernity through Literature

Dr. Pei-yin Lin

May 11, 2015 (Monday), 4:30-6:00 pm
Room 730, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU

Commentator: Professor Sung-sheng Yvonne Chang (U of Texas at Austin)

Moderator: Professor Shu-mei Shih

Abstract: This talk offers a comprehensive study relating to the impact of Japanese colonialism on Taiwan’s literary production from the early 1920s to the 1940s. Shying away from the empire-centric Japanophone approach, it examines both Chinese and Japanese literary works. It attempts to redress the moralistic and resistance-centered nationalist interpretations prevalent in previous scholarship by calling for a contextual reading and attention to alternative writing such as serialized romances in tabloids in the 1930s. Through close textual analysis, the talk analyzes three of the major trends of Taiwanese literature under Japanese colonial rule: the transition from nationalism to socialism; aesthetic innovations and encounters with the modern; and identity politics under imperialization. Various case studies drawn from representative authors will be used. Rather than treating the colonized writers as merely passive followers of the Japanese colonial policies, this talk emphasizes their agency, considering them active participants who engaged with the colonial context in varied ways not only to seek a reliable identity but also to ensure channels for publication. By re-considering the multiple dominant forces behind the production of those works, it argues that the articulation of identities lies exactly in the constant negotiation between one’s literary notions and external political climate, and even commercial sensitivity. Only by acknowledging the authors’ situational positioning can we eschew the colonizer/colonized binary and better grasp the multilayered complexity of colonial Taiwan’s literature.

Dr. Pei-yin Lin is Assistant Professor at the School of Chinese, University of Hong Kong. Prior to joining HKU, she has taught at the University of London, National University of Singapore, and University of Cambridge. Her primary research interest is modern Chinese literature and culture, with a focus on Taiwan. She is one of the recipients of the 2015/2016 Harvard-Yenching Institute’s Visiting Scholars Fellowship. Dr. Lin has published over thirty articles and book chapters on Taiwanese literature. She is also the co-editor of Print, Profit, and Perception: Ideas, Information and Knowledge in Chinese Societies, 1895-1949 (Brill, 2014) and《交界與游移:跨文史的文化傳譯和知識生產》(麥田:2015).

All are welcome