Wartime Taiwan: Epitome of an East Asian Modality of the Modern Literary Institution?

School of Chinese Distinguished Lecture Series
(Co-sponsored by the Hon Yin and Suet Fong Chan Professorship in Chinese)

Wartime Taiwan:
Epitome of an East Asian Modality of the Modern Literary Institution?

Professor Sung-sheng Yvonne Chang (University of Texas at Austin)

May 12, 2015 (Tuesday), 4:30-6:00 pm
Room 730, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU

Moderator: Professor Shu-mei Shih (HKU)

Abstract: Over the past two decades, post-colonial and multiculturalist discourses have effectively discredited claims for the universal validity of Eurocentric literary views and evaluative criteria. Progress toward expanding the scope of literary inquiries to include the non-West, however, has been fairly uneven. Compared to literature from the former Western colonies, such as the Anglophone and Francophone regions, literature from modern East Asian has received significantly less attention. This is caused, in my view, not only by a knowledge deficit, in terms of empirical facts, but also by a lack of systematic examination of the distinctive dynamics, internal cross-currents, and shared patterns of modern literary development within the region, and a sociologically oriented structural approach promises to fruitfully address this issue.

Drawing from theories of Pierre Bourdieu and Peter Bürger and enlarging the scope of a world-literary phenomenon described by Franco Moretti as “a compromise between a western formal influence (usually French or English) and local materials,” I explore some special modalities found in East Asian societies as they built their own modern literary institutions, following established Western models, which had arrived around the second half of the nineteenth century. As a result of its relatively late start, the East Asian modernization process is compressed, and the course by which various modern institutions—including the institution of literature—are entrenched in local settings are frequently disrupted by external forces, reoriented into drastically different paradigms, and typically fraught with supposedly aberrant structural elements. Using a special literary phenomenon in wartime Taiwan as material for a case study, and in dialogue with some recent scholarship on the Japanese colonization of the island, I argue that these seemingly deviant traits are in fact quite common in the cultural history of modern East Asia. It is hoped that this hypothesis may be validated by future applications of the sociologically oriented analytical schemes employed here to other periods of East Asian literary history that appear to exhibit some structural affinities, such as literature from Hong Kong, Korea’s colonial period, martial-law Taiwan, China’s socialist era, Shanghai under Japanese occupation, and Japan under Allied occupation, and so forth.

Professor Sung-sheng Yvonne Chang 張誦聖 is currently a professor in the Asian Studies Department and the Graduate Program of Comparative Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her BA from National Taiwan University, MA from the University of Michigan, and Ph.D. from Stanford University. She has been teaching at the University of Texas since 1984. Professor Chang has authored 2 books in English, Modernism and the Nativist Resistance: Contemporary Chinese Fiction from Taiwan (Duke UP, 1993) and Literary Culture in Taiwan: Martial Law to Market Law (Columbia UP, 2004), as well as 2 Chinese books,《文學場域的變遷:當代台灣小說論》 (聯合文學, 2001) and《現代主義‧當代台灣: 文學典範的軌跡》(聯經, 2015). She is also the co-editor of Bamboo Shoots after the Rain: Contemporary Stories by Women Writers of Taiwan(Feminist Press, 1990) and The Columbia Sourcebook of Literary Taiwan(Columbia UP, 2014). Professor Chang has served on a number of editorial boards for academic journals and held offices in scholarly organizations; she was elected to serve as the President of the Association of Chinese and Comparative Literature (ACCL) from 1999 to 2000.

All are welcome