The Comparative Cultural Studies series examines how cultural practices, especially contemporary creative media, both shape and are shaped by current global developments such as the digitization of culture, virtual reality, global interconnectedness, increased people flows, transhumanism, environmental degradation, and new forms of subjectivities.
Series Editor: Ari Ofengenden, Tulane University
Women’s tanci, or “plucking rhymes,” are chantefable narratives written by upper-class educated women from seventeenth-century to early twentieth-century China. Writing Gender in Early Modern Chinese Women’s Tanci Fiction offers a timely study on early modern Chinese women’s representations of gender, nation, and political activism in their tanci works before and after the Taiping Rebellion (1850 to 1864), as well as their depictions of warfare and social unrest.
Women tanci authors’ redefinition of female exemplarity within the Confucian orthodox discourses of virtue, talent, chastity, and political integrity could be bourgeoning expressions of female exceptionalism and could have foreshadowed protofeminist ideals of heroism. They establish a realistic tenor in affirming feminine domestic authority, and open up spaces for discussions of “womanly becoming,” female exceptionalism, and shifting family power structures. The vernacular mode underlying these texts yields productive possibilities of gendered self-representations, bodily valences, and dynamic performances of sexual roles. The result is a vernacular discursive frame that enables women’s appropriation and refashioning of orthodox moral values as means of self-affirmation and self-realization.
Validations of women’s political activism and loyalism to the nation attest to tanci as a premium vehicle for disseminating progressive social incentives to popular audiences. Women’s tanci marks early modern writers’ endeavors to carve out a space of feminine becoming, a discursive arena of feminine appropriation, reinvention, and boundary-crossings. In this light, women’s tanci portrays gendered mobility through depictions of a heroine’s voyages or social ascent, and entails a forward-moving historical progression toward a more autonomous and vested model of feminine subjectivity.
Therese Kaspersen Hadchity
Focusing on the Anglophone Caribbean, The Making of a Caribbean Avant-Garde describes the rise and gradual consolidation of the visual arts avant-garde, which came to local and international attention in the 1990s. The book is centered on the critical and aesthetic strategies employed by this avant-garde to repudiate the previous generation’s commitment to modernism and anti-colonialism. In three sections, it highlights the many converging factors, which have pushed this avant-garde to the forefront of the region’s contemporary scene, and places it all in the context of growing dissatisfaction with the post-colonial state and its cultural policies.
This generational transition has manifested itself not only in a departure from “traditional” in favor of “new” media (i.e., installation, performance, and video rather than painting and sculpture), but also in the advancement of a “postnationalist postmodernism,” which reaches for diasporic and cosmopolitan frames of reference.
Section one outlines the features of a preceding “Creole modernism” and explains the different guises of postnationalism in the region’s contemporary art. In section two, its momentum is connected to the proliferation of independent art spaces and transnational networks, which connect artists across and beyond the region and open up possibilities unavailable to earlier generations. Section three demonstrates the impact of this conceptual and organizational evolution on the selection and exhibition of Caribbean art in the metropole.
Steven G. Kellman
Nimble Tongues is a collection of essays that continues Steven G. Kellman's work in the fertile field of translingualism, focusing on the phenomenon of switching languages. A series of investigations and reflections rather than a single thesis, the collection is perhaps more akin in its aims—if not accomplishment—to George Steiner’s Extraterritorial: Papers on Literature and the Language Revolution or Umberto Eco’s Travels in Hyperreality.
Topics covered include the significance of translingualism; translation and its challenges; immigrant memoirs; the autobiographies that Ariel Dorfman wrote in English and Spanish, respectively; the only feature film ever made in Esperanto; Francesca Marciano, an Italian who writes in English; Jhumpa Lahiri, who has abandoned English for Italian; Ilan Stavans, a prominent translingual author and scholar; Hugo Hamilton, a writer who grew up torn among Irish, German, and English; Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, a Mexican who writes in English; and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a multilingual text.
Imagining Afghanistan examines how Afghanistan has been imagined in literary and visual texts that were published after the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent U.S.-led invasion—the era that propelled Afghanistan into the center of global media visibility. Through an analysis of fiction, graphic novels, memoirs, drama, and film, the book demonstrates that writing and screening “Afghanistan” has become a conduit for understanding our shared post-9/11 condition. “Afghanistan” serves as a lens through which contemporary cultural producers contend with the moral ambiguities of twenty-first-century humanitarianism, interpret the legacy of the Cold War, debate the role of the U.S. in the rise of transnational terror, and grapple with the long-term impact of war on both human and nonhuman ecologies.
Post-9/11 global Afghanistan literary production remains largely NATO-centric insofar as it is marked by an uncritical investment in humanitarianism as an approach to Third World suffering and in anti-communism as an unquestioned premise. The book’s first half exposes how persisting anti-socialist biases—including anti-statist bias—not only shaped recent literary and visual texts on Afghanistan, resulting in a distorted portrayal of its tragic history, but also informed these texts’ reception by critics. In the book’s second half, the author examines cultural texts that challenge this limited horizon and forge alternative ways of representing traumatic histories. Captured by the author through the concepts of deep time, nonhuman witness, and war as a multispecies ecology, these new aesthetics bring readers a sophisticated portrait of Afghanistan as a rich multispecies habitat affected in dramatic ways by decades of war but not annihilated.
Kris Rutten, Stefaan Blancke, and Ronald Soetaert
Edited by Kris Rutten, Stefaan Blancke, and Ronald Soetaert, Perspectives on Science and Culture explores the intersection between scientific understanding and cultural representation from an interdisciplinary perspective. Contributors to the volume analyze representations of science and scientific discourse from the perspectives of rhetorical criticism, comparative cultural studies, narratology, educational studies, discourse analysis, naturalized epistemology, and the cognitive sciences. The main objective of the volume is to explore how particular cognitive predispositions and cultural representations both shape and distort the public debate about scientific controversies, the teaching and learning of science, and the development of science itself. The theoretical background of the articles in the volume integrates C. P. Snow's concept of the two cultures (science and the humanities) and Jerome Bruner's confrontation between narrative and logico-scientific modes of thinking (i.e., the cognitive and the evolutionary approaches to human cognition).
James P. Wilper
In Reconsidering the Emergence of the Gay Novel in English and German, James P. Wilper examines a key moment in the development of the modern gay novel by analyzing four novels by German, British, and American writers. Wilper studies how the texts are influenced by and respond and react to four schools of thought regarding male homosexuality in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first is legal codes criminalizing sex acts between men and the religious doctrine that informs them. The second is the ancient Greek erotic philosophy, in which a revival of interest took place in the late nineteenth century. The third is sexual science (or “sexology”), which offered various medical and psychological explanations for same-sex desire and was employed variously to defend, as well as to attempt to cure, this "perversion." And fourth, in the wake of the scandal caused by his trials and conviction for "gross indecency," Oscar Wilde became associated with a homosexual stereotype based on "unmanly" behavior. Wilper analyzes the four novels—Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, E. M. Forster's Maurice, Edward Prime-Stevenson's Imre: A Memorandum, and John Henry Mackay's The Hustler—in relation to these schools of thought, and focuses on the exchange and cross-cultural influence between linguistic and cultural contexts on the subject of love and desire between men.
In Women’s Tanci Fiction in Late Imperial and Early Modern China, Li Guo presents the first book-length study in English of women’s tanci fiction, the distinctive Chinese form of narrative written in rhymed lines during the late imperial to early modern period (related to, but different from, the orally performed version also called tanci) She explores the tradition through a comparative analysis of five seminal texts. Guo argues that Chinese women writers of the period position the personal within the diegesis in order to reconfigure their moral commitments and personal desires. By fashioning a “feminine” representation of subjectivity, tanci writers found a habitable space of self-expression in the male-dominated literary tradition.Through her discussion of the emergence, evolution, and impact of women’s tanci, Guo shows how historical forces acting on the formation of the genre serve as the background for an investigation of cross-dressing, self-portraiture, and authorial self-representation. Further, Guo approaches anew the concept of “woman-oriented perspective” and argues that this perspective conceptualizes a narrative framework in which the heroine (s) are endowed with mobility to exercise their talent and power as social beings as men’s equals. Such a woman-oriented perspective redefines normalized gender roles with an eye to exposing women’s potentialities to transform historical and social customs in order to engender a world with better prospects for women.
Angelica Duran and Yuhan Huang
In 2012 the Swedish Academy announced that Mo Yan had received the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work that “with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history, and the contemporary.” The announcement marked the first time a resident of mainland China had ever received the award. This is the first English-language study of the Chinese writer’s work and influence, featuring essays from scholars in a range of disciplines, from both China and the United States. Its introduction, twelve articles, and epilogue aim to deepen and widen critical discussions of both a specific literary author and the globalization of Chinese literature more generally.
The book takes the “root-seeking” movement with which Mo Yan’s works are associated as a metaphor for its organizational structure. The four articles of “Part I: Leaves” focus on Mo Yan’s works as world literature, exploring the long shadow his works have cast globally. Howard Goldblatt, Mo Yan’s English translator, explores the difficulties and rewards of interpreting his work, while subsequent articles cover issues such as censorship and the “performativity” associated with being a global author. “Part II: Trunk” explores the nativist core of Mo Yan’s works. Through careful comparative treatment of related historical events, the five articles in this section show how specific literary works intermingle with China’s national and international politics, its mid-twentieth-century visual culture, and its rich religious and literary conventions, including humor. The three articles in “Part III: Roots” delve into the theoretical and practical extensions of Mo Yan’s works, uncovering the vibrant critical and cultural systems that ground Eastern and Western literatures and cultures. Mo Yan in Context concludes with an epilogue by sociologist Fenggang Yang, offering a personal and globally aware reflection on the recognition Mo Yan’s works have received at this historical juncture.
In Fantasies of Gender and the Witch in Feminist Theory and Literature, Justyna Sempruch analyzes contemporary representations of the “witch” as a locus for the cultural negotiation of genders. Sempruch revisits some of the most prominent traits in past and current perceptions in feminist scholarship of exclusion and difference. She examines a selection of twentieth-century US American, Canadian, and European narratives to reveal the continued political relevance of metaphors sustained in the archetype of the “witch” widely thought to belong to pop-cultural or folkloristic formulations of the past. Through a critical rereading of the feminist texts engaging with these metaphors, Sempruch develops a new concept of the witch, one that challenges traditional gender-biased theories linking it either to a malevolent “hag” on the margins of culture or to unrestrained “feminine” sexual desire. Sempruch turns, instead, to the causes for radical feminist critique of “feminine” sexuality as a fabrication of logocentric thinking and shows that the problematic conversion of the “hag” into a “superwoman” can be interpreted today as a therapeutic performance translating fixed identity into a site of continuous negotiation of the subject in process. Tracing the development of feminist constructs of the witch from 1970s radical texts to the present, Sempruch explores the early psychoanalytical writings of Cixous, Kristeva, and Irigaray, and feminist reformulations of identity by Butler and Braidotti, with fictional texts from different political and cultural contexts.
In The New Woman in Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Fiction, Jin Feng proposes that representation of the "new woman" in Communist Chinese fiction of the earlier twentieth century was paradoxically one of the ways in which male writers of the era explored, negotiated, and laid claim to their own emerging identity as "modern" intellectuals. Specifically, Feng argues that male writers such as Lu Xun, Yu Dafu, Ba Jin, and Mao Dun created fictional women as mirror images of their own political inadequacy, but that at the same time this was also an egocentric ploy to affirm and highlight the modernity of the male author. This gender-biased attitude was translated into reality when women writers emerged. Whereas unfair, gender-biased criticism all but stifled the creative output of Bing Xin, Fang Yuanjun, and Lu Yin, Ding Ling's dogged attention to narrative strategy allowed her to maintain subjectivity and independence in her writings; that is until all writers were forced to write for the collective.
Feng addresses both the general and the specialized audience of fiction in early-twentieth-century Chinese fiction in three ways: for scholars of the May Fourth period, Feng redresses the emphasis on the simplistic, gender-neutral representation of the new women by re-reading selected texts in the light of marginalized discourse and by an analysis of the evolving strategies of narrative deployment; for those working in the area of feminism and literary studies, Feng develops a new method of studying the representation of Chinese women through an interrogation of narrative permutations, ideological discourses, and gender relationships; and for studies of modernity and modernization, the author presents a more complex picture of the relationships of modern Chinese intellectuals to their cultural past and of women writers to a literary tradition dominated by men.