Modern Chinese Intellectuals and Artists Through the 1949 Crisis
In this book, David Der-wei Wang uses the lyrical to rethink the dynamics of Chinese modernity. Although the form may seem unusual for representing China's social and political crises in the mid-twentieth century, Wang contends that national cataclysm and mass movements intensified Chinese lyricism in extraordinary ways.
Wang calls attention to the form's vigor and variety at an unlikely juncture in Chinese history and the precarious consequences it brought about: betrayal, self-abjuration, suicide, and silence. Despite their divergent backgrounds and commitments, the writers, artists, and intellectuals discussed in this book all took lyricism as a way to explore selfhood in relation to solidarity, the role of the artist in history, and the potential for poetry to illuminate crisis. They experimented with poetry, fiction, film, intellectual treatise, political manifesto, painting, calligraphy, and music. Western critics, Wang shows, also used lyricism to critique their perilous, epic time. He reads Martin Heidegger, Theodor Adorno, Cleanth Brooks, and Paul de Man, among others, to complete his portrait.
The Chinese case only further intensifies the permeable nature of lyrical discourse, forcing us to reengage with the dominant role of revolution and enlightenment in shaping Chinese—and global—modernity. Wang's remarkable survey reestablishes Chinese lyricism's deep roots in its own native traditions, along with Western influences, and realizes the relevance of such a lyrical calling of the past century to our time.
"By bringing energetic questioning and immense erudition to bear on lyricism, Wang succeeds in throwing a brilliant new light onto crucial aspects of modern Chinese experience in ways that demand a reconfiguration of our understanding. No other book provides such a rigorous, thoughtful, and stimulating encounter with the aesthetic choices of practitioners across the arts and the ongoing relevance of aesthetic questions for contemporary concerns." — Susan Daruvala, Cambridge University
"Wang moves with ease and flair from one discipline to another as he delineates the complex dynamics of the evolving cultural lyricism in mid-twentieth century China. No other published book in the field of Chinese literary studies can rival this one in breadth, depth, and goals." — Zong-Qi Cai, author of How to Read Chinese Poetry: A Guided Anthology
"This is fascinating, ground-founding work. With erudition, insights, meticulous research, and magisterial assuredness, David Der-wei Wang has written a grand book that will open ways for future scholars. The publication of this book might alter the landscape of Chinese literary and cultural studies." — Ha Jin, author of Nanjing Requiem
"Lyricism, or shuqing, is here developed like a lost negative from China's hard twentieth century. Repeatedly repressed, it cannot, Wang shows, be conclusively overwritten. This book disturbs large areas of canon and consensus. It deserves a long future." — Haun Saussy, University of Chicago
"With The Lyrical in Epic Time, David Der-wei Wang has firmly cemented his reputation as the world's leading scholar of modern Chinese literature and culture. In addition to his well-known ability to produce breath-takingly exciting, original, and enthusiastic readings of literary works, he has included in this new book his equally authoritative and inspiring views on works of film, painting, music, and calligraphy. Tying all these together is a compelling argument about the significance of the lyrical tradition, so often overlooked in previous scholarship of the grand narratives of Chinese modernity. The Lyrical in Epic Time is the logical continuation of Wang's earlier work on the 'repressed modernities' of Chinese culture. Once again, he has succeeded in pointing the way towards new materials, new approaches, and new forms of appreciating creative work from the Sinophone world." — Michel Hockx, SOAS, University of London
"A bold, persuasive interpretation of the history of modern Chinese literature.... Highly recommended." — Choice
Introduction: Inventing the "Lyrical Tradition"
1. "A History with Feeling"
2. The Three Epiphanies of Shen Congwen
3. Of Dream and Snake: He Qifang, Feng Zhi, and Born-Again Lyricism
4. A Lyricism of Betrayal: The Enigma of Hu Lancheng
5. The Lyrical in Epic Time: The Music and Poetry of Jiang Wenye
6. The Riddle of the Sphinx: Lin Fengmian and the Polemics of Realism in Modern Chinese Painting
7. The Spring That Brought Eternal Regret: Fei Mu, Mei Lanfang, and the Poetics of Screening China
8. And History Took a Calligraphic Turn: Tai Jingnong and the Art of Writing
Coda: Toward a Critical Lyricism
Glossary of Chinese Characters
Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2015