Chinese Grammatology

Script Revolution and Literary Modernity, 1916–1958

Yurou Zhong

Columbia University Press

Chinese Grammatology

Pub Date: November 2019

ISBN: 9780231192637

296 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $35.00£30.00

Pub Date: November 2019

ISBN: 9780231192620

296 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $105.00£88.00

Pub Date: November 2019

ISBN: 9780231549899

296 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $34.99£30.00

Chinese Grammatology

Script Revolution and Literary Modernity, 1916–1958

Yurou Zhong

Columbia University Press

Today, Chinese characters are described as a national treasure, the core of the nation’s civilizational identity. Yet for nearly half of the twentieth century, reformers waged war on the Chinese script. They declared it an archaic hindrance to modernization, portraying the ancient system of writing as a roadblock to literacy and therefore science and democracy. Movements spanning the political spectrum proposed abandonment of characters and alphabetization of Chinese writing, although in the end the Communist Party opted for character simplification.

Chinese Grammatology traces the origins, transmutations, and containment of this script revolution to provide a groundbreaking account of its formative effects on Chinese literature and culture, and lasting implications for the encounter between the alphabetic and nonalphabet worlds. Yurou Zhong explores the growth of competing Romanization and Latinization movements aligned with the clashing Nationalists and Communists. She finds surprising affinities between alphabetic reform and modern Chinese literary movements and examines the politics of literacy programs and mass education against the backdrop of war and revolution. Zhong places the Chinese script revolution in the global context of a phonocentric dominance that privileges phonetic writing, contending that the eventual retention of characters constituted an anti-ethnocentric, anti-imperial critique that coincided with postwar decolonization movements and predated the emergence of Deconstructionism. By revealing the consequences of one of the biggest linguistic experiments in history, Chinese Grammatology provides an ambitious rethinking of the origins of Chinese literary modernity and the politics of the science of writing.
One of the most innovative, exemplary, and deeply researched monographs in modern Chinese literary studies I have seen for quite some time. Andrew F. Jones, University of California, Berkeley
Offering a valuable history of the Chinese encounter with the Roman-Latin alphabetic writing system, Chinese Grammatology provides a compelling account of the rise and containment of phonocentrism as a global literary, linguistic, and political force with profound implications for the development of modern “national” literatures during the twentieth century. Nergis Ertürk, Pennsylvania State University
This long overdue study of competing twentieth-century efforts to modernize Chinese writing goes far beyond the origins of pinyin to include a series of compelling stories about all-but-forgotten movements that will fascinate anyone interested in linguistics, Chinese literature, and the history of modernity. Deeply researched and carefully presented, Chinese Grammatology is a page-turner for culture nerds, which makes a persuasive case for the influence of the ideologies of script reform on the evolution of modern Chinese literature. A must-read for anyone interested in cultural China. Timothy Billings, Middlebury College
Yurou Zhong ably chronicles the tumultuous twentieth century of the millennia-old Chinese writing system. We encounter strong personalities, overwhelming historical trends, and alert linguistic analysis. The concluding appeal to a ‘nonidentitarian coexistence’ of diverse writing systems within and around Chinese echoes ideals from the era of China’s greatest cosmopolitan influence. Haun Saussy, University of Chicago
Saussure's Cours de linguistique générale (1916) and Derrida's De la grammatologie (1967) are two milestones that have far-reaching implications for 20th-century scholarship in the humanities. Under the influence of these two works, phonetics and logocentrism gradually became one of the concerns for scholars of humanities. However, how do we deal with the perceived voicelessness in nonphonetic scripts? How do we rediscover and understand the rich and tense historical processes that sought to reform and even eliminate the Chinese script for the past century? These substantial questions form the backbone of Chinese Grammatology. It builds on theoretical exploration, historical research, and case studies covering classical philology, the influence of romanization, the latinization movement in modern China, and more. Solid research, broad vision, and sharp observations enliven the whole book. Wang Hui, Tsinghua University
Acknowledgments
Note on Romanization
Introduction: Voiceless China and Its Phonocentric Turn
Part I: Provenance
1. The Beginning and the End of Alphabetic Universalism
Part II: Transmutations
2. Phonocentric Antinomies
3. Can Subaltern Workers Write?
4. Reinventing Children
Part III: Containment
5. Toward a Chinese Grammatology
Epilogue: The Last Custodian
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Yurou Zhong is assistant professor of East Asian studies at the University of Toronto.