Intransitive Encounter

Sino-U.S. Literatures and the Limits of Exchange

Nan Z. Da

Columbia University Press

Intransitive Encounter

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Pub Date: December 2018

ISBN: 9780231188029

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $65.00£50.00

Pub Date: December 2018

ISBN: 9780231547628

Format: E-book

List Price: $64.99£50.00

Intransitive Encounter

Sino-U.S. Literatures and the Limits of Exchange

Nan Z. Da

Columbia University Press

Why should the earliest literary encounters between China and the United States—and their critical interpretation—matter now? How can they help us describe cultural exchanges in which nothing substantial is exchanged, at least not in ways that can easily be tracked? All sorts of literary meetings took place between China and the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, involving an unlikely array of figures including canonical Americans such as Washington Irving, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Chinese writers Qiu Jin and Dong Xun; and Asian American writers like Yung Wing and Edith Eaton. Yet present-day interpretations of these interactions often read too much into their significance or mistake their nature—missing their particularities or limits in the quest to find evidence of cosmopolitanism or transnational hybridity.

In Intransitive Encounter, Nan Z. Da carefully re-creates these transpacific interactions, plying literary and social theory to highlight their various expressions of indifference toward synthesis, interpollination, and convergence. Da proposes that interpretation trained on such recessive moments and minimal adjustments can light a path for Sino-U.S. relations going forward—offering neither a geopolitical showdown nor a celebration of hybridity but the possibility of self-contained cross-cultural encounters that do not have to confess to the fact of their having taken place. Intransitive Encounter is an unconventional and theoretically rich reflection on how we ought to interpret global interactions and imaginings that do not fit the patterns proclaimed by contemporary literary studies.
In this bracingly intelligent and impressively researched study of nineteenth-century Sino-U.S. encounters, Nan Z. Da focuses on transnational exchanges in which not much of anything is exchanged and worlds are not transformed. The result is a transformative book that challenges assumptions about transnationalism and maps out productive new ways of exploring the limits of cultural exchange. Robert S. Levine, author of Race, Transnationalism, and Nineteenth-Century American Literary Studies
Nan Z. Da has written the first great book on nineteenth-century Sino-U.S. literary relations and a truly great book on the current state of comparative literature. Da's beautiful readings of what she calls the many 'intransitive encounters' between Chinese and American literature demonstrate the ways in which the idea of a global, East-West world literature is a fantasy that obscures the much more interesting differences, failures, and untranslatable moments that have generated a long history of literary criticism. This book should be required reading for students and scholars of American and comparative literature. Virginia Jackson, University of California, Irvine
Intransitive Encounter offers nothing less than a complete reimagining of the literary encounter. With acuity, archival sensitivity, and analytic insight, Nan Z. Da argues that previous assumptions about transnational literary contact have perpetuated a hermeneutic that crosses out as much as it crosses over—and that what gets crossed out is precisely an opportunity to see the literary as a different kind of encounter. R. John Williams, author of The Buddha in the Machine: Art, Technology, and the Meeting of East and West
Da makes a unique contribution to transpacific literary studies and suggests a new approach to transnationalism that is theoretically sophisticated, historically revisionist, and potentially paradigm changing. Intransitive Encounter is a work of great originality, imagination, and erudition. Yunte Huang, University of California, Santa Barbara
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Intransitivity
1. Indifference in the Open: Squandering Washington Irving
2. Extreme Reformality: Burning Bridges with Ralph Waldo Emerson
3. Incommunicative Exchange: Yung Wing’s Impersonal Schemes
4. The Things Things Do Not Have to Say: Longfellow to Dong Xun
5. Open Books: Qiu Jin’s Feminist Reading Time
6. Harmless Exaggeration: Edith Eaton’s Tweaks and Glitches
Epilogue: Untracking Encounter
Appendix 1. A Note on Chinese Language Appearances in the Book
Appendix 2. Lexicon
Appendix 3. Historical Movements, Treaties, Organizations, Institutions
Appendix 4. List of Chinese Primary Sources
Appendix 5. List of Chinese Names
Notes
Index

About the Author

Nan Z. Da is an assistant professor of English at the University of Notre Dame.