Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms

Cultural Fever, Avant-Garde Fiction, and the New Chinese Cinema

Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms

Post-Contemporary Interventions

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Book Pages: 448 Illustrations: 12 b&w photographs Published: February 1997

Author: Xudong Zhang

Asian Studies > East Asia, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Media Studies > Film

Blending history and theory, Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms offers both a historical narrative and a critical analysis of the cultural visions and experiences of China’s post-Mao era. In this volume, Xudong Zhang rethinks Chinese modernism as a historical genre that arose in response to the historical experience of Chinese modernity rather than as an autonomous aesthetic movement. He identifies the ideologies of literary and cultural styles in the New Era (1979–1989) through a critical reading of the various “new waves” of Chinese literature, film, and intellectual discourse.
In examining the aesthetic and philosophical formulations of the New Era’s intellectual elites, Zhang first analyzes the intense cultural and intellectual debates, known as the “Great Cultural Discussion” or “Cultural Fever” that took place in Chinese urban centers in the mid- and late 1980s. Chinese literary modernism is then explored, specifically in relation to Deng Xiaoping’s sweeping reforms and with a focus on the changing literary sensibility and avant-garde writers such as Yu Hua, Ge Fei, and Su Tong. Lastly, Zhang looks at the the making of New Chinese Cinema and films such as Yellow Earth, Horse Thief, and King of the Children—films through which Fifth Generation filmmakers first developed a style independent from socialist realism. By tracing the origins and contemporary elaboration of the idea of Chinese modernism, Zhang identifies the discourse of modernism as one of the decisive formal articulations of the social dynamism and cultural possibilities of post-Mao China.
Capturing the historical experience and the cultural vision of China during a crucial decade in its emergence as a world power, Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms will interest students and scholars of modernism, Chinese literature and history, film studies, and cultural studies.


“A deeply thought-out and intellectually sophisticated exploration of a decade of major cultural and social changes in China . . . . Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms is a work of intense scholarship that attacks its subject with vigour and complexity.” — , Continuum

“This book offers compelling and brilliant insights . . . . Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms is a landmark contribution to the field of modern Chinese studies. Its interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approach will be an impetus to scholarship on China. With broad strokes Zhang delineates the historical and social forces in a dramatic interplay with the aesthetic and discursive modernism. No serious student of contemporary Chinese literature, film, and aesthetics can afford to bypass this book.” — Ban Wang, Chinese Literature

“Zhang’s book makes a huge contribution to the discussion of China’s ‘new cinema.’ He succeeds in locating ‘Fifth Generation’ film-making at the heart of his rethinking of Chinese modernism. . . . A real advance in criticism of Chinese films.” — Tony Rayns, Sight & Sound

“Zhang’s readings . . . are instructive. This volume examines (1) China’s most erudite 1980s intellectuals’ high theory debates about the future, modernity, Chinese tradition, and culture generally; (2) modernist literature, including ‘Misty Poetry’ (imagist), ‘Root-seeking,’ and late-1980s avant-garde fiction; and (3) China’s internationally acclaimed new cinema.” — , Choice

Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms will be a first in its elaboration of the social and symbolic construction of Chinese Modernism, and I expect it to elicit a great deal of lively and provocative discussion.” — Wendy Larson, University of Oregon

“Xudong Zhang opens our eyes to the complex cultural and ideological mutations behind the facade of the economic and political ‘modernization’ of China.” — David Wang, Columbia University


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