2010 Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lecture

Writing History after Post-History: On Contemporary Chinese Fiction

With guest speaker David Der-wei Wang.

Tuesday, March 9th at 7:00 PM
UBC Asian Centre Auditorium
1871 West Mall, Vancouver
Reception to precede event (6:00PM Asian Centre foyer)

Fiction was taken up by enlightened Chinese intellectuals as a vehicle of reforming politics and remaking history as early as the turn of the twentieth century. It became all the more polemical in the late twenties when leftist writers and critics invested in it purposes ranging from critiquing the status quo to promoting progressive agenda. How to compose fiction the “right way” in relation to history has always been a contentious issue from the Yan’an era to date. Fiction is not only expected to reflect but also rectify history; more, it is even expected to project History—the Socialist state of plenitude as promised by the success of revolution.

It is against this background that we come to the contemporary scene. Much has been discussed about the 80s, the “New Era” when fiction commanded enormous attention in terms of both formal experimentation and conceptual interrogation.  But more than twenty years after the “Root-seeking” and “Avant-garde” movements that shook “Maoist discourse” and unleashed waves of creative energy, one wants to ask: How have the writers of the New Era come along in the aftermath of market economy and media explosion throughout the end of the last century?  What concern them now with regard to their creative capacity as well as social agency?   More importantly, how do they come to terms with the Red Legacy that has once dominated the conception, production, and consumption of fiction?

Writing at a time when History has collapsed and Revolution has lost its mandate, writers cannot take up the two subjects without pondering their inherent intelligibility.  Drawing upon theories on “post-history” as developed by scholars such as Jacques Derrida, Li Zehou and Liu Zaifu, and contemporary fictional works as created by writers such as Mo Yan, Yan Lianke and Wang Anyi, this lecture will address the following three issues:

  • History after Post-History
  • Enlightenment versus Enchantment
  • Socialist Utopia and “the Best of all Best Possible Worlds”

David Der-wei Wang is Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature at Harvard University and Director of the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation Inter-University Center for Sinological Studies. The world’s leading scholar of modern Chinese fiction, his research specialties include modern and contemporary Chinese literature, late Qing fiction and drama, and comparative literary theory. Professor Wang received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and has taught at National Taiwan University and Columbia University. He is the author of three books in English and twelve books in Chinese, and editor of many more. His many honors include an honorary doctorate from Lingnan University (Hong Kong), and his appointments as an Academician of the Academia Sinica (Taiwan) and as a Yangtze River Scholar affiliated with Fudan University (China).

Wang’s English books include Fictional Realism in 20th Century China: Mao Dun, Lao She, Shen Congwen (1992), Fin-de-siècle Splendor: Repressed Mondernities of Late Qing Fiction, 1849-1911(1997), The Monster That Is History: Violence, History, and Fictional Writing in 20th Century China(2004); and his edited volumes include From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in 20thCentury China (1993), Running Wild: New Chinese Writers (1994), Chinese Literature in the Second Half of A Modern Century (with Pang-yuan Chi, 2000), Late Ming and Late Qing: Dynastic Decline and Cultural Innovation (2006), Representing Taiwan (2006), Taiwan under Japanese Colonial Rule(2007, with Ping-hui Liao), Globalizing Chinese Literature (with Jin Tsu, 2010)

Wang’s Chinese books include From Liu E to Wang Zhenhe: Modern Chinese Realist Fiction(1986), Heteroglossia: Chinese Fiction of the 30’s and the 80’s (1988); Reading Contemporary Chinese Fiction (1991); Narrating China (1993); The Making of the Modern; the Making of A Literature (1997); Methods of Imagining China (1998); After Heteroglossia: Reviews of Contemporary Chinese Fiction (2001); Into the Millennium: 20 Contemporary Chinese Fiction Writers (2002); The Monster That Is History (2005); Post-Loyalist Writing (2007); Mao Dun, Lao She, Shen Congwen: Fictional Realism in 20th Century China (2009); Lyricism and Chinese Modernity (2010)

Past Lecture Speakers:

2009-10 Lung Ying-tai
2008-09 Yu Hua
2007-08 Dorothy Ko
2006-07 Michael J. Puett
2005-06 Roger Ames