Jeffrey Mather's Twentieth-Century Literary Encounters in China argues that much of the symbolic characterization of China as the lazy, obstructive, and monotonous Other has been inherited from twentieth-century literature, and that it is necessary to look at the history of writing to understand the mediation and negotiation behind literary engagement with the Middle Kingdom. Situating the ancient country as the center of modernist encounter, Mather examines a wide range of Anglo-American travel texts about China—including travel journals, novels, autobiographies, and poems—within the span of the country's tumultuous Republican Period (1912–1949). Drawing from abundant archival sources and reflecting on the research of Edward Säid, Robert Bickers, James Hevia, Nicholas Clifford, Susan Thurin, and Julia Kuehn, the author attentively analyzes a range of writers—including a botanist (Frank Kington-Ward), a horticulturist (Reginald Farrer), a journalist (Emily Hahn), a novelist (Han Suyin), an editor (Harriet Monroe), and a poet (Ezra Pound)—in terms of their ambivalent construction of social space, sensitive contact with the Oriental Other, and uncertain strategies for negotiating cross-cultural interactions. Through the understanding of these imperfect travel writings from an earlier era, Mather grounds the importance of travel experience and cosmopolitan ethics in literary interferences in the present geopolitical context.
|Journal||Journeys : The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing|
|Publication status||Published - Dec 2021|