The Not So Soft Power of Chinese Literary Theory and Criticism: A Review of Literature and Literary Criticism in Contemporary China by Zhang Jiong

Jie ZHANG, Yunte HUANG

Research output: Journal PublicationsReview article

Abstract

At a time when China flexes its economic muscles and aspires for the so-called "soft power" on the world stage, there is one area where China's global reach has been woefully deficient: literary theory and criticism. Compared with Chinese literary works, which have gained increasing traction and recognition around the globe, Chinese theory and criticism have lagged far behind. In the absence of available statistics or data, let us just imagine the following scenario, which we know to be too true: Nowadays a doctoral student in literary studies at any Anglo-American university would have no problem writing a dissertation on the work of a contemporary Chinese author by using the theories of, say, Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, or Friedrich Nietzsche. But a student trying to interpret William Faulkner by using any Chinese theory or method, ancient or modern, would be told that it is absurd, professionally suicidal. This review essay is not the right place to dig into the reasons for such a glaring disparity, which has to do with cultural capital and vicissitudes of world history. But it is a reality [End Page 257] we need to keep in mind when assessing a book like Literature and Literary Criticism in Contemporary China by Zhang Jiong.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-264
JournalStyle
Volume53
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

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Soft Power
Literary Theory
Literary Criticism
China
Economics
Criticism
Statistics
World History
Anglo-American
Scenarios
Martin Heidegger
Cultural Capital
Doctoral Students
Friedrich Nietzsche
Vicissitudes
William Faulkner
Literary Studies
Michel Foucault
Literary Works

Cite this

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title = "The Not So Soft Power of Chinese Literary Theory and Criticism: A Review of Literature and Literary Criticism in Contemporary China by Zhang Jiong",
abstract = "At a time when China flexes its economic muscles and aspires for the so-called {"}soft power{"} on the world stage, there is one area where China's global reach has been woefully deficient: literary theory and criticism. Compared with Chinese literary works, which have gained increasing traction and recognition around the globe, Chinese theory and criticism have lagged far behind. In the absence of available statistics or data, let us just imagine the following scenario, which we know to be too true: Nowadays a doctoral student in literary studies at any Anglo-American university would have no problem writing a dissertation on the work of a contemporary Chinese author by using the theories of, say, Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, or Friedrich Nietzsche. But a student trying to interpret William Faulkner by using any Chinese theory or method, ancient or modern, would be told that it is absurd, professionally suicidal. This review essay is not the right place to dig into the reasons for such a glaring disparity, which has to do with cultural capital and vicissitudes of world history. But it is a reality [End Page 257] we need to keep in mind when assessing a book like Literature and Literary Criticism in Contemporary China by Zhang Jiong.",
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The Not So Soft Power of Chinese Literary Theory and Criticism: A Review of Literature and Literary Criticism in Contemporary China by Zhang Jiong. / ZHANG, Jie; HUANG, Yunte.

In: Style, Vol. 53, No. 2, 08.2019, p. 257-264.

Research output: Journal PublicationsReview article

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