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


Research output: Journal PublicationsReview article


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
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


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