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Literature > Asian Literature

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Ecoambiguity Cover

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Ecoambiguity

Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures

Karen Thornber

East Asian literatures are famous for celebrating the beauties of nature and depicting people as intimately connected with the natural world. But in fact, because the region has a long history of transforming and exploiting nature, much of the fiction and poetry in the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages portrays people as damaging everything from small woodlands to the entire planet. These texts seldom talk about environmental crises straightforwardly. Instead, like much creative writing on degraded ecosystems, they highlight what Karen Laura Thornber calls ecoambiguity—the complex, contradictory interactions between people and the nonhuman environment. Ecoambiguity is the first book in any language to analyze Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese literary treatments of damaged ecosystems. Thornber closely examines East Asian creative portrayals of inconsistent human attitudes, behaviors, and information concerning the environment and takes up texts by East Asians who have been translated and celebrated around the world, including Gao Xingjian, Ishimure Michiko, Jiang Rong, and Ko Un, as well as fiction and poetry by authors little known even in their homelands. Ecoambiguity addresses such environmental crises as deforesting, damming, pollution, overpopulation, species eradication, climate change, and nuclear apocalypse. This book opens new portals of inquiry in both East Asian literatures and ecocriticism (literature and environment studies), as well as in comparative and world literature.

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An Edo Anthology

Literature from Japan's Mega-City, 1750-1850

edited by Sumie Jones with Kenji Watanabe

During the eighteenth century, Edo (today’s Tokyo) became the world’s largest city, quickly surpassing London and Paris. Its rapidly expanding population and flourishing economy encouraged the development of a thriving popular culture. Innovative and ambitious young authors and artists soon began to look beyond the established categories of poetry, drama, and prose, banding together to invent completely new literary forms that focused on the fun and charm of Edo. Their writings were sometimes witty, wild, and bawdy, and other times sensitive, wise, and polished. Now some of these high spirited works, celebrating the rapid changes, extraordinary events, and scandalous news of the day, have been collected in an accessible volume highlighting the city life of Edo.

Edo’s urban consumers demanded visual presentations and performances in all genres. Novelties such as books with text and art on the same page were highly sought after, as were kabuki plays and the polychrome prints that often shared the same themes, characters, and even jokes. Popular interest in sex and entertainment focused attention on the theatre district and “pleasure quarters,” which became the chief backdrops for the literature and arts of the period. Gesaku, or “playful writing,” invented in the mid-eighteenth century, satirized the government and samurai behavior while parodying the classics. These entertaining new styles bred genres that appealed to the masses. Among the bestsellers were lengthy serialized heroic epics, revenge dramas, ghost and monster stories, romantic melodramas, and comedies that featured common folk.

An Edo Anthology offers distinctive and engaging examples of this broad range of genres and media. It includes both well-known masterpieces and unusual examples from the city’s counterculture, some popular with intellectuals, others with wider appeal. Some of the translations presented here are the first available in English and many are based on first editions. In bringing together these important and expertly translated Edo texts in a single volume, this collection will be warmly welcomed by students and interested readers of Japanese literature and popular culture.

104 illus., 5 in color

Eileen Chang Cover

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Eileen Chang

Romancing Languages, Cultures and Genres

Edited by Kam Louie

Eileen Chang (1920–1995) is arguably the most perceptive writer in modern Chinese literature. She was one of the most popular writers in 1940s Shanghai, but her insistence on writing about individual human relationships and mundane matters rather than revolutionary and political movements meant that in mainland China, she was neglected until very recently. Outside the mainland, her life and writings never ceased to fascinate Chinese readers. There are hundreds of works about her in the Chinese language but very few in other languages. This is the first work in English to explore her earliest short stories as well as novels that were published posthumously. It discusses the translation of her stories for film and stage presentation, as well as nonliterary aspects of her life that are essential for a more comprehensive understanding of her writings, including her intense concern for privacy and enduring sensitivity to her public image. The thirteen essays examine the fidelity and betrayals that dominate her alter ego’s relationships with parents and lovers, informed by theories and methodologies from a range of disciplines including literary, historical, gender, and film studies. These relationships are frequently dramatized in plays and filmic translations of her work.

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Empire and Poetic Voice

Cognitive and Cultural Studies of Literary Tradition and Colonialism

In Empire and Poetic Voice Patrick Colm Hogan draws on a broad and detailed knowledge of Indian, African, and European literary cultures to explore the way colonized writers respond to the subtle and contradictory pressures of both metropolitan and indigenous traditions. He examines the work of two influential theorists of identity, Judith Butler and Homi Bhabha, and presents a revised evaluation of the important Nigerian critics, Chinweizu, Jemie, and Madubuike. In the process, he presents a novel theory of literary identity based equally on recent work in cognitive science and culture studies. This theory argues that literary and cultural traditions, like languages, are entirely personal and only appear to be a matter of groups due to our assertions of categorical identity, which are ultimately both false and dangerous.

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Endless War

Fiction and Essays by Wang Wen-hsing

Edited by Shu-ning Sciban and Fred Edwards

This volume consists of translations of twenty-four fictional works and five essays by Wang Wen-Hsing, plus a dedicated author's preface.  Wang is one of the most celebrated modernist writers in Taiwan and the recipient of Taiwan's most prestigious National Culture and Arts Award (Literature Category).  This anthology brings to English readers excellent works written in the earlier period of Wang's writing career; most of the works are published for the first time in English.  This book is an important introduction not only toward understanding Wang's writings in particular, but also to understanding Taiwan modernist literature in general.

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English Heart, Hindi Heartland

The Political Life of Literature in India

Rashmi Sadana

English Heart, Hindi Heartland examines Delhi’s postcolonial literary world—its institutions, prizes, publishers, writers, and translators, and the cultural geographies of key neighborhoods—in light of colonial histories and the globalization of English. Rashmi Sadana places internationally recognized authors such as Salman Rushdie, Anita Desai, Vikram Seth, and Aravind Adiga in the context of debates within India about the politics of language and alongside other writers, including K. Satchidanandan, Shashi Deshpande, and Geetanjali Shree. Sadana undertakes an ethnographic study of literary culture that probes the connections between place, language, and text in order to show what language comes to stand for in people’s lives. In so doing, she unmasks a social discourse rife with questions of authenticity and cultural politics of inclusion and exclusion. English Heart, Hindi Heartland illustrates how the notion of what is considered to be culturally and linguistically authentic not only obscures larger questions relating to caste, religious, and gender identities, but that the authenticity discourse itself is continually in flux. In order to mediate and extract cultural capital from India’s complex linguistic hierarchies, literary practitioners strategically deploy a fluid set of cultural and political distinctions that Sadana calls "literary nationality." Sadana argues that English, and the way it is positioned among the other Indian languages, does not represent a fixed pole, but rather serves to change political and literary alliances among classes and castes, often in surprising ways.

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Exemplary Figures / Fayan

by Yang Xiong

Exemplary Figures (sometimes translated as Model Sayings) is an unabridged, annotated translation of Fayan, one of three major works by the Chinese court poet-philosopher Yang Xiong (53 BCE-18 CE). Yang sought to "renew the old" by patterning these works on earlier classics, drawing inspiration from the Confucian Analects for Exemplary Figures. In this philosophical masterwork, constructed as a dialogue, Yang poses and then answers questions on philosophical, political, ethical, and literary matters. Michael Nylan's rendering of this text, which is laden with word play and is extraordinarily difficult to translate, is a joy to read-at turns wise, cautionary, and playful.

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Family Revolution

Marital Strife in Contemporary Chinese Literature and Visual Culture

by Hui Faye Xiao

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The Father-Daughter Plot

Rebecca L. Copeland (ed.)

This provocative collection of essays is a comprehensive study of the "father-daughter dynamic" in Japanese female literary experience. Its contributors examine the ways in which women have been placed politically, ideologically, and symbolically as "daughters" in a culture that venerates "the father." They weigh the impact that this daughterly position has had on both the performance and production of women's writing from the classical period to the present. Conjoining the classical and the modern with a unified theme reveals an important continuum in female authorship-a historical approach often ignored by scholars. The essays devoted to the literature of the classical period discuss canonical texts in a new light, offering important feminist readings that challenge existing scholarship, while those dedicated to modern writers introduce readers to little-known texts with translations and readings that are engaging and original.

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Fictions of Dignity

Embodying Human Rights in World Literature

by Elizabeth S. Anker

Over the past fifty years, debates about human rights have assumed an increasingly prominent place in postcolonial literature and theory. Writers from Salman Rushdie to Nawal El Saadawi have used the novel to explore both the possibilities and challenges of enacting and protecting human rights, particularly in the Global South. In Fictions of Dignity, Elizabeth S. Anker shows how the dual enabling fictions of human dignity and bodily integrity contribute to an anxiety about the body that helps to explain many of the contemporary and historical failures of human rights, revealing why and how lives are excluded from human rights protections along the lines of race, gender, class, disability, and species membership. In the process, Anker examines the vital work performed by a particular kind of narrative imagination in fostering respect for human rights. Drawing on phenomenology, Anker suggests how an embodied politics of reading might restore a vital fleshiness to the overly abstract, decorporealized subject of liberal rights.

Each of the novels Anker examines approaches human rights in terms of limits and paradoxes. Rushdie's Midnight's Children addresses the obstacles to incorporating rights into a formerly colonized nation's legal culture. El Saadawi's Woman at Point Zero takes up controversies over women's freedoms in Islamic society. In Disgrace, J. M. Coetzee considers the disappointments of post-apartheid reconciliation in South Africa. And in The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy confronts an array of human rights abuses widespread in contemporary India. Each of these literary case studies further demonstrates the relevance of embodiment to both comprehending and redressing the failures of human rights, even while those narratives refuse simplistic ideals or solutions.

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