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22 China Review International: Vol. 5, No. i, Spring 1998 Xiaomei Chen. Occidentalism: A Theory ofCounter-Discourse in Post-Mao China. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. viii, 239 pp. Hardcover $35.00, isbn 0-19-508579-5. Conventional wisdom has it that one should not judge a book by its cover. In the case ofXiaomei Chen's Occidentalism: A Theory ofCounter-Discourse in Post-Mao China, it is not the cover but the tide of the book that might give rise to premature judgments.' The foregrounding of the term "occidentalism," which is continued in the short Introduction, easily creates the impression that the book is meant as a contribution to the discussion about Edward Said's Orientalism and, especially, to the question to what extent Said's claims about the discursive representation of imperialist power over the Arab world are equally applicable to East Asian countries.2 In fact, however, most of Chen's book deals with the study of twentieth-century Chinese literature, particularly modern drama. Chen's main argument is that the fashionable dismissal of any and all Western influence on modern Chinese letters as results of "cultural imperialism" is a critical oversimplification , because it fails to take into account aspects ofhistorical and literary context . The materials and ideas brought forward by Chen in the context ofher main argument lead to challenging and challengeable conclusions about literary production , literary influence, and literary criticism. In view of the above, I was surprised to see that the Spring 1997 issue of China Review International contained a review of Occidentalism written by a political scientist, whose highly critical discussion did not go beyond the theoretical points made in die Introduction of Chen's book. This is all the more surprising since the reviewer, Chenshan Tian, introducing himself as "a Chinese" and "an insider," claims that "the variety of cultural media Chen examines presents a formidable challenge to non-Chinese scholars" (p. 93). After a statement like that, I would have expected Tian to do the job that would be so difficult for non-Chinese scholars and review the six main chapters of Occidentalism. Unfortunately, Tian only provides a short list of the materials selected by Chen in chapters 1-5, without commenting on the relative importance of the materials or on Chen's treatment of them. Chapter 6 is discussed slightly more elaborately, in three sentences , as follows: In Chapter 6, Chen examines a group of male May Fourth playwrights who considered writing about the issues ofwomen's liberation and equality, involv-© 1998 by University ¡ng important political and ideological strategies in the formation ofa counterofHawai 'i Presstradition and a counter-canon against the Confucian ideology. These playwrights included Chen Dabei, Ouyang Yuqian, Lu Xun, Hu Shi, Tian Han, Guo Features 23 Moruo, and Bing Xin. Chinese dramatists have been attracted as well by Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. (China Review International 4, no. 1:93-94) Unfortunately, the first sentence is almost literally copied from p. 25 ofChen's "Introduction," while the second sentence, though only a listing ofnames, is factually incorrect, since Lu Xun and Bing Xin, as every "insider" knows, are no playwrights and Chen does not treat them as such. The third sentence is correct. The only part ofTian's review that apparendy meaningfully discusses another chapter than the Introduction is the paragraph in which Chen's treatment of the TV documentary He shang (River elegy) in chapter 1 is criticized for suggesting a "distinct boundary between official and anti-official ideologies." Tian is absolutely right in pointing out that "He shangdoes not suffice as an example ofanti-official ideology," because its broadcasting was supported by Zhao Ziyang in his capacity as Communist Party General Secretary. Tian's criticism here was perhaps incited by a passage on the third page ofchapter 1, where Chen claims that "[n]owhere is this anti-official Occidentalism more evident than in the . . . television series He shang" (p. 28). However, it seems to have escaped Tian's attention that later on in the chapter, on pages 44-45, Chen provides elaborate references to Zhao Ziyang's support ofthe documentary and its merging with "official discourse." I...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 22-29
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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