- Weltliterature und Welttheater: Ästhetischer Humanismus in der kulturellen Globalisierung by Alexander C. Y. Huang
The announcement that Mo Yan won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature has created a demand for more in the American and European academies about this author and the tradition from which she emerges. Within the German academy, as questions surrounding German orientalisms of East Asia are a key topic of discussion, demand for German-language scholarship surrounding Mo Yan and what informs his writing is on the rise. One noteworthy step has been taken to making the study of Chinese literature more accessible and more comparative in Weltliterature und Welttheater: Ästhetischer Humanismus in der kulturellen Globalisierung by Alexander (Alexa) Huang.
Huang defines humanism as “ein Teil der interkulturellen Kunst und Literatur” (“a part of intellectual art and literature” ) that “fördert unab-hängiges Denken und den Mut, sich gegen selbst ernannte Autoritäten—ganz gleich ob in Politik oder Kultur—zu stellen” (“promotes independent thought and courage, taking a stand against self-proclaimed authority—both political and cultural alike” ). These cultural authorities take on many forms within Huang’s work, including the People’s Republic of China, the United States of America, and even the Anglo-American academy. Huang’s cultural globalization (kulturelle Globalisierung) is examined in twentieth-century China through its more politically well-known Chinese authors such as Lu Xun, Lao She, Gao Xingjian, and Mo Yan, as well as adaptations of Shakespeare by Liang Shiqiu and Lin Shu, demonstrating that challenging authority and doing so with a strong sense of self is not limited to Europe and America’s children of the Enlightenment. According to Huang, Chinese artists “brachten neue, hybride Genres hervor und schufen Werke, die immer wieder bohrende Fragen nach dem Funktionieren der Weltordnung und nach kulturellen Hierarchien stellen. Einige von ihnen wurden Mittler zwischen den Kulturen, andere wiederum unterstüzen lokale Kulturen angesichts von Verwestlichung und Globalisierung” (“brought about new, hybrid genres and created works that are repeatedly asking probing questions about the functioning of the world order and cultural hierarchies. Some of them became intermediaries between the cultures, while others emphasize local cultures in the face of westernization and globalization” [9–10]). Of the two kinds of artists, Huang is preoccupied more with the marginalized group: those looking to demonstrate their humanistic uniqueness in the face of authorial movements that attempt to reduce independent thought [End Page e4] and perspective (local culture) in favor of a homogenized culture, whether “Western” or “global.”
The book is divided into two sections, with the first covering world literature (Weltliteratur), focusing on the authors Lu Xun, Lao She, Mo Yan, Lin Shu, and Liang Shiqiu. For Huang, Weltliteratur is one that comes about through “Transformation und Verbreitung” (“transformation and dissemination” ), rendering it a process of diffusion. In contrast to definitions that attempt to make world literature either an elitist hyper-canon of world literature or a comprehensive corpus of every literary work written in every language, Huang offers a dynamically engaging perspective that demonstrates how she sees the underlying understanding of literature, in particular those works of twentieth-century canonical Chinese authors, operating in her book.
A large part of Huang’s Weltliteratur as transformation and dissemination is the discussion of how works are translated into English. Humor is at the center of Huang’s discussion on translation because it is one of the most subversive means by which a humanist can creatively undermine any self-proclaimed authority. In particular with the use of the Chinese word for “humor” in Mo Yan’s Shifu, You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh, where, according to Huang, “Howard Goldblatt, der amerkanische Übersetzer der Erzählung, übersetzt Xiaohus Bemerkung dementsprechend mit ‘Shifu, you’ll do anything for a laugh.’ Und damit umschifft er das knifflige Problem, das Wort youmo ins Englisch zu übersetzen. Xiaohus Verwendung des Wortes ist nicht gleichzusetzen mit dem englischen Wort ‘humor,’ zumindest nicht im Sinne lauten Lachens” (“Howard Goldblatt, the American translator of the narrative, translates Xiaohu’s comment as...