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Sinographies: Writing China

Eric Hayot
Haun Saussy
Steven G. Yao
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The essays in this thought-provoking volume investigate ideas of China and Chineseness by means of a broad range of texts, languages, and contexts that surround what the editors call the “various written Chinas” through history. Contributors: Timothy Billings, Christopher Bush, Rey Chow, Danielle Glassmeyer, Timothy Kendall, Walter S. H. Lim, Lucien Miller, David Porter, Carlos Rojas, Steven J. Venturino, Henk Vynckier.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5379-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Sinographies: An Introduction
    (pp. vii-xxii)
    Eric Hayot, Haun Saussy and Steven G. Yao

    Every text bears the traces of ethnocentrism;¹ translations always need reexamining; travelers’ reports are notoriously exaggerated. None of these observations is in dispute here, although this book begins from, rather than concludes with, the problems they point to. The contributors to this volume discuss (among other things) ethnocentrism, the distortion wrought by translations, the exoticism that is the travel writer’s stock in trade, but they do not presume to correct the misperceptions by asserting that their own perceptions are authentic. (Indeed the question of authenticity—and the claims we and others might make for it—will be one of the...

  4. PART ONE. The Language and Rhetoric of “China”

    • 1 Chineseness: A Prehistory of Its Future
      (pp. 3-33)
      Eric Hayot

      Just as the events of September 11, 2001, constituted, in whatever way, the end of a certain American innocence in relation to domestic terrorism, they also marked the beginning of a new present: the time in which we now live is marked by the occurrence of every political, cultural, and economic gesture under the inflexible shadow of violence, the offices and officers of “Homeland Security,” mandatory patriotism, and the ongoing “war” on terror. One of the major effects of this new beginning has been to encourage a reconception of September 11’s past, so that whatever one had been imagining on...

    • 2 Reading and Difference: Image, Allegory, and the Invention of Chinese
      (pp. 34-63)
      Christopher Bush

      In his introduction to Ezra Pound’sSelected Poems(1928), T. S. Eliot refers to Pound as “the inventor of Chinese poetry for our time,” a phrase that has been quoted frequently since. By reconsidering the phrase in its original context, such critics as Robert Kern and Eric Hayot have shown it to be not only a gesture of pure praise or admiration but also a qualification of the achievements of even the most successful translators.¹ Pound’s translations are better than Legge’s, for example, not because they better convey “the matteran sich, which is unknowable,” but because they better effect...

    • 3 Impressions de Chine; or, How to Translate from a Nonexistent Original
      (pp. 64-86)
      Haun Saussy

      If you know—or think you know—the language of the original, reading a translation becomes a double or triple experience: you are always conscious of two texts at once and the difference between them. For historical reasons that the first part of this essay will attempt to lay out, reading translations of Chinese texts in European languages is a particularly charged instance of split consciousness. Some such writings (Victor Segalen’s interlingualStèles, for example) anticipate this response and construct a muffled eloquence around the expectation that the text read and the text read through that text will never coincide....

  5. PART TWO. Early-Modern Cultural Production

    • 4 Untranslation Theory: The Nestorian Stele and the Jesuit Illustration of China
      (pp. 89-114)
      Timothy Billings

      Once upon a time in a land far from Rome (Xi’an, 1625), Chinese workers were digging a trench to lay the foundation for a wall when their tools clunked against a slab of black granite about nine feet high and weighing about two tons, whose one-thousand-year-old inscription told an amazing story about all-but-forgotten Christian missionaries in China that would launch more than three hundred years of almost obsessive translation, interpretation, invective, and even some scholarship among (mostly Christian) sinologists, sinophiles, and sinophobes the world over. What made that discovery so astonishing is that ever since Matteo Ricci’s arrival decades earlier,...

    • 5 China, India, and the Empire of Commerce in Milton’s Paradise Lost
      (pp. 115-139)
      Walter S. H. Lim

      InParadise LostSatan is the archetypal tyrant characterized by his associations with the Orient. Elevated on a throne in parody of Godhead, Satan is defined by the splendor of the East. Signifying within a theological framework, the spectacle of this splendor forges an implied association between Satan’s theatrical(ized) authority and the vast riches of the Orient. To the early modern English imagination, China is an important kingdom that has come to be associated with immense wealth and ancient historicity. Reinforced by missionary accounts and travel writings, stories of the wealth of China generated fantasies on accessing this wealth, making...

    • 6 “Beyond the Bounds of Truth”: Cultural Translation and William Chambers’s Chinese Garden
      (pp. 140-158)
      David Porter

      The most abundant harvest within eighteenth-century studies of recent developments in literary and cultural theory has occurred at the margins of the literary and historical disciplines as they have been traditionally constituted. Feminist scholarship has restored dozens of neglected women writers to a prominent place in the literary canon and foregrounded a series of historical and theoretical concerns that have become mainstays of early modern cultural studies. The field of postcolonial criticism that has emerged in the thirty years since Said’sOrientalismhas, meanwhile, shifted renewed attention toward the history of cross-cultural encounter in the century preceding Napoleon’s conquests. The...

  6. PART THREE. Testimony, Reportage, Meddling

    • 7 Tom Dooley and the Cold War American Revision of “Indochina”
      (pp. 161-193)
      Danielle Glassmeyer

      Tom Dooley’s memoir,Deliver Us from Evil: Viet Nam’s Flight to Freedom(1956), recounts his work as a U.S. Navy doctor during Passage to Freedom, the 1954 evacuation of primarily Catholic North Vietnamese to the South Vietnam, led by Catholic President Diem, that had been cobbled together (or carved out) by the Geneva Conference. In his memoir, Dooley suggests that his writings may provide the first inklings for many Americans that there might be proto-democrats to be found on Asian soil, despite the overwhelming belief that, with America’s “loss” of China to communism, the Asian mainland was, for all intents...

    • 8 “Torture—and Loving Care—in China”: Captivity and the Fiction of Oriental Despotism
      (pp. 194-215)
      Timothy Kendall

      On January 16, 1973, the Australian High Commissioner to Hong Kong was called to the border of the People’s Republic of China to escort a fifty-four-year-old Australian journalist into British Hong Kong. The figure was wrapped in a large green People’s Liberation Army jacket and had shrunken cheeks and close-cropped hair. Anemic, gaunt, and unable to walk without support, he clutched at the High Commissioner’s arm as they slowly crossed the bridge at Lo Wu. Once they completed the 450-foot journey, the Australian journalist stumbled and collapsed. He was then fitted with a life jacket, placed in a helicopter, and...

    • 9 Boundary Crossings: Fieldwork, the Hidden Self, and the Invisible Spirit
      (pp. 216-244)
      Lucien Miller

      In this essay I wish to explore a keen sense of self-discovery and alterity (even divine alterity) experienced in relation to two modalities of boundary crossing: travel and ethnography. Dennis Porter writes in his superb study of travel literature,Haunted Journeys: Desire and Transgression in European Travel Writing, that one of the truths of all travel and, perhaps he might add, one of its graces, is the subversion of identity and the experience of the profound ambivalence of self, noting that Foucault proposed dialogic engagement with alien modes of life not simply to explore the other, but as a way...

  7. PART FOUR. Minority Discourses and Immigration

    • 10 Museifying Formosa: George Mackay’s From Far Formosa
      (pp. 247-270)
      Henk Vynckier

      “Mackay really loved Taiwan,” declared the lady behind the reception desk at the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines (順益) in Taipei when I visited the special exhibition,The Dr. Mackay Collection of Formosan Aboriginal Artifacts: Treasures Preserved Abroadin late August 2001. She continued, “That’s why many people have come to see this exhibit.” For Taiwan, an island of stifled voices and repressed histories after fifty years of colonization by the Japanese and another forty or so years under Mainland Chinese KMT dictators, this was, indeed, a memorable event. Exactly one hundred years after the death of George Mackay,...

    • 11 Signifying on China: African-American Literary Theory and Tibetan Discourse
      (pp. 271-299)
      Steven J. Venturino

      What does Tibet signify in narratives of China? Asking this question means asking what Tibet signifies in global narratives as well, since “Tibet,” like “China,” designates conflicting political entities in the world. Philip Glass and the Beastie Boys raise funds for a “Free Tibet” in concerts in the United States and Europe, while local festivals and television variety shows in China depict Tibetans as happily participating in each new Beijing-based social campaign. Dance and theater groups organized by Tibetan exiles in Dharamsala square off in international performances against officially sanctioned groups sent from Tibet to cities around the world. The...

    • 12 Transplantation and Modernity: The Chinese/American Poems of Angel Island
      (pp. 300-330)
      Steven G. Yao

      Composed in almost total anonymity between 1910 and 1940 mainly by Chinese commoners attempting to enter the United States (mostly unsuccessfully it seems), the poems written and carved into the walls of the Angel Island Immigration Station detention building have occupied a place at once central and obscure amid the wide range of efforts to “write” China and Chinese culture that together comprise the “sinographic” history of the West. Particularly within the emergent domain of Asian American Studies, these poems have been central because, as one of the earliest feats of expressly literary cultural production by people of Asian descent...

  8. PART FIVE. Mediated Externalities

    • 13 Western Journeys of Journey to the West
      (pp. 333-354)
      Carlos Rojas

      Wittman Ah Sing, the Chinese American protagonist of Maxine Hong Kingston’s novelTripmaster Monkey(1987), uses a loose identification with the figure of Sun Wukong 孫悟空 or “Monkey” (the irascible protagonist of the sixteenth-century Chinese novelJourney to the West) as a way of resisting and flaunting the ethnic and racial stereotyping he encounters in late-1960s California. Throughout the novel, Wittman paranoically invites stereotyping judgments from those around him, only to shoot them down before they are even uttered. Without denying the reality of ethnic and racial prejudices during that period, it is nevertheless true that Wittman’s own relationship with...

    • 14 Seminal Dispersal, Fecal Retention, and Related Narrative Matters: Eileen Chang’s Tale of Roses in the Problematic of Modern Writing
      (pp. 355-378)
      Rey Chow

      All students of modern literature are, presumably, familiar with Georg Lukács’s analysis of naturalism and formalism in the essay “Narrate or Describe?” (1936).¹ For Lukács, the ascendance of the descriptive over the narrating mode in fictional writing signaled the epochal aesthetic changes that had been occurring in European literature since the mid-nineteenth century. The main cause for such changes was, he writes, capitalism, which was characterized by “objective facts” such as “the domination of capitalist prose over the inner poetry of human experience, the continuous dehumanization of social life, the general debasement of humanity.”² Instead of the wholeness of composition...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 379-381)