(Columbia University Press, 2017)
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Socialist Cosmopolitanism offers an innovative interpretation of literature from the Mao era, proposing to read Chinese socialist literature as world literature. China after 1949 engaged with the world beyond its borders in myriad ways and on many levels—political and economic, cultural as well as literary. Far from rejecting the worldliness of earlier eras, Nicolai Volland demonstrates, the young People’s Republic developed its own cosmopolitanism. Rather than a radical break with the past, Chinese socialist literature should be seen as an integral and important chapter of China’s long search to find a place within world literature. Socialist Cosmopolitanism revisits a range of genres, from poetry and land reform novels to science fiction and children’s literature, and shows how Chinese writers and readers alike saw their own literary production as part of a much larger literary universe. This literary space, reaching from Beijing to Berlin, from Prague to Pyongyang, from Warsaw to Moscow to Hanoi, allowed authors and texts to travel, in the course reinventing the meaning of world literature. Chinese socialist literature is driven by a hugely ambitious—and ultimately doomed—attempt to redraw the literary world map.
Nicolai Volland is assistant professor of Chinese and comparative literature at the Pennsylvania State University.
“Socialist Cosmopolitanism forcefully intervenes in the study of modernity, crosscultural circulation, and Communist cultural institutions. The book contributes new paradigms to the study of modern China, world literature, and literary history and criticism. Volland argues that the Maoist ‘red classics’ should be understood as part of the trajectory of literary development in China and abroad. Moreover, he shows that the Cold-War ideological polarization was accompanied by a strong cosmopolitan impulse, one that has shaped literary works and the concept of literature itself.”
– Yomi Braester, University of Washington