Ideographic Modernism: China, Writing, Media

Ideographic Modernism: China, Writing, Media

by Christopher Bush
     
 

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Ideographic Modernism offers a critical account of the ideograph (Chinese writing as imagined in the West) as a modernist invention. Rather than focusing on the accuracy of this ideograph as a kind of representation of China (a focus that would yield predictable results), Christopher Bush reconstructs the specific history of the ideograph in order to explore the

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Overview

Ideographic Modernism offers a critical account of the ideograph (Chinese writing as imagined in the West) as a modernist invention. Rather than focusing on the accuracy of this ideograph as a kind of representation of China (a focus that would yield predictable results), Christopher Bush reconstructs the specific history of the ideograph in order to explore the question of representation in more fundamental ways, ways that reflect the diversity and complexity of literary modernism itself.

On one level, the book makes an argument about the meaning and function of the ideograph during the modernist period, namely that this imagined Chinese writing was a complex response to the various writings of such technological media as the photograph, the phonograph, the cinematograph, and the telegraph. Through analyses of works by Claudel, Pound, Kafka, Benjamin, Segalen, and Valéry, among others, Ideographic Modernism traces the interweaving of Western modernity's ethnographic and technological imaginaries, in which the cultural effects of technological media assumed "Chinese" forms, even as traditional representations of "the Orient" lived on in modernist-era responses to media.

On another level, the book makes a methodological argument, demonstrating new ways of recovering the generally overlooked presence of China in the text of Western modernism. In addition to being its subject matter, then, ideographic modernism is also the book's method: a polemically "literal" way of reading that calls for reevaluations both of how modernist literature related to its historical contexts and of the ways in which we can understand that relationship today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Taking his cue from Gertrude Stein's quip ('In China there is no need of China because in China china is china'), this remarkable book makes us understand why modernism (and also theory) always need China as 'China'-not the projection of an Orientalist discourse, but a trope of otherness as writing. Bush probes with unrivaled depth and subtlety the paradoxes created by a Chinese 'arche-writing' seen as an active exoticism at the core of two centuries of creative mistranslations."-Jean-Michel Rabaté, author of Writing the Image After Roland Barthes

"Ideographic Modernism is a brilliantly learned and perceptive book, one that makes an original and significant contribution to the still evolving series of studies that have dealt with literary modernism and Orientalism in the wake of post-structuralism."- Robert Kern, author of Orientalism, Modernism, and the American Poem

"Provide[s] insightful, conceptually sophisticated analyses and reflections...Its thoroughly argued, self-reflexive, and multi-layered account of how modernist writers wrote and thought about, by way of, and with China constitutes at the same time a compelling invitation to rethink what reference as such, what writing about something means." —Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199926602
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
08/07/2012
Pages:
204
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Bush is Assistant Professor of French at Northwestern University.

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