Occidentalism: A Theory of Counter-Discourse in Post-Mao China / Edition 1

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Xiaomei Chen offers an insightful account of the unremittingly favorable depiction of Western culture and its negative characterization of Chinese culture in post-Mao China from 1978-1988. Chen examines the cultural and political interrelations between the East and West from a vantage point more complex than that accommodated by most current theories of Western imperialism and colonialism. Going beyond Edward Said's construction in Orientalism of cross-cultural appropriations as a defining facet of Western imperialism, Chen argues that the appropriation of Western discourse—what she calls "Occidentalism"—can have a politically and ideologically liberating effect on contemporary non-Western culture. Using China as a focus of her analysis, Chen examines a variety of cultural media, from Shakesperian drama, to Western modernist poetry, to contemporary Chinese television. She thus places sinology in the general context of Western theoretical discourses, such as Eurocentrism, postcolonialism, nationalism, modernism, feminism, and literary hermeneutics, showing that it has a vital role to play in the study of Orient and Occident and their now unavoidable symbiotic relationship. Occidentalism presents a new model of comparative literary and cultural studies that reenvisions cross-cultural appropriation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An ambitious, revisionist challenge to Edward Said's concept of Orientalism....Chen's thesis is fundamentally sound, supportable, and intellectually challenging."—Kirkus Reviews

"This is a very thought-provoking work. Chen draws upon a wide range of interesting Chinese material in a way that few non-Chinese scholars could hope to match, and provides interesting readings of this material with the commitment and sensibilities of the insider."—Arif Dirlik, University of Victoria

"Occidentalism is a stunning and innovative book that will have a profound impact on the fields of Chinese studies and modern Chinese literature and society. Not only is it well researched, well written, and lively, it is bold, even daring, in its analytic thrust. Professor Chen has made a most welcome contribution to our understanding of contemporary Chinese culture, but more importantly, she has made a valuable contribution to the theoretical literature on cultural studies. Her critique of Edward Said is devastating and right on target."—Paul Pickowicz, University of California, San Diego

"Occidentalism is a much needed book that speaks for and as a non-Western Other, and will help us deal with the complexity of cross-cultural understanding in a way more challenging and less simplified than the discourse of Orientalism has made possible."—Zhang Longxi, University of California, Riverside

"Chen offers a new theoretical framework on cultural studies. Extensive notations and a Chinese glossary enhance the book's usefulness for all levels."—Choice

Research in African Literatures
Chen's sagacious analysis of the deliberate and productive misreading of Western cultural texts by the Chinese public shows how the Western Other also engages in the invention of the West for internal political purposes. . . . Occidentalism has the virtue of providing a more polyphonic history of cultural relations as its author weaves into her study voices representing different social, political and gender groups.
The Comparatist
Excellent. . . . An innovative 'deconstruction' or reversal of Said's view of Orientalism as the hegemonic construction of a silenced Other, Chen's study shows that Chinese Occidentalism is a pluralistic reading of the West. . . . Chen's examples are compelling and wide-ranging. . . . Lucidly argued, convincing, and elegantly written, Chen's study is a major contribution to East-West studies, comparative literature, and cultural hermeneutics.
Research In African Literatures
Chen's sagacious analysis of the deliberate and productive misreading of Western cultural texts by the Chinese public shows how the Western Other also engages in the invention of the West for internal political purposes. . . . Occidentalism has the virtue of providing a more polyphonic history of cultural relations as its author weaves into her study voices representing different social, political and gender groups.
China Review International
Praise for the first edition:
Occidentalism is required reading for anyone who likes talking about literature as a phenomenon that exists and can be recognized in many countries and cultures, that has a certain cultural value, and that can be enjoyed and discussed on a different level than politics.
World Literature Today
Praise for the first edition:
A stimulating contribution to the debate, not only because she offers an insider's perspective, but also because she is aware of the limitations of oppositional modes of thought.
Journal Of Modern Literature In Chinese
Through a superb account of select developments in post-Mao poetry and spoken drama, the book provides a model for a study of exchanges between cultures that does not rely on essential categories such as 'East' and 'West.' Chen suggests that this is an error to which even those enlightened by Said are prone as they dismantle Orientalist fantasies and lament foreign influences in China. Occidentalism makes clear the limitations of Said's book for one who works, so to speak, from the inside out.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195085792
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/28/2000
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Xiaomei Chen is associate professor of Chinese and comparative literature at The Ohio State University. She is the author of Acting the Right Part: Political Theater and Popular Drama in Contemporary China (2002) and editor of Reading the Right Texts: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Drama with a Critical Introduction (2003).

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 Occidentalism as a Counter-Discourse: He shang Controversy 27
2 Occidentalist Theater: Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Brecht as Counter Others 49
3 "Misunderstanding" Western Modernism: The Menglong Movement 69
4 A Wildman Between the Orient and the Occident: Retro-Influence in Comparative Literary Studies 99
5 Wilder, Mei Lanfang, and Huang Zuolin: A "Suggestive Theater" Revisited 119
6 Fathers and Daughters in Early Modern Chinese Drama: On the Problematics of Occidentalism in Cross-Cultural\Gender Perspective 137
Postscript 157
Notes 169
Glossary 203
Bibliography 215
Index 233
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