Out of the Cultural Ghetto. Theory, Politics, and the Study of Chinese Literature

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

1 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-41
Journal / PublicationAsian Journal of Social Science
Issue number1
Online published1 Jan 1994
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1994
Externally publishedYes


The last few years have witnessed the appearance of a number of controversial essays and critical responses which, when brought together and examined in a concentrated manner, may well signal a crucial moment of fundamental change in the field of Chinese literature studies in America. Judging from the polemical intensity of these essays, it seems indisputable that the change has made its impact felt in the relatively narrow circle of specialists, and that it is precisely the self-enclosure of this very circle, with which many scholars in this field have become discontented, which is being broken and changed. The advent of this transformative moment is of course not without the anxiety and agony that typically mark the contingencies and ambivalence of a turning-point, but the controversies and debates deserve our careful examination not only because they manifest a sense of disorientation as well as paradigmatic change, but also because the contested issues force us to rethink the underlying assumptions of literary analysis and criticism. A sober understanding of these issues thus promises to carry implications that will go beyond the study of Chinese literature as a specific field. To the extent that it does not participate in a dialogue with studies of other literatures and does not address critical issues of interest to a wide range of audiences beyond the boundary of local specialties, the study of Chinese literature, despite the long history of that literature and its rich content, is likely to remain a narrow and marginal field as compared with the study of English or French, something of a cultural ghetto, one might even say, closed and of little interest to outsiders in the academic environment of the American university.