So’s essay reconstructs a literary genealogy for the emergence of “information warfare” in the early Cold War period (the 1950s). Specifically, it argues that this form of warfare—which So dubs “literary information warfare”—took shape first and most keenly within the US state’s encounter with Communist China. The essay narrates this story by exploring the United States Information Agency’s (USIA) recruitment of a major Chinese author, Eileen Chang, to the cause of information fabrication and deployment in Hong Kong. It combines this story with a brief history of 1950s US communications studies in which Chang’s work and new theories of information converge through the figure of Wilbur Schramm. Schramm, cofounder of the Iowa Writers Workshop and “father” of modern communications studies, worked with Chang via the USIA. In sum, Chang’s story sheds light on how the US state’s confrontation with Communist China in the 1950s provided the basis and impetus for developing a new model of information theory through the weaponizing of literature.
Research Article| December 01 2013
Richard Jean So; Literary Information Warfare: Eileen Chang, the US State Department, and Cold War Media Aesthetics. American Literature 1 December 2013; 85 (4): 719–744. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2367328
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