Modernity with a Cold War Face deals with a question familiar to most readers of MLQ, that is, the problem of national literary history. The 1949 divide, a conventional periodizing device that separates “modern” (xiandai) from “contemporary” (dangdai) Chinese literature, is still frequently evoked in Chinese literary history, but in recent decades Chinese and American academics have grown dissatisfied with the fetishization of this year. Privileging 1949 carves out a literary territory that roughly corresponds with the contours of the nation and that also separates the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from the Republic of China (ROC), Hong Kong, and the Chinese diaspora. The difficulty with this periodization, Wang Xiaojue argues early in the book, lies in its tacit acceptance of Cold War ideological binarisms, such as communism versus democracy, humanism versus Marxism, and socialist realism versus modernism, which are in turn mapped onto the...

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