In This Review

A New Literary History of Modern China
A New Literary History of Modern China
By David Der-wei Wang
Harvard University Press, 2017, 1032 pp.

One hundred and forty-three authors contributed 161 short chapters to this monumental survey of modern Chinese literature in all its forms, from the late eighteenth century to the present. Yet the book reads like the work of a single versatile author: vivid, probing, and occasionally playful. It raises to a new level the knowledge available in English about this vast topic, presenting a literary culture more complex, cosmopolitan, and profound than even many specialists might realize. The book presents a wealth of detail about personalities and events throughout the Chinese-speaking world and connects them to cultural forms ranging from poetry, fiction, and opera to pop songs, cartoons, photographs, and film. It challenges much of the received wisdom about how literary history should be written, refutes the cliché that Chinese literature in the modern and contemporary periods has been derivative and mediocre, and opens up inspiring prospects for future scholarship.