In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Modern Chinese Fiction and Prose

  • Introduction
  • Chinese Reference Works
  • English Reference Works
  • Bibliographies of Translated Works
  • Journals
  • Language and Narrative Style
  • Literary Histories
  • Late Qing (1840–1911)
  • Mao Era (1949–1976)
  • Taiwan
  • Hong Kong

Chinese Studies Modern Chinese Fiction and Prose
Kirk A. Denton
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0058


Modern Chinese literature has conventionally been seen as erupting suddenly in conjunction with the May Fourth New Culture movement (1915–1925), which denounced the Confucian tradition and sought to replace it with Western-influenced intellectual and literary models. However, in recent years, working in what is generally called the “alternative modernities” framework, scholars have sought to debunk May Fourth “hegemony” and expand the nature of what constitutes Chinese literary modernity to include late Qing (1840–1911) fiction, popular entertainment fiction (including love stories and martial arts novels), prose literature of leisure, and private “domestic fiction” by women writers. Although a literature in the service of political and cultural causes had been an important facet of the literary field since the late Qing, after 1949 it was promoted by the state, both on the mainland and on Taiwan. The field has tended to dismiss this literature as propaganda, but scholars have very recently begun to revisit it. With the death of Mao (1976) on the mainland and the end of martial law on Taiwan (1987), the state’s stranglehold on literature lessened greatly, creating relatively liberal environments for free expression, though on the mainland writers continue to feel the effects of censorship. With the end of martial law, writers self-consciously produced “Taiwan literature,” related to but different from the Chinese-language literature on the mainland. The early development of modern literature in Hong Kong was deeply indebted to immigrants from the mainland and cultural interaction with Taiwan, but as retrocession (1997) approached, writers began to grapple with questions of Hong Kong identity and history, though Western scholarly attention to this literature has only just begun. In the “post societies” of Greater China (post-Mao/postsocialist on the mainland, post-martial law in Taiwan, and postcolonial in Hong Kong) literature has diversified, but it is constrained, as it is around the world, by market forces. Modern Chinese fiction and prose as a field of study developed in the 1930s, and the scholarly enterprise was promoted and shaped by the socialist state after 1949. In the West, the field took shape initially in the context of the Cold War during the 1960s, when fiction was often analyzed as sociological documents. Over the decades, the field has grown dramatically (especially after the 1980s influx of scholars coming from the People’s Republic of China to study and teach in the West) and has become more sophisticated in its theoretical frameworks and analytical methodologies. This bibliography focuses on major English-language studies, with less attention paid to the vast Chinese-language scholarship. Its scope comprises studies of fiction and prose in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Poetry and drama studies are not considered. With the exception of a study of Lu Xun (see Lee 1987, cited under Literary Modernity), it treats only studies of a general nature, not studies of individual writers.

General Studies

This section includes works of a general nature that do not fit neatly into the chronologically organized sections that follow.

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