Chinese imaginary in other literatures: inspiration, appropriation and intertextuality

Along with traveling, the contact with other cultures and landscapes finds a particularly fertile territory in the act of reading and in literary creation. A text prefigures, and sometimes exhausts, the experience of knowing, imagining, and with Said, also dominating other foreign spaces. The encounter with China has frequently produced, in this regard, hybrid texts, which find themselves mid way between documentary and fiction; border tales in which ethnography dresses as fantastic literature, and politics dictate the plots of novels: from pioneering Marco Polo’s Milione or González de Mendoza’s Historia de las cosas más notables, ritos y costumbres del gran reyno de la China (The History of the Great and Mighty Kingdom of China and the Situation Thereof, 1586), jumping to the Nouvelle Vague’s fascination for revolutionary China or the exoticizing experimentalism of the Argentinian “Shanghai” group or the Catalan writer Miquel de Palol, China—the real, the imaginary, the dream of—have fueled the most creative fictions.


In addition, China and its culture, often embodying a perceived radical alterity have had a key role in the development of diverse theoretical revolutions and literary movements, from the appropriation of Chinese characters by Ezra Pound or Derrida, to the circular nightmares of Kafka or Borges. This monograph proposes to explore the encounters and interpretations of the Chinese imaginary from the perspective of Western comparative literature, and in a broader sense, to engage in a theoretical reflection on texts as sites of encounter, appropriation and cultural negotiation.


Papers examining the presence and uses of China in other literatures might cover the following topics, though not exclusively:


a) Appropriations of China for literary and ideological agendas.
b) The Chinese exotic as literary trigger.
c) Imaginary geographies and ethnographies of China.
d) China in literary experimentalism and theoretical rupturism.
e) Translation and mistranslation in literary works.
f) Chinese language and poetic avant-gardes.
g) China in the imagination of gender: feminization and subalternization.
h) China and the imperial fantasy.
i) China and Chinese diasporas in non-Asian literatures.


Xavier Ortells-Nicolau

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