This is a study of the Chinese appropriation of modernity from the West in the early twentieth century, with particular focus on the role of "new fiction" and fiction periodicals in catalyzing social change. The catchphrase "Give me a day, and I will give you the world" is borrowed from Jia Zhangke's film The World, which takes a contemporary "world park," a park of miniaturized world famous edifices, as an ironic image of a cosmopolitan China. This current phenomenon—exchanging an abbreviated temporality for cosmopolitan spatiality—echoes the clamorous efforts of the late Qing to enter into the modern world. This motif of trading "one day" for the "world" recurs both at the beginning of the twentieth-century and at the start of twenty-first century. I would like to initiate historical and intellectual dialogues between the beginnings of these two centuries. I argue that the late Qing fiction periodicals attempted to construct a "world park" as well. It was constructed by way of tropes, neologisms, and new narrative modes appropriated from the West.
Specifically, I explore the late Qing fictional "space" of periodicals from four perspectives.
In Chapter One, I examine the role of translation. Translation is the way to make good use of the unfamiliar: rephrasing foreign words in one's own interest. Translation reports, channels, and even reinvents foreign discourses directly or indirectly, and thus introduces new tropes, code-switches, and ideological disjunctions into a local discursive world. The heterogeneous messages from myriad translations generate both the micro Brownian movement and the macro social course of modernization, leaving irreversible imprints within the Chinese mind.
Secondly, the late Qing literary treatment of time-space is my focus. In Chapter Two, I examine the spate of early twentieth century sequels of traditional Chinese novels that appeared in these years. The sequels resurrect the heroes of the classical world and place them in the context of a changing late Qing society. The resulting disjunctions not only reveal the conflicts between the past and the modern, but also construct a new, hybrid chronotope.
Also, I address the literary representation of future time. The paradoxical "realism" of narrating the future is achieved by special treatment in narrating time, and is employed to show contrast between future and current social spaces. In Chapter Three, I analyze late Qing utopian and science fiction novels. These texts provide the late Qing an outlet to project its self-images into the imagined and altered future, when China is rejuvenated into a major world power and source of modern civilization.
In Chapter Four, I regard the interplay of fiction and other "minor" literary genres and styles of visual representation as forming a system of family resemblance in the periodicals. The interplay formed a nexus of narratives dedicated to bringing the modern world to China in textual form.