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This collection of essays reveals the dynamic role of the late Qing novel in the process of modernization of Chinese fiction. Substantial changes in various aspects of the Chinese novel at the turn of the century, demonstrated by structural analyses of several representative novels, suggest that the evolution of modern Chinese fiction was a more complex process than a simple imitation of Western literatures. The results challenge the scholarly consensus that modern Chinese fiction resulted from a radical change brought about by the May Fourth Movement in 1919. It is demonstrated rather that the transformation had already begun in the first decade of the twentieth century and that the conspicuous changes in Chinese fiction of the 1920s represent a culmination rather than a beginning of the modern evolutionary process.
The book consists of nine studies which analyse the late Qing novel in its general and specific aspects. The introduction and first essay explain how social changes conditioned cultural and literary changes during the period and how the resultant new theory of fiction generated new concepts of a politically engaged novel. The two following studies develop a general statement of narrative structures and devices, derived from structural analyses of seven outstanding late Qing novels. The last six articles examine particular novels in detail, focusing on the specific fictional techniques which predominate in each.
This is the first volume in a new series, Modern East Asian Studies.