David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies
This paper explores how Ha Jin’s English fictions provide us with a platform to rethink modern Chinese literature in the global context. His fictions on Chinese experiences call us to imagine a new notion of national literature. Ha Jin may not only subvert the national framework of literary studies and challenge the assumption that a literary text exists in stable or consistently identifiable form, but also urge us to rethink the coherence of modern Chinese literature in the broadest sense. The paper asks, through the case of Ha Jin, if a literary work written in another language be called “Chinese” or “national” in the age of globalization or flexible accumulation, and if literature can go beyond the ethnic-based model of identity. In modern tradition, literature always functions as the imaginary realm for the construction of the nation-state and narrates the shared experiences by a common language. But a more internationally involved China should be more receptive to the changing and diversified meanings of its new identity. Chinese emigrant writers who publish their literary works about China in English or French would only enrich the contemporary Chinese culture and develop its global influence. Precisely, Ha Jin’s English writing contributes an essential element for the development of a new imaginary Chinese nationalism in the global age, and offers new freedom to seek to redefine continuously the sense of Chineseness. The paper argues that the best contribution of Ha Jin works on the formal level rather than on the content of modern Chinese literature in the global context because the existence of his works circumscribes the limits and failure of the ideology of modern Chinese literature and lays bare its paradoxical mechanism.
Lo, Kwai Cheung. The Myth of “Chinese” Literature: Ha Jin and the Globalization of “National” Literary Writing. Hong Kong: David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies, 2004. LEWI Working Paper Series no 23.