The Politics of Cultural Capital: China's Quest for a Nobel Prize in Literature

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9780824830182: The Politics of Cultural Capital: China's Quest for a Nobel Prize in Literature

In the 1980s, China's politicians, writers, and academics began to raise an increasingly urgent question: why had a Chinese writer never won a Nobel Prize for literature? Promoted to the level of official policy issue and national complex, Nobel anxiety generated articles, conferences, and official delegations to Sweden. Exiled writer Gao Xingjian's win in 2000 failed to satisfactorily end the matter, and the controversy surrounding the Nobel committee's choice has continued to simmer. Julia Lovell's comprehensive study of China's obsession spans the twentieth century and taps directly into the key themes of modern Chinese culture: national identity, international status, and the relationship between intellectuals and politics. The intellectual preoccupation with the Nobel literature prize expresses tensions inherent in China's move toward a global culture after the collapse of the Confucian world-view at the start of the twentieth century, and particularly since China's re-entry into the world economy in the post-Mao era. Attitudes toward the prize reveal the same contradictory mix of admiration, resentment, and anxiety that intellectuals and writers have long felt toward Western values as they struggled to shape a modern Chinese identity. In short, the Nobel complex reveals the pressure points in an intellectual community not entirely sure of itself. Making use of extensive original research, including interviews with leading contemporary Chinese authors and critics, "The Politics of Cultural Capital" is a comprehensive, up-to-date treatment of an issue that cuts to the heart of modern and contemporary Chinese thought and culture. It will be essential reading for scholars of modern Chinese literature and culture, globalization, post-colonialism, and comparative and world literature.

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From the Back Cover:

"Julia Lovell’s wonderfully nuanced examination of China’s ‘Nobel complex’ will be essential reading for students of modern Chinese culture. It will also be valued by anyone with an interest in world literature and by those who follow Chinese foreign policy. The book is clearly, even eloquently written and offers stimulating, clear-headed discussion of many timely and complex aspects of China’s literary and cultural scene." —Richard Kraus, University of Oregon

"This is a thorough and insightful study that pleasantly surprises with the wide scope of its coverage. The author has really mastered the major issues and debates in modern and contemporary Chinese literature and culture. The book will be particularly valuable to students, scholars, and a general audience interested in a quick survey of modern Chinese intellectual history. The author's substantial interviews with key intellectual leaders of China’s literary scene are valuable and help flesh out the larger! picture." —Xiaomei Chen, University of California, Davis

About the Author:

Julia Lovell is research fellow in Chinese literature and history at Queen's College, Cambridge.

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