Coming soon: China’s Stefan Zweig

My book on the fascinating reception history of the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) in the Chinese-speaking world is forthcoming with University of Hawai’i Press (Critical Interventions) this autumn/winter!

Watch out for updates!

 

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Talk: Poetics and Politics – Stefan Zweig in Taiwan

As part of the Vienna Taiwan Lecture Series at the University of Vienna I will present a chapter of my forthcoming book on the reception of Stefan Zweig in the Chinese-speaking world:

Arnhilt J. Höfle
Poetics and Politics: Stefan Zweig in Taiwan

Date: Wednesday, 22nd March, 2017
Time: 18:15
Location: SIN1, at the Department of East Asian Studies/Sinology, Altes AKH, Campus, Spitalgasse 2, yard 2, entrance 2.3

When several novellas by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) were published in Taiwan in the 1960s they caused a real sensation. The translations by the acclaimed writer and translator Chen Ying (1907-1988) soon broke the record of translation sales. Given the situation of Taiwanese publishers in the 1960s and the difficult position of German-language literature in the book market, this “Stefan Zweig fever” was even more remarkable. To celebrate Zweig’s centenary in the early 1980s, an abridged version of Chen Ying’s translation of his only completed novel Beware of Pity (Ungeduld des Herzens) was included together with ten short stories in a compilation by the PRC’s Shandong People’s Publishing House. While scholars rediscovered Chen Ying as an important representative of modern Chinese women’s literature, they declared her translations of Zweig to be an “important contribution to the reunification of the motherland.” The case of Stefan Zweig in Taiwan therefore not only demonstrates how individual intermediaries, who have often been neglected in historical studies, played a key role in the process of reception. It also allows unique insights into the complexity of literature crossing borders. These translations of an Austrian writer became entangled in the dynamics of cross-Strait relations during the 1980s, when cultural exchanges served as one of the PRC’s most important channels to promote its reunification strategy. Traversing a truly global system of cultural transfer, Zweig’s works have been selected and employed for very different literary and ideological purposes

ALL WELCOME!

 

New Publication: The Liberating Masculinity of Goethe’s Werther and Its Repression in Modern China

Guo Moruo’s translation of Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) in 1922 triggered a large-scale “Werther fever” in China. As “the bible of modern Chinese youth,” Werther soon became an icon of the New Culture Movement, an intellectual movement of the 1910s and 1920s that turned against the traditional feudal ways of Chinese society.

In this chapter, recently published in the volume Gendered Encounters between Germany and Asia: Transnational Perspectives since 1800, I trace the rise and demise of Werther in modern China through the lens of gender. Quite surprisingly, gender, and in particular masculinities, is a perspective that has been almost entirely neglected in studies on this crucial moment of German-Chinese literary relations so far.

Re-reading Chinese literary works of the period, I argue that  Werther’s uncontrolled emotionality dangerously trespassed both traditional Chinese concepts of masculinity, wen (cultural attainment) and wu (martial valor), and thus represented a liberating counter-image that needed to be contained. First replaced by female Werther figures, Chinese writers of the 1930s harshly parodied the sentimental man.

Mao Dun’s Midnight (Ziye) and Ba Jin’s Family (Jia), two of the most influential modern Chinese novels, are among the key texts of the analysis. The repression of Werther’s masculinity in these works, I conclude, sheds light on a more complex and even paradox process of negotiating gender roles at a historical crossroads.

Gendered Encounters is the second volume published in the newly launched Palgrave Series in Asian German Studies. Dedicated to this new interdisciplinary field, it focuses on the multi-faceted dimensions of ties between the German-speaking world and Asian countries over the past two centuries.

See:

Arnhilt Johanna Hoefle, “The Liberating Masculinity of Goethe’s Werther and Its Repression in Modern China,” in Gendered Encounters between Germany and Asia: Transnational Perspectives since 1800, edited by Joanne Miyang Cho and Douglas T. McGetchin, 151-169. London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

Talk: Stefan Zweig and (World) Literature in Exile

The reception of Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) presents one of the greatest literary conundrums of our time. While in the 1920s, at the height of his career, the Austrian-Jewish novelist was among the most widely read and most-acclaimed German-language writers, his works fell into radical critical disfavor in the second half of the century.

The allegedly poor literary quality and his apolitical nostalgic approach as an exiled Jewish writer during the Holocaust, have become the main targets of his critics in Europe and North America. However, Zweig’s works have enjoyed not only continued admiration but even canonical status in other parts of the world, such as in China.

In this upcoming talk on January 26, 2016 at the University of Hamburg I will take the Chinese reception of Zweig as a case study to introduce a different way of reading the Austrian writer that reveals important political and literary dimensions that have long been overlooked.

According to David Damrosch, literary works enter into world literature when they circulate beyond the culture of origin. Despite the truly global scale of Stefan Zweig’s biography, literary settings, and readership, the concept of world literature has just recently been discussed in research on the writer, for example in the volume Stefan Zweig and World Literature of 2014 edited by Birger Vanwesenbeeck and Mark H. Gelber.

While circulating and thriving around the world, Zweig’s works have been almost completely removed from their original linguistic and cultural context in the course of the twentieth century. This talk therefore argues that Zweig’s works must be considered not only as exile literature but as “literature in exile.” It thus showcases the intricate and problematic interrelations of exile literature and world literature and explores new perspectives for an urgently needed re-conceptualization of these contested concepts.

The talk will be hosted by the Walter A. Berendsohn Forschungsstelle für deutsche Exilliteratur, a research center dedicated to exile literature at the University of Hamburg, which has been re-named in 2001 after one of the pioneers of academic research into literature by exiled German-language writers.

Walter A. Berendsohn (1884-1984) had been a professor of literary studies at the University of Hamburg who escaped the Nazis by fleeing to Denmark and Sweden. Adverse university politics prevented him from returning to Hamburg even after 1945. Only in 1983, almost hundred years old, he was awarded an honorary doctorate.

Berendsohn had already prominently pointed out the close relationship between exile literature and world literature, which is also one of the main research areas of the center. Focusing on historical as well as contemporary experiences of exile, the team around Prof. Doerte Bischoff, who was appointed the research center’s head in 2011, is giving a fresh impetus into a field which, given the current European “refugee crisis,” pertains to one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Talk (in German) by Arnhilt Johanna Hoefle
Stefan Zweig und (Welt-)Literatur im Exil
January 26, 2016
Carl-von-Ossietzky-Lesesaal (Exilbibliothek)
Von-Melle-Park 3, 20146 Hamburg, Germany

Free admission and all welcome!

 

Kafka and the Yellow Cover: The Uses and Abuses of Colours

The very first Chinese translations of works by Franz Kafka in the early 1960s, shortly before the Cultural Revolution was launched, were wrapped in a yellow cover. They were part of Mao Zedong’s strategy of “knowing your enemy” and, as negative examples of Western decadent literature and a warning sign of the rotten capitalism, these so-called “yellow-cover books” (huangpi shu) were only disseminated among a small circle of selected readers, including high-ranking party officials and members of the Chinese Writers’ Association. Their cover was yellow in order to visually mark them as “hypocritical and treacherous spiritual poison”.

The uses and abuses of colours, like in this case, are the subject of a set of articles recently published in MALMOE – the socio-critical creative Austrian bimonthly newspaper run by the Verein zur Förderung medialer Vielfalt und Qualität (an association for the promotion of diversity and quality of media) in Vienna. After brown and pink the third part of its series Farbenlehre (colour theory) is dedicated to the colour yellow, featuring articles on a variety of topics including the “yellow badge”, the “yellow pages” and the “yellow card” as well as my article HUANG. Gelb und/in China, which can now be read online.

From Germanic & Romance to Modern Languages: the controversial (re)launch of an Institute

On Saturday, 7 December 2013, the former Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies will be (re)launched under its new name, the Institute of Modern Languages Research. The renaming was one result of the recent HEFCE review of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, based on the claim that the former name apparently did not “reflect correctly its future focus and remit”.

The issue met with considerable opposition, in particular within the UK’s German studies community, and serious concern was raised referring to the longstanding history of the Institute, the current problematic developments in the country and the future of German studies.

The Institute has now invited to what it calls “a day of debate and discussion” on post-national modern languages, featuring roundtable discussions on topics such as “Spaces: Iberian and Latin American Connections and Disconnections”, “New Directions in German Studies”, “Post-Colonialism, the Transnational and Translation”, “AHRC Themes (Translating Cultures, Science and Culture”. Furthermore, the work at the Institute will be showcased, including a postgraduate poster session, where I will present my project on the reception of Stefan Zweig in China.

New intercultural research portal launched in Vienna on women and taboo

The Forschungsplattform Elfriede Jelinek: Texte – Kontexte – Rezeption at the University of Vienna just launched the research portal TABU: Bruch. Überschreitungen von Künstlerinnen. The project brings together more than 60 international researchers and artists on topics related to women and taboo in an intercultural context. In addition to several events held in Vienna, more than 50 contributions will be published online between November 2013 and April 2014. In order to explore new ways of academic interaction, these contributions range from conventional academic articles to essays, chats, e-mail and video conversations and interviews. Watch out for my contribution on Elfriede Jelinek and censorship in different parts of the world in spring.