RESEARCH

GERMAN-CHINESE RELATIONS are among the most complex and influential international relationships of our time. Connected and antagonized by missionary zeal, colonialist aggression, two World Wars, and the Cold War, Germany and China are today’s largest trading partners in Europe and Asia. Part of the exciting new field of Asian-German studies, my research engages in particular with the manifold literary relations between the German-speaking and the Chinese-speaking world. My previous projects in this field have shed light on the dynamics of cross-cultural literary reception, taking two very different German-language writers as case studies: Elfriede Jelinek, Austria’s most controversial contemporary writer, and Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), one of the world’s most beloved and at the same time most hated novelists. In a new project I am investigating the poetics of power and masculinities in German-language and Chinese-language literary texts.

The awarding of the world’s best known literature prize to ELFRIEDE JELINEK in 2004 triggered off worldwide hype. Although first works had already been translated in the 1990s, all translations in mainland China were only published after the key event of the Nobel Prize. They immediately received immense attention from the Chinese public and unleashed what could even be termed a “Jelinek fever.” Examining the processes of publishing and censorship I argue that Jelinek’s reception is inextricably bound up with China’s fast-paced transition after the introduction of the policy of reform and opening up, on the one hand, and the country’s long troubled relationship to the Nobel Prize, on the other.

For decades, the works of the Austrian-Jewish writer STEFAN ZWEIG (1881-1942) have faced attacks by critics in Europe and North America who questioned their literary value and excoriated the writer’s naïve Habsburg nostalgia during the Nazis’ seizure of power. Yet in other parts of the world, such as in China, Zweig’s works have enjoyed not only continued admiration but also truly exceptional influence, popularity, and even canonical status. My research on this case of cultural transfer has unveiled an extraordinary success story of Zweig’s works in China, from the first translations in the 1920s, shortly after the collapse of the Chinese Empire, through the Mao era to the contemporary People’s Republic. Chinese discourses on the Austrian writer suggest that his works can be read in an entirely different way, revealing long-overlooked political and literary dimensions.

My current project is a comparative study focusing on (mutual) depictions of GERMAN AND CHINESE MASCULINITIES in German-language and Chinese-language literatures. Literary texts often apply sexual metaphors and, in particular, contrasting imagery of masculinity in order to mark cultural alterity, which has long been overlooked despite the growing focus on men and masculinities in cultural studies. In selected German-language as well as Chinese-language works between the 18th and the 21st century, this project aims to identify how literary texts configure power relations via the entangled categories of gender and culture. In contrast to existing research, it therefore introduces an innovative multi-perspectival approach that challenges one-sided studies and binary Self-Other distinctions still widely used in postcolonial theory and gender studies.

Selected Publications

 

Selected Talks