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In Session: Comparative Print Capitalism in Times of Transformation in Japan, Indonesia, China, and Philippine
4: From the State to the Market: Magazine Reform and A New Literary Form
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
University of South Carolina, United States
The transformation from a state-planned economic system to a market-oriented economy in late-1980s People’s Republic of China brought a significant change to literary production. This research transcends the traditional literary studies by adopting a sociological approach to examining how the capitalization of print culture in 1980s China effected the change of the idea and boundary of high literature. It focuses specifically on Shanghai Literature, an official journal of high literature in the economically most vigorous place, to observe different literary and non-literary strategies that this journals’ editors adopted in order to survive in a commercializing society. In socialist China, official literary magazines had relied on the state, both financially and institutionally, for distribution. However, in 1984, the newly implemented dual-track system (shuanggui zhi) ‘forced’ them to enter the market and to be financially independent from the state. Official magazines experienced struggling transformations in the following years. As a result, the single mode of literary production in the period of the planned economy began to change. By reading horizontally Shanghai Literature from 1987 to 1992, I investigate how the then-vice-chief-editor of the journal, Zhou Jieren, negotiated the boundaries of high literature by promoting the literary style of “New Realism.” I claim that as a literary form based on previous experimental literature while returning to the realistic tradition with an emphasis on people’s daily life in an economically and socially transitional time, New Realism was both an agent and outcome of the marketization of official literary journals.