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Envisioning the Chinese Detective: Dimensions of an Imported Genre, 1890s-1940s

  • Author(s): Liu, Jin
  • Advisor(s): Zhang, Yingjin
  • et al.
Abstract

Since its introduction in the late nineteenth century, detective fiction has experienced ups and downs in the turbulent history of modern China. If its importation was initially prompted and sustained by the agenda of “fiction for mass education” by late-Qing reformers, its blossoming and proliferation owed much to the rise of urban modernity in China. Drastic changes at all levels called for new ways to comprehend, interpret, articulate, and tackle the modern urban experiences. Drawing on translation and cultural studies, this dissertation takes as its central issue the cultural negotiation and appropriation in the transplantation of this genre, and argues that detective fiction, as a case of cultural translation, presents the detective as a new hero of the modern age, and proffers an alternative vision of the Chinese modern. As such, this study intends to contribute to the ongoing discussion of alternative modernities, and broaden the scope of modern Chinese literature and culture studies.

Chapter One examines translated detective fiction in 1896-1916 and highlights the agency of translators in appropriating the genre to the Chinese context. Chapter Two surveys the modern urban milieu conducive to the boom of detective fiction in the Republican period, as well as the literary representation and envisioning of urban modernity. Chapter Three addresses the theme of justice and law in Chinese detective fiction from a comparative perspective. Chapter Four interrogates the theme of science, with a focus on detective writers’ concern over the morality of science.

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