The Interplay of the Oral and the Written in Chinese Popular Literature

edited by Vibeke Børdahl and Margaret B. Wan

  • Published:
  • Pages: 272 pp.
  • illustrated
  • Series number: 46
Available from NIAS Press worldwide

Although the interrelationship between oral (or performing) and written traditions in Chinese popular literature is an issue that concerns practically everybody who reads or teaches Chinese literature, surprisingly it has never been properly treated in a scholarly forum before. For that reason alone, this volume is especially important and deserves serious consideration from scholars and students in the field. Through subjects ranging from Ming vernacular fiction to popular prints and contemporary storytelling and folk ballads, this volume examines the interplay of oral and written traditions in China from interdisciplinary perspectives. Literary criticism, linguistic analysis, fieldwork, folklore studies, and visual sources all bring out vital perspectives on central questions.  They offer enquiries into new material and give astonishing responses to old controversies. Packed with highly scholarly and analytical treatments of the issues by contributors well versed in their subject, this well-written volume makes an excellent contribution to the literature in its field.

 

  • Examines the interrelationship between oral (or performing) and written traditions in Chinese popular literature
  • Offers enquiries into new material and gives astonishing responses to old controversies
  • Provides interdisciplinary perspectives on Chinese popular entertainment literature from the Ming dynasty to the present
  • Makes an excellent contribution to the literature in its field.

 
Although the interrelationship between oral (or performing) and written traditions in Chinese popular literature is an issue that concerns practically everybody who reads or teaches Chinese literature, surprisingly it has never been properly treated in a scholarly forum before. For that reason alone, this volume is especially important and deserves serious consideration from scholars and students in the field.
 
Through subjects ranging from Ming vernacular fiction to popular prints and contemporary storytelling and folk ballads, this volume examines the interplay of oral and written traditions in China from interdisciplinary perspectives. Literary criticism, linguistic analysis, fieldwork, folklore studies, and the exploration of visual sources all bring out vital perspectives on central questions.  Exploring the traditions of professional storytelling and popular entertainment literature in China, they offer enquiries into new material and give astonishing responses to old controversies. In going beyond the simple binary oral versus written, the essays in this volume ask not whether a text bears a relationship to the oral tradition but how and to what extent.
 
Written by contributors well versed in their subject, these essays are highly scholarly and analytical treatments of the issues. Through their more detailed knowledge about Chinese verbal art in performance, or first-hand understanding of living traditions, the authors provide fresh insights to the understanding of how the oral and the written interact. Overall, this well-edited and well-written volume makes an excellent contribution to the literature in its field.
author image not supplied











Vibeke Børdahl, Ph. D., Dr. Phil., senior researcher at NIAS, specialises in Chinese oral literature and dialectology.  Her recent research is concerned with the interplay of oral and written traditions in Chinese popular literature and performance culture.

Her book-length studies and edited volumes include Along the Broad Road of Realism.  Qin Zhaoyang’s World of Fiction, The Oral Tradition of Yangzhou Storytelling, The Eternal Storyteller, Oral Literature in Modern China, Chinese Storytellers- Life and Art in the Yangzhou Tradition, Four Masters of Chinese Storytelling- Full Length Repertoires of Yangzhou Storytelling on Video, The Interplay of the Oral and Written in Chinese Popular Literature.


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by George Kam Wah Mak, Hong Kong Baptist University
From journal:
The Newsletter (IIAS), No. 26, 2012

"[…] this edited volume moves beyond the simple ‘oral vs. written’ binary approach and explores the complex interactions between orality and writing in China with a focus on vernacular genres from the late imperial to modern periods.

"[…] this edited volume moves beyond the simple ‘oral vs. written’ binary approach and explores the complex interactions between orality and writing in China with a focus on vernacular genres from the late imperial to modern periods. Excluding the concisely-written introductory chapter, this volume comprises six chapters authored by scholars well-versed in their subjects, ranging from Ming vernacular fiction to popular prints and contemporary folk ballads.

In addition to stimulating ideas and fresh perspectives on how vernacular genres could be both works of art and products of oral inspiration and imitation, the valuable empirical data collated by some contributors will be of valuable service to researchers.

This volume is highly recommended for both scholars and graduate students interested in not only Chinese literature, but also late imperial Chinese society."

by Regina Llamas, University of Bristol
From journal:
CHINOPERL Papers, No. 30

"The book presents a well intigrated group of articles, …

"The book presents a well intigrated group of articles, … the book is beautifully illustrated and the quality of the forty-four illustrations, including one map and three photos, is excellent.  Images help explain the typography of the meta-narrative markers under consideration.  Particularly beautiful are the prints preproduced in Riftin’s paper, most of which are in colour."

by Fan Pen Chen, SUNY-Albany
From journal:
The Journal of Asian Studies, May 2012

"… the volume represents a significant contribution to the scholarship of the Chinese performing arts.  All the articles demonstrate solid, meticulous scholarship and employ innovative approaches to understudied genres and neglected topics, and they either continue debates about acknowledged vernacular classics or broaden our perspective on traditional popular culture."

"… the volume represents a significant contribution to the scholarship of the Chinese performing arts.  All the articles demonstrate solid, meticulous scholarship and employ innovative approaches to understudied genres and neglected topics, and they either continue debates about acknowledged vernacular classics or broaden our perspective on traditional popular culture."

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