Book Excerpt: “Sensing the Sinophone” by Astrid Møller-Olsen

Since the 1990s, extensive urbanization in East Asian has created a situation where more people identify themselves as citizens of the city they live in rather than their ancestral village or nation. At the same time, however, this new urban identity has been under attack from the constant threat of urban restructuring. Such rapidly changing cityscapes form environments of urban flux that lead to narrative reconfigurations of fundamental concepts such as space, time, and memory. With Sensing the Sinophone, Astrid Møller-Olsen provides a comparative analysis of how six contemporary works of Sinophone fiction reimagine the links between the self and the city, the past and the present, as well as the physical and the imaginary. Below, Møller-Olsen writes about her ambitions for the study:

This is a study of literary narratives in which a variety of sensory paradigms and civic histories are introduced, first and foremost to shed light on the fictional cityscapes under scrutiny. It is not a study of Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Taipei, but of imaginary cities that share certain similarities with their real world counterparts, while remaining in a very important sense fictional. The time when any single scholar
could claim authority over the field of literature or over entire countries or linguistic communities is well and truly over. Today’s globalized world calls for comparative studies of world literatures from the East,
West, North, and South as well as close readings of individual works in their original languages—in short, the combined efforts of a plethora of differently equipped scholars. In order to facilitate such global comparisons, it is essential that we treat individual texts equally—not some as works of art and others as sources of cultural information. Furthermore, we need to read and communicate across linguistic, disciplinary, and methodological boundaries. My aim for theoretical breadth to accompany methodological depth is much like the approach of the rhythmanalyst described by philosopher Henri Lefebvre: “Just as he borrows and receives from his whole body and all his senses, so he receives data [donées] from all the sciences: psychology, sociology, ethnology, biology; and even physics and mathematics.” This book draws on scholarship from a variety of disciplines and areas of the globe to contribute a thematically and linguistically delimited, in-depth study to the field of world literature.”

Sensing the Sinophone is available in hardcover and ebook editions.

Astrid Møller-Olsen is an international research fellow with Lund University (Sweden), University of Stavanger (Norway), and University of Oxford (United Kingdom); her position is funded by the Swedish Research Council. Dr. Møller-Olsen holds an MA in comparative literature and a PhD in Chinese studies. Her research has been published in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, SFRA Review, Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, Prism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature, and International Journal of Heritage Studies. She hosts the podcast Sinophone Unrealities and the literary blog xiaoshuo.blog.

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