Language and Literature
The last quarter of the twentieth century has seen a revived interest in cosmopolitanism by going beyond the limits of national thinking and tradition-bound parochialism, reemphasizing the interconnectedness and worldliness of individuals, communities, languages, and cultures. The intellectual mission of cosmopolitanism lies in its challenge to internationalism or globalization in political economy and the parochially local state or culture, constituting a field of uneasy tensions where the local and the global meet and come into conflict. This panel explores the promises and predicaments of cosmopolitanism by examining the historically diverse encounters between European, Asian, and Chinese cultures and thoughts with intercultural receptivity in philosophy, technology, literature, print, visual media, and performance. It examines the material and cultural flows in local societies and communities where intellectuals, writers, and artists wrestle with moral and sociopolitical philosophy, revolutionary politics, literary modernity, local identity, and translocal spectatorship in commercial film markets.
Kenny Ng opens up the idea of leftwing cosmopolitanism and discusses the creative and intellectual exchanges between Chinese, Japanese, and European (French) intellectuals and writers. He looks into the political novel as a clustered platform where socialist revolution, utopian and anarchist thoughts coalesced and clashed in avant-gardist realist or modernist fictional representations of revolutionary China during the 1920s and 30s. Lik-kwan Cheung reinterprets Chinese leftwing intellectuals’ reception of Bergsonism and the Chinese reconnection of Henri Bergson’s philosophy of life and creative evolution with socialism and Buddhism. Cheung’s nuanced analysis of Bergson’s reception in twentieth-century China provides vital evidence of the transcultural exchange between Europe and Asia in cosmopolitan politics. In material and print culture, Sze Wing Kwok investigates how telecommunication and mechanical reproduction mediated Shanghai’s modernist literary experiments, creating new narrative formats and imaginative realms. Kwok examines the new symbiosis of literature and audio culture as the key to Shanghai’s intercultural modernity. Dorothy Tse’s study shifts focus from soundscape to cityscape to look at how literary communities and print culture drew on European-style café and salon culture, allowing a Chinese public sphere and modernistic literary sensitivity to flourish in colonial Hong Kong. Erica Poon expands the cosmopolitan Asian circuits from Shanghai and Hong Kong to Japan, and examines the translocal cultural flows of Japanese film talents and technology in mid-century Hong Kong genre films and East Asian cinema. Overall, the panel probes the diverse cosmopolitan manifestations in Asian localities, and evaluates their embattled practice, ethics, politics, and aesthetics.