Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Area and Cultural Studies
Typographic Revolution: Imperial Networks and Literary Modernity in China, 1895-1937

At the turn of the twentieth century, China witnessed the rampant expansion of Western-style typography. Defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895 propelled Chinese intellectuals to emulate Japan's industrial and cultural modernization. This process introduced Chinese readers to the Euro-American model of punctuation, decorative fonts modelled on art nouveau designs, and the glossy texture of industrialized paper. Combining literary studies with social history and marshalling both literary and industrial archives, my research considers three main questions: 1) How did typographic reform enable new forms of literary expression and subjectivity in China? 2) How did typography democratize Chinese literature and lay the foundation for the Chinese proletarian revolution? 3) How might literary publications both reflect and resist the hegemony of Western typography? To answer these questions, I probe into complex dynamics in the Chinese typographic revolution. First, I expose two hegemonic models for typographic modernization: Japan and the West. I trace the entwined history of Japanese and Western imperialisms, revealing their concerted efforts to subsume the Chinese language under an emergent global hegemony of visual media. Second, I examine how Chinese typographers localized Western typography and wielded it as a social equalizer that could negate class disparity. My research reveals the utopian visions and utilitarian agendas behind the typographic Westernization movements. Third, I identify local resistance to typographic globalization and colonization. I examine how Chinese typographers reinvigorated local typographic traditions, thus subverting the hierarchies of tradition and modernity, China and the West. Investigating the contact and conflict between the local and the global in the modernization of Chinese typography, my dissertation aims to historicize and theorize the rise of global media in China and East Asia.