Anatoly Detwyler

MA Program Directory and Lecturer, Center for Humanities and InformationPennsylvania State University

Award Information

2011 IDRF Program

Area and Cultural StudiesColumbia University

Networks of Exchange: Propaganda and Information Society in Modern Chinese Literature

In focusing on the emergence of literary propaganda as a central site of information management, my dissertation will explore the development of a modern, transnational information state in China between 1920 and 1960. Along with news media, literature constituted a crucial vector in states' involvement with information. The confrontation between state institutions devoted to managing information (including both censorship and propaganda) on the one hand, and the urban media environments and readerships on the other, precipitated both new literary sensibilities regarding the production, circulation, and exchange of information, as well as new modes and genres of writing, such as socialist realism and the spy novel. A central figure in the linkage of literature to information is the prolific author, Mao Dun (1896-1981), who throughout his career remained keenly aware of new practices involving information. By examining the institutional backdrop to the production and circulation of the works of Mao Dun and other Chinese authors, as well as two key Japanese propagandists in China, I explore how literature simultaneously engaged in and reflected a new paradigm about knowledge work as both a form of labor and a textual object. Historically, such literature represented negotiations between new figures of information labor, embodied by the propagandist working for the Nationalist government’s Propaganda Bureau, the official censor, or the Japanese authors (J: jugun sakka; C: congjun zuojia) embedded within the imperialist occupying forces in the Chinese mainland. By identifying and following the emergence of information-related practices in modern Chinese propaganda literature, my research will combine disciplines of institutional and sociological historiography, close textual analysis, and new media and print culture studies to contribute to our understanding of the development of a Chinese information state.