Kuei-fen Chiu, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature and Transnational Cultural Studies, National Chung Hsing University

Taiwan Literature in the early 21st century

Kuei-fen CHIU

This talk tries to map Taiwan’s literary landscape in the early 21st century and highlight critical issues for further study. I will begin by introducing two recently published books: Taiwan Literature in the 21st Century, edited by Chia-rong Wu and Ming-ju Fan (Springer 2023), and Taiwanese Literature as World Literature, edited by Pei-yun Lin and Wen-chi Li (Bloomsbury 2023). I will engage in critical dialogue with these two important books that help shed light on the current state of Taiwanese literary studies.

I argue that the trajectory of Taiwan literature has undergone four main stages: “Taiwan literature as colonial literature under Japan’s rule (1895~1945),” “Taiwan literature as alternative Chinese literature (1945~1987),” “Taiwan literature as postcolonial literature (1987~2000),” and “Taiwan literature in an age of translation and transmedia (2000~).” While each of the first three phases presented different challenges for Taiwanese writers, those challenges were basically associated with identity politics in different Taiwanese socio-political structures. As we enter the 21st century, Taiwanese writers find themselves confronted with the challenges of a fast shrinking literary market and emerging technology-enhanced forms of creativity. While themes such as the reconstruction of historical memories and identity politics remain dominant, the question how to reinvent Taiwan literature through translation, transnational publications, and transmedia has become an important concern. It is in this context that I would speculate on the recent trends of prose writing, genre fiction, literary adaptations, and the emerging concept of “Taiwan literature as world literature.”

The fiction writer Ping Lu’s平路 turn to prose writing, the increasing popularity of genre fiction among millennial writers, cinematic adaptations of works by writers such as Yang Fu-min 楊富閔and Wu Ming-yi 吳明益, and the increasing attention to the translation of Taiwan literature as a research topic will serve to illustrate my points.

Recommended Readings:

Taiwan Literature in the 21st Century, edited by Chia-rong Wu and Ming-ju Fan (Springer 2023)

Taiwanese Literature as World Literature, edited by Pei-yun Lin and Wen-chi Li (Bloomsbury 2023)

吳明益 《天橋上的魔術師》(2011) /《天橋上的魔術師》電視劇(2021楊雅喆編劇導演)

Kuei-fen CHIU is Chair Professor of Taiwan Literature and Transnational Cultural Studies at National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan. She has written extensively on Taiwan literature and Taiwan documentaries. Her publications include The Making of Chinese/Sinophone Literatures as World Literature (co-edited with Yingjin Zhang, 2022), New Chinese-language Documentaries (co-authored with Yingjin Zhang, 2015),  Taiwan Cinema: International Reception and Social Change (co-edited with Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley and Gary D. Rawnsley, 2017), and Migration to and from Taiwan (co-edited with Dafydd Fell and Lin Ping, 2014). Her most recent publication is the Chinese monograph The Long Journey of Taiwan Literature to World Literature (Taiwan wenxue de shijie zhi lu, 2023) published by Zhengzhi University Press in Taiwan.

Ian Rowen, Associate Professor in the Department of Taiwan Culture, Languages and Literature at National Taiwan Normal University 

One China, Many Taiwans: The Geopolitics of Cross-Strait Tourism 

Ian Rowen

While the People’s Republic of China pointed over a thousand missiles across the Taiwan Strait, it sent millions of tourists in the same direction with the encouragement of Taiwan’s politicians and businesspeople starting in 2008. One China, Many Taiwans examines how tourism, one of several strategies employed by the PRC at exerting political control over Taiwan, worked out in practice. Based on extensive ethnographic study, I argue that contrary to the PRC’s efforts to incorporate Taiwan as part of an undivided “One China”, tourism aggravated tensions between the two polities, polarized Taiwanese society, and pushed Taiwanese popular sentiment farther towards support for national self-determination.

In the process, Taiwan’s already-surreal staging of state sovereignty bifurcated into what could be described as “Two Taiwans”—the Taiwan performed as a part of China for Chinese group tourists, versus the Taiwan experienced as a site of everyday life by local residents and some independent tourists. The split corresponded with a growing fissure of domestic political economy, amplifying a conflict between those business, civil society and state actors that had an interest in sustaining a PRC-oriented tourist industry versus those that did not. These tourism-inflected Two Taiwans are among the most vivid manifestations of inconsistent nationalisms spanning a territory that was already realizing a distinct, and distinctively inclusive, subjectivity. Indeed, Taiwan’s identity is increasingly predicated on a pluralistic civic nationalism in which not just one or two, but manyTaiwans co-exist more or less comfortably, even as it is existentially threatened.

Ian Rowen is Associate Professor in the Department of Taiwan Culture, Languages and Literature at National Taiwan Normal University. He is the author of One China, Many Taiwans: The Geopolitics of Cross-Strait Tourism (Cornell University Press, 2022), and the editor of Transitions in Taiwan: Stories of the White Terror (Cambria Press, 2021). Previously an assistant professor of Geography and Sociology at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, he earned his PhD in Geography from the University of Colorado at Boulder.