For many in the west, “Shanghai” is the quintessence of East Asian modernity, whether imagined as glamorous and exciting, corrupt and impoverishing, or a complex synthesis of the good, the bad, and the ugly. How did “Shanghai” acquire this power? How did people across China and around the world decide that Shanghai was the place to be? Mediasphere Shanghai: The Aesthetics of Cultural Production, by Alexander Des Forges, shows that partial answers to these questions can be found in the products of Shanghai’s media industry, particularly the Shanghai novel, a distinctive genre of installment fiction that flourished from the 1890s to the 1930s.
July 2007 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3081-6 / $55.00 (CLOTH)
“Alexander Des Forges’ book is not just another study of late imperial Chinese fiction. It is, rather, an innovative argument about how the wide-ranging engagement with fiction was instrumental in constituting Shanghai as what he terms a mediasphere—an evolving locus and process of social interaction, sustained by the collaboration of hybrid urban forces such as industry, print culture, aesthetic and narrative conventions, a growing consumers’ market, and an active reading public. These forces led to the production not only of material goods but also of the ideological conditions under which that modern time-space known as Shanghai became possible—indeed, was repeatedly imagined and performed in literary, cultural, and sociopolitical (con)texts. An admirably learned and coherently written book; a must-read for all Shanghai lovers.” —Rey Chow, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, Brown University