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Ideographic Modernism

Ideographic Modernism offers a critical account of the ideograph (Chinese writing as imagined in the West) as a modernist invention. Through analyses of works by Claudel, Pound, Kafka, Benjamin, Segalen, and Valery, among others, Christopher Bush traces the interweaving of Western modernity's ethnographic and technological imaginaries, in which the cultural effects of technological media assumed "Chinese" forms, even as traditional representations of "the Orient" lived on in modernist-era responses to media. The book also makes a methodological argument, demonstrating new ways of recovering the generally overlooked presence of China in the text of Western modernism.
Product Details

Table of Contents

Preface: Imperial Media/Imperial Messages: Modernism and the Myth of China ; Introduction: "no better instrument": The Chinese Written Character as a Medium ; 1. "visible nature": Image, Photography, and the Apparition of China ; 2. "simply the form": Inscription, Phonography, and the Chinese Scene of Writing ; 3. "to imitate the Chinese": Mimesis, Cinema, and Mechanical Reproduction ; 4. "shocks in China": Space, Telegraphy, and the Age of the World Picture ; Works Cited ; Index

About the Author

Christopher Bush is Associate Professor of French and Program Director of Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern University.


Taking his cue from Gertrude Stein's quip ('In China there is no need of China because in China china is china'), this remarkable book makes us understand why modernism (and also theory) always need China as 'China'-not the projection of an Orientalist discourse, but a trope of otherness as writing. Bush probes with unrivaled depth and subtlety the paradoxes created by a Chinese 'arche-writing' seen as an active exoticism at the core of two centuries of creative mistranslations. * Jean-Michel Rabate, author of Writing the Image After Roland Barthes *

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