Above all, by dramatizing the violent and destructive process by which these archaic societies are transformed by and incorporated into the modern world, these four novelists (Hardy, Conrad, Achebe, and Llosa) testify to the havoc wreaked upon individual human lives in the name of progress. The novelists I discuss are all citizens and beneficiaries of the modern world, but they nonetheless fell compelled to record for posterity the great costs, paid in blood and pain, the peoples around the world have rendered to settle accounts with history.

Michael Valdez Moses, The Novel and the Globalization of Culture

The problems of interpretation facing an intralingual critic are formidable enough: they become doubly so for the interlingual critic, since to the problems due to differences between historical periods are added those due to cultural and linguistic differences. The interlingual critic has to make a decision as to what basic attitude he should take toward such differences, and the decision will determine the kind of interpretation that he will offer. It is not an easy decision to make, for even within a single cultural and literary tradition there can be conflicting schools of hermeneutics.  . . . With regard to the interpretation of Chinese literature, the critic has a similar set of attitudes to choose from: Sino-centrism, Eurocentrism, cultural relativism, cultural perspectivism and trans-culturism. I am avoiding the term “cultural chauvinism” or “ethnocentrism” so that the critic’s own cultural and ethnic identity need not be called into question.

James J.Y. Liu, The Interlingual Critic

But in India, it [despotism] is normal: for here there is no sense of personal independence with which a state of despotism could be compared, and which would raise revolt in the soul; nothing approaching even a resentful protest against it, is left, except the corporeal smart, and the pain of being deprived of absolute necessaries and of pleasure. In the case of such a people, therefore, that which we call history is not to be looked for. … This [Hinduism] makes them incapable of writing history; all that happens is dissipated in their minds into confused dreams.

Georg Wilhelm Frederick Hegel, The Philosophy of History

Appeals to the past are among the commonest of strategies in interpretations of the present. What animates such appeals is not only disagreement about what happened in the past and what the past was, but uncertainty about whether the past really is past, over and concluded, or whether it continues, albeit in different forms, perhaps. This problem animates all sorts of discussions—about influence, about blame and judgment, about present actualities and future priorities. … The relatively common denominator between the various aspects of Orientalism is the line separating Occident from Orient and this is less a fact of nature than it is a fact of human production, which I have called imaginative geography. This is, however, neither to say that the division between Orient and Occident is unchanging nor is it to say that it is simply fictional.

Edward Saïd, Orientalism Reconsidered

For instance, the Frenchman Maupassant’s Une vie is human literature about the animal passions of man; China’s Prayer Mat of Flesh, however, is a piece of non-human literature. The Russian Kuprin’s novel Jama is literature describing the lives of prostitutes, but China’s Nine-tailed Tortoise is non-human literature. The difference lies merely in the different attitudes conveyed by the work, one is dignified and one is profligate; one has aspirations for human life and therefore feels grief and anger in the face of inhuman life, whereas the other is complacent about human life, and the author even seems to derive a feeling of satisfaction from it, and in many cases to deal with his material in an attitude of amusement and provocation. In one simple sentence: the difference between human and non-human literature lies in the attitude that informs the writing; whether it affirms human life or inhuman life.

Zhou Zuoren, Humane Literature

Arthur Miller, while commenting on a screenplay by Ken Kesey, said that it revealed the American faith in the infinite possibility of growth for the individual person, and that its theme was a quintessentially American belief [that] “despair is still for us a kind of frontier to be crossed when in other places [in the world] it is a permanent condition of life.”


Nations, like narratives, lose their origins in the myths of time and only fully realize their horizons in the mind’s eye. Such an image of the nation–or narration–might seem impossibly romantic and excessively metaphorical, but it is from those traditions of political thought and literary language that the nation emerges as a powerful historical idea in the West. … A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which in truth are but one, constitute this soul or spiritual principle. One lies in the past, one in the present. One is the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories; the other is present-day consent, the desire to live together, the will to perpetuate the value of the heritage that one has received in an undivided form. Man does not improvise. The nation, like the individual, is the culmination of a long past of endeavors, sacrifice, and devotion. . . . A nation is therefore a large-scale solidarity, constituted by the feeling of the sacrifices that one has made in the past and of those that one is prepared to make in the future. It presupposes a past; it is summarized, however, in the present by a tangible fact, namely, consent, the clearly expressed desire to continue a common life. A nation’s existence is, if you will pardon the metaphor, a daily plebiscite, just as an individual’s existence is a perpetual affirmation of life.

Homi Bhabha, Nation and Narration

Cultural seismology–the attempt to record the shifts and displacements of sensibility that regularly occur in the history of art and literature and thought–habitually distinguishes three separate orders of magnitude. At one end of the scale are those tremors of fashion that seem to come and go in rhythm with the changing generations. To a second order of magnitude belong those larger displacements whose effects go deeper and last longer, forming those extended periods of style and sensibility which are usefully measured in centuries. This leaves a third category for those overwhelming dislocations, those cataclysmic upheavals of culture, those fundamental convulsions of the creative human spirit that seem to topple even the most solid and substantial of our beliefs and assumptions, leave great areas of the past in ruins or question an entire civilization or culture.

Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane, Modernism

The ubiquitous potential presence of a balanced, totalized, dimension of meaning may partially explain why a fully realized sense of the tragic does not materialize in Chinese narrative. …. But in each case the implicit understanding of the logical interrelation between these fictional characters’ particular situation and the overall structure of existential intelligibility serves to blunt the pity and fear the reader experiences as he witnesses their individual destinies. In other words, Chinese narrative is replete with individuals in tragic situations, but the secure inviolability of the underlying affirmation of existence in its totality precludes the possibility of the individual’s tragic fate taking on the proportions of a cosmic tragedy. Instead, the bitterness of the particular case of mortality ultimately settles back into ceaseless alternation of patterns of joy and sorrow, exhilaration and despair, which go to make up an essentially affirmative view of the universe of experience.

Andrew Plaks, Chinese Narrative

This passion of the signifier then becomes a new dimension of the human condition, in that it is not only man who speaks, but in man and through man that it speaks. … The phallus is the privileged signifier of that mark where the share of the logos is wedded to the advent of desire.

____Jacques Lacan, Feminine Sexuality

This distortion [on the part of the Twentieth-Century scholars] conveys the impression that the Chinese gender system was built upon coercion and brute oppression, which, in my view, ascribes to it at once too much and too little power. The strength of resilience of the gender system—as it unfolded in history, not on pages of codes of conduct—should be attributed to the considerable range of flexibilities that women from various classes, regions, and age groups enjoyed in practice. … The complex and ambivalent existence of women in the Confucian tradition can be illuminated only when the propensity to treat ‘Confucianism’ as an abstract creed or a static control mechanism is discarded. The Confucian tradition is not a monolithic and fixed system of values and practices. … Contrary to the popular perception that gender relations belong to the feudal backwaters, my contention is that they constitute the most enabling aspect of Chinese tradition. The contestations over the meaning of modernity today would be more meaningful if tradition were being re-imagined as a series of trade-offs, and both its strengths and weaknesses were being confronted seriously. If Chinese modernity cannot be defined as the negation of tradition, then the unusual historical moment we have witnessed–the seventeenth century–is instructive in showing how tradition can be harnessed to further untraditional goals, and how women can be incorpoerated into new ways of imagining national and local communities. In these ways, the ‘teachers of the inner chambers’ still have much to teach the Chinese nation today.

Dorothy Ko, Teachers of the Inner Chambers: Women and Culture in Seventeenth-Century China

The Bourgeois limitations in feminist theory are clearly demonstrated by its difficulty in dealing with prostitution, which is interpreted solely in outworn terms of victimization. That is, feminists profess solidarity with the “sex workers” themselves but denounce prostitution as a system of male exploitation and enslavement. I protest this trivilizing of the world’s oldest profession. I respect and honor the prostitute, ruler of the sexual realm, which men must pay to enter. In reducing prostitutes to pitiable charity cases in need of their help, middle-class feminists are guilty of arrogance, conceit, and prudery. …It is a progressive feminism that embraces and celebrates all historical depictions of women, including the most luridly pornographic. It wants mythology without sentimentality and every archetype, from mother to witch and whore, without censorship. It accepts and welcomes the testimony of men.

Camille Paglia, Vamps and Tramps