McClellan, Thomas Michael Books

Dr. Thomas McClellan is Convener for Chinese at the University of Edinburgh in his native city, where he also took his M.A. and Ph.D. He writes on 20th century popular, populist and ‘pure’ fiction, occasionally straying into poetry and other areas.

Zhang Henshui and Popular Chinese Fiction, 1919-1949
2005 0-7734-6087-X
This book is a “life and works” study of the most successful Chinese novelist of the first half of the twentieth century. In the 1920s-1940s, the popularity of Zhang’s work among readers was immense, but it was denigrated as commercial, ideologically backward writing during an age when literature in China was dominated by the leftist politics and Europeanising aesthetics of the May Fourth Movement. The author demonstrates, by detailed philological analysis, how Zhang Henshui chose to retain the form and language of the old-style Chinese novel, but to assimilate techniques and content from May Fourth writing as a means of “improving” traditional fiction while “catching up with the times.”

In this by far most comprehensive survey of Zhang’s fictional work in any Western language, the author identifies, with impressive literary sensitivity, a number of phases of development and retrogression, as Zhang Henshui moved away gradually from writing fiction for entertainment and comfort to writing more disturbing and engaging work.

Rare among studies of modern Chinese literature, the book’s generous excerpts and appendices from the most outstanding novels in exquisite English translation offer a lively impression of the experience of reading Zhang Henshui novels. The bibliography includes a most valuable detailed chronological list of Zhang’s works.

This book will also be of interest to scholars of Republican-era Chinese culture and history in general, as well as to scholars of comparative literature and general literary theory.