Writing the South Seas: Imagining the Nanyang in Chinese and Southeast Asian Postcolonial Literature
By Brian Bernards
Voted as one of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2016
An interview by Philip Holden
Postcolonial literature in Chinese from the Nanyang, literally the South Seas, examines the history of Chinese migration, localization, and interethnic exchange in Southeast Asia, and offers a rich variety of approaches to identity.
In Writing the South Seas, Brian Bernards explores why Nanyang encounters, which have been neglected by most literary histories, should be seen as crucial to the national literatures of China and Southeast Asia. He shows how Nanyang, as a literary trope, has been deployed as a platform by mainland and overseas Chinese writers to rethink colonial and national paradigms. Through a collection of diverse voices—from modern Chinese writers like Xu Dishan, Yu Dafu and Lao She to postcolonial Southeast Asian authors from Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand—writers such as Ng Kim Chew, Chia Joo Ming, Pan Yutong, Yeng Pway Ngon, Suchen Christine Lim, Praphatson Sewikun and Fang Siruo—Bernards demonstrates how the Nanyang imagination negotiates the boundaries of national literature as a meaningful postcolonial subject, and speaks to broader conversations in postcolonial and global literature. This book, written from the emerging field of Sinophone Studies, puts the literature of the region in a new light.
"Bernards has written an important and fascinating book on the trope of the Nanyang, or South Seas, in modern Chinese and Southeast Asian literatures. He challenges traditional notions of canon formation and national literatures, and offers an engaging account of the hybrid cultural forms produced through the intercultural encounters of the Nanyang."
Emma Teng, T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations, MIT
"Writing the South Seas is a most fascinating inquiry into the institutionalization and dissemination of overseas modern Chinese-language literature in Southeast Asia from the early modern era to the present day."
David Der-wei Wang, Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University
“an excellent addition to interdisciplinary Asian studies literature...highly recommended…”
"this is an ambitious book that explores the diasporic and postcolonial landscaping of the South Seas .... Bernards should be applauded for producing this useful study and making it accessible to scholars and graduate students."
Chia-rong Wu, Rhodes College
“The single greatest contribution this book makes is, in my opinion, that it turns our way of thinking about and analysing literature away from a supposed centre by creating a kind of empty centre (the sea) from the vantage point of which every literature, culture and language is an island in an archipelago of other interconnected islands. This is a brilliant and a much-needed step in literary studies.” - Astrid Møller-Olsen, New Books Asia
Brian Bernards is assistant professor of East Asian languages and cultures at the University of Southern California. He is a co-editor of Sinophone Studies: A Critical Reader.
Publication Year: 2016
288 pages, 235mm x 156mm
ISBN: 978-981-4722-34-6, Paperback