The Soldier-Writer, the Expatriate, and Cold War Modernism in Taiwan: Freedom in the Trenches argues that what appeared to be a "genesis" of new literature engendered by the modernist movement in postwar Taiwan was made possible only through the "splendid isolation" within the Cold War world order sustaining the bubble in which "Free China" lived on borrowed time. The book explores the trenches of freedom in whose confines the soldier-poets' were surrealistically acquiesced to roam free under the aegis of "pure literature" and the buffer zone created by the US presence in Taiwan—and the modernists' expatriate writing from America—that aided their moderated deviance from the official line. It critically examines the anti-establishment character and gesture in the movement phase in terms of its entanglements with the state apparatus and the US-aided literary establishment. Taiwan's modernists counterbalance their retrospectively perceived excess and nuanced forms of exit with a series of spiritual as well as actual returns, upon which earlier traditionalist undercurrents would surface. This modernism's mixed legacies, with its aesthetic avant-gardism marrying politically moderate or conservative penchants, date back to its bifurcated mode of existence and operation of separating the realm of the aesthetic from everything else in life during the Cold War.
Li-Chun Hsiao is professor at Waseda University in Tokyo.
Chapter One: “Speech after Long Silence”: The 1956 Manifesto and the Obscure(d) Beginnings of a Cold War Modernism
Chapter Two: A Double-edged Sword?: the Rise of the Soldier-Poets and Their Modernist Turn
Chapter Three: Breaking Ground in Splendid Isolation: Death of a Stone Cell and Cold War Ethos
Chapter Four: Two States of One Peculiar Modernism: From the US-Aided Literary Establishment to the Culture of US Aids
Chapter Five: At Home in Exile: The Cold War Modernist, the Expatriate, and the Literature of Exile
About the Author
In this seminal study of Taiwan’s literary modernism in the Cold War context,
Li-Chun Hsiao probes into a number of unexamined assumptions about its rise and development and seeks to tease out a cultural politics and poetics of Cold War modernism in Taiwan mainly by addressing the “soldier-poets” and expatriate writers as a crossover point for a number of discursive practices whose origins are elsewhere: of Cold War ideology, US foreign policy, aesthetic doctrines and literary pedagogy, long-distance Chinese nationalism, among others. It is a superb work of scholarship, painstakingly researched, copiously documented, and gracefully written.
Drawing on a wealth of recent Chinese-language scholarship on the subject produced in Taiwan, this book would make valuable and unique contributions to the studies of postwar Taiwan literature and culture in the transnational English-speaking academic world. In addition, Li-Chun Hsiao’s insightful account of the slate wiped clean by the Cold War contexts, on which Taiwan’s modernist literature thrived, and his unpacking of the contradictory inclinations of the modernist movement in Taiwan—e.g. its reformist practices and traditionalist undercurrents—may also shed light on the studies of modernism in general, whose varied, even conflicting manifestations in earlier periods and different sites parallel its fraught and malleable definitions.