中国连接: The China Connection

The popularity of Frye in Italy has been occasionally remarked.  Three or four years ago I posted on the Fryeblog an account of Frye’s Italian connection; it can be found at http://fryeblog.blog.lib.mcmaster.ca/2009/09/11/frye-and-italy/.  The Italians have translated eighteen of Frye’s books, beginning in 1969.  It was not until almost thirty years later (1998) that the first Chinese translation of a Frye book appeared, and in the course of a dozen years since then the Chinese have translated ten of Frye’s books: Anatomy of Criticism (three different translations), The Educated Imagination, Creation and Recreation, The Well‑Tempered Critic, The Modern Century, The Critical Path, The Secular Scripture, The Great Code, Words with Power, and Selected Essays.  The growing academic interest in Frye’s work in China is a phenomenon not matched by any other country.

The late Wu Chizhe of Inner Mongolia University was involved either as a translator or annotator for six of the Chinese translations.  My sense is that he, Wang Ning, and Ye Shuxian have had more to do than anyone else in making the Chinese people aware of Frye’s work.  Wu was a participant at the first Chinese symposium on Frye’s criticism at Peking University in 1994, organized by Wang Ning, and Wu directed the second international conference held in 1999 at Inner Mongolia University, where he served as head of the Canadian Studies Center.  Ye, who has written extensively about Frye and myth‑archetypal criticism since the mid‑1980s, was a participant at both conferences.  A selection of papers from the first conference was published in Chinese, and from the second, in English.

The academic interest in Frye’s work as measured by the articles written by Chinese about his criticism didn’t really begin until the 1980s.  The indexes record seven articles during that decade.  Since then, the number of Chinese articles has increased at a geometric rate.  In the 1990s there were 38 articles, and in the first decade of the present century, 101.  That trend is continuing in the current decade: from 2010 through 2012 there have been 38 articles either about Frye’s theory or relying on it to produce essays in practical criticism.

For a number of years I have been keeping track of the M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations that are either about Frye or apply his principles to literary works.  These records reveal that the first Chinese theses (that is, those written in Chinese) did not appear until 2000, two years after the first translation of Frye into Chinese––Anatomy of Criticism.  During the years 2001 through 2005, 23 more appeared.  At that point a rather extraordinary increase manifests itself.  For the years 2006 to the present I have recorded 158 Chinese theses and dissertations, which represents almost 47% of all theses and dissertations written during this period.  The vast majority of these are M.A. theses, and for those devoted to practical criticism, there seems to exist, to judge from the tables of contents, a kind of template that begins with an effort to define mythical and archetypal criticism and then seeks out the archetypal characters, themes, and narratives in particular literary works, mostly Western.  Michael Sinding instructed us several weeks ago on the blog about Brian McHale’s neglecting to mention Frye’s contribution to the study of narrative.  The Chinese certainly haven’t been so remiss.  Here is a sampler of thesis titles, translated from Chinese:

The Narrative Structure of “Silas Marner.”  Hebei University

Virginia Woolf’s Feminist Subversion of the Comic Narrative Form. Xiangtan University

The Narrative and Thematic Archetypes in “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”  Northeast Forestry University

The Archetypal Characters, Themes, and Narrative of Saul Bellow’s “Herzog.”  Hebei Normal University

The Cyclical Narrative Art of “The Great Gatsby.”  Heilongjiang University

On the Biblical U‑shaped Narrative Mode on “Lord of the Rings.”  Beijing Language and Culture University

The Modern Pursuit of the Truth: Archetypal Narrative and Imagery in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” Zhengzhou University

The Pursuit of the Freedom of the Road: Archetypal Narrative and Imagery in John Fowles’s “The French Lieutenant’s Woman.”  Qufu Normal University

The number of Chinese theses and dissertations on Frye since 2000 has averaged 15 per year.  It will be interesting to see whether in graduate education in China this trend continues.  In the 1990s the Chinese government began pouring money into higher education.  It was shortly after that that the academic interest in Frye began to accelerate.  Before 1990 it would not have made much sense to talk about a Chinese interest in Frye, but two decades later, as the data just summarized indicate, that is no longer the case.  There are close to 2000 colleges and universities in mainland China, and from 2002 to 2008 the number of Chinese doctoral students quadrupled.   Some 19 million students are enrolled in Chinese institutions of higher learning.   Several years back Terry Eagleton asked the rhetorical question, “Who Now Reads Frye?”  Among the Chinese the answer is a considerable and an increasing number.  Is China becoming a fertile field for Frye studies?  Or, to switch metaphors, might it be that Frye’s star is rising in the East?

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