East Asian Languages & Cultures
B.A., Shandong University; M.A., Fudan University; Ph.D., Columbia University
On Leave 2015-16
Mingwei SongProfessor of Chinese
Specializing in modern Chinese literature and intellectual history, science fiction, youth culture, posthuman theories, and the Neo-Baroque aesthetics
I am a scholar of literature whose research interests range across modern Chinese literature, intellectual history, comparative literature, and literary theory. My past research projects include the modern Chinese Bildungsroman, the discourse of youth and nationalism in late Qing and Republican China, and the life and work of Eileen Chang. My current research project focuses on contemporary Chinese science fiction and its impact on the larger literary and cultural paradigm. I am completing a trilogy of three monographs that examine, respectively, the poetics of the new wave science fiction, the posthuman turn in contemporary Chinese literary paradigm, and the “Neo-Baroque” in contemporary Sinophone fiction.
I have written and published extensively on literary and cultural topics in English and Chinese. My publications (by 2022) include two monographs in English, seven academic books in Chinese (including one co-authored), four edited volumes, nine special journal issues, and numerous research articles, critical essays and literary reviews in both scholarly journals and the popular press. Some of my publications on Chinese science fiction, including both articles and one of my recent books, have been translated into foreign languages such as German, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and Japanese.
Since 2010, I have been researching Chinese science fiction. I was one of the first scholars to pay attention to and closely examine what I named the “new wave” of Chinese science fiction that first emerged at the beginning of the twenty-first century. At the forefront in placing the history, themes, and style of this “new wave” in a broader context of literary theories and histories, I began to publish articles and reviews on the genre in 2010-12. At the same time, I also edited a special issue for Renditions that translated stories by authors such as Liu Cixin and Han Song into English for the first time. Since then, both my academic publications and my professional activities have helped shape and energize Chinese science fiction studies as a rapidly growing subfield in North America and beyond. The arguments I have advanced with respect to this new wave of Chinese science fiction—such as my recognition of the genre as part of the avant-garde literary tradition, my emphasis on the subversive elements of the genre in the Chinese context, and my interpretation of the genre’s representation of the invisible—have been widely cited among scholars.
In 2018, I published The Reincarnated Giant: An Anthology of Twenty-First-Century Chinese Science Fiction (Columbia University Press, 2018). It includes fourteen short stories and novel excerpts, all translated into English. This anthology features representative works by new wave science fiction writers Liu Cixin, Han Song, Xia Jia, Chen Qiufan and Bao Shu, as well as three experimental fiction writers from Hong Kong and Taiwan: Lo Yi-chin, Dung Kai-cheung, and Egoyan Zheng. This anthology was positively reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement and The Verge, among other periodicals.
Some of my publications in Chinese were collected in my Chinese-language book, The New Wave in Chinese Science Fiction: History, Poetics, Text 中國科幻新浪潮：歷史，詩學，文本 (Shanghai, 2020). The book represents my observations on the history, representative authors, and major texts of the genre as well as my efforts to engage with theoretical questions related to the new wave, such as estrangement, dystopia, the virtual, and the posthuman. It examines not only literary texts but also science fiction culture—specifically, the literary events and cultural phenomena related to the genre as it was undergoing its revival. The New Wave in Chinese Science Fiction situates Chinese science fiction in the larger field of contemporary Chinese literature and suggests that the new wave is a challenge to the state-endorsed literary paradigm. This book is currently being translated into German as Neue Welle in der chinesischen Science-Fiction: Geschichte, Text, Poetik (Peter Lang, 2022), and a Russian translation is also under preparation.
My new monograph in English, Fear of Seeing: Poetics and Politics of Chinese Science Fiction (forthcoming from Columbia University Press), represents the culmination of my study in Chinese science fiction. This new book posits that the rise of a new wave of science fiction is the single most important literary phenomenon in twenty-first-century China. Science fiction captures the anticipation and anxieties of China’s new epoch, one filled with ever-accelerating changes in technology, moral sensibilities, political culture, and everyday life. My central argument is that this new wave of Chinese science fiction illuminates the “invisible” aspects of reality. I identify the invisible as a key element in the poetics of the new wave. As a symbolic trope, the invisible points to realms beyond what we can ordinarily perceive, allows for the representation of our fears and dreams, and challenges moral conventions and political doctrines. The representation of both the epistemologically and politically invisible functions as the center of gravity for the contemporary Chinese science fictional imagination.
I began my academic career with a study in Eileen Chang in my senior year at Shandong University, which led to the publication of my first book, The Sorrows of a Floating World: a Biography of Eileen Chang 浮世的悲哀: 張愛玲傳, in 1996 (reprinted in 1998; a third edition, the 25th anniversary edition, forthcoming in 2022). My first monograph in English, Young China: National Rejuvenation and the Bildungsroman, 1900-1959 (Harvard 2015), is based on a Ph.D. dissertation that I completed at Columbia. The book examines modern Chinese fiction’s representation of “youth” (qingchun 青春and/or qingnian青年), a central literary motif that has been profoundly related to the ideas of nationhood and modernity in twentieth-century China. My other major publications include a volume of critical essays, Criticism and Imagination: Collected Literary Critical Essays (Fudan University Press, 2013), and two collections of my literary essays: Delmore’s Gift: A New York Notebook (Shanghai Bookstore Press, 2006) and Last Year, A Rose in Plymouth: A New England Notebook (Shanghai Bookstore Press, 2012), as well as a short book The Masterpieces of Twentieth-Century World Literature (Haikou Press, 1999). In 2019, David Der-wei Wang and I edited a volume, May Fourth@100: Culture, Thought, History (Taipei: Linking, 2019), to commemorate the centennial of May Fourth Movement.
I am currently editing three new edited volumes. The first is Posthuman Fabulations: Interrogations of Humanism and Humanity in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction, co-edited with Carlos Rojas. The second is Chinese Science Fiction: A Critical Reader, which I am co-editing with Nathaniel Isaacson and Hua Li for Palgrave McMillan’s “Studies in Global Science Fiction” series. The third is Chimera: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction II, co-edited with Eric Abrahamsen, for Columbia University Press.
Literary scholarship aside, I have written poetry and fiction since I was a student. In the past four years, I published more than fifty new poems in literary magazines in China and Hong Kong, with seven translated into Italian. Some of my poems also engage with science fiction. Two— “Apocalypse” and “Utopia”—were incorporated into an art installation included in the 2019 Shenzhen/Hong Kong bi-city Biennial. I have included my poems in a joint collection of poetry, “White Horse and Black Camel” 白馬與黑駱駝, with the Taiwanese writer Lo Yichun 駱以軍. It is scheduled to be published by Taipei’s Ryefield in 2022.
My major grants include the An Wang Postdoc Fellowship from the Fairbank Center at Harvard University in 2005-06, the Junior Scholar grant from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange in 2010-2011, and the Elizabeth and J. Richardson Dilworth Fellowship offered through the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton) in 2016.
At Wellesley, my course offering covers a variety of topics in modern Chinese literature and culture, ranging from urban studies to popular culture to posthuman studies. I have been actively working on the development and reform of both the departmental and college-wide curriculum and I have been particularly involved in building interdepartmental collaborations—not only across the humanities but also innovative arrangements with colleagues in the sciences. While my teaching tasks at Wellesley have included undergraduate courses on all levels, I have also continuously devoted time to guest lecturing and mentoring graduate students at research universities in the United States, Europe, and Asia. I am serving as Ph.D. co-adviser to students at both Harvard and Uppsala University in Sweden.
My teaching philosophy lies in a strong commitment to innovative pedagogy, a consistent encouragement to students’ active learning, a thorough consideration for student’s growth in both knowledge and critical thinking, and an unwavering support for their (particularly graduate students’) academic projects and career development. My pedagogy emphasizes close analysis, intercultural literacy, interdisciplinary approaches, and free exchanges of ideas. My courses are designed not only to enrich students’ specific knowledge of modern China, but more importantly, they are helping students strengthen their own agency in self-development, transcultural understanding, and scholarly exploration. It is just as critical to emphasize that my teaching aims to create a safe, inclusive, and dynamic learning environment, which affirms each student’s unique circumstances, equal rights, and diverse educational needs.
See my Publications page for additional information.
New Wave of Chinese Science Fiction: History, Poetics, Text 中國科幻新浪潮：歷史，詩學，文本. Shanghai: Shanghai Literature & Arts Publishing House, 2020. 311 pages.
|May Fourth@100: Culture, Thought, History. 五四@100: 文化，思想，歷史(co-edited with David Der-wei Wang). Taipei: Linking Publishing Company, 2019. 335 pages.|
|The Reincarnated Giant: An Anthology of Twenty-First-Century Chinese Science Fiction (co-edited with Theodore Huters). Columbia University Press, 2018. 488 pages.|
|Science Fiction for Children. 給孩子的科幻故事. Shanghai: Oriental Publication Center. July 2018: 324 pages.|
|Young China: National Rejuvenation and the Bildungsroman, 1900-1959. Harvard University Asia Center, 2015. 379 pages.|
|Criticism and Imagination 批評與想像. Shanghai: Fudan University Press, 2013. 248 pages|
|Last Winter, a Rose in Plymouth: a New England Notebook 普利茅斯的冬日花朵：新英格蘭記. Shanghai: Shanghai Bookstore Publishing House, 2012. 191 pages.|
|Delmore’s Gift: a New York Notebook 德爾莫的禮物: 紐約筆記本. Shanghai: Shanghai Bookstore Publishing House, 2007. 178 pages.|
|The Masterpieces of the Twentieth Century World Literature 二十世紀文學藝術明珠. Haikou: Hainan Press, 1999. 174 pages|
|The Sorrows of a Floating World: a Biography of Eileen Chang 浮世的悲哀: 張愛玲傳. Revised & enlarged edition, Shanghai: Shanghai Literature & Arts Publishing House, 1998. 329 pages.|
|The Sorrows of a Floating World: a Biography of Eileen Chang 浮世的悲哀: 張愛玲傳. Taipei: Yeqiang Publishing House, 1996. 309 pages|