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Modern Chinese Humanities Seminar Featuring Michel Hockx — The Shifting Limits of Reform: Literature and Censorship in China since 1979

November 12, 2021 @ 12:00 pm 1:30 pm

Speaker: Michel Hockx, Professor of Chinese Literature, University of Notre Dame

On July 30, 1979, Deng Xiaoping addressed the fourth national conference of Chinese writers and artists. Towards the end of his speech he stated, to collective sighs of relief, that “the Party’s leadership of literature and the arts does not mean issuing orders, nor requiring writers and artists to make themselves subservient to […] political tasks.” In doing so, he redefined the relationship between CCP ideologues and creative producers, which had become increasingly politicized during the first thirty years of Communist rule. He also set the template for later “important speeches” on art and literature by Party leaders, which have been a core component of Chinese cultural policy ever since. Looking at leaders’ speeches as a genre of cultural production, I show how each leader after Deng tried to confirm the post-1979 consensus that promised more freedom to cultural producers, while at the same time indicating where the limits to that freedom might lie. The talk will engage with these speeches against three discrete backgrounds: the ongoing dismantlement of what was once the “socialist literary system,” the claims made about Chinese censorship and “self-censorship” in American and European public opinion, and the theoretical debates about structural censorship in the field of New Censorship Studies.

Michel Hockx is professor of Chinese Literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and director of the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He has published widely, both in English and in Chinese, on topics related to modern Chinese literary culture, especially early 20th-century Chinese magazine literature and print culture and contemporary Internet literature. His monograph Internet Literature in China was listed by Choice magazine as one of the “Top 25 Outstanding Academic Titles of 2015.” His current book project focuses on literary and cultural censorship in modern China from the early twentieth century to the present. Hockx studied Chinese language and literature at Leiden University in the Netherlands, where he earned his Ph.D., and at Liaoning and Peking universities in China. From 1996-2016 he taught at SOAS, University of London. In addition to his scholarly work he has also been active as a translator of modern Chinese literature into his native Dutch.

Presented via Zoom Webinar

Also streaming on YouTube


November 12, 2021
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Event Category:


Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

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