Modern Tibetan Literature and Social Change

Modern Tibetan Literature and Social Change

Book Pages: 424 Illustrations: 31 illustrations, 2 maps Published: July 2008

Asian Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Modern Tibetan Literature and Social Change is the first systematic and detailed overview of modern Tibetan literature, which has burgeoned only in the last thirty years. This comprehensive collection brings together fourteen pioneering scholars in the nascent field of Tibetan literary studies, including authors who are active in the Tibetan literary world itself. These scholars examine the literary output of Tibetan authors writing in Tibetan, Chinese, and English, both in Tibet and in the Tibetan diaspora.

The contributors explore the circumstances that led to the development of modern Tibetan literature, its continuities and breaks with classical Tibetan literary forms, and the ways that writers use forms such as magical realism, satire, and humor to negotiate literary freedom within the People’s Republic of China. They provide crucial information about Tibetan writers’ lives in China and abroad, the social and political contexts in which they write, and the literary merits of their oeuvre. Along with deep social, cultural, and political analysis, this wealth of information clarifies the complex circumstances that Tibetan writers face in the PRC and the diaspora. The contributors consider not only poetry, short stories, and novels but also other forms of cultural production—such as literary magazines, films, and Web sites—that provide a public forum in the Tibetan areas of the PRC, where censorship and restrictions on public gatherings remain the norm. Modern Tibetan Literature and Social Change includes a previously unavailable list of modern Tibetan works translated into Western languages and a comprehensive English-language index of names, subjects, and terms.

Contributors: Pema Bhum, Howard Y. F. Choy, Yangdon Dhondup, Lauran R. Hartley, Hortsang Jigme, Matthew T. Kapstein, Nancy G. Lin, Lara Maconi, Françoise Robin, Patricia Schiaffini-Vedani, Ronald D. Schwartz, Tsering Shakya, Sangye Gyatso (aka Gangzhün), Steven J. Venturino,
Riika Virtanen


Modern Tibetan Literature and Social Change is a pioneering and engaging collection of articles by prominent Tibetan, French and American academics tracing the evolution of Tibetan literature over the past fifty years. Lean and perceptive articles cover a wide range of literary output...With the representations of ‘Tibetanness’ so hotly debated in China and the West, this collection gives a fascinating insight into the parallel debate raging within Tibetan literature itself.” — George Fitzherbert, TLS

“[T]his volume will be remembered as the book that legitimized Tibetan literature.” — Nathan W. Hill, China Review International

“Despite the growing interest in contemporary Tibet, there have been few publications in western languages of writings by contemporary Tibetans, besides those written in Chinese by authors such as Tashi Dawa and Alai who know little if any written Tibetan and have complex, difficult relations with their Tibetan heritage. Hartley and Schiaffini-Vedani’s collection of critical studies of modern Tibetan literature makes a major contribution to correcting this imbalance. . . . [H]ere we have rich context and analysis of Tibetan voices and not just those favoured by publishers in Beijing or New York.” — Robert Barnett, Pacific Affairs

“I selected to read Modern Tibetan Literature and Social Change with the desire for a deeper understanding of Tibetan culture, and I certainly received it. This collection is very approachable for such a scholarly work. Some of the language describing the writing of poetry was beautiful - true for any writer, in any language. I appreciated the introduction to writers who I probably would not have encountered on my own, and most of all, I gained a deeper understanding of what happens when a country is taken over, or shall I say ‘liberated’, by another. . . . This book is a rich resource, as the first comprehensive collection of its kind, for any scholarly inquiry into Tibetan literature.” — Jennifer M. Wilson, Feminist Review blog

“The work’s 14 chapters provide much-needed thematic reflections by Tibetan and non-Tibetan scholars into the subject matter and aesthetics of current Tibetan writing. . . . This important book is scholarly by amazingly readable; thus, it will find a multidisciplinary audience, including enthusiasts of Tibetan culture in general. An exceptional, invaluable acquisition. Essential. All readers, all levels.” — T. Carolan, Choice

“This project fills a long necessary gap not only in the study of Tibetan language and literature, but also in modern Tibetan cultural studies. It succeeds admirably in a task that is not attempted nearly often enough: of bringing Tibetan-related topics into meaningful dialogue with other areas and disciplines.” — Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa, IIAS Newsletter

Modern Tibetan Literature and Social Change will instantly become the standard reference for future writing on Tibetan literature. The significance of that literature for Sino-Tibetan relations and for the fate of the Tibetan cultural world is only now being recognized. The list of contributors to this collection is a veritable ‘who’s who’ in the study of Tibetan literature.” — Janet Gyatso, author of Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary

“This book is a milestone. It is the first to bring together the complex variety of ingredients that have nurtured modern Tibetan literature. It considers several literary genres, written in three languages (Tibetan, Chinese, and English), and gives sensitive attention both to Tibetan literary tradition and to the turmoil of modern politics and social change.” — Perry Link, author of The Uses of Literature: Life in the Socialist Chinese Literary System


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lauran R. Hartley is Tibetan Studies Librarian at the C. V. Starr East Asian Library at Columbia University. The translator of Six Stars with a Crooked Neck: Tibetan Memoirs of the Cultural Revolution, Hartley has a doctorate in Tibetan studies. Patricia Schiaffini-Vedani is part-time Assistant Professor of Chinese at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. She is President and Founder of the Tibetan Arts and Literature Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Tibetan publishing initiatives. Schiaffini-Vedani has a doctorate in Chinese language and literature, specializing in Sinophone Tibetan literature.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / Matthew K. Kapstein vii

Note on Transliteration xi

Introduction / Lauran R. Hartley and Patricia Schiaffini-Vedani xiii

Part One: Engaging Traditions

1. Heterodox Views and the New Orthodox Poems: Tibetan Writers in the Early and Mid-Twentieth Century / Lauran R. Hartley 3

2. Roar of the Snow Lion: Tibetan Poetry in Chinese / Yangdon Dhondup 32

3. The Development of Modern Tibetan Literature in the People's Republic of China in the 1980s / Tsering Shakya 61

4. Dondrup Gyel and the Remaking of the Tibetan Ramayana / Nancy G. Lin 86

5. "Heartbeat of a New Generation": A Discussion of the New Poetry / Pema Bhum 112

6. "Heartbeat of a New Generation" Revisited / Pema Bhum 135

7. "Oracles and Demons" in Tibetan Literature Today: Representations of Religion in Tibetan-Medium Fiction / Francoise Robin 148

8. One Nation, Two Discourses: Tibetan New Era Literature and the Language Debate / Lara maconi 173

9. The "Condor" Flies over Tibet: Zhaxi Dawa and the Significance of Tibetan Magical Realism / Patricia Schiaffini-Vedani 202

10. In Quest(ion) of an "I": Identity and Idiocy in Alai's Red Poppies / Howard Y. F. Choy 225

11. Development and Urban Space in Contemporary Tibetan Literature / Riika J. Virtanen 236

12. Modern Tibetan Literature and the Rise of Writer Coteries / Sangye Gyatso (Gangzhun) 263

13. Tibetan Literature in the Diaspora / Hortsang Jigme 281

14. Placing Tibetan Fiction in a World of Literary Studies: Jamyang Norbu's The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes / Steven J. Venturino 301

Appendix 1: Glossary of Tibetan Spellings 327

Appendix 2: Glossary of Chinese Terms 338

Appendix 3: Contemporary Tibetan Literary Works in Translation 340

Bibliography 345

About the Contributors 369

Index 373
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4277-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4254-0
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