Shadow Modernism

Photography, Writing, and Space in Shanghai, 1925-1937

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 46 illustrations, incl. 8 in c Published: August 2017

Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Photography, Asian Studies > East Asia

During the early twentieth century, Shanghai was the center of China's new media culture. Described by the modernist writer Mu Shiying as "transplanted from Europe" and “paved with shadows,” for many of its residents Shanghai was a city without a past paradoxically haunted by the absent past’s traces. In Shadow Modernism William Schaefer traces how photographic practices in Shanghai provided a forum within which to debate culture, ethnicity, history, and the very nature of images. The central modernist form in China, photography was neither understood nor practiced as primarily a medium for realist representation; rather, photo layouts, shadow photography, and photomontage rearranged and recomposed time and space, cutting apart and stitching places, people, and periods together in novel and surreal ways. Analyzing unknown and overlooked photographs, photomontages, cartoons, paintings, and experimental fiction and poetry, Schaefer shows how artists and writers used such fragmentation and juxtaposition to make visible the shadows of modernity in Shanghai: the violence, the past, the ethnic and cultural multiplicity excluded and repressed by the prevailing cultural politics of the era and yet hidden in plain sight.


[Shadow Modernism] shed[s] new light on much familiar material while unearthing work that has escaped the attention of scholars to date." — Max D. Woodworth, Cross-Currents

"The book is smart and rigorously researched, and the prose is immaculate. By sticking close to his objects of study, no matter how ambiguous, difficult, and distant, Schaefer shows us how Shanghai’s shadows strangely illuminate the cultural history of the city—and the practices of art history."  — Lisa Claypool, CAA Reviews

“In this extraordinary book, William Schaefer shows how major thinkers in China, England, France, Germany, and Japan all grappled with similar problems while borrowing from, or competing with, one another. What emerges is a more dynamic and a more realistic sense of a modern cultural discourse coproduced by photographers, artists, writers, and intellectuals operating within a competitive global environment yet intent on solving many of the same, shared, human problems.” — Martin J. Powers, Sally Michelson Davidson Professor of Chinese Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan

"In his rigorous, close, and imaginative attention to the materiality of these photographic and literary texts, William Schaefer allows us to see a Shanghai we've never seen before. In other words, Shadow Modernism is charged with the shock of the new. Fiercely smart, uncompromising, and methodologically fresh, it will make a lasting impact on our understanding of modernist visual and literary culture in Shanghai." — Andrew F. Jones, author of Developmental Fairy Tales: Evolutionary Thinking and Modern Chinese Culture


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

William Schaefer teaches Chinese in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction  1
Part I. Modernism and Photography's Places
1. Picturing Photography, Abstracting Pictures  25
2. False Portals  61
Part II. Landscapes of Images
3. Projected Pasts  113
4. Montage Landscapes  145
5. Shanghai Savage  180
Notes  221
Bibliography  263
Index  279
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6919-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6893-9
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