Cultural Politics Seminar: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Location: CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street, Room S153



5:00 pm

- 6:30 pm

CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street, Room S153

“‘The Fearful Imagination’: Fiction and Politics in Contemporary China”


David WangEdward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University.


Charles Gaillard


Panagiotis RoilosFaculty Associate. George Seferis Professor of Modern Greek Studies, Department of the Classics; Professor of Comparative Literature, Department of Comparative Literature, Harvard University.


This lecture invokes fiction as one of the most polemical ways to engage with Chinese (post)modernity. It takes as its point of departure President Xi Jinping’s 2013 call for “telling the good China story,” not only explicating the “fictional turn” of contemporary Chinese cultural politics vis à vis the word, but also tracing its genealogy to early modern times. Inspired by Hannah Arendt’s notion of “the fearful imagination,” the lecture tries to answer the question, why fiction and storytelling matter in China and the rest of the world, not only through the modern period but also in the contemporary era?