The Newsletter 62 Winter 2012

Oral and written traditions

George Kam Wah Mak

Reviewed publication:
Børdahl, Vibeke & Margaret B. Wan (eds.) 2010. The Interplay of the Oral and the Written in Chinese Popular Literature. Copenhagen: NIAS Press. xvii+269 pp. ISBN: 9788776940553 (Paperback)

Although literary scholars now seldom consider Chinese vernacular novels to be essentially equivalent to real scripts for storytellers, recent scholarship unfortunately tends to go to another extreme, viewing the novels as largely original literati creations and ignoring the relationship they might have with orality. Growing out of the symposium The Interplay of Oral and Written Traditions in Chinese Fiction, Drama and Performance Literature, held in Oslo in 2007, this edited volume moves beyond the simple ‘oral vs. written’ binary approach and explores the complex interactions between orality and writing in China with a focus on vernacular genres from the late imperial to modern periods. Excluding the concisely-written introductory chapter, this volume comprises six chapters authored by scholars well-versed in their subjects, ranging from Ming vernacular fiction to popular prints and contemporary folk ballads.

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