Chinese Whispers: Toward a Transpacific Poetics (Thinking Literature) (Paperback)

Chinese Whispers: Toward a Transpacific Poetics (Thinking Literature) By Professor Yunte Huang Cover Image
Email or call for price.


Chinese Whispers examines multiple contact zones between the Anglophone and Sinophone worlds, investigating how poetry both enables and complicates the transpacific production of meaning.
In this new book, the noted critic and best-selling author Yunte Huang explores the dynamics of poetry and poetics in the age of globalization, particularly questions of translatability, universality, and risk in the transpacific context. “Chinese whispers” refers to an American children’s game dating to the years of the Cold War, a period in which everything Chinese, or even Chinese sounding, was suspect. Taking up various manifestations of the phrase in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Huang investigates how poetry, always to a significant degree untranslatable, complicates the transpacific production of meanings and values.

The book opens with the efforts of I. A. Richards, arguably the founder of Anglo-American academic literary criticism, to promote Basic English in China in the early twentieth century. It culminates by resituating Ernest Fenollosa’s famous essay “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry,” exploring the ways in which Chinese has historically enriched but also entrapped the Western conception of language.

About the Author

Yunte Huang is a professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Transpacific Imaginations, Charlie Chan, and Inseparable. Huang has also received fellowships from the Society for the Humanities and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Praise For…

“An exile writer who fled the massacre of Tiananmen Square to begin a new literary life in American universities, Huang has a unique perspective on what he calls the ‘transpacific crossover’ between China and Anglo-America, particularly between our poetries, poetics, and translations. The Chinese Whispers of Huang’s title are those ‘inscrutable moments’ when poetry determines—and is determined by—political, national, and linguistic difference, dispelling all notions of universal intelligibility and global translatability. Indeed, Huang’s study details the ways our two literary cultures have in fact understood (and misunderstood) one another, using as test cases the works of I. A. Richards, Ernest Fenollosa, Lin Yutang, and Ezra Pound. Huang has produced a superb study that is theoretically sophisticated and yet also highly personal, witty, and deeply moving.”
— Marjorie Perloff, author of 'Infrathin'

“Huang’s poetics and scholarship, relentless and original at their entangled core, have helped over these past decades to provide an expanded comparative vision of the American transpacific in its transnational, transcultural, off-center, writerly, and transcendental elements. Chinese Whispers continues this uncanny world-making project. Once again, we encounter timely transnational concerns with displacement, textual migrancy, cross-cultural translation, and stylistic experimentation, but here deployed in a quasi-surrealistic pattern of juxtaposition that gives Chinese Whispers imaginative force, eloquent engagement, professional edge, and staying power.”
— Rob Sean Wilson, University of California, Santa Cruz
Product Details
ISBN: 9780226822655
ISBN-10: 0226822656
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: November 18th, 2022
Pages: 192
Series: Thinking Literature