79. Asian children’s literature, film and animation (special issue of SARE, 2018)

In December 2018, the Southeast Asian Review of English (SARE vol. 55, no. 2) published a themed-issue on Asian children’s literature, film and animation. The journal is open access and there are some interesting papers relating to China.


Click on the titles below to access the whole article. I’ve copied the titles, authors, and abstracts, and added links to the authors. I’ve also added a list of some of the authors’ previous publications at the end.

(1) Representing Gender in Chinese Children’s Literature (1920-2010)
Lijun BI (Monash University, Australia)
Xiangshu FANG (Deakin University, Australia)

Abstract: This study investigates the representation of gender roles in Chinese children’s literature from 1920 to 2010, focusing on constructions of masculinity and femininity in different historical contexts. The paper attempts to demonstrate the persistence of, as well as departures from, traditional stereotypes about gender roles in China throughout the last century. Although there is no definite evidence that children’s literature is a deciding factor in the assigning of gender roles to the young in China, the influence of literary works on how gender is perceived and constructed in society cannot be denied. A close reading of these literary texts offers us insights into understanding the changing representation of gender roles in Chinese children’s literature, which reflect changes in society and social attitudes toward gender in mainland China.

(2) The Highlighted Life: The Humanistic Orientation of War Narration in Chinese Children’s Films of the New Period
Fengxia TAN (Nanjing Normal University, China)
Lu LI (Foshan University, China)

Abstract: Compared with earlier works in the genre, the narration of war in Chinese children’s films of the New Period (post 1978) demonstrates a trend of transformation from political to humanistic orientation, which is closely related to the revival of humanism. Moving away from the traditional hero narrative, the creators of Chinese children’s war films have developed growth narratives that emphasise the complexity of human nature, cruel narratives of reflection, and playful narratives which make use of laughter and irony — all of which can be seen to be modes within the humanistic convention. These narratives re-examine the meaning of war and revolution, reflect deeply on the relationship between war and the fate of children, closely observe human feelings and human nature in war situations, and highlight the individual’s life against the backdrop of the course of history. Involving experimentation and innovation, such narratives of war of the New Period point to a deeper and more diversified development in Chinese children’s films, which though they provide a unique window into lives affected by war also hold up a mirror that reflects a global understanding of war and peace.

(3) “A Girl Worth Fighting For”: Transculturation, Remediation, and Cultural Authenticity in Adaptations of the “Ballad of Mulan”
Joseph V. Guinta (Independent Scholar, New York, USA)

Abstract: Since its first feature-length film, Disney has been (ab)using beloved folktales and legends by revising them to its corporate predilections. Amassing billions of dollars in the process, it has not taken into account the alternate pedagogies and surrogate histories created as a result. Under the guise of “experts” and creators of “timeless classics,” Disney has been able to prosper by drastically altering texts that are culturally significant and prevalent. Focusing on one particular film, Disney’s 1998 feature, Mulan, I will demonstrate how Disney, through its creation of what it would defend as a satiation of global tastes, is instead crafting alternate narratives that no longer convey the original text’s message or meaning. Though the main source text of Disney’s animated feature is Robert San Souci’s Fa Mulan: The Story of a Woman Warrior, both of these texts (film and children’s book) are adaptations of the “Ballad of Mulan”, an ancient poem that traces back to the Chinese Southern and Northern Dynasties. The range of positions adopted by the composers of these two texts (with the Ballad as the original) not only demarcates retelling, adaptation, and remediation, but also bears consideration of outsider authorship and seems to indicate divergent sensibilities and authoritative relationships. The transformations engendered by these contrasting iterations of Mulan (self-interested fairytale princess, warrior woman, filial daughter) compel an investigation into the sociocultural and pedagogical influence of each of these respective mediums (animated film, children’s literature, poetry), while also unmistakably sullying Disney as the iniquitous adapter.

(4) “Rude Tribes and Wild Frontiers”: Treatment of Ethnicity in Chinese Children’s Literature
Xiangshu FANG (Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)
Lijun Bi (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)

Abstract: This essay investigates the treatment of ethnicity in Chinese children’s literature, focusing on the portrayal of China’s ethnic minority groups. It considers the construction of minority ethnic identity in various historical contexts, the linguistic implications of such constructions, and also examines these representations in the context of recent economic developments. It argues that representations of ethnicity in Chinese children’s literature reflect an overriding sense of the superiority of Han Chinese culture in terms of the latter’s role in creating national unity and harmony, and also in advancing the notion of the exoticism of minority ethnicities. The essay also attempts to demonstrate the reasons for the persistence of traditional stereotypes in representations of ethnicity in China.

(5) A Theoretical Conception of the Value System of Criticism in Chinese Children’s Literature
Lifang LI (Lanzhou University, China)

Abstract: This paper focuses on the value system of children’s literature criticism in China. This is examined against the backdrop of the current imbalance between the gains made by Chinese children’s literature in terms of composition and publication and the lag in theoretical criticism as well as lack of clear evaluation criteria. In approaching children’s literature criticism as a set of theoretical categories and meaning systems relating to value evaluation, the paper considers the following issues: the value relationship between the critical subject and the critical object, children’s literature values, value standards, and the accompanying critical and theoretical approaches that play a key role in this relationship. While the paper proposes and addresses problems based primarily on the Chinese context, it also touches on value issues in global children’s literature. It therefore seeks to promote cross-cultural dialogue and exploration of universal issues relating to the value dimension of children’s literature.


A selection of previous publications by these authors

BI Lijun (Monash University, Australia)

BI Lijun and FANG Xiangshu (joint authors)

FANG Xiangshu (Deakin University, Australia)

TAN Fengxia (Nanjing Normal University, China)


1 thought on “79. Asian children’s literature, film and animation (special issue of SARE, 2018)

  1. Pingback: 91. Our first 90 posts! | Chinese books for young readers

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