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Chinese Literature: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – February 3, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0195392067 ISBN-10: 019539206X

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019539206X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195392067
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.4 x 4.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #389,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Very much to the point, starts in antiquity." --Tyler Cowen, The New York Times Magazine ("A Really Short Book Review" section)

"This short book is a marvel of economy, substance, and style."--Tyler Cowen, George Mason University (on his blog Marginal Revolution)

"To summarize almost 3,000 years of literature in just 120 pages is no doubt a very difficult task; nevertheless, Sabine Knight has done so brilliantly." -- Taciana Fisac, The China Journal

"Sabina Knight has managed to square the circle in presenting a lucid and engaging survey of the main trends, authors and works of three thousand years of Chinese literature up to the present, striking the right balance between concrete example and general analysis, in such a short compass." --Wilt L. Idema, Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University

"A marvelous little book. Consistently lively, engaging, and thought-provoking. Knight successfully balances brevity and accessibility on the one hand and real intellectual substance on the other. It's beautifully written and a genuine pleasure to read."
-- David L. Porter, University of Michigan and author of The Chinese Taste in Eighteenth-Century England

"Like all the best books in this series, Knight's covers a great deal of ground in a lively and opinionated but deeply informed manner." -- Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author of China in the 21st Century (on the Asia Society Blog)

"This book is a great way for me to show non-China professional students the valuable contributions that Chinese culture has to offer to our understanding of how the world works in general." --Elanah Uretsky, The George Washington University, Global Health, Anthropology, and Elliott School of International Affairs

"It would be hard to find a more pithy or profound description of the soul of Chinese culture than this little jewel, which deserves repeated and thoughtful reading; it is as brilliant and beautiful as it is brief." --G. Wright Doyle, author of China: Ancient Culture, Modern Society

"As an introduction to Chinese literature, this little book has accomplished its big mission. The scope of coverage is impressive, and the skill with which Knight makes the mountain of material cohere is remarkable." --Li-hua Ying, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

"...Knight travels from Shang dynasty oracle bones to Shanghai Baby in just 120 pocket-sized pages; three millennia of written words in five brief chapters." --Kate Foster, The China Quarterly

"This is a delightful summary of the entire history of Chinese literature. It is a great place to start as it covers philosophy, poetry, drama, and modern fiction with sensitivity and intelligence." --Scott P. Phillips, North Star Martial Arts blog

About the Author

Sabina Knight is Associate Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature at Smith College and the author of The Heart of Time: Moral Agency in Twentieth-Century Chinese Fiction.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By richard on April 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
As evocative as its subject, and often lyrical in its exposition, Knight's _Chinese Literature_ addresses Chinese writings from poems, oral narratives, folk ballads, and promptbooks, to dialogues, allegories, drama, tales and novels. Informative without becoming overwhelming, the book offers a compelling overview and analysis of key terms, concepts, periods, and figures of Chinese literary history.

Along the way, she provides astute observations regarding aesthetic and sociological developments; the importance of tradition and moral order; issues of country/city, translation, gender, and nature; and the sometimes sharp contrasts of realism and myth. Cogent and concise, Knight accomplishes a remarkable feat in covering Chinese literature in 120 pages, especially with such breadth and depth.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Tation on December 12, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I buy the slim volumes in the VSI series for smart briefings on broad subjects, and _Chinese Literature: A VSI_ doesn't disappoint. This book kept me moving through several millennia of Chinese writing and culture, with just enough detail to pique my interest but not slow me down. I particularly liked Chapter 2, with its analysis of the Chinese synthesis of poetry, painting and calligraphy. Also, check out Knight's subtle close reading of "Spring Contemplation" by Du Fu. And I appreciated the final chapter, with its sense of Chinese literature's gathering rush into the future. Highly recommended!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tech Geek on February 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
Aficionados of Oxford's Very Short Introductions series have had this experience. You know little or nothing about a subject, but are curious to learn more. You pick up a VSI book, read it, and it's like a whole new world of possibilities opens up. You've had a taste and you want more. More importantly, you know where to go next to find out more.

Knight's Chinese Literature: A Very Short Introduction delivers such an experience. You get a taste of Chinese literature through the ages without ever feeling like you're reading a dry textbook. Instead, it's more like sitting down with an expert who wants to share her enthusiasm for the subject.

What I most enjoyed in the the book are the short vignettes taken from the literature it describes. These vignettes give you an idea of the types of literature being produced in each time period. They offer a texture to the history and really help you narrow down your interests for further reading.

Those with some experience with Asian languages will appreciate the inclusion of the Chinese characters for the names of books and authors.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Book Cover & Contents on April 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
Concise, lucid, and highly readable. Knight's _Chinese Literature_ nailed the genre of "very short introductions." All translations are done expertly by Knight, too. Highly recommended!
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