City and Fiction: A Study of Hong Kong' s Modernity in the 1930s

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    Shanghai urban culture and literature in the 1930s is often used as an example of Chinese Modernity. As the earliest developed city in China, Hong Kong began to see its own literature with a modern consciousness emerge at this time as well. Yet, this cultural history has been excluded from the scope of most scholars. To fill this gap, this three-year research project focuses on the 1930s in Hong Kong by exploring Hong Kong’s development as a modern city and its relationship to the emergence of modern Chinese fiction.

    Adopting Leo Ou-fan Lee’s Shanghai Modern as a model, this study has two parts: 1) understanding the nature of urban culture in Hong Kong during the 1930s by analyzing various elements such as public space, fashion, film, and mass media development; 2) examining the cultural activities of writers and analyzing works of fiction with a modern consciousness by studying their aesthetics and their relation to urban culture.

    Hong Kong literature was still budding in the 1930s, and due to various historical circumstances, such as Japan’s occupation from 1941-1945, most fiction writers who published in newspapers and magazines did not become well-known. Consequently, this study includes both established writers such as Lu Lun(侶倫)and Tse Sun Kwong(謝 晨光), as well as unknown or “anonymous” authors.

    Due to an incomplete record of the early history of Hong Kong, this project begins by collecting and organizing primary sources from various historical documents, such as newspaper databases and memoirs. The principal investigator will analyze this data from historical, cultural, and aesthetic perspectives in order to map a multidimensional picture of urban culture during the 1930s in Hong Kong. These findings will lead to an analysis of the intersection of city life, writers, and the aesthetics of modern fiction. Finally, this study will explore the literary and cultural relationship between Hong Kong and Shanghai in the 1930s. It will compare the similarities and differences between the two cities to tease out the trajectory of Hong Kong’s development as a modern city.

    The output from this research project entails 4-5 scholarly articles published in refereed journals, and the publication of an academic monograph.
    Effective start/end date1/01/1630/06/19


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