Invited Speakers 当Current Position:Home > Invited Speakers

WANG Shouren (Nanjing University)


Wang Shouren (PhD, London) is Nanjing University Distinguished Professor, and Director of Center for the Study of Contemporary Foreign Literature and Culture. His research interests are British and American literature, realism, and English education in China. He writes in both English and Chinese, and his publications include The Theatre of the Mind (Macmillan), Gender, Race and Culture (Peking University Press), A Literary History of the United States Since 1945 (Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press), A History of British Literary Criticism (Nanjing University Press), Post-WWII World History and the Development of Foreign Literature (4 vols; Yilin Press), and Representation and Reproduction: Literary Realisms Across the Boundaries (Nanjing University Press)


Liu Yang (Ph. D., Nanjing, Recognised DPhil Student, Oxford) is Assistant Researcher at English Department, Nanjing University. His research interests are Early Modern English literature, realist fiction and theory. He is the Chinese translator of Rita Felski’s Uses of Literature and Frank Lentricchia and Jody McAuliffe’s Crimes of Art + Terror. He has published articles on Foreign Literature Review and Orbis Litterarum.


The Specters of Realism

This paper explores the critical possibilities of the “specters of realism” as a conceptual metaphor for realism’s existence in literary history, its spirit of unfolding truth as well as its approach to reality. Contrary to René Wellek’s description of realism as a “period-concept”, or a system of norms dominating a specific time with a distinctively traceable trajectory of rise and decline, realism has made recurrent returns to the literary landscape, and, in a spectral gesture, disrupted the linear temporality of a literary history that sees realism as proceeded by romanticism and succeeded by modernism and postmodernism. Behind the acts of mimesis is the realist impulse or desire to pursue truth. It is the desire for truth that drives realist writers to try various ways to approach reality. Drawing on discussions of the “spectral turn” in cultural studies in the past three decades, especially Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx, the paper discusses Yan Lianke’s recent critical monograph The Veils of Liaozhai. It argues that Yan Lianke’s realist practice as both an author and critic of realism, exemplary of the contemporary realist enterprise, is premised on a hauntological epistemology that places the novel on the liminal position between the present and the absent, the material and the immaterial, and the visible and the invisible. The spectral analogy, reforming and innovating the traditional realist theory which regards the writer as the observer/subject and reality as the observed/object, provides a new perspective on the mechanism of realism’s resilience and enduring vitality.