“Shocks in China”

Christopher Bush

in Ideographic Modernism

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780195393828
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199866601 | DOI:
“Shocks in China”

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This chapter examines the relationship between “China” and the emergence of globalized telecommunications. Starting from Paul Valéry’s response to the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95, I analyze his articulation of a modern “crisis of the spirit” in part defined by the transformation of History into something that can no longer be defined in opposition to an ahistorical Orient. Technological media challenge this imagined Chinese difference from two directions: on the one side, they transform the character of spatiotemporal experience in ways that bring China “closer”; on the other side, they make conventionally Orientalist conceptions of the Chinese ahistoricity seem increasingly appropriate figures of the West’s own modernity. From Valéry’s reflections on the collapse of the West’s imagined world-space, I conclude by returning to Kafka’s Chinese allegories of impossible spaces.

Keywords: Paul Valéry; telegraphy; globalization; space; crisis of the spirit; Sino-Japanese War; Marshall McLuhan; Virginia Woolf; Franz Kafka

Chapter.  12625 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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