A Media Genealogy of Literary Fame in Modern China: Paper, Stage, Screen, and Sphere

A Media Genealogy of Literary Fame in Modern China: Paper, Stage, Screen, and Sphere
Renren Yang


Zooming in on the radical transformations of literary interface in the shift from print to digital media ecologies, this project analyzes an assemblage of historically contingent material artifacts, networks, and processes that afford and shape the production of literary fame in Twentieth and Twenty-first Century China. Drawing on critical lines of thinking regarding the materialities of communication, this dissertation explores the nonhuman bases and media forms where the authorial texts, images, and voices appear, and reveals how the whereabouts of authorial presences facilitate or scandalize the fame of particular authors. Through examining paratextual extensions, performative imitations, screen interactions, and digital serializations in relation to the spreadable texts by four reputed Chinese authors, this dissertation argues that the material means, delivery devices, and intermediary operations not only underpin the making of literary fame in the first place, but also shape the larger aesthetic, political, and social value the Chinese mass audience ascribe to famed authorship in response to specific historical crises. Among the notable authors analyzed are the self-proclaimed genius Eileen Chang, the Communist “model” writer Zhao Shuli, the cynical celebrity author Han Han, and the industrious serial storyteller Tangjia sanshao. This study has implications for not only the field of modern Chinese literature and culture, but also sociological and anthropological studies of literary celebrity and communication media.


Renren Yang

PhD defended at

Stanford University, Department of Comparative Literature






Art and Culture