On Futures, Literature, and Anticipation
The chapter offers an overview of the concepts of modern temporality in literary studies, philosophy of history, and postcolonial studies that have inspired its notion of “anticipation,” and it explains its relevance to modern and contemporary Chinese literature. Anticipation encompasses the fears and aspirations that shape lives and narratives in their unfolding as well as the perception of the possibilities and limits that inform human actions and are often mediated by literary texts. The work of anticipation involves imagining a different literature as a means of envisioning a different world and is premised on intense negotiations about the “ends” of literature: ends understood as the boundaries between what is literature and what is not, as the aims it is supposed to serve, and as the limitations that might lead to its exhaustion. How these negotiations shape contemporary Chinese literature at different historical junctures is explored in the ensuing chapters.
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