Monday, November 25, 2013

Chinese & European Takeaways: An Annotated Bibliography

My working thesis that is more of an abstract and a little redundant... Help anyone?

Taken by Nicole Harvey using Canon Powershot S110 on 11/9/2012 
Postcolonial reading has come under recent criticism as modern innovations have made other cultures more accessible and comparable to our own. Robert Markley has been one of its main critics. Markley's main argument in his second chapter of The Far East and the English Imagination, 1600-1730 is that postcolonial criticism of 17th century authors like Milton has been too narrow and has made assumptions about things that are not factual. Namely, it has taken for granted the "fact" that England has not only been the supreme historic power, but also that the English have all historically viewed themselves in this way. He debunks this assumption first by naming statistics supporting China as a more civilized nation at the time English colonization and second by citing Englishmen at the time who lobbied in Parliament to emulate China's model of government. He claims it is our Anglocentricity that prevents our acknowledging either the influence of these other powers or the threat the English felt at Asia's political and religious power. In other words, Markley believes postcolonial reading and our Anglocentricity assumes the difference between England and China is in favor of England while the truth was the complete opposite. I would like to state that it is Markley's own Anglocentricity that prevents his ability to acknowledge the similarities between Milton's work and Far Eastern culture. It is these similarities that reconcile long-debated contradictions throughout pieces like Paradise Lost.

Universal similarities change with circumstance and time. One universalistic norm that existed at the time Milton was writing was a value placed on what our culture now condemns and terms the "passive." After WWII, our culture changed while China remained the same in this regard, making our Anglocentric reading of Paradise Lost imperfect and biased. By reading Milton in Eastern thought, or valuing the passive, we eliminate some of the things our modern, Anglocentric view mistakenly assumes about Milton's culture. By using this reading, we find new insight into the definition of power studied by the postcolonial critics Markley criticizes.

Here's a list of sources I've found useful (or want to soon utilize):

  1. Social Graph
    1. My mother. She's not particularly well-read in Milton or Chinese culture, but I really respect her research (so far mainly in Educational Psychology). She's helped a lot already as a sounding board for ideas and content organization.
    2. Natalie Christensen. We were in the MTC together and went to the same mission. Her dad is a Chinese professor here and she is an English major with a passion for anthropology. She works at the MOA and loves all kinds of art and culture. Also, she has the most amazing fashion sense in the world ;) I hadn't thought of her as a resource until doing this assignment and I can't believe how beneficial it would be to have her insight.
    3. Ann VomLehn. Another brilliant English major at BYU who served in Asia. I've always been blown away by her writing and we always have the most incredible talks about culture, art, and religion.
    4. My uncle, Marc Hansen. Even though his main area of interest is Biology, he has a deep love of classic literature and new ideas. He's usually the first one to ask about how my schooling and research is going. This Thanksgiving may be spent in more tête-à-tête conversations than card games.
    5. My roommates. They've already heard the above abstract like 7 trillion times and have all had really interesting things to say about it. One is a brilliant fiction writer, one an English minor/History major, one is super aware of world politics, and another has lived in China.
    6. Jerry Peng is a grad student from Taiwan studying at NYU. I met him on my mission and he started studying here in the states this last year. His main emphasis is in cross-cultural linguistics (English and Chinese or English and Japanese). I'm sure he'd be a fascinating person to talk to.
  2. New Media
    1. I found a website about a conference in Tokyo focused exclusively on cross-cultural ties between Asia and Europe/America.
    2. I found a few tweets about author Walter S. H. Lim who specializes in Milton and also in Orientalism.
    3. There's this amazing blog about literature with several posts on Orientalism.
    4. I found a professor who's reviewed Markley's works on
    5. This blog may also be helpful, at least in networking. He posts a lot of reviews and links to other places.
  3. Social Networks
    1. This is a really hard topic to find discussed widely online, but I have run into a Google+ page in relation to this website spotlighting hot books about East Asian Studies: 
    2. There's also a Google+ group related to South and Southeast Asian Studies here:
    3. There are two really active Google+ communities I've already joined about Postcolonialism. 
  4. Traditional Scholarly Sources
    1. So far the most helpful has been this: Robert Markley. The Far East and the English Imagination, 1600-1730. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. viii + 316 pp. $85.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-521-81944-2. This book mainly discusses the lens England put on the Far East and the ways in which the Far East inspired or frightened European idealists. There is a whole chapter devoted to Milton and his contemporaries.
      1. There are quite a few authors of scholarly books that reference Markley such as Rachel Trubowitz and Walter S. H. Lim.
      2. There are also several reviewers of this book I've found helpful like Laurence Williams and David Davies.
    2. Another really helpful source has been this one: Sun Lung-kee. The Chinese National Character: From Nationhood to Individuality. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2002. xx, 299 pp. Hardcover $66.95, isbn 0–7656–0826–x. Paperback $24.95, isbn 0–7656–0827–8. This book brings up the cultural development of China in contrast to western ideals. There is a very helpful piece about passivity on page 204.


  1. Your sources seem more focused than your current working thesis. I think your second paragraph is easier to enter. Perhaps save the detail on the postcolonialism and anglocentrism for the body of the paper. I would make it simpler: an oriental reading of Paradise Lost resolves certain longstanding paradoxes in Milton's great works. Make the door to the East easier to open for the lay person. I'm eager to see what aspects of the texts you are going to use to support a claim about an oriental Milton.

  2. And Dr. Burton just stole my comments I was going to make. So, new comment.

    Look at all your sources. What is a connecting theme between all of them? Is there something that specifically connects them besides their obvious connections with Milton and the Orient? What issue do they consistently come back to, agree on, disagree on? This may help you narrow that first paragraph. But I still agree with Dr. Burton's comment.

  3. REALLY helpful. Thank you. I have a rough time at this stage of research, particularly getting thoughts into a specific theme or argument.

  4. thanks for this article! nice comparison! tells some info about european art takeaways!