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Republican Lens

Gender, Visuality, and Experience in the Early Chinese Periodical Press

Joan Judge (Author)

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What can we learn about modern Chinese history by reading a marginalized set of materials from a widely neglected period? In Republican Lens, Joan Judge retrieves and revalorizes the vital brand of commercial culture that arose in the period surrounding China’s 1911 Revolution. Dismissed by high-minded ideologues of the late 1910s and largely overlooked in subsequent scholarship, this commercial culture has only recently begun to be rehabilitated in mainland China. Judge uses one of its most striking, innovative—and continually mischaracterized—products, the journal Funü shibao (The women’s eastern times), as a lens onto the early years of China’s first Republic. Redeeming both the value of the medium and the significance of the era, she demonstrates the extent to which the commercial press channeled and helped constitute key epistemic and gender trends in China’s revolutionary twentieth century.

The book develops a cross-genre and inter-media method for reading the periodical press and gaining access to the complexities of the past. Drawing on the full materiality of the medium, Judge reads cover art, photographs, advertisements, and poetry, editorials, essays, and readers’ columns in conjunction with and against one another, as well as in their broader print, historical and global contexts. This yields insights into fundamental tensions that governed both the journal and the early Republic. It also highlights processes central to the arc of twentieth-century knowledge culture and social change: the valorization and scientization of the notion of “experience,” the public actualization of “Republican Ladies,” and the amalgamation of “Chinese medicine” and scientific biomedicine. It further revives the journal’s editors, authors, medical experts, artists, and, most notably, its little known female contributors. Republican Lens captures the ingenuity of a journal that captures the chaotic potentialities within China’s early Republic and its global twentieth century.

Joan Judge is Professor at York University. She is the author of The Precious Raft of History: The Past, the West, and the Woman Question in China and Print and Politics: ‘Shibao’ and the Culture of Reform in Late Qing China.
"Judge sheds light on how women’s lives were lived and conceptualized in the economically advanced cities of the new Chinese Republic . . . Republican Lens offers a complex portrait of Chinese urban life in the second decade of the 20th century. . . . Highly Recommended."—CHOICE connect
"Overall, Republican Lens offers a beautifully illustrated and thoroughly detailed look into the print world of the time, and it is impossible to deny Judge’s meticulous scholarship and clear passion for her subject." —BRILL Journal
"Republican Lens presents an innovative method of analyzing the commercial press and a sophisticated study of the tensions between the epic and the everyday in the early years of Republican China. Joan Judge gives us a deeper understanding of social changes and the link between gender and modernity through analyzing the subtle changes in everyday life."—Julia F. Andrews, coauthor of The Art of Modern China

"This study is a remarkable achievement. Judge's methodology sets a new standard for scholars studying the commercial press in other periods and countries."—Louise Edwards, author of Gender, Politics, and Democracy: Women's Suffrage in China

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