This talk explores the digital transformation of literary practices underway in China by focusing on case studies from contemporary Chinese poetry and popular fiction. Since the 1990s, the rapid growth of the Chinese internet has helped make literature the tenth most popular online activity, ushering in an age of mass participation in the creation and evaluation of literature. The Chinese internet is home to huge volumes of what would traditionally be considered amateur literary texts, but that command public attention on an unprecedented scale and serve as a source of accolades, entertainment and revenue. Increasingly, the success of literary works is decided less by questions of intrinsic “quality” than by the ease with which they spread from one media site to another, attracting new consumers and layers of meaning in the process. This talk considers the implications of participatory literary production for the definition and status of Chinese literature and proposes that literature be reconfigured as a transmedia cultural form, encompassing not just written texts but all manner of media adaptations, variations, and the imaginative worlds and social practices that surround them.

Heather Inwood is Lecturer in Chinese Cultural Studies and Undergraduate Programme Director for Chinese Studies at the University of Manchester. She received her PhD in modern Chinese literature from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 2008 and was Assistant Professor of Modern Chinese Cultural Studies at The Ohio State University between 2008 and 2013. Her research interests span the fields of Chinese literature, media and popular culture, with a particular focus on interactions between contemporary literature and digital media technologies. Her book, Verse Going Viral: China’s New Media Scenes, explores the fate of modern Chinese poetry in the age of the internet and consumer culture and was published by the University of Washington Press in 2014.