Where Is the City? Excavating Modern Beijing and Shanghai in Textual and Visual Cultures

Max D. Woodworth, Ohio State University

William Schaefer. Shadow Modernism: Photography, Writing, and Space in Shanghai, 1925-1937. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017. 304 pp. $95 (cloth); $27 (paper/e-book).

Weijie Song. Mapping Modern Beijing: Space, Emotion, Literary Topography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. 320 pp. $74 (cloth).

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Two new books have recently contributed to the body of research focused on Chinese urbanism in the early twentieth century: William Schaefer’s Shadow Modernism: Photography, Writing, and Space in Shanghai, 1925–1937 and Weijie Song’s Mapping Modern Beijing: Space, Emotion, Literary Topography. As their titles suggest, both books are directly concerned with one of China’s great cities, each of which has received lavish attention from scholars in the past. But the approaches of these books do not fit in the genre of urban biographies; instead, Schaefer and Song treat their subject cities as social-spatial artifacts generated through a host of material and symbolic presences articulated in an array of visual and literary cultural productions, a fair portion of which has been overlooked in the existing literature. As such, each author’s respective city takes shape as a space through which to advance intricate and highly original arguments about images, representation, text, culture, space, history, and, of course, the city...