Talk:Gods and demons fiction

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Title in English?[edit]

This is a welcome and useful article, but since the Wikipedia policy Wikipedia:Naming conventions (use English) says that article titles should be in English, shouldn't the title be in English?

The links to this article in other articles also need to be in English because most Wikipedia readers do not know Chinese. ch (talk) 04:15, 11 November 2013 (UTC)

That's a good question, and thank you for raising it. In the Abject Carnival: Grotesque Exposes chapter of Dewei Wang's Fin-de-siècle Splendor: Repressed Modernities of Late Qing Fiction, there is a repeated usage of the word shenmo while the English translation of gods and devils is only brought up once (pages 200–209). I believe this meets the most commonly used name criteria that the naming conventions page describes. The multiple translations for the phrase is also a problem. My copy of Lu Xun's A Brief History of Chinese Fiction (Foregn Languages Press, 1959) translates the genre as gods and devils (pages 198–231). Likewise, Wang uses gods and devils in Fin-de-siècle Splendor, but switched to gods and demons in The Monster that is History, a translation also used by Anthony Yu in his journal article on Journey to the West (pdf). The current title is in some ways comparable with wuxia, another genre of Chinese literature. Wuxia is a Chinese name, but books and articles on the genre in English use wuxia rather than direct translations like knight-errant or martial chivalry.--Baudelaire Serene (talk) 10:02, 11 November 2013 (UTC)
Hi Baudelaire Serene --
I appreciate that you have thought carefully about the question, but I think that there are stronger arguments on the other side, especially when it comes to the use of the term shenmo in other articles.
If you’ll forgive a personal note: I have a PhD in Chinese history, speak and read Chinese, and have taught Chinese Civ for decades at good universities, but when I saw "shenmo" in the Journey to the West article I confess that I had no idea what it meant. I humbly suggest that if someone like me didn’t know, that only specialists in Chinese fiction might know, and probably not all of them!
Of the sources you cite, I have only The Monster on my shelves, but I checked some others. Victor Mair's "Columbia History of Chinese Literature" has two references. One gives the English first “Shen-mo hsiao-shuo (novels of gods and demons)” (p. 126) and the other says that XYJ is the most important example of the “subgenre,” that is, “fiction of gods and demons.” (p. 632).
But it's not logical to count as sources only the small handful of specialist works which do use the term. In this case, the non-use of the term has to be counted as well.
More important are the standard studies which don’t mention the term at all: Idema & Haft "Guide to Chinese Literature" discusses XYJ without mentioning shenmo; CT Hsia "The Classic Chinese Novel" does not list it in the index and leafing through the chapter on XYJ I don’t see it; it does not appear in the index to Plaks Four Masterworks or in his essay on XYJ in Barbara Miller’s "Masterworks of Asian Literature".
You are right that Yu uses the term at the end of the essay you cite, but he carefully attributes it to Lu Xun and only as a translation of “gods and demons.” His Introduction to "The Monkey and the Monk," the one volume abridgement intended for the sort of people who read Wikipedia, does not use the term, and in the Intro to the 4 volume full version, I can only find it as attributed to Lu Xun, again with the English “gods and demons” first, with the Chinese in parenthesis (p. 96).
Wuxia has now become a standard English phrase, but if you Google “define: shenmo,” you get only Wikipedia, some hits in Chinese, and a few games. A WorldCat search for "shenmo" gets nothing in this genre, while a search for "Wuxia" yields works in this topic.
So I suggest that the majority of the authorities, including your own, call for “gods and demons,” with "shenmo" in parenthesis. Shouldn’t we change the title of this article? There is a strong argument that it is necessary, and at the very least, it would do no harm to your concerns to make the title of the article understandable to me and other readers. In the other articles, such as Journey to the West, there is an even stronger case for either removing the "shenmo" categorization or at the very least say “gods and demons (shenmo),” on a case by case basis.
I quickly add, however, that I greatly look forward to seeing more of your work!
Cheers in any case,
ch (talk) 05:21, 12 November 2013 (UTC)
I concede that among English-speaking literary scholars, Wang is the only major academic that uses "shenmo" outside of its Lu Xun context as a general word for the genre. There are also competing classifications, like Lin Chin's shenguai xiaoshuo. With the reader in mind, you make a strong case that moving the article to Gods and demons fiction would be advantageous to Wikipedia users, most of whom do not speak Chinese. On a side note: I'm in the process of writing an article on the history of the Chinese historical novel. My main sources are "The Chinese Historical Novel: An Outline of Themes and Contexts" in The Journal of Asian Studies (1975, pp. 277-294) by Y.W. Ma, History and Legend: Ideas and Images in the Ming Historical Novels by Shelley Hsueh-lun Chang (1990), and of C.T. Hsia's "The Military Romance" (1974). C.T. Hsia separates the genre into two subdivisions, the "popular chronicle" and the "military romance." I thought of organizing the article around this distinction, but Hsia's sub-genres never really caught on as a widespread convention aside from direct references to Hsia's work. A penny for your thoughts?--Baudelaire Serene (talk) 07:18, 12 November 2013 (UTC)
Very good news that you are writing! I hope that the "article" you are working on is for Wikipedia or, if it is for a journal, that you can do a shorter version here. I'm not a specialist in Chinese fiction, I just read for the fun of it (one of the reasons I like teaching), but a piece I found useful in thinking about Shui Hu is WJF Jenner, "Tough Guys, Mateship and Honour: Another Chinese Tradition," East Asian History.12 (1996): 1-34. http://www.eastasianhistory.org/sites/default/files/article-content/12/EAH12_01.pdf
I've launched several articles which might benefit from your vetting, e.g. Huaben, Bianwen, and Official Communications of the Chinese Empire (I regret the title of the last one, but I couldn't come up with anything better).
A reference which I frequently return to is Paul Ropp's on Chinese fiction in the book he edited, Heritage of China (U Cal P 1990). This has sound scholarship but also it seems to me a model of the level of exposition and choice of topics which is good for Wikipedia. Ditto for Hanan's piece in the Raymond Dawson Legacy of China. I invested in Mair's History of Chinese Literature, which is great as a reference but not a good model for our articles. Graduate students will use it and not a Wikipedia article for things they are working on, so the Wikipedia article needs to be at the Ropp level.
Cheers again.... ch (talk) 17:41, 12 November 2013 (UTC)

Hi, joining the conversations here. I do think the title of "shenmo" is a better one than Gods and demons fiction, which is too "literal" of a translation and doesn't contain any of the nuance that would've been had in the original title. Judging from the conversations above, I'm not quite convinced that "Gods and demons fiction" is indeed a common English name for this genre. A simple search of this term yields many results that is related to Western fantasy or YA literature or even anime.--Sevilledade (talk) 07:09, 13 November 2013 (UTC)

More importantly, regardless of whether its "Gods and demons" or "Shenmo", this term isn't a definitive categorization of these novels that dates back several hundred years, and it is a neologism (it "certainly" is in English) that was coined in the early 20th century. Rarely have I seen this term mentioned in any English language reference books on historical Chinese fiction. While it might be useful to mention it in the context of 20th century or modern evaluation of these works, it is not necessary to put too much significance on this term on every related articles.--Sevilledade (talk) 07:09, 13 November 2013 (UTC)

Friends: I like Sevilledade's suggestion at Journey to the West that we add something to the article about 20th century criticism which would include Lu Xun's influential coining of "gods and demons," which Anthony Yu calls the "normative designation" for a "couple of generations of Chinese critics." (Journey to the West Rev. ed. Vol I 2012 p. 96). Yu makes the point that "gods and demons" is a fundamental theme in the novel, esp. the Buddha's point (recalling from memory so it may not be an exact quote) that "demons are born in the mind and when the mind is subdued, then the demons disappear."
But I also think that this "Gods and Demons Fiction" article, which Wikipedia policy calls for naming in English, makes valuable connections and contributes valuable information. So Baudelaire Serene's renaming seems to me to be about right. ch (talk) 18:31, 13 November 2013 (UTC)