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Network literature radiates new life

Author  :  DUAN DANJIE     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2020-11-08

Online literature has been around for more than 20 years in China, showing its vigor and great potential. A webinar on network literature was held by the Institute of Literature at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in mid-October.

In recent years, the development of online literature has brought fresh and impactful topics to contemporary literature. It is gradually embarking on a healthy development track that depends on quality, producing many realistic works that attract readers’ attention.

These excellent realistic works vividly reflect our times and broaden the scope of online literature, said He Hong, director of the Network Literature Center at the China Writers Association. At the same time, network writers increasingly share a sense of identity with mainstream culture and mainstream values. They consciously reflect core socialist values in their works, promote Chinese culture, and demonstrate Chinese spirit.

The development of online literature has reached a new stage, said Bai Ye, president of the Chinese Association of Contemporary Literature and a research fellow at the Institute of Literature at CASS. As one of the most dynamic literary forces in contemporary Chinese literary circles, online literature has developed rapidly in terms of literary creation, work dissemination, website management, industrial linkages, satisfying readers, and serving society. Based on diversity, the creation of online literature draws from Chinese history and culture, faces real life with raw honesty, and comes closer to classic literature. As the number of nonfiction works continues to increase, the forms and structures of online literature have improved, gaining more sustainability.

Ouyang Youquan, a professor from the College of Literature and Journalism and Communication at Central South University, said that against the background of advanced self-media and complex online public opinions, network literature is not merely a "network" or "literature" issue. Network literature plays an important role in the construction of social ideology and mainstream values, national cultural strategies, and online power of discourse. It's also related to mass cultural consumption, national reading, youth development, and even major issues such as the building of cultural soft power and the spread of national image.

Applying traditional literary evaluation standards to online literature has already exposed an obvious incompatibility. If we formulate a set of theoretical models purely according to Western literature and art theory to measure the value of online literature, we will lose theoretical novelty, reality, and locality. This makes constructing evaluation standards for online literature the most urgent problem at present. Given that online literature has a huge consumer base and extensive influence, we need to uphold correct evaluation standards and channel value criteria, Ouyang suggested.

Aesthetic criticism and cultural studies should be organically combined in online literature review and research, said Huang Fayou, a professor from the School of Literature at Shandong University. In terms of evaluation criteria, the study of online literature requires both an aesthetic and cultural vision. In addition, internet literature can learn from related disciplines such as sociology, cultural studies, journalism and communication, and information science to expand academic horizons.

According to Zhou Zhixiong, a professor from the College of Liberal Arts at Anhui University, the evaluation system for network literature should have corresponding dimensions for values, theories, aesthetics, cultural content, technical skills, audience acceptance, and market appeal. In addition to being effective and commensurable, the evaluation system should inspire network literature to reach a higher level.

As new technical means constantly refresh network media and reconstruct network cultures, the study of network literature should pay more attention to scientific thinking and methods. Language analysis software can be applied to network literature, thus integrating philological methods and data analysis, Huang added.

Online literature studies can be combined with the study of science fiction, said Huang Mingfen, a professor from the Department of Chinese language and Literature at Xiamen University. Uniquely positioned within network literature with a unique reference system and its own measurements for evaluating network literature, science fiction can be taken as an important perspective of network literature review.

The Institute of Literature announced the establishment of a network literature research office at the webinar, a major event in the history of network literature that will support the disciplinary development of literature.

"We will work to integrate multi-disciplinary resources, streamline the development process of China’s network literature, comprehensively build a cutting-edge theory and evaluation system that fits the features of network literature," said Liu Yuejin, director of the Institute of Literature at CASS.

Editor: Yu Hui

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