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Fiery Cinema

The Emergence of an Affective Medium in China, 1915–1945

2015
Author:

Weihong Bao

Fiery Cinema

Examines media spectatorship and affect through the unique case of modern China

In Fiery Cinema, Weihong Bao traces the permutations of cinema as an affective medium in China from the early through the mid-twentieth century, exploring its role in aesthetics, politics, and social institutions.

An admirably ambitious account that combines a painstakingly researched history of Chinese cinema with a compendium of concepts drawn from media studies and affect studies as well as cinema studies.

Rey Chow, author of Entanglements, or Transmedial Thinking about Capture

What was cinema in modern China? It was, this book tells us, a dynamic entity, not strictly tied to one media technology, one mode of operation, or one system of aesthetic code. It was, in Weihong Bao’s term, an affective medium, a distinct notion of the medium as mediating environment with the power to stir passions, frame perception, and mold experience. In Fiery Cinema, Bao traces the permutations of this affective medium from the early through the mid-twentieth century, exploring its role in aesthetics, politics, and social institutions.

Mapping the changing identity of cinema in China in relation to Republican-era print media, theatrical performance, radio broadcasting, television, and architecture, Bao has created an archaeology of Chinese media culture. Within this context, she grounds the question of spectatorial affect and media technology in China’s experience of mechanized warfare, colonial modernity, and the shaping of the public into consumers, national citizens, and a revolutionary collective subject. Carrying on a close conversation with transnational media theory and history, she teases out the tension and affinity between vernacular, political modernist, and propagandistic articulations of mass culture in China’s varied participation in modernity.

Fiery Cinema advances a radical rethinking of affect and medium as a key insight into the relationship of cinema to the public sphere and the making of the masses. By centering media politics in her inquiry of the forgotten future of cinema, Bao makes a major intervention into the theory and history of media.

Awards

Outstanding Academic Title—Choice

Fiery Cinema

Weihong Bao is assistant professor of film and media and Chinese studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Fiery Cinema

An admirably ambitious account that combines a painstakingly researched history of Chinese cinema with a compendium of concepts drawn from media studies and affect studies as well as cinema studies.

Rey Chow, author of Entanglements, or Transmedial Thinking about Capture

Fiery Cinema is the most audacious book I’ve read in a while. Bao combines theories of experience with huge amounts of rigorous and original archival research to reverse the retreat from the social usually associated with affect theory. This is both a ground-breaking new history of Republican era Chinese cinema culture and a new benchmark for film and media studies in general.

Chris Berry, King’s College London

This significant interdisciplinary book breaks new ground in recontextualizing Chinese cinema through its mediation with competing artistic media, technological forms, psychosomatic practices, and historical discourses. In a refreshing look at theories of affect and intermediality, Fiery Cinema offers a rigorous examination of such cultural productions as martial arts film, left-wing drama and cinema, print publications, and wartime propaganda and convincingly establishes cinema as a powerful affective medium of visuality, performativity, aestheticization, and communication in the history of Chinese modernity.

Yingjin Zhang, University of California, San Diego

A deeply ambitious, richly detailed book, Fiery Cinema. . . is a landmark study for understanding Chinese cinema. . . Essential.

CHOICE

Fiery Cinema demands multiple encounters and readings, and its insights will reverberate in the field of Chinese film and media studies for years to come.

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

Bao’s thinking is characterized by a peripatetic vitality that ceaselessly draws surprising and persuasive connections between seemingly unlikely but always conceptually illuminating terms and contexts.

452°F

Fiery Cinema is a diligently researched and persuasively argued monograph that fundamentally changes the paradigm of the studies of Chinese cinema and media. . . undoubtedly one of the most important books published on Chinese cinema and media in recent years.

China Quarterly

Fiery Cinema is undoubtedly a groundbreaking work in Chinese cinema and media studies in recent years. With extremely rich archival materials and compelling arguments driven by self-conscious theoretical explorations, the book is a must read for scholars and students interested in Chinese cinema, film and media theory, and political theory in general.

Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Fiery Cinema

Contents

Introduction
Part I. Resonance
1. Fiery Action: Toward an Aesthetics of New Heroism
2. A Culture of Resonance: Hypnotism, Wireless Cinema, and the Invention of Intermedial Spectatorship
Part II. Transparency
3. Dances of Fire: Mediating Affective Immediacy
4. Transparent Shanghai: Cinema, Architecture, and a Left-Wing Culture of Glass
Part III. Agitation
5. “A Vibrating Art in the Air”: The Infinite Cinema and the Media Ensemble of Propaganda
6. Baptism by Fire: Atmospheric War, Agitation, and a Tale of Three Cities
Acknowledgments
Notes
Filmography
Index