In book time, this work is more a young adult than a newborn, and it owes its origins, growth, and personality to a whole network and history of influential figures. I want to first thank my family, James and Yong Wilshire, for their support of my academic pursuits throughout the years, however remote academe may strike them at times. This project has its roots in my dissertation, so I also want to express my gratitude to my advisers at the University of Michigan: my co-chairs, Simon Gikandi and Lydia Liu, for vast area expertise and professional guidance; Yopie Prins, for gentle encouragement and advocacy; Christi Merrill, for believing in language, in style, and helping me retain the faith years later; and David Porter, for generous mentorship, critical rigor, and sheer humaneness. And in memory of Lemuel Johnson, my first adviser, who embodied the model scholar in my early graduate school years and who introduced me to an ideal of universal singularity, in all its impossible density. I’d like to think this is a book he would have seen his influence in.
At Bowdoin College, many people have contributed to this book’s development and realization, and I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to them. My students, especially in the “Writing China from Afar” and “Forbidden Capital” classes, have been incredible interlocutors and kept my feet firmly grounded during the writing process. My wonderful colleagues in the English Department and the Asian Studies Program fostered a supportive intellectual environment that was invaluable to a junior scholar teaching at a liberal arts college for the first time. Marilyn Reizbaum and Aviva Briefel in particular lent their astute eye and professional wisdom to seeing this book go forward. Special thanks to Shuqin Cui for unstinting mentorship and encouragement, for reading part of the manuscript and posing challenging questions of gender and cross-cultural translation that I’m still thinking through. Above all, I am deeply indebted to several friends and colleagues in my writing group who went above and beyond the call of duty and fellowship by reading substantial portions of the manuscript and offering sympathetic camaraderie as much as critical feedback along the way. Without them, this would have been a far lonelier journey. Jeffrey Selinger provided an incisive perspective from outside my discipline and much-needed honesty when my prose fell flat; Vyjayanthi Ratnam Selinger gave ever-canny suggestions on both macro and micro levels and helped me stay true to my vision toward the end; Rachel Sturman, with what seemed indefatigable and heroic intellectual energy, tendered trenchant and probing advice at many stages and has been inspirational by her example as much as counsel; and Hilary Thompson, with brilliance and profundity, always saw where I was coming from, where I might want to go, and the forking paths that led there or beyond.
My appreciation extends to the staff at Temple University Press: to Amanda Steele and Gary Kramer, for their expert assistance in shepherding the manuscript to press, and especially to my editor, Janet Francendese, for intuitively understanding my project’s goals right from the outset and for dedicating such extraordinary care to its materialization. As part of the American Literatures Initiative, this book benefits from the generous funding of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as well. I also want to give warm thanks to the series editor, David Palumbo-Liu, and to my second reader, Rob Wilson, for their detailed and insightful comments, which have pushed me in new directions and substantially deepened the intellectual engagements of the book. In addition, William Irwn Thompson read parts of the manuscript with a keen poet’s eye and saved me from many goofy mixed metaphors. My sincere thanks, too, to Chen Guang, for his good-hearted support and brave example, for permitting me to include his artwork here, and for instantiating what Tiananmen could mean at its highest potential. Finally, to Hilary, may we always muse among the vegetables.