Jonathan Spence: Highlighted by NYT editors as serious China scholar

Historians in the News

Jonathan Spence has been a familiar figure on the Yale campus since the university granted his doctoral degree in 1965. He began teaching there the following year and still offers one of the most popular undergraduate courses, on the history of modern China.

A prolific author and reviewer, recognized as a leading Western authority on China, Spence has written books on significant figures in its history from the K’ang-Hsi emperor to Chairman Mao, as well as studies of less prominent but equally revealing lives, as seen in his most recent book, “Return to Dragon Mountain: Memories of a Late Ming Man.”

Spence, who first visited China in 1974, has also written about the profound changes that have occurred in the country since then — changes reflected in the experimental fiction of Mo Yan, whose novel “Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out” he reviews on the cover of this week’s Book Review. Although he’s a historian, Spence remarked in a recent telephone conversation, he feels “at home with Mo Yan’s literary rendering of complex political and social shifts.” The appearance of “novels of this quality,” he added, “suggests that freedoms are being claimed in fiction that are still taboo in political writing.”

Read entire article at NYT Book Review

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