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American Modernist Writers Lead the Way

  • PublishTime:2023-09-23

by Lo Yu-Lun, Melanie A. Leng

Modernism is a trend that emerged after the rise of urban civilization. It encompasses a wide range of philosophical thought, aesthetics, and literary activity. To present this literary trend that arose in the early 20th century, the National Museum of Taiwan Literature (NMTL) will collaborate with the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the AIT Kaohsiung Branch Office to hold the special exhibition "Shining Stars of Modernism: American and Taiwan Literature" from December 2023 to April 2024. This exhibition will introduce the captivating charm of modernist literature and all its experimental innovations and introspections.

The exhibition will borrow precious items from the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections of the University of South Carolina Libraries, the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center, as well as numerous digital items from the Chicago Oak Park Public Library and the University of Virginia. Through the publications, audiovisual materials, and manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and various Taiwan modernist writers, this special exhibition aims to help Taiwan readers understand the literary landscape of the American modernist period and its influence on Taiwan writers, as well as forge a closer bond with Taiwan literature.

This is not the first literature-based collaborative exhibition between NMTL and the AIT this year. In early August, the AIT Kaohsiung Branch Office, NMTL, and the Memorial Foundation of 228 co-organized the special exhibition "Literary Education of Modernist Youth: The U.S. Information Service and American Modernism in Taiwan".

This co-exhibition was a delightful stroke of serendipity, as the predecessor of the National 228 Memorial Museum was none other than the United States Information Service (USIS) itself. During the Cold War era, the USIS published a large number of translated American literary classics, including the representative works of many important American writers. For the closed-off culture and society of 1960s Taiwan, the USIS not only provided an abundance of information and library collections on art and literature, but also organized numerous art exhibitions and film appreciation events, becoming a significant driver of the American modernist movement in Taiwan. The AIT therefore hopes to continue this long-standing tradition of friendship between the U.S. and Taiwan through its support of these exhibitions.

AIT Director Sandra Oudkirk and other AIT officials were present throughout the opening day of the special exhibition. They expressed excitement over taking photos in front of interactive installations and having the chance to be featured on the cover of World Today, a widely read periodical in 1960s Taiwan. Director Oudkirk, along with veteran Taiwan literature writer Chen Jo-hsi(陳若曦) and senior modernist artist Liu Kuo-sung(劉國松), later sat together in a replica of the USIS library reading area for a group photo. The scene seemed to transcend time, reviving the historical ambience of that era.