This is an important work from a scholar who has already made wide-ranging contributions to our understanding of modern Chinese literature. With Love-Letters and Privacy in Modern China, Bonnie S. McDougall now adds a valuable study of its most prominent figure, Lu Xun (1881–1936), contributing in particular to the fast-growing scholarship on the private life of this modern icon. Her study focuses on his relationship with Xu Guangping (1898–1968), the student who became his partner, mother of his son, and for three decades after his death, editor and memoirist.
Two wider aims, named in the title, are to examine love letters as a literary genre and privacy as a social variable. Such research performs the task of bringing Chinese data to issues of general concern. The matter is not just a territorial one. As the author says of investigating privacy in modern China, “privacy is a human rights issue: deny a sense of privacy . . . , or claim that it is substantially different, and we deny the people of that culture basic rights of association and communication” (p. 209).