AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 467

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Session 467: Modern Chinese Literature II

The Voice of Otherness in Ha Jin’s Waiting
Yunzi Li, Washington University, St. Louis, USA

Ha Jin is unique among Chinese American writers in that he writes on his first-hand knowledge with his second language. A student of human nature, Ha Jin unwinds the thread of reminiscence in a story of love and politics in Waiting, set in Communist China from the 1960s to the 1980s, particularly during the Cultural Revolution. With his insider understanding of those turbulent years, Ha Jin has not been tempted to write memoirs, or factual accounts of persons he knows; instead he offers, with the conviction that history is best understood through fiction, his own intimate portrait of an age. The dominant voice of the work is one of “Otherness”, a voice from a participant observer who sees the sickness of a society calmly yet vividly. The gloom-laden images of China authenticated by Ha Jin the authoritative informant serve to strengthen for his widespread reading public in the West their sense of exotic Otherness. This paper argues, through an examination and an analysis of the theme, characterization and language of this novel, the Otherness abound in Ha Jin’s Cultural Revolution and his characters account for much of the popularity and reputation of Waiting. The voice of Otherness makes Ha Jin not yet another but rather the other Chinese American writer lies in the many ordinary yet bona fide Chinese dishes from our chef in waiting.

"Anything at variance with it must be revised accordingly": Re-writing of Modern Chinese Literature During the Maoist Period
Taciana Fisac Badell, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain

In 1942, during the "Talks at the Yan'an Conference on Literature and Art", Mao Zedong established clearly that the role of literature was to support the Chinese Communist Party and he said: "It would be a mistake to depart from this goal, and anything at variance with it must be revised accordingly". While the role of censorship after the founding of the People's Republic of China is well known, little research has been done on how some famous works that were allowed to be re-printed were actually revised. This paper aims to analyze how, during the Maoist period, many famous Chinese writers had no choice but to allow the Party to manipulate and re-write their works, and how the content and formal style of these works were revised. The political control of literature during the Maoist period still persists in contemporary China and very few readers are aware that the works of many famous authors they read today are not the originals. (This research has been made possible thanks to the funding of the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science.)

Identity Crisis and Identity Construction in Contemporary China: A Study of Wang Anyi’s Reality and Fiction
I-Hsien Chu, Hwa-Hsia Institute of Technology, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

This article examines how contemporary Chinese novels respond to the issue of identity crisis and give suggestions for reconstructing cultural identity within the post-modern context in today’s China. In the past century, China has experienced cultural turbulences through events such as the May Fourth Movement and the Cultural Revolution. After the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1979, writers who experienced the Revolution began to search for their cultural roots. Their writings were also affected by the post-modernistic thoughts which emphasize plurality, decentralization, heterogeneity, and fragmentation. Hence, in the 1990s, a new form of novel began to appear, which disguises the construction of cultural identity under the veil of post-modernism. This type of novel often creates a locale and facilitates its identity construction with a mechanism of “disjunction-articulation-networking”. Also, due to the exile experience of these authors to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, they were able to find ways to re-contextualize cities through their experience in rural China. Thus, it can be described that this type of cultural identity is constructed by finding the interaction of features and images between the cities and the countryside. These arguments are established from exploring Wang Anyi’s novel Reality and Fiction. Wang’s novel creates paradoxes and co-construction through personal, family, and national histories. Also, by exploring the way to profound interpersonal relationships are created in cities and by pluralizing the history of Ru’s Family, the novel suggests “affection” and “pluralism” to be the core spirit of traditional Chinese culture, which can be re-adapted to interpret modern China.

Confucius Met Nanzi and the Formation of Lin Yutang’s Feminist Thought
Fang Lu, Boston College, USA

This paper uses Lin Yutang’s only play Confucius Met Nanzi (1928, English translation Confucius Saw Nancy, 1930) to explore Lin’s feminist thought reflected in the play, and examine his cultural and narrative strategies in rewriting the image of a stereotyped ancient queen. The paper first introduces various cultural and literary influences on Lin’s creation of this play, from the May Fourth intellectuals, modern Western feminists, and traditional Chinese male feminists, presenting Lin as a male feminist in the May Fourth era with cross-cultural consciousness. It then analyses the strategies Lin developed in designing the play and rewriting the image of Nanzi. Lin idealized, modernized, and romanticized Nanzi, and used this image to embody his feminist and aesthetic ideas. Lin’s feminist thought was theoretically expressed in his English publications such as “Feminist Thought in Ancient China” (1934), and “Women’s Life” in his book My Country and My People (1935), but this study reveals that his major feminist ideas were formulated and developed much earlier than these publications, and first well articulated in the creative reconstruction of Nanzi. Confucius Met Nanzi should be viewed as Lin’s earliest feminist writing; Nanzi, was creatively used by Lin as the first vehicle to express Chinese male feminism. The paper further argues that all these strategies established a solid foundation for Lin’s future endeavors in constructing images of Chinese women, and the English version Confucius Saw Nancy was a promising start for Lin' rising influence in representing Chinese women to the West.

A Journey of Blockage and a Mosquito Sting – The Lyrical in the Modern Chinese Context
Li Jin, University of Oslo, Norway

The vernacular ideal at the onset of modern Chinese literature demotes classical poetry as archaic and cliché – too ornamental to befit “genuineness” as the literary ideal of modern China. Displaced from the venue of classical Chinese, lyricism becomes a contentious issue on language and consciousness in the modern Chinese context. To localize this broad issue, the paper inspects Zhu Ziqing’s “The Qinhuai River in the Sounds of Oaks and the Shades of Lanterns” (1924) and Lu Xun’s “How to Write” (1927). To be specific, Zhu Ziqing’s night tour on the Qinhuai river evokes a journey of blockage that reflects upon the lyrical as a class privilege of the intellectual, besieged by the “subaltern” figure; Lu Xun’s mood swing induced by a mosquito’s sting radicalizes the lyrical as a contemplative state of mind perpetually imperiled by immanent experience - from the trivial discomfort of a mosquito’s sting to urgent realities of revolution. Both Zhu Ziqing’s and Lu Xun’s essay evoke lyrical consciousness, empathetic either of nature or of “sorrows of the world,” as self-absorptive. It is by the devices of “a blockage” and “a mosquito’s sting” that the two essays figuratively relate the crisis of lyricism in the modern Chinese context as innately related to the modern writer’s status in both the May Fourth ethos of social engagement and the revolutionary torrent from the late 1920s on.