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Title:The "sent-down" vision: poetics and politics of Zhiqing literature in post-Mao China
Author(s):Wang, Yanjie
Director of Research:Xu, Gary G.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Huntington, Rania; Abelmann, Nancy A.; Shao, Dan
Department / Program:E. Asian Languages & Cultures
Discipline:E Asian Languages & Cultures
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Modern Chinese literature
zhiqing literature
sent-down movement
post-Mao China
Gender and sexuality
Aesthetic redemption
Abstract:This dissertation investigates the ways in which the literature of the zhiqing generation has contributed an important alternative voice in post-Mao China’s modernity discourse. Zhiqing refers to the millions of urban junior high and high school students who were “sent down to the countryside” to settle as peasants during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Following their return to the cities in the wake of the Cultural Revolution, many zhiqing writers have been focusing on their village experiences, traditional literary forms, and ethnic minorities relevant to their “sent down” localities. I argue that zhiqing literature is much more than nostalgia. Rather, it speaks to many contingencies. In writing about a more pastoral, natural, mystic, and spiritual existence, zhiqing literature is a productive force for the animation of the suppressed energy found in rural China and an important discourse countering contemporary China’s massive modernization project. The literature of the zhiqing generation carves out an alternative temporal spatiality where the teleological, urban-based, consumerist, and material notion of modernity is astutely disputed and unsettled. This dissertation consists of five chapters. Chapter 1 is an introductory account in which I conducted a careful historicization of the sent-down movement. Instead of seeing the sent-down movement as a finished program locked in the dust of history, I contend that it continues to shape and haunt the zhiqing on practical, physical, and psychological levels. Chapter 2 focuses on the notion of heterogeneous time reflected in Han Shaogong’s “Homecoming” and A Dictionary of Maqiao. I argue that the fragile sense of time reflected in these two texts debilitates the progressive notion of modernity and ultimately demands a reconsideration of the notorious developmentalism at the center of post-Mao China’s modernization project. Chapter 3 discusses Wang Anyi’s works with a focus on the issue of gender and sexuality. I argue that Wang’s vision of sexuality is double-edged, defying not only the Maoist repression of sexuality but also the mass culture’s commercialization of sexuality. Chapter 4 explores the theme of corporeality reflected in Ah Cheng’s novellas The King of Chess and The King of Trees. I examine how Ah Cheng’s notion of corporeality functions as a critique of contemporary China’s desire-driven, superfluous middle class taste as well as the ever more aggravated exploitation of nature in the post-Mao era. Chapter 5 investigates Zhang Chengzhi’s aesthetic redemption of spirituality. I maintain that Zhang Chengzhi’s twisted reclamation of the Red Guard spirit and his assertion of religious belief ultimately counteracts the post-Mao society that is saturated with materialism and consumerism.
Issue Date:2012-02-01
Genre:Dissertation / Thesis
Rights Information:Copyright 2011 Yanjie Wang
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-02-01
Date Deposited:2011-12

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