Papers on Modern Literature II

Contemporary II
4:00 pm – 5:45 pm
Room E

  • Paula Teodorescu (Pascaru), “Poet Yang Li 杨黎, from Macho Man to Rubber Man”
  • Erik Mo Welin, “Reimagining the History of China: Alternate History and Chronopolitics in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction”
  • Yifan Jin, “Trans-Ethnic Interpretation of Cultural Symbols in Xiaolu Guo’s Writings”
  • Birgit Bunzel Linder, “The Madness That Is Self: Contemporary Chinese Mental Illness Narratives and the Critical Medical Humanities”

Paula Teodorescu (Pascaru), “Poet Yang Li 杨黎, from Macho Man to Rubber Man”

The Chinese avant-garde movement from the ’80s brought a sum of changes and innovations meant to redefine the margins of Chinese literature as it was known before. In poetry, the colloquial movement started in the ’80s through the voices of groups like Tamen, Feifei, Macho Men, and continued its activity during the commercial years of the ’90s and generated replicators in the 2000s: Xiangpi, Guopi, Jie, Haidao, settling its firm position on the Chinese literary scene. The constant presence in all these colloquial experiments is poet Yang Li who started his poetry journey along with the group Macho Men, adopting a frenetic, rebellious, colloquial, and masculine poetry. He then wrote poetry under the vague principles promoted by Feifei, and, in the end, became the main representative of the avantgardist project which still continues to stir up controversies and challenges, Eraser or Rubber Literature 橡皮文学.
This paper examines the way Yang Li moved from a colloquial style of creating poetry to another, culminating with xiangpi. Although Xiangpi was one of the dominant avantgarde sites at the beginning of the 2000s, marking a continuation of the colloquial trend in poetry in the new century, was rarely the object of analysis of research studies. The site ceased its activity, but the group that activated back then still continues to organise events and produce literature under this name, xiangpi. Some of the xiangpi “products” attracted a lot controversy and incited numerous discussions about poetry’s definition, the new margins of Chinese poetry, the relationship between Chinese classical poetry and Chinese contemporary poetry, Chinese poetry’s identity, the “anxiety” of Western influences and so on. The main director of this project is poet Yang Li who makes sure xiangpi and its principles continue to shape Chinese contemporary poetry.

Erik Mo Welin, “Reimagining the History of China: Alternate History and Chronopolitics in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction”

Science fiction has always had a close relationship with history and historiographical writing. Science fiction might imagine future histories based on perceived historical forces and developments in the past or present, or lets the protagonists go back into the past through time travel to experience, for instance, the Black Death or the Crucifixion of Jesus. However, arguable the most explicit and ideologically subversive way SF engages with history is through the sub-genre of alternate history, which explores possible historical trajectories different from our own by the alteration key-historical moments. Most significantly, alternate histories emphasise the narrativity of history, questions notions of historical determinism, and foregrounds the individual’s relationship with history. In this paper, I intend to explore a number of alternate histories in contemporary Chinese science fiction. Through comparison and close readings of texts by writers such as Han Song, Bao Shu, Liu Cixin, Fei Dao, and Chen Guangzhong, I intend to explore the different narratives of history that appear in these works and the historical and ideological implications which emerge from the readings. More specifically, I intend to investigate how these alternate histories, by means of fictional reconfiguration of historical time through alteration of key historical events, may be read as interventions into the chronopolitical sphere of contemporary China and the World. The investigation will explore how these chronopolitical interventions probe and illuminate key historical issues such as colonialism/imperialism, Cold-War politics, nationhood, and modernity.

Yifan Jin, “Trans-Ethnic Interpretation of Cultural Symbols in Xiaolu Guo’s Writings”

There exists a controversy concerning Xiaolu Guo’s recently published memoir Once Upon A Time in the East: A Story of Growing Up (2017). Arguments have been made about it being a new generation’s “Wild Swans” or a case of counter-stereotyping. This paper argues that Guo overturns ethnic stereotypes by deterritorialising and reconstructing both Chinese and British symbols in this trans-cultural text that carries on, by means of memoir, many of the same themes evident in her earlier fictional work A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (2007). Contextualising Guo’s representation of cultural symbols as a form of Deleuzian minor literature, the deterritorialisation of characteristic cultural tropes helps us to understand the deconstruction of both Chineseness and Britishness in Guo’s work. In Dictionary for Lovers, through Z’s disillusionment with London and British gentlemen during learning English in the UK, Guo collapses the “Western myth” and delineates an anti-Orientalist conception of a world citizen. Once Upon A Time compares Guo’s life experience to an English adaptation of Journey to the West, where she disintegrates the significance of the family-state in Chinese culture by a desire to be a nomadic artist beyond ethnicity. The two examples demonstrate how attention to minor literature contributes to a trans-ethnic perspective. This approach further reveals how contemporary British Chinese literature shows a tendency to transcend ethnic identity to break through the genre of ethnic literature with claim of a cosmopolitan identity by diasporic Chinese writers.

Birgit Bunzel Linder, “The Madness That Is Self: Contemporary Chinese Mental Illness Narratives and the Critical Medical Humanities”

Literary madness and representations of mental illness reflect the human psyche in pain, mirroring conflictedness, fragmentation, void, trauma, and definitions of normality and abnormality. Narratives of madness can be a means of self-revelation and self-knowledge, but since they are never isolated from their social contexts, they at the same time expose society’s repressive forces and limitations.
This paper investigates three mental illness narratives from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong from the perspective of the Critical Medical Humanities. Initially, the Medical Humanities was an interdisciplinary field of study that integrated literature into the medical curriculum to gain insight into the subjective experience of illness. The Critical Medical Humanities constitutes the second wave of the Medical Humanities that has broadened its interdisciplinary reach into non-allied social sciences and arts. It considers itself “critical” because it recommends a more discerning and interdisciplinary view of what constitutes narrative, suggests approaches that highlight the historical and cultural specificity of idioms of distress, and aims to expand the western-centred canon of humanities research into other regions.
As a contribution to the Critical Medical Humanities, I will introduce Chen Ran’s novel of a mental breakdown A Private Life (1996), Lee Chi Leung’s autopathography of bipolar disorder A Room Without Myself (2008) and The Grass is Bluer by the Sea (2018), and Lin Zhaosheng’s autopathography of self-mutilation Psychiatric Notes (2018) as representative narratives from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. At the same time, the narratives reflect the distinct developments of the Medical Humanities in their respective regions.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room E
Contemporary II