Papers on Modern Literature V

Urban Spaces
Wednesday
2:00 pm – 3:45 pm
Room E

  • Zhuyuan Han, “The Public Space in Reality and Imagination: The Coffeehouse and Teahouse as Cultural Phenomena in Republican Shanghai (1920s–1930s)”
  • Lok Yee Tang, “Rewriting as a Dialogue with Hong Kong: The Self-Rewriting of Yesi’s Cities of Memories, Cities of Fictions
  • Yongli Li, “Healing Shanghai: Reimagining Youth in Early Reform Era Urban Cinema”
  • Giulia Rampolla, “Cityscapes of Otherness: The Representation of the Urban Space in Deng Yiguang’s Tales of Shenzhen

Zhuyuan Han, “The Public Space in Reality and Imagination: The Coffeehouse and Teahouse as Cultural Phenomena in Republican Shanghai (1920s–1930s)”

The coffeehouse emerged as an unprecedented popular leisure spot in Shanghai during the 1920s. Accordingly, drinking coffee became prevalent among elite men and women who advocated a modern lifestyle, especially cultural intellectuals, and coffeehouses were soon favoured by many writers and artists for social gatherings. Such a kind of gathering resembled the phenomenon of “salon” indigenous to the 17th century France. In the meantime, the teahouse (chaguan), which had long functioned as a popular place for social gatherings in China, had experienced self-transformation to cope with the rapidly developing urban environment. Many teahouses in Republican Shanghai also embraced modern and Avant-grade aesthetic ideologies as coffeehouses did. The stimulated “tea talk meetings” (chahua hui) phenomenon then prevailed among Republican cultural elites, which was vital to inspiring literary and cultural productions. “Tea” and “coffee” became important cultural symbols, with the actual gatherings that happened in teahouses and coffeehouses extended to the print media. Two best examples are the “Coffee Seats” (Kafeizuo) column published on Shenbao in the late 1920s and the journal entitled Literature and Art Tea Talk (Wenyi chahua) first produced in the early 1930s, where articles on literary and artistic topics were solicited and cultural elites could participate another form of gathering in an imagined public cultural space. Referring to the notion of “public sphere,” “structure of feeling,” and some important memory theories, this paper is going to investigate how the coffeehouse and teahouse as both physical and imagined social spaces activated significant cultural implications and were closely related to the identity politics of intellectuals in Republican Shanghai during the 1920s and 1930s. Regarding the teahouse/coffeehouse as important public sites that accommodated multilayered elements of cultural modernity and “tea/ coffee” as conspicuous cultural symbols manifested in literature and popular culture, I intend to demonstrate that both the concrete architectures and abstract symbols are meaningful repositories of particular cultural memory. In this sense, I will also discuss how the coffeehouse and teahouse have evoked nostalgic reminiscence in contemporary China, and how particular architectures can inspire abundant reimaginations of the past and accommodate various kinds of memory.

Lok Yee Tang, “Rewriting as a Dialogue with Hong Kong: The Self-Rewriting of Yesi’s Cities of Memories, Cities of Fictions

Undergoing the drastic social and political changes in Hong Kong since the 1990s, Hong Kong writers had attempted to respond to the historical context and to overcome the constraints of writing Hong Kong by means of rewriting their own works. Yesi (Leung Ping-kwan, 1949–2013), one of the most important writers and scholars of contemporary Hong Kong Literature, had repeatedly revised his travelogue Journey of the Worry Dolls (1983) until the finalised version Cities of Memories, Cities of Fictions was published in 1993. Self-rewriting, with the characteristics of double contextualisation and historicisation of the creative process, provided important cases to study how the conscious adjustments of writing intentions and strategies respond or intervene the social and cultural changes. However, previous studies on Yesi seldom put emphasis on the underlying meaning of the act of rewriting. As I would like to argue in this paper, Yesi intentionally adopted “self-rewriting” as a writing strategy to re-investigate the local cultural identity and evaluate the ossified representation of Hong Kong. My study aims to set out a new approach to the study of Yesi’s literary and cultural perspectives and provide a foundation for further studies on the literary phenomenon of “self-rewriting” in Hong Kong. This paper will first analyse how Yesi viewed the intersubjectivity of “dialogue” as a crucial attitude to understand the complexity of Hong Kong culture and to amend the existing misrepresentations. Based on the comparison of the versions of his works, the paper will then examine how the writer demonstrated a transtemporal “dialogue” through rewriting.

Yongli Li, “Healing Shanghai: Reimagining Youth in Early Reform Era Urban Cinema”

In the late 1970s, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) emerged from political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution. With new plans for integrating itself into the world’s markets, China implemented Reform and Opening-up which gradually transformed its socialist economy to a market economy. The dramatic economic and social changes resulting from this political realignment impacted literary and film cultures as well as the film industry in the PRC. The scar literature and film trends exemplify some of the immediate cultural responses to the political trauma of the recent past. I will examine the cinematic portrayal of Shanghai in the early 1980s, focusing in particular on how Under the Bridge (dir. Bai Chen, 1984) sheds light on attempts to articulate the traumas of Shanghainese life in the Cultural Revolution and explore how the city worked to heal these wounds through cultural productions in the midst of a new market economy. Under the Bridge focuses on the city’s youth, especially returned sent-down youth, who suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution, defining them as the future of the nation. The film shows how the youth serve as a key demographic group for the nation’s recovery from historical trauma. My work situates the narrative in its historical context. It examines the intersection of the wave of scar films and the trend of urban cinema in the early reform era. Ultimately, I argue that the film articulates the state’s efforts to heal the city’s trauma through economic policies aimed at reviving individual business.

Giulia Rampolla, “Cityscapes of Otherness: The Representation of the Urban Space in Deng Yiguang’s Tales of Shenzhen

This paper provides an in-depth overview of the urban fiction produced by the contemporary Chinese writer Deng Yiguang from 2010 onwards, after that he has permanently moved to Shenzhen. It has the intended purpose to shed some light on Deng Yiguang’s singular perspective upon the representation of the present-day Chinese metropolis and, more specifically, to investigate into the way he portrays the relationship between city dwellers and the urban space and into the meaning of the central role of the public spaces within his works. By mainly focusing on the analysis of some short stories selected from his three well-known collections, whose titles are Shenzhen zai beiwei 22°27–22°52, Ni keyi rang baihe shengzhang, and Shenzhen lan, which all belong to the so-called “Shenzhen series,” I will further attempt to demonstrate that the innovative strategies elaborated by Deng Yiguang to narrate the urban fabric, have exerted a crucial influence over the development of the aesthetic standards of 21st century “new urban literature” and have contributed to enrich the collective image of Shenzhen. Through the realist account of the private stories and of the hardships experienced by a wide range of citizens, who often belong to the lower social strata and never achieve their “urban dream,” this writer provides the reader with an insight into the human side of China’s restless processes of urbanisation and globalisation. Deng Yiguang’s literary works will be examined within the frame of “new urban fiction,” “subaltern literature,” and “Shenzhen’s narrative.”

Event Timeslots (1)

Room E
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Urban Spaces