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Magical narrative, social allegory, and peasant ideology : the problematics of realism in Mo Yan's novels

Authors Ng, Kenny Kwok-kwan
Issue Date 1996
Summary This thesis will examine the novels of MO Yan as a critical narrative process to reassess the May Fourth legacy of realism and explore new possibilities of representing the real. Breaking the rigid Maoist doctrines of socialist realism, the novelist has actively assimilated new techniques from foreign literatures to achieve distinctive forms of plot structure, time dimension, and individual consciousness for his novels. But the re-conceptualization of the real in the novels cannot be fully grasped without a critical study of the novelist's notion of the "peasant ideology" --that is, the imaginary ways in which he comes to feel and interpret his allegiance to the peasant class and to produce contradictory images of the peasantry. It is from such an ideological perspective that I seek to inquire into the historical implications of his radical rhetoric of the rural homeland, as well as his obsession with the heroic peasant ancestors. Chapter I is the introductory section in which I attempt to construct for MO Yan's works an interpretive model that involves the interacting coordinates of narrative, aesthetics, ideology, and history. In Chapter IX, I address the problematics of realism as manifested by The Garlic Ballads, a novel distinguished by its intents to parody the Maoist peasant fiction and blatantly expose the problems of official corruption and deep-rooted patriarchy as serious impediments to economic progress in rural society. The grave concern over the peasantry's plight is distortedly expressed in the process of mythmaking in The Red Sorghum Family, as I will illustrate in Chapter III. The ideological preoccupation with an insurrectionary peasantry to resist social hegemony is, however, marked by its own frustration with the motif of the species degeneration. In the last chapter, I venture to penetrate the surface distraction of the metafictional narrative of The Wine Republic, and to tease out the sociopolitical implications of the horror of cannibalism. In my allegorical interpretation, the intertextual appropriation of Lu Xun's powerful trope indeed launches a severe social critique of the growing urban-rural hierarchy as a result of the nation's uneven economic development. In this sense, the multifarious realistic forms experimented by MO Yan can all be read as social allegories of the deep and extensive social changes that have taken place in China since the 1980s.
Note Thesis (M.Phil.)--Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 1996
Language English
Format Thesis
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