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尋母 : 九十年代大陸家史小說研究

In quest of the mother : a study of Chinese genealogical fiction of the 1990s

Authors Tse, Dorothy Hiu Hung (謝曉虹)
Issue Date 2004
Summary After a decade of economic reform, while the revolutionary ideals of Communism in the Chinese Mainland were gradually replaced by commercialism and mass culture, which had become pervasive by the end of the 1980s, the enthusiasm for political reform since the late 70s also reached a tragic end in the Tiananmen Incident of 1989. As a result, the 1990s was generally regarded as an era of mercenary pragmatism, lacking in idealistic beliefs and utopian impulse; an era in which individual heroes had already faded out, superseded by the anonymous masses. However, with the publication of genealogical fictions in the late 1980s - especially those focusing on the theme of questing for the mother figure, it became apparent that idealism and enthusiasm had not waned in China, as evidenced in these texts, which take a nostalgic look at the revolutionary old days. Nevertheless, after years of political turbulence, the retrospection of history in these works tends to reopen old sores; and remembrance of things past necessarily entails a restructuring of historical memories. This thesis will focus on how the theme of questing for the mother in these genealogical fictions is used by the Chinese writers to represent modern Chinese history and re-establish the relationship between history and individuals. The introduction briefly recounts the changes of intellectuals' attitude towards history and the form of historical writing in China since the end of the 19th century, and explicates the subtle relationship between the writing of historical fiction and the formation of individual identities in contemporary China. It also describes the characteristics and contexts of the genealogical fictions in question, highlighting in particular the connection between the popularity of such a theme and the sense of value crisis in post-revolutionary China. Chapters one through four examine four of the representative genealogical novels published in the 1990s - Li Rui's Salt City (Jiuzhi), Xu Xiaobin's Plumed Serpent (Yu She), Zhang Kangkang's Red, Red, Red (Chi Tong Dan Zhu) and Wang Anyi's Fact and Fiction (Jishi Yu Xugou). In general, these four chapters aim to reveal the hidden anxiety and discontent with the Chinese reality, by analyzing how these novels explore and create traditions uncontaminated by political ideologies in their imaginary search for the mother figure or matrilineal histories. Chapters one and two discuss Salt City and Plumed Serpent respectively. These two novels show a skeptical attitude towards the intellectuals' tradition and the optimism of the modernization program launched since the May-Fourth Era. The quests after the maternal figure in these two novels aim at discovering a value system unscathed by mainstream Communist ideologies. By confirming traditional motherhood, Salt City tries to reconstruct the (male) intellectuals' tradition not yet disrupted by political turmoil and revive the May-Fourth images of "cultural heroes." Mythical in style, Plumed Serpent attempts to locate a "matrilineal" tradition submerged in history and create a "heroine" of great character who would not bow to political pressure. Chapters 3 and 4 analyze Zhang Kangkang' s Red, Red, Red and Wang Anyi' s Fact and Fiction respectively. In sharp contrast to Salt City and Plumed Serpent, which strive to avoid the socialist tradition, these two novels focus on the mother as a Communist revolutionary. If the figure of father as a symbol of the revolutionary past has already lost its glory and become an unnecessary burden that is irrelevant to the present, a reinterpretation of "unorthodox" mother figures in family chronicles and revolutionary history can rekindle the romantic passion, which has long been denied by the orthodox revolutionary tradition. By romanticizing the mother figure and her orphan status respectively, Zhang and Wang rebuild the maternal tradition, bridge the gap between the past and the present, and thereby create a heroism that can transcend the mundane reality of the 1990s.
Note Thesis (M.Phil.)--Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 2004
Language Chinese
Format Thesis
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