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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cosmopolitanism at war : a study of Xu Xu's drama scripts, 1939-1944 Yao, Jiaqi


Circumstances in China during WWII were changing constantly in areas controlled by different political powers. People traveling between the Japanese-occupied area and the Greater Rear Area controlled by the Nationalists encountered different political and cultural climates, each with both limitations and opportunities for the circulation of knowledge, information, and literature. This thesis examines how one playwright with cosmopolitan sensibilities responded to these different conditions. Specifically, I analyze the multi-act plays that Xu Xu wrote between 1938 to 1944 in two locales: Japanese-occupied Shanghai and the Nationalists’ wartime headquarters of Chongqing. I examine how war affected Xu Xu’s drama aesethics, focusing in particular on how he rewrote several of his Shanghai plays after he moved to Chongqing. I argue that Xu Xu’s multi-act plays, with their mixture of melodrama and innovation, reveal challenges with maintaining a cosmopolitan self-identity during wartime. Xu Xu, I argue, did not find a satisfactory space to write freely. In his wartime plays he propagandized for his own cosmopolitan vision, trying to thread together obligatory patriotism and aesthetic self-fullfillment. In his experience we see a Chinese intellectual self-adjusting his literary aesthetics when entering a new geo-political space, while insisting on the primacy of individual moral vision.

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