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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Blurring the lines : postmodernism and the use of tradition in the works of Yu Hua Moen, Martin Olav


The modern Chinese writer Yu Hua (1960-) uses and incorporates a wide variety of arguably postmodernist techniques and themes in his fiction. There are, however, parallels between these themes and techniques and various aspects of pre-modern Chinese literature and philosophy. Additionally, in an at times postmodernist manner, Yu Hua makes obvious use of mutated traditional Chinese literary forms in a number of his works. His incorporation of postmodernist themes and techniques and his use of tradition distinguish Yu Hua from the mainstream of contemporary Chinese fiction and characterize his most important works to date. In an examination of four of his stories, "Leaving Home and Travelling Afar at Eighteen" [Shiba sui chu men yuan xing], "The April Third Incident" [Siyue sanri shijian],"1986" [1986 nian], and "One Kind of Reality" [Xianshi yizhong], a number of themes, many of which are characteristically postmodernist, are identified. The prominent themes among these are that the individual is alone in this world, there are many different modes of perception, humans are often cruel and vicious, and the world is a bizarre and bewildering place. Following this, the focus shifts to stylistic techniques. Yu Hua's use of different modes of perception and description, magic realism, novel and incongruous metaphors, and ambiguous and contradictory narratives is examined in detail. Finally, 'The Affairs of the World Are Like Smoke" [Shishi ru yan], "Fresh Blood Plum Blossoms" [Xianxuemeihua], and "Classical Love" [Gudian aiqing] are examined with particular attention paid to the parodic reincorporation of genres of pre-modern Chinese fiction in these stories. Parallels are then drawn between aspects of Chinese tradition, in particular Buddhist and Daoist thought, and certain postmodernist themes and techniques.

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