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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Nativist fiction in China and Taiwan: A thematic survey Haddon, Rosemary M.


This dissertation comprises a historical survey and thematic analysis of the various regional and temporal expressions of Chinese and Taiwanese xiangtu wenxue (“nativism” or “homeland literature”). Chapter One traces Chinese xiangtu wenxue from the rural stories of Lu Xun through the 1920s generation of writers of xiangtu wenxue (xiangtu zuojia f’g). These writers used two different narrative modes to analyze China’s deepening rural crisis. One of these was the antitraditionalist mode inspired by Lu Xun; the other was a positivist mode formulated from new concepts and intellectual thought prevalent in China at the time of May Fourth (1919). The narrative configuration established by this decade of xiangtu writers is characterized by nostalgia and is based on the migration of the Chinese village intellectual to large urban centres. This configuration set the standard for subsequent generations of writers of xiangtu wenxue who used an urban narrator to describe a rural area which was either the author’s native home, an area he/she knew well or one which was idealized. Chapters Two and Five discuss Taiwanese xiangtu wenxue from the 1920s to the 1970s. The emergence of this fiction is linked with Taiwan’s insecure status in the forum of international relations. In Taiwanese xiangtu wenxue, the countryside is a refuge from the forces of modernization; it is also a storehouse nurturing ancient traditions which are threatened by new and modern ways. Taiwan’s xiangtu writers valorize traditional culture and seek in rural Taiwan a transcendent China predating Taiwan’s invasion by the West. These works are all narrated by an urban narrator who rejects modernity and desires to counteract foreign influences. The focus of Chapter Three is China’s rural regional xiangtu wenxue of the 1930s. In this decade, rural fiction became a general trend in China with the rise of the Chinese Communist Party, Japanese aggression and China’s increasing urbanization. The shift away from China’s urban-based fiction is characterized by an increasing concern for the peasants, regional decay under the onslaught of Westernization and the life, customs and lore of China’s hinterland. In many of these regional works, concern for the nation is interwoven with non-nationalistic interests. Chinese xiangtu wenxue of the 1940s and 1950s is discussed in Chapter Four. The xiangtu wenxue of this period took on a distinctly Communist guise in the wake of Mao Zedong’s 1942 Talks at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art. Chinese Communist xiangtu wenxue is primarily defined as revolutionary realism and is concerned with the construction of Chinese socialism which takes place in the countryside through the forced implementation of draconian Party policies. The peasants in this fiction often attempt to evade these policies. Occasionally, these stories and novels slip into a hardcore realistic mode conveying a peasant reality which strongly dissents from the orthodox Party view. At least one writer of this period was persecuted and killed for his putatively disloyal beliefs. Finally, with the passing of Maoism in China, a new form of xiangtu wenxue emerged in the mid-1980s. This is the subject of Chapter Six. In these works, traditional Chinese culture supercedes Maoism as the basic fabric unifying Chinese life. Many of the writers in this period evince a psychological bifurcation arising from their conflicting views about the value of traditional Chinese culture. This bifurcation stems from the narrator in this fiction who is caught up in the process of urbanization and is unable to fully integrate his vision of the countryside into a larger vision of modernity. The ambivalence about Chinese culture in xiangtu wenxue is a leitmotif which underlies xiangtu wenxue’s many, disparate forms.

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