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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Journey within : the inward turn of the contemporary Chinese novel Kong, Shuyu


This thesis examines the inward turn of the contemporary Chinese novel: a tendency in fictional narrative to move from representing social reality and political events from an "objective" point of view to exploring personal experience, especially the interior world of human beings, from a subjective point of view. I take three novels published in the early 1990s as examples: Yu Hua's Crying in the Fine Rain(1991), Ge Fei's On the Margins (1992), and Wang Anyi's Fact and Fiction: One Way to Create a World (1993). I demonstrate a new narrative mode emerging, with thematic innovations and formal changes, against the background of the collapse of Communist collectivist ideology and the "master narrative" of socialist realism. In these three works, first-person autobiographical narrators are employed to explore personal experience and private life, a space once repressed and forbidden in modern Chinese literature. Reflections on growing-up, personal memory of the past and the imaginative search for identity can thus be read allegorically as a Chinese Bildungsroman of the awakening consciousness of Self. This new narrative not only emphasizes the importance of inner territory, but also ushers in a subjective writing which has greatly altered the appearance and conception of the Chinese novel. Chronological line is broken up into a psychological temporal order; plot and event become obscured within mental scenes; and omniscient didactic voices are replaced by self-conscious, reflective minds. Such individualistic, modernist narratives challenge the former collective, socially-oriented "realist epics" produced since 1930s, providing an alternative form and function for the modern Chinese novel.

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