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Historical-political spaces recreated : a comparative study of Sherwood Anderson and Su Tong He, Jiao

Abstract

The Mid-West America and the south China are both fundamental to the national consciousness of America and China respectively. Furthermore, both of them have appealed to literary imaginations and thus played significant roles in the two national literatures. This paper looks into the political and historical significances of these two spaces and how they are recreated through the powerful imagination of Sherwood Anderson and Su Tong. In Anderson's case, I argue against the popular criticism that reads Anderson as a representative of the "Revolt from the Village" group, because Anderson remains faithful to his small town origin. The evil aspects of industrialization and the problems of the modern world that Anderson sees confirm his faith in the land. His active pursuit after a better future for the small town indicates that he is essentially romantic and idealistic. In contrast, Su Tong's south China is bleak and hopeless. Writing against a long literary tradition that portrays the South as affluent, peaceful, regenerative, and highly cultured, Su Tong is daring in his deconstruction of the popular image. He not only recreates the symbol of rice but also gives a horrific picture of the declining South, physically and spiritually alike. The two writers also share interest in the youth that are struggling for maturation in these two spaces . Reading Ninesburg, Ohio as Bildungsroman instead of protest literature, I argue that Anderson harbors hope for American youth with small town origin. Meanwhile the fatalist and decadent traits persist in Su Tong' s treatment of this theme. The youth in his fictive world, which is marked by grotesqueness, have no future, nor hope, nor escape. They are doomed even before they reach adulthood.

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