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The tragic vision in Jia Pingwa’s four novels of the 1990s Zheng, Ming Fang


This thesis presents a study of "tragic vision" in four novels of the 1990s by the well known Chinese writer Jia Pingwa. The novels are The Abandoned Capital (Feidu [Chinese Characters]), White Nights (Baiye [Chinese Characters]), The Earthen Gate (Tumen [Chinese Characters]), and Old Gao Village (Gaolaozhuang [Chinese Characters]). After a review of Western theories of tragedy - including Unamuno, Jaspers, Krieger, Frye, and others, with special attention to Raymond Williams, I argue that tragic experience is primary, perennial, and universal, tragic vision is secondary, and tragedy, in whatever religious, philosophical, and artistic form, is a response to and product of tragic experience and tragic vision. By tragic vision I mean a view of the world, a "sense of life in men and peoples" that is tragic. This vision is not necessarily pessimistic because using our head we find despair, but using our heart we are full of hope (Unamuno). In Chinese the idea can be summed up in the Daoist epithet about Confucius—"Is that not the man who knows that striving is without hope and yet goes on?" In short, tragic vision is defiant resistance or resisting defiantly. Relying on this sense of the term, I flesh out Jia Pingwa's tragic vision through an analysis of the four novels mentioned above. I demonstrate how Jia expresses a cyclical vision of his individual characters' lives, of their crossing the rural and urban boundaries, and of traversing various stages of social history. These tragic cycles seem to go on hopelessly, but Jia's characters resist despair by waging Sisyphean battles. I conclude that modern China has tragic experience, Jia Pingwa has a tragic vision and, although his tragic vision is not as profound as that of some of the literary giants the world has produced, he has successfully forged this vision into art.

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