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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The fictional image of post-Mao youth : a thematic study Louis, Winnie Laifong


The present dissertation attempts to examine fictional works written by and about contemporary Chinese youth in the post-Mao era (1976-1984). Among the several thousand stories that flooded the Chinese literary scene since the death of Mao Zedong and the fall of the "Gang of Four", Zhiqing Fiction, or fiction about urban educated youth, has played an important role in terms of its large quantity, its daring social criticism, and its comprehensive revelation of the physical and spiritual journey of contemporary Chinese urban youth since 1966. Zhiqing Fiction enables us to trace that journey from the Red Guard Movement to the rustication program and life from after returning to their city homes. In this thesis, a thematic study of Zhiqing Fiction, the existence of a cyclical pattern is demonstrated. An examination of this thematically circular pattern shows how under the influence of socio-political, literary and personal factors, an important part of Chinese literature was transformed from the affirmation of official (revolutionary) values to the negation of them and finally back to a reaffirmation of similar values in a new historical context. It further shows that, despite the relaxation of literary policy, Chinese literature has not yet escaped political influence. A political exploration of this fact is also seen to be the Chinese writers' inherent desire to influence society through literature. In this thesis portraits of post-Mao youth are discussed under five thematic categories: the Red Guard Movement, rusticated life, rediscovery of love, re-assertion of the self, and the search for new outlets. Besides supporting the cyclical model, these portraits are seen to also provide a window for understanding the loves and hates, aspirations and frustrations, ideals and disillusionments, and above all, the spirit, of contemporary Chinese youth.

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