The Return of the Westward Look: Overseas Chinese Student Literature in the 20th century
Committee ChairLi, Dian
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractBy employing the theory of Imagology, this work examines four literature workswritten in overseas study movements in modern Chinese history: Wang Tao's shortstories in Songyin Manlu, Lao She's The Two Mas, Bai Xianyong's A Death in Chicagoand Zhou Li's Manhattan's Chinese Lady. While tracing how Chinese intellectuals workthrough the dichotomy of China/West and Tradition /Modernity, this study alsoendeavors to reveal theoretical issues arising from inter-cultural communication andrepresentation. It argues that the literary projection of the west manifests a complex senseof the Chinese self primarily due to the portrayals of western cities and westerners as anembodiment of Chinese understandings of western modernity at different periods. In theLate Qing, the depiction of London in Songyin Manlu only focuses on gunboats, cannons,museums, and factories, because western modernity for the Chinese at the time wassignified by the mighty weaponry of British navy and advanced technology. In the 1920s,however, the portrayal of London in The Two Mas shifts to reveal how Londoners'lifestyle and culture make Britain the most powerful nation in the world, as the Chineseintellectuals advocated the westernization of Chinese culture in order to strengthen China.In the 1960s, the Chinese protagonist Wu Hanhun in A Death of Chicago feels estrangedand sexually seduced in Chicago, subsequently loses his sense of purpose in life andeventually commits suicide, the depiction of which is consistent with similar themes inwestern modernist literature. This is due to the fact that the modernist movement thrivedin Taiwan in the 1960s, and as such, had a large impact on Taiwanese writers. The 1990seraManhattan's Chinese Lady displays spectacles of America's wealth on the FifthAvenue in Manhattan, as common Chinese strive for becoming rich in contemporaryChina owing to the Chinese government's promotion of market reform after 40 years ofpoverty in socialist China. The study concludes that regardless of whether or not theimages of the west presented in Chinese discourse are idealizations, demonizations, orother related cultural determinations, they all manifest a type of anxiety in regard to theChinese Self.
Degree ProgramEast Asian Studies