MPhil Thesis Presentation
The Politics and Poetics of Absurdity in Modern Chinese Literature
Abstract:
 
Modern China was born from some of the noblest aspirations – progress, enlightenment, emancipation and modernization. However, it also witnessed a distinct disjunction between grand narrative and cruel reality, between rational purpose and chaotic outcome. Such an abyss inevitably evoked an intensive feeling of unredeemable exile and a sense of aimlessness and absurdity. Through the lens of “absurdity”, one of the most essential yet ill-defined philosophical conceptions that identifies the rupture of History and the crisis of identity at twentieth century, this study attempts to investigate how the modern Chinese literature casts light on and responds to the aporia of history and intricacies of reality, and how the absurdity, as the epistemological root of the literary works, inspires different kinds of aesthetic-discursive practices configured in the socio-cultural and socio-historical environment. I argue that absurdity is the recognition that the world is meaningless and aimless yet one continues to live on in face of insoluble impasses and unbridgeable disjunction in history and reality, rooted in the deep epistemological despair, in the denial of absolute rationality and in the relentless longing for clarity. The discourse of absurdity is not merely representation or expression of individual feeling, but an articulatory practice that participates in (re)defining the unfathomable tension between self and history.
 
From a comparative perspective, this study devotes to contextualize the politics and poetics of the absurdity in modern Chinese literature, particularly focusing on three writers, Yan Lianke, Wong Bik-wan and Guo Songfen, with an attempt to rescue the concept of absurdity from the postmodernist and poststructuralist rubble of signification. Chapter one focuses on Yan Lianke’s pathos of posthistory. I will elaborate how Yan’s representation of posthistorical crises implicitly unveils his compassion with the wretched, his radical pessimism towards the progression that dominates the society, as well as his despair to the role of literature in the age of darkness. Chapter two focuses on Wong Bik-wan’s writing of Hong Kong and female. By locating Hong Kong and women negatively, in the minor female perspectives, and in transgressive aesthetics, Wong pluralizes and multiplies the His/tory of Hong Kong, going beyond the dichotomized epistemic paradigm of gender and Hong Kong. In this way, she eventually leads us to understand the perpetual impasses faced by Hong Kong and women. Chapter three moves to the diasporic Taiwanese writer – Guo Songfen. Concentrating on Guo’s novella Snow Blind which bears witness to the modern Taiwan history and Taiwanese diaspora experience, this chapter will trace Guo’s interest in Lu Xun and Camus, and then investigate how Lu Xun and Camus’s thoughts of absurdity have influenced Guo’s novella. In doing so, it endeavors to examine how Guo absorbs their thinking into his own reflection of Taiwan’s history and politics.
 
Speaker(s) Xiuwen ZHU
Date 2 Jun 2018 (Saturday)
Time 9:30 am
Venue Room 3301 (Lift 2), 3/F, Academic Building
Language English