The Experience of Modernity: Chinese Autobiography of the Early Twentieth Century

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Overview


Autobiography of the first half of the twentieth century was used variously by different groups of writers to interrogate, negotiate, and even to program the social and political progress of China. However, despite the popularity and success of this genre, it has also been the most forgotten in literary and historical discussions. Personal stories and individual expressions seem to have had no place in 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s China, smothered instead by the grander rhetoric of nationalism. For this reason, autobiography's popularity during the era is an odd phenomenon and also an important genre for study.

The May Fourth Era (1917-40) began as a movement to make the classical literary language accessible to the common people and became a broader political movement against imperialism. The writing of autobiography was influenced by the idea of literature's social and political mission, yet at the same time autobiography was a uniquely potent venue for individual expression. Janet Ng examines this notion in The Experience of Modernity within the framework of autobiographical writings by Chen Hengzhe, Lu Xun, Hu Shi, Xie Bingying, Xiao Hong, Eileen Chang, Yu Dafu, and Shen Congwen.

Janet Ng is Assistant Professor of Asian Literature, the College of Staten.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780472098217
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press
  • Publication date: 5/12/2003
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 7.16 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Ch. 1 A New Strategy for Autobiographical Narratives: Chen Hengzhe's Writing of Aurality 21
Ch. 2 Fragmented Subjectivities: A Reconsideration of Women's Literary Mirrors 41
Ch. 3 Nationalism and the Gestural System of Self-Expression 69
Ch. 4 Names and Destiny: Hu Shi's and Lu Xun's Self-Nomination through Autobiography 91
Ch. 5 A Moral Landscape: Reading Shen Congwen's Autobiography and Travelogues 119
Conclusion 145
Notes 151
Bibliography 175
Index 189
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