A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture

A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture

by Barbara Mittler


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Cultural Revolution Culture, often denigrated as nothing but propaganda, was liked not only in its heyday but continues to be enjoyed today. A Continuous Revolution sets out to explain its legacy. By considering Cultural Revolution propaganda art—music, stage works, prints and posters, comics, and literature—from the point of view of its longue durée, Barbara Mittler suggests it was able to build on a tradition of earlier art works, and this allowed for its sedimentation in cultural memory and its proliferation in contemporary China.

Taking the aesthetic experience of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) as her base, Mittler juxtaposes close readings and analyses of cultural products from the period with impressions given in a series of personal interviews conducted in the early 2000s with Chinese from diverse class and generational backgrounds. By including much testimony from these original voices, Mittler illustrates the extremely multifaceted and contradictory nature of the Cultural Revolution, both in terms of artistic production and of its cultural experience.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674065819
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 02/04/2013
Series: Harvard East Asian Monographs , #343
Pages: 502
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Barbara Mittler is Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Heidelberg, Germany.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Illustrations and Online Resources xiii

Introduction: Nose-Smells 1

Popular Culture and Cultural Revolution Culture: Theory, Practice, and Experience 3

Art as Propaganda 7

(Subjective) Receptions of Propaganda 11

(Objective) Forms of Propaganda 17

Variety and Availability: Art as Education 18

Propaganda and Pop: Art for Entertainment 21

Continuity and Repetition: Art in History 25

Propaganda as Art 27

Part I Ears-Sounds 33

Prologue 35

1 From Mozart to Mao to Mozart: Musical Revolutions in China 39

Prelude: Chinese Music and New Chinese Music 39

Exposition: China and Mozart 41

Development: Mao 46

Excursion 1 Chinese Opera as a Genre of Change: A View from History 50

"To Wield through the Old to Create the New"($$$) : Musical Traditions in the Model Works 53

"To Wield through the Foreign to Create a Chinese National Art"($$$): Approaches to Foreign Music in the Model Works 64

Serving the People($$$): The Politics of Model Music and Performance 78

Excursion 2 Chinese Opera Reform: A View from History 87

The Artistic Success of the Model Works 89

Recapitulation: Mozart and China 92

Coda: Foreign Music and Foreign-Style Chinese Music 96

2 The Sounds Amidst the Fury: Cultural Revolution Songs From Xian Xinghai to Cui Jian 97

"Red Is the East"$$$ 100

The "Internationale"$$$ 112

Medley: Mixing Sounds from amidst the Fury 117

Coda 125

Part II Mouth-Words 129

Prologue 131

3 Destroying the Old and Learning from Black Material: The Political Fate of a Famous School Primer 139

Old and New: The Three Character Classic before and after the Cultural Revolution 141

Black Material: The Three Character Classic and the Cultural Revolution 156

Rethinking Confucius before the Cultural Revolution 165

Rethinking Confucius during the Cultural Revolution 173

Memories: Reconfiguring Confucius after the Cultural Revolution 185

4 The Foolish Old Man Who Moved the Mountains: Superscribing a Foundational Myth 189

Prelude: Depicting the Power of Words 189

The Story 196

The (Hi)Story behind the Story 199

Quoting the Story during the Cultural Revolution 208

(Hi)Story and Quotation beyond the Cultural Revolution 230

Coda: Rethinking the Power of Words 249

Part III Eyes-Images 257

Prologue 259

5 Mao Wherever You Go: The Art of Repetition in Revolutionary China 267

Repeating Mao: MaoArt and Its Implied Audience 269

Repetition? 270

Not to Be Repeated! Part 1: Modernisms? 280

Not to Be Repeated! Part 2: Traditionalisms? 290

Repetition Squared: Repeating the Repeated 295

Repetition Reconsidered 303

Receiving Mao: The Actual Audience of MaoArt 304

Ubiquity! 304

Ubiquity? 307

Deity! 313

Deity? 317

Revisiting Mao: MaoArt Then and Now 324

6 Chain(Ed) Pictures and Chained By Pictures: Comics and Cultural Revolutions in China 331

Heroes, Villains, and Sexuality 335

Readers, Readings, and Popularity 353

Monkeys, Demons, and Continuity 365

Conclusion: Hands-Touch 371

Cultural Revolution Culture and Popular Culture: Theorizing Practice and Experience 373

Propaganda's Grammar 373

Propaganda's Space 377

Propaganda's Time 380

Turning the Pages of History? 384


1 List of Interviewees 389

2 Interview Questions 391

3 Chronology of the Model Works 394

Reference Matter

Works Cited 395

Index of Names, Titles, and Slogans 437

Subject Index 469

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