Topics in Modern Chinese Literature: Representation and Forgetting of the Mao Years


This course explores how generational memory functions in a narrative of trauma and how the signification of such interplay bears witness to historical calamities such as the Anti-Rightist Movement (1957-1959), the Great Leap Forward and the Great Famine (1958-1962), and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) of the Mao era in China. Throughout the course, we will explore the possibility of a new interpretive framework that reads post-Mao literary works through the lens of generational memory of historical trauma. We will tackle primary texts including fictional works, memoirs, reportage, documentaries, and films produced in post-Mao China, from the late 1970s onward. We will read memory theories developed by Paul Ricoeur, Marc Augé, Marianne Hirsch, among others. A few questions that will be asked throughout the course: Who remember and why do they remember? How does the distance of time affect the perception of perpetration by the perpetrators themselves, by victims, and by outsiders looking in? What are the ethical implications and concerns of artistic representation of the agents of suffering and their infliction of cruelty? And finally, we will explore the idea of "archaeology of memory" as a means to reflect on the ethics of remembering and forgetting in today's memory production of the Mao years. All primary materials will be in their original Chinese language. This seminar is designed for graduate students only. Undergraduate students who wish to take this course must have approval of the instructor prior to registration.
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