From Ah Q to Lei Feng: Freud and Revolutionary Spirit in 20th Century China

From Ah Q to Lei Feng: Freud and Revolutionary Spirit in 20th Century China

From Ah Q to Lei Feng: Freud and Revolutionary Spirit in 20th Century China

From Ah Q to Lei Feng: Freud and Revolutionary Spirit in 20th Century China

Synopsis

When Freudian sexual theory hit China in the early 20th century, it ran up against competing models of the mind from both Chinese tradition and the new revolutionary culture. Chinese theorists of the mind- both traditional intellectuals and revolutionary psychologists- steadily put forward the anti-Freud: a mind shaped not by deep interiority that must be excavated by professionals, but shaped instead by social and cultural interactions.

Chinese novelists and film directors understood this focus and its relationship to Mao's revolutionary ethos, and much of the literature of twentieth-century China reflects the spiritual qualities of the revolutionary mind. From Ah Q to Lei Feng investigates the continual clash of these contrasting models of the mind provided by Freud and revolutionary Chinese culture, and explores how writers and filmmakers negotiated with the implications of each model.

.

Excerpt

This project began in 1995, when I saw Jiang Wen's (1963–) then-newly released film In the Heat of the Sun (Yangguang canlan de rizi) in Beijing. Although stories that revised the earlier Cultural Revolution narrative of a youthful idealism betrayed by corruption and violence were not uncommon in the work of Wang Anyi (1955–), Zhang Xianliang (1936–), Wang Xiaobo (1952–1997), Mang Ke (1950–), Anchee Min (1957–), and others, I had never before seen the Cultural Revolution period visually represented with such sexual innuendo and sensual abandon in image, sound, and story.

While eventually coming to believe that these narratives did not substitute sexual for revolutionary excitement in any simple sense, I initially wondered whether this representation simply modernized the revolutionary past through an imaginary discursive alliance with European and North American sexual modernity—projected in literature, media, advertisements, and cultural theory—that privileged what we have come to call “sexuality,” valorizing the importance of sexual desire and behavior. After all, interpreting the explosion of sexual representation in post-Mao culture as reaction against an excessively repressive Confucian and Maoist past was common . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.