Revolution Plus Love: Literary History, Women's Bodies, and Thematic Repetition in Twentieth-Century Chinese Fiction

By Feng, Jin | The China Journal, January 2005 | Go to article overview

Revolution Plus Love: Literary History, Women's Bodies, and Thematic Repetition in Twentieth-Century Chinese Fiction


Feng, Jin, The China Journal


Revolution Plus Love: Literary History, Women's Bodies, and Thematic Repetition in Twentieth-Century Chinese Fiction, by Liu Jianmei. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2003. xii + 272 pp. US$49.00 (hardcover).

Liu Jianmei was well aware of two major obstacles in her choice of the theme of "revolution plus love" in Chinese fiction from the 1930s to the contemporary period. She had to contend with the presumption that this genre of literature had only produced bad, formulaic writing. She also had to contend with her readers' indifference to what they conceive to be ideologically driven propaganda literature. In light of these challenges, she articulates as her goal the excavation of the "latent and unconscious in cultural politics and literary practices" (p. 213). The result is a solid, engaging book, Revolution Plus Love, that will generate discussions about individual agency, women's bodies, and the literary and political histories of twentieth-century China.

By tracing the evolution of revolution and love in Chinese fiction within different historical and political contexts, Liu brings to our attention, not only the often ignored literary output of the first seventeen years of the PRC, but also the divergences and negotiations within this apparently univocal corpus of revolutionary literature. She proposes to examine "the formulary writing of 'revolution plus love' ... as a case study of literary politics that structures the possibilities available to agents and their relationship to the literary field" (p. 2). Towards that end, she widens her analytical focus to include both the radical leftists (Jiang Guangci, Mao Dun, Hong Lingfei and Hua Han) and the urban modernists (Shi Zhecun, Liu NaOu, Mu Shiying, Zhang Ziping and Ye Lingfeng), examining both the male standard bearers' rhapsodies of revolutionary Utopia and the female writers' counter-narratives of irreducible bodily decay. Invoking the notion of texts as "performative acts" via Austin, Derrida and Judith Butler, she both meticulously outlines the different configurations of revolution and love and seeks to historicize the thematic variations. She concludes: "At the heart of the theme is the deep confusion between self-conscious modern subjectivity and the collective commitment of the modern nation" (p. 215).

Liu's work is engaging in two respects: it not only opens up the site of revolutionary literature, previously either dismissed as of poor quality or neglected due to its presumed homogeneity, but also demonstrates the complexity of applying theory to the field of modern Chinese literature. As such, the following comments should be construed as a testimony to the power of Liu's book to generate thinking rather than as a critical focus on the mode of her analysis.

Liu cites Prasenjit Duara's idea of "bifurcated history" (p. 193) as both the motivation and rationale for privileging discontinuities and discordances in her investigation. Yet one wonders whether she operates from a locus more unified than that claim suggests. Her reading of Chen Zhongshi's The Land of White Deer, for instance, focuses on the femme fatale Tian Xiao'e rather than on the more obvious choice of the woman revolutionary Bai Ling, perhaps because the latter would have complicated her criticism of the novel's "ideological blind spot" (p. 200): its purportedly monolithic glorification of traditional culture. Another example is her persistent search for "resistance" that at times creates overly simplistic analyses. For example, she praises the subversive practices of the female writers Bai Wei, Lu Yin and Ding Ling, whose fiction exposed the conflict between the feminine body and the radical revolutionary discourse of their time. Yet, interestingly, she seems oblivious to the diversity within this group of women writers. Ding Ling, for instance, remained unsatisfied with her tales of revolution plus love, regarding them as copycat, "vulgar" imitations of the narrative forms first invented by Jiang Guanci. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Revolution Plus Love: Literary History, Women's Bodies, and Thematic Repetition in Twentieth-Century Chinese Fiction
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.