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Title: Peasants and morality : intellectual repositioning in relation to the peasants in the post-Mao era in the works of Zhang Wei and Yan Lianke
Author: Chen, Szu-Chi
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis focuses on intellectual self-repositioning after the end of Mao’s regime. By examining the literary works of two eminent contemporary writers, Zhang Wei (1956 -) and Yank Lianke (1958), this study shows the complicated process of defining and re-defining the meaning of “intellectual” in the context of the drastic social and economic transformation that took place since China opened itself to the world. Since positing one’s own identity necessitates comparing oneself with another well defined group, in my study I use peasants as this balancing group because, historically, intellectuals (or literati) and peasants are intimately associated. Without the existence of peasants, the traditionally defined intellectual would have no significance. Zhang Wei and Yan Lianke are two Chinese writers who for decades have consistently concerned themselves with and written about peasants, and have paid close attention to political and intellectual trends. Therefore, to a great degree, their literary works trace the various stages undergone by contemporary intellectuals in their struggle for self-identity/definition and recognition of their new social role. This research employs close reading, intertwined with narratology, and new historicism, to explain and discuss the stories. The high moral qualities conventionally attributed to Chinese peasants, as well as the intellectual’s sense of mission are two focal points of this study. Expanding these two themes, the ideal nation of living community, otherwise referred to as utopia, is discursively discussed. This study demonstrates how these two writers mine different sources of moral values from primitive energy, Chinese legends, Confucianism, Taoism or historical figures in order to construct their textual utopia. This concern for moral quality also develops into a discussion of a controversial element in the image of peasants; their numbness. This study elucidates how these two writers treat this topic in their narratives, and their different attitudes when encountering the contradictory qualities of peasants.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available