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Expressionism and Its Deformation in Contemporary Chinese Theatre


Yuwen Hsiung

Expressionism and Its Deformation in Contemporary Chinese Theatre provides both rigorous readings of dramatic works as well as a historical overview of Chinese theatre from the 1980s to the present. Expressionism becomes a discursive locus to be incorporated and even transformed during a critical phase in the modernization of Chinese drama during the post-Maoist era.
Six leading Chinese dramatists (Gao Xingjian, Lin Zhaohua, Huang Zuolin, Xu Xiaozhong, Meng Jinghui, and Stan Lai) are clear representatives of opening up a new world of modern Chinese drama. They embody each of the major phases of the adoption, deformation, and multicultural infusion of Expressionism in the development of Chinese dramatic modernization. Approaching their dramatic works from multiple perspectives, including expressionist vision and techniques, comparative aesthetics, Bakhtinian chronotope and heteroglossia, semiotics, «psychic interiority», and concluding with Lu Xun’s definition of Expressionism as «to write a good deal about yourself», Chinese dramatists’ enthusiasm for Expressionism is not just an artistic rejoinder to the spiritual aspirations of life in a time of rapid industrialization and modernization but also a coming-to-terms with the ideological and aesthetic conflicts between different dramatic traditions.
Expressionism and Its Deformation in Contemporary Chinese Theatre is the first scholarly book to explore the deep and intricate relationship between Expressionism and contemporary Chinese drama, attempting to assume the critical task of challenging these dramatists while delineating the contours of the most recent trends of Chinese theatre. This book could situate itself within the Chinese scholarly and theatrical contexts for English readers as it is an accessible text for both undergraduate students and graduates and scholars.


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CHAPTER FOUR: “Scream” from the Soul: Huang Zuolin’s Xieyi Theatre


CHAPTER FOUR “Scream” from the Soul: Huang Zuolin’s Xieyi Theatre The title of this chapter immediately brings us to the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s (1863-1944) most famous painting The Scream (1893). The funda- mental idea of Expressionism is man’s subjectivity as a reaction against the de- humanization that has accompanied scientific progression. With intense color, bold and distorted lines, agitated brushstrokes, and disjointed space, expression- ists, like Munch in The Scream, attempt to impose a person’s inner experience onto their representation of the world. Expressionist painters and dramatists took a more active role in shaping and rendering their inner emotions when the world, with its rapid speed of industrialization and capitalization in the West during the 1920s, grew increasingly alienated from human beings. Additionally, they felt more and more constrained by the conventions of realistic forms which no longer met their needs. The goal of this brief overview of Expressionism and its origin in painting is to point out that, Chinese dramatists, in finding an equivalent idea to Expres- sionism, borrowed from the traditional idea of Chinese xieyi painting. Xieyi 寫 意 is composed of two Chinese characters: Xie 寫 means to write and yi 意 re- fers to idea. The term literally means to write one’s idea. This is an act of con- cretizing an internal abstract idea, emphasizing a flow of energy directed from the inside out. In the study of Chinese drama, xieyi has been seen as the Chinese aesthetic equivalent of Western Expressionism. In other words, xieyi captures Chinese dramatists’...

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