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Expressionism and Its Deformation in Contemporary Chinese Theatre

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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 FIVE: Trans-Expressionism: Xu Xiaozhong’s Sangshuping Chronicles

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CHAPTER FIVE Trans-Expressionism: Xu Xiaozhong’s Sangshuping Chronicles When the spirit of Expressionism’s quest for subjectivity came to the forefront after the end of the Cultural Revolution, and when the Root-Seeking Literature took hold after 1985, enthusiasm for Huang Zuolin’s xieyi theatre and its realiza- tion in China Dream reflected a transformative period for Expressionism during the mid-1980s. Simultaneously embracing the expressionist’s vision as well as the reassessment of expressionist aesthetics, Chinese theatre engaged in a prac- tice that revealed the complicated and unsettling cultural dynamics involved in its searching for roots. Despite his claim of having been influenced by the three distinctive dramatic systems of Brecht, Stanislavsky and Mei Lanfang, Huang Zuolin’s development of Xieyi Theatre aimed at invigorating modern theatre by drawing significantly from traditional Chinese opera as well. Furthermore, both the scope and philosophical roots of the term xieyi created a unique rhetorical and dramaturgical dimension beyond Huang Zuolin’s grasp. On the one hand, it represented a Chinese equivalent of Expressionism. On the other hand, the term had become the most representative characteristic for describing traditional Chi- nese operatic theatre. In contrast, Xu Xiaozhong’s 徐曉鍾 (b. 1928) Sangshuping jishi 桑樹坪紀 事 (Sangshuping Chronicles, also translated as Stories of Mulberry Village, 1988), produced one year after China Dream, represented a growing force in Chinese theatre that attempted to synthesize different transcultural modes of dramatic expression. Sangshuping Chronicles reflected the rapid development of the nascent Chinese economy between the late 1980s and the mid-1990s. Although Sangshuping Chronicles emerged before the June Fourth Tiananmen...

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