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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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POSTSCRIPT: Writing about Yourself


POSTSCRIPT Writing about Yourself In Limits of Realism: Chinese Fiction in the Revolutionary Period, Marston An- derson begins his book on Realism by quoting a passage written by Lu Xun 魯 迅 (1881-1936) at the height of the Revolutionary Literature debate in 1928, in which he mentions Expressionism: The fearful thing about the Chinese literary scene is that everyone keeps introduc- ing new terms without defining them. And everyone interprets these terms as he pleases. To write a good deal about yourself is Expressionism. To write largely about others is Realism. To write poems on a girl’s leg is romanticism. To ban poems on a girl’s leg is classicism.1 Lu Xun wrote this essay to defend himself against attacks from extreme leftists who found him “insufficiently militant”2 or, to put it simply, not realistic enough, even when he, as the father of modern Chinese literature, was most strenuously advocating Realism. This was the time during which the theories of Realism established themselves as omnipresent guidelines in modern Chinese literary and dramatic studies. Similar to Lu Xun’s situation around the same time, ex- pressionist theories and plays became a subject of reflective critique by those who elevated intellectual arguments into political controversies. Since Realism lost its official sanction after the Cultural Revolution,this ear- ly debate on interpreting Western “isms” is still encountered among contempo- rary Chinese dramatists’ employing Western dramatic techniques ranging from Symbolism, Expressionism, Brecht’s Alienation Effect, Absurdism, and Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, to Schechner’s Environmental Theatre. Seen in this...

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