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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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Introduction 1. Originally, it was not The Wilderness but his fourth play, Beijing Man (Beijing ren 北京人, 1941) that was categorized as one of his trilogy besides Thunderstorm and Sunrise. It is not until later that critics commonly regarded The Wilderness instead of Beijing Man as one of his trilogy, or they simply resolved the issue by including all four as Cao Yu’s four masterpieces. The play has yet to be mentioned in the introduction to Cao Yu on the official website of Beijing People’s Art Theatre. 2. The passage is quoted by Wang Aixue in A Comparison of the Dramatic Work of Cao Yu and J. M. Synge (New Work: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999), 83. 3. Xu Yanxing 徐言行 and Cheng Jincheng 程金城, Biaoxian zhuyi yu ershi shiji Zhongguo wenxue 表現主義與二十世紀中國文學 (Expressionism and Twentieth Century Chinese Literature) (Hefei: Anhui jiaoyu chubanshe, 2000). 1. Expressionism Then and Now 1. J. L. Styan, Modern Drama in Theory and Practice: Expressionism and Epic Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 3. 2. Ibid. 3. Eugene O’Neill, “Memoranda on Masks,” in O’Neill and His Plays: Four Decades of Criticism, ed. Oscar Cargill et al (New York: New York University Press, 1961), 116. 4. Hu Shi’s article on Ibsenism appeared in the New Youth Journal 4.6 in June 1918, and is translated and included in Appendix A by Elisabeth Elide in China’s Ibsen: From Ibsen to Ibsenism (London: Curzon Press, 1987), 155-68. 5. Elisabeth Elide, China’s Ibsen: From Ibsen to Ibsenism (London: Curzon Press, 1987), 11. 6. Marston Anderson,...

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