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Refreshments will be served.
In this talk, Xudong Zhang argues that the often puzzling and tantalizing realities of China today can best be comprehended through the prism of its literature—not the kind of literature aimed at providing a realist presentation of social relationships, conflicts and dynamisms, but the kind of literature defined by manners of storytelling that are intensely individual in style and innovative in form. As deliberately, boldly constructed artifice, this late-modernist school provides a more truthful and ruthless intuition into Chinese realities by staying fiercely true to the sensual richness, the shock value of eventuality and affectivity, and sheer intensities of language and figures of speech. The aesthetic self-awareness and the single-minded pursuit of artistic honesty on the part of the authors, paradoxically, commit their works to a sustained engagement with “Chinese reality” which tends to be lost or clouded in less creative, obsessive, and possessed—in the original sense of inspiration—modes of writing. The talk identifies four “masterpieces” of such literary mode of production from 21st century China and delves into analyses of the social, psychological and allegorical landscapes of contemporary China, which those four novels triumphantly imitate, parody, twist and allegorize into a coherent totality of incoherence, ironies and contradictions.
Xudong Zhang is Professor of Comparative Literature and Chinese at New York University, where he also directs the International Center for Critical Theory. His works (in English and Chinese) include: Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms; Postsocialism and Cultural Politics; Cultural Identity in the Age of Globalization: Historical Reflections on Western Discourses of Universalism; and Toward A Critical Literary History. The first volume of his three-volume study of Lu Xun is forthcoming in 2022.