Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

An Incomplete Socialist Modernity: Representation of the Socialist New Man in Chinese Literature, Film and Aesthetic Debate, 1953–1964
by He, Xiang, Ph.D., New York University, 2013, 268; 3591241
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation opens an inquiry into the socialist new man to examine the complexity of literary and cultural productions of China from 1953 to 1964. For a long time the socialist new man has been regarded only as an ideological organ of official power machine. However, I argue that the process through which the socialist new man came into being in literature, film, and aesthetics is far more complicated. With a utopian vision, such images give rise to negotiation, resistance and subversion against ideological dogmas. The socialist new man owes an intellectual legacy to the May Fourth New Cultural Movement. Since the early 1950s, however, paradoxes of "tradition vis-à-vis value" and "emotion vis-à-vis reason", as Joseph Levenson pinpointed, are no longer at the center of intellectual discourse. Rooted in a long and radical phase of social mobilization and mass revolution, the socialist new man represents a set of utopian values on relationship between the individual and the collective, between a subjective world of consciousness and an external, objective world mediated by human labor. This dissertation investigates various aspects of such a dynamic value-shaping process by unfolding a spectrum of the socialist new man: how the "literature youth" constantly keeps a revolutionary spirit alive in everyday life and what literature means to youth, especially those who are at a social-political periphery; how the "contemporary heroes" achieve an unprecedented success in agricultural cooperative movement whereas they become more and more dogmatic once at the center of village; how comic laughter helps to deconstruct an ideological aspect of the socialist new man, but still manages to contain the utopian value in a new form; and how the aesthetic debate attempts to legitimize the socialist new man as a universal ideal of Man, despite a radical discontinuity from Chinese culture, custom, and tradition.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Zhang, Xudong
Commitee: Button, Peter, Iampolski, Mikhail, Karl, Rebecca, Wang, Ban, Zhang, Xudong
School: New York University
Department: Comparative Literature
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 74/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Comparative literature, Asian literature, Aesthetics
Keywords: Aesthetic subjectivity, China, Comedy film, Dialectic of utopia and ideology, Epic novel, New Man, Socialism, Socialist modernity, The literature youth
Publication Number: 3591241
ISBN: 978-1-303-31790-3
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