Ideology and Form in Yan Lianke’s Fiction
Mythorealism as Method
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Xie analyses three novels by the international award-winning Chinese writer Yan Lianke and investigates how his signature "mythorealist" form produces textual meanings that subvert the totalizing reality prescribed by literary realism.
The term mythorealism, which Yan coined to describe his own writing style, refers to a set of literary devices that incorporate both Chinese and Western literary elements while remaining primarily grounded in Chinese folk culture and literary tradition. In his use of mythorealism, carrying a burden of social critique that cannot allow itself to become "political," Yan transcends the temporality and provinciality of immediate social events and transforms his potential socio-political commentaries into more diversified concerns for humanity, existential issues, and spiritual crisis. Xie identifies three modes of mythorealist narrative exemplified in Yan’s three novels: the minjian (folk) mode in Dream of Ding Village, the enigmatic mode in The Four Books, and the allusive mode in Ballad, Hymn, Ode. By positioning itself against an ambiguous articulation of social determinants of historical events that would perhaps be more straightforward in a purely realist text, each mode of mythorealism moves its narrative from the overt politicality of the subject matter to the existential riddle of negotiating an alternative reality.
A groundbreaking study of one of contemporary China’s most important authors, that will be of great value to students and scholars of Chinese literature.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Contemporariness and Contemporary Chinese Literature 1 Mythorealism as Method 2 AIDS and the Haunted Minjian: Negotiating the National Character in Dream of Ding Village 3 Disenchanted Shijing and Spiritual Crisis: Allusive Sex and Illusive Disgust in Ballad, Hymn, Ode 4 Docile Body and Ethical Self: the Religious, the Grotesque, and the Mythological in The Four Books Conclusion
Haiyan Xie is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies in the School of Foreign Languages, Central China Normal University, China.