Session 15

Based on the readings, answer these questions

1. In his essay “Against Silence: The Cultural Revolution and Literary Memory,”(in additional readings folder) Jianguo Chen is concerned with how narrative, as a discourse of memory, functions to make sense of reality. He writes: “Literature is concerned with how narrative discourse may lead to a better understanding of humanity.” Similarly, Perry Link in his Introduction to The Execution of Mayor Yin and Other Stories from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, states that Chen Ruoxi is one of the very few writers who takes a probing look at the cataclysmic events of the Mao years. How do Chen Ruoxi’s fictional stories allow us to look back and understand facts of the past more clearly and fully? How do these texts function as a form of cultural memory and expose the truth while allowing the reader to begin to come to terms with events of the past? How do these texts, in the words of Perry Link, “tread across forbidden zones” while reflecting the experiences of “the little people of Maoland, its earthworms?” Answer this question by discussing specific scenes in the stories and their effects upon the reader. 

2. Chen Ruoxi’s stories are written in plain, undistorted, direct, and seemingly “simple language.” At the same time, however, the stories are filled with instances of irony. The voice and situation of the narrator often contribute to this irony, by foregrounding moral dilemmas the narrator must face. Identify instances in the stories in which this irony comes to the foreground, and helps to illuminate the absurdity of the situations in which people find themselves. What is the effect of this kind of irony? What is the effect of Chen Ruoxi’s direct and straightforward style of narration? 

3. How is Chairman Mao represented in Chen Ruoxi’s stories? How is his presence felt in her characters’ lives? What does the author seek to express, by means of her fictional stories, about Chairman Mao and the revolution he instigated? What kind of “response to Maoism” do these stories represent? 

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