中国现当代小说中的故乡构建初探 (Literary Nativism, the Native Place and Modern Chinese Fiction)

Yiyan Wang


Abstract

Although the importance of the native place in Chinese life is beyond dispute and it has been a significant preoccupation of Chinese authors throughout history, literary representations of the native place still remain to be studied systematically. This paper attempts to examine the construction of the native place in modern Chinese fiction and its role in literary representations of China. Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the native place in Chinese literature remained an abstract notion without specific geographical locations and the narrative focus was on the ‘native-place sentiment’ (Bryna Goodman 1995). It is a modern phenomenon that the native place appears as a local cultural space with ethnographic details and is closely related to the need for narrating China, although it can still be abstract and symbolic. The construction of the native place is crucial in the project of national narration for modern Chinese fiction, as it is often created as the nation’s cultural origin and authentication. However, the relationship between the native place and national representation in Chinese fiction is paradoxical, because, on the one hand the native place necessarily differs in origin, and on the other hand, many Chinese authors are devoted to China as a cultural totality. This paper will focus on the paradoxical relationship between the authors’ nativist aspirations to create distinctive local cultural identities and their commitment to the abstract idea of a single Chinese nation.

Furthermore, both the native place and national narration are intricately associated with the tendency of literary nativism, i.e. the belief and the practice that literary writing should focus on constructing the native place and that the narrative style should continue and develop the indigenous narrative traditions. In other words, poetics is part of the politics in the configuration of the native place. The initial questions I shall try to answer include: How is the native place viewed and configured in modern Chinese fiction? What kinds of local stories are generated as national tales and what is the role of the native place in such narratives? Why do writers ‘write local but think national’? Why do national myths in Chinese regional literatures compete to identify with the central nation-state?

Keywords

native place, nativism, national narratives

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