Revolutionary Trauma and Reconfigured Identities: Representing the Chinese Cultural Revolution in Scar Literature

  • Author / Creator
    Yang, Min
  • While a number of studies have examined the scar literature movement (1977-1983), no study has thoroughly explored the psychological function of the scar metaphor, the emotional catharsis (or so called “qinsu shi”) and the “bright tails” (the so-called “guangming de weiba”) — the key paradigm of scar stories in most Chinese people’s expression and assimilation of the trauma wrought by the Cultural Revolution. Through examining psychological mechanisms of metaphorical thinking, identification, and guilt or shame, which were articulated in scar stories, this dissertation attempts to shed new light on how some Chinese people who went through personal afflictions during the Cultural Revolution worked through their memories and reconstructed their social identity after Mao.
    I will demonstrate that the key paradigm of scar literature emerged when some Chinese people (writers, readers, and protagonists) both confronted and denied a particular type of trauma, referred to here as revolutionary trauma, in interaction with a radical change in communist ideologies. I will place scar literature within the dynamics by which the Cultural Revolution was represented in Chinese culture to demonstrate: (1) how the denial of traumatic memories in the scar period became a foundation for interpreting personal and national trauma, and (2) how this denial impacted, and arguably reconstructed, Chinese cultural identity during socialist modernization in the 1980s and socialist commercialism in the 1990s.

    The scar literature movement was the first and also the largest cultural and literary movement to enunciate the trauma of the Cultural Revolution in Chinese society. Although the Cultural Revolution has been consistently criticized in political documents and literature, it gradually lost its empirical content, namely, its actual impact on both the social system and Chinese individuals. Though frequently mentioned, it nonetheless has been converted into a signifier without concrete historical reference. It is forgotten in its frequent, if superficial, remembering. However, I believe that to understand Chinese collective unconscious today we must understand how this trauma was mediated, recognized, and reconstructed in the Chinese people’s collective voice.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2012
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Sywenky, Irene (Comparative Literature)
    • Kuiken, Donald (Pyschology)
    • Lin, Jenn-Shann (East Asian Studies)
    • Verdicchio, Massimo (Comparative Literature)