CARESSING Revolutions in a Post-Revolution Era: Discourse on Things and Historiographical Lyricism in Contemporary Chinese Nonfictions (Thursday)
10:00am - 12:00pm


By proposing historiographical lyricism in things, this thesis examines the variations and exercises of the lyrical tradition of poetry for intent (Shi Yan Zhi 詩言志) in contemporary Chinese nonfictions. Albeit the rich connotations of this literary paradigm, the manifestations in things have penned an individual historiography that is alternative and expending to the official metanarrative about the history and previously prominent discourse on the revolution, material culture, and human emotion in a time far after the socio-cultural cataclysms occurred from the early 1950s to the Cultural Revolution. The following chapters explicate the lyrical and documentary faculties in things, either physical objects or the status of metallization, in different nonfictional media, such as reportage, nonfictional text, and indie documentary cinema. With case studies on the love poetry on cigarette packet labels captured in Xu Xing’s documentary film The Day of Reckoning (2018), the female status as an excrescence and the third sex discussed by Yan Lianke in his latest nonfiction Their Stories (2020), and Zhang Yihe’s serial semi-autobiographical writings about the social elites and diet refinement, I argue that things entail not only the lyrical competence but also an introspective perspective to re-decipher and re-represent in the artistic genre as well as the critical category of nonfictions. Things display the lyrical documentation of history in an autonomous, material faculty, which renders the paradoxical atrocity of history visible and palpable. Furthermore, such lyrical records of the traumatic past in things also enabled a private sphere amid the ceaseless political movements and socio-cultural crises, in which the previously precluded and annihilated interpersonal bonding, human feelings, and cultural tradition are constructed and manifested as critical dialogues in a post-revolutionary era.