From the Soil to the People: The Rural Question in Chinese Literature 1940-2010
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From the Soil to the People: The Rural Question in Chinese Literature 1940-2010

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From the Soil, to the People shows how representations of rural society and the rural environment in Chinese literature from the 1940s to the present illuminate changing attitudes towards community, land, and modern life. It spans the explicitly political and state-regulated literature of the 1950s-1970s, literature produced under the relaxed guidelines of the 1980s, and literature written amid the increased commercialization of the 1990s and early 2000s. Conventional scholarship often separates these periods to examine them in isolation or focuses on pre- and post-socialist literature while ignoring the socialist period in between. In contrast, From the Soil, to the People uses “the rural question” to bring these disparate periods together, examining a persistent sociopolitical challenge through vastly different literary contexts.From the Soil, To the People examines the relationship between formal shifts in the literary portrayal of rural society with changes in the social, economic, and political conditions for both rural society and literary production. Close readings of 2-3 canonical novels from each era serve as vantage points, revealing signs of shifting ideologies of the rural that allow a longer timeline to emerge. Examining traditional literary categories including characterization and description across an 80-year period of monumental change, From the Soil, To the People argues that the relationship between literary production and historical change was not simply a matter of the representation of reality or a blueprint for an ideal society. From the Soil, To the People breaks down monolithic, timeless approaches to thinking about rural life through its historicization of particular moments in literary production across place and time in an environment of constant, yet not linear, change. Tracing the fluctuations of rural ideologies across these changes shows moments of both forward movement and circular return. Questioning linear narratives of rural modernity and progress that persist in the present day, From the Soil, To the People opens up space to imagine new forms for “modern” life amid increasing skepticism that urban modernization is the only future for the human species.

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This item is under embargo until February 1, 2025.