Scar literature


Scar literature
The first new genre of fiction to emerge after the Cultural Revolution, ‘Scar literature’ or ‘wound literature’ (shanghen wenxue) lasted from the end of 1977 to 1979. It was new only in terms of its themes, and few of its writers or works survived the immediate need for fictional denunciations of the recent past. The keynote for the new literature was struck with the publication of ‘Class Teacher’ (Ban zhuren), a short story by Liu Xinwu, which appeared in People’s Literature in November 1977. It condemned the educational and cultural policies of the previous decade. It was followed by Lu Xinhua’s The Scar’ (Shanghen, 1978), a short story about the personal tragedies caused by the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. These stories dwell on the mental or physical scars left by the previous decade of radical politics. The analysis of the causes of the radicalism was superficial, and the stories generally lacked any depth, subtlety or artistic maturity.
Nonetheless, Liu Xinwu and Lu Xinhua became overnight celebrities, and while many critics wrote in their defence, nothing critical was published. Within the next two years, hundreds of hastily written ‘Scar’ stories, poems and plays were published, ‘exposing’ the ‘dark side’ of socialist society. By the early 1980s, however, this highly emotional genre gave way to a more reflective, problem-oriented ‘reform literature’ (gaige wenxue).
Braester, Yomi (2003). ‘Disjointed Time, Split Voices: Retrieving Historical Experience in Scar Literature’. In idem, Witness Against History: Literature, Film, and Public Discourse in Twentieth-Century China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 146–57.
Knight, Deirdre Sabina (2003). ‘Scar Literature and the Memory of Trauma’. In Joshua Mostow (ed.) and Kirk A.Denton (ed. China section), Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literatures. New York: Columbia University Press, 527–32.
KAM LOUIE

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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