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The unsettled hearts in the West : self-representations of diasporic Chinese self-narratives in English, 1980s-1990s


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Xia, F ORCID: 0000-0003-4385-8528 2017 , 'The unsettled hearts in the West : self-representations of diasporic Chinese self-narratives in English, 1980s-1990s', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis considers the autobiographical narratives authored by Chinese immigrants to the West that were published in English during the 1980s and 1990s. Its particular focus is those texts recounting experiences during the Cultural Revolution. Common to these texts are descriptions of the authors’ victimisation under the rule of the Communist Party of China. The accounts of their traumatic experiences as well as the sheer number of like publications mean these texts constitute a particular subgenre of autobiography. Literary critics label this body of work the ‘literature of the wounded.’
These personal accounts of the authors’ experiences during the decade of China’s Cultural Revolution—1966–1976—are widely accepted by Western readers as reliable sources of knowledge about Communist China. However, many scholars are circumspect about the facticity of these texts, particularly in relation to the specifics of the Cultural Revolution. While acknowledging the destructiveness of the Cultural Revolution, they argue that these traumatic narratives are also in several ways products of Cold War thinking, Western cultural influences and a ready market for such texts. Autobiographical tales of victimisation under Communist systems found a ready Western readership.
This thesis argues that these immigrant Chinese narratives reflect the cultural and literary heritages of both China and the West. Influenced by these two distinct heritages, these diasporic Chinese authors retrieve those materials from their respective experiences that best articulate a particular construction of themselves. In order to argue this, the thesis is grounded in a comparative reading of this body of diasporic narratives—the ‘literature of the wounded’—against the narratives written by these diasporic authors’ China-based contemporaries who also have written of their experiences during the Cultural Revolution. To flesh this out the thesis sketches the history of autobiographical writing in China (although the ancient texts were not recognised as autobiography until comparatively recently) and Western forms of autobiography.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Xia, F
Keywords: autobiography; Chinese autobiography; Chinese literature; comparative literature; Chinese diaspora; Cultural Revolution
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Copyright 2017 the author

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