Revolution and Its Narratives

China's Socialist Literary and Cultural Imaginaries, 1949-1966

Revolution and Its Narratives

Book Pages: 480 Illustrations: Published: February 2016

Asian Studies > East Asia, Cultural Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

Published in China in 2010, Revolution and Its Narratives is a historical, literary, and critical account of the cultural production of the narratives of China's socialist revolution. Through theoretical, empirical, and textual analysis of major and minor novels, dramas, short stories, and cinema, Cai Xiang offers a complex study that exceeds the narrow confines of existing views of socialist aesthetics. By engaging with the relationship among culture, history, and politics in the context of the revolutionary transformation of Chinese society and arts, Cai illuminates the utopian promise as well as the ultimate impossibility of socialist cultural production. Translated, annotated, and edited by Rebecca E. Karl and Xueping Zhong, this translation presents Cai's influential work to English-language readers for the first time.


"Cai Xiang's study of socialist literary and cultural imaginaries, originally published in 2010, is one of the most provocative books on post-1949 Chinese literature and culture appearing in Chinese since the beginning of the new century. Its English version, Revolution and Its Narratives, brilliantly edited and meticulously translated by Rebecca E. Karl and Xueping Zhong, makes a significant and timely contribution to ongoing debates about the cultural-political legacies of revolutionary China." — Pu Wang, The China Quarterly

"Revolution and Its Narratives contains numerous original insights, based on a wealth of readings of both classics of the 1950s and 1960s and many lesser-known works. It covers a wide range of topics and will be essential reading for scholars and graduate students working on Chinese socialist literature." — Nicolai Volland, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

“This is a very timely and provocative book, and I applaud the translators’ insights and work. By articulating unrealized ideals of socialism and revolution, the book will make a valuable contribution to our rethinking of Mao-era literature and culture.” — Ban Wang, Chinese Literature

"Revolution & Its Narratives is beyond any doubt a major achievement and a substantial contribution to the field of Chinese cultural production of the 1950s and 1960s. Cai’s superb sensibility to theory, erudition, and ethical commitment to the subaltern classes make his book a compelling work of mind and passion." — Yiju Huang, China Review International

"Cai Xiang is a self-reflexive and capacious thinker. His dialectical approach to unresolvable tensions and contradictions within Chinese socialism is extremely valuable for scholars who take the lived experience of socialism seriously. This timely translation will help English-language readers reassess their received views about China's socialist past and its postsocialist present, allowing them to better appreciate why conflicting stories about the Chinese revolution continue to shape China's self-understanding and its position in the world."  — Lydia H. Liu, author of The Clash of Empires: The Invention of China in Modern World Making

"A groundbreaking study, Revolution and Its Narratives presents a series of sympathetic and penetrating analyses that helps us better understand the cultural and social legacies underlying contemporary China. Since its publication in 2010, Cai Xiang's book has been widely recognized as a landmark achievement in Chinese socialist culture and history scholarship. This timely translation ought to have a deep impact on the study of modern China in the English-language world."  — Xiaobing Tang, author of Visual Culture in Contemporary China: Paradigms and Shifts


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Cai Xiang is Professor of Chinese Literature and Director of the Research Institute for Contemporary Literature at Shanghai University. 
Rebecca E. Karl is Associate Professor of History at New York University. She is the author of The Magic of Concepts: History and the Economic in Twentieth-Century China.
Xueping Zhong is Professor of Chinese Literature and Culture at Tufts University and the author of Masculinity Besieged?: Issues of Modernity and Male Subjectivity in Chinese Literature of the Late Twentieth Century, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
A Note on Translation  vii

Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction to the English Translation / Rebecca E. Karl and Xueping Zhong  xi

Introduction. Literature and Revolutionary China  1

1. The National/The Local: Conflict, Negotiation, and Capitulation in the Revolutionary Imagination  27

2. The Mobilization Structure: The Masses, Cadres, and Intellectuals  85

3. Youth, Love, "Natural Rights," and Sex  145

4. Renarrating the History of the Revolution: From Hero to Legend  189

5. Narratives of Labor or Labor Utopias  251

6. Technological Revolution and Narratives of Working-Class Subjectivity  307

7. Cultural Politics, or Political Cultural Conflicts, in the 1960s  357

8. Conclusion. The Crisis of Socialism and Efforts to Overcome It  403

Bibliography  433

Index  447
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6069-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6054-4
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