China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: This panel investigates the adaptation of the literary theories and fiction of Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) throughout 20th-century Chinese literary thought and practice. Gorky was one of the most influential non-Chinese writers and critics in China. His ideas spanned the literary logics of different periods, a multiplicity that resonated in May Fourth culture. Considered a founder of socialist realism, Gorky and his work were central to the debate in China on the social role of literature and the importance of typicality. In post-1949 China, his oeuvre was a seminal part of the discussion on the relationship between textual and political work.
Zeroing in on the early reception of Gorky, Keru Cai shows how his work was questioned and debated, with contesting perspectives that encouraged a variety of literary adaptations. Lihua Zhang examines the implications of Gorky’s translated persona in Lu Xun’s story “The Venerable Schoolmaster Gao,” which allegorizes the New Culture Movement’s negotiation of Western thought. Wendy Larson focuses on the 1930s debate on literary typicality, when Gorky’s work was interpreted as supporting the figure of the positive hero, molding the complexity of his writing to suit the demands of socialist realism. Examining 1950s graphic novels, Nicolai Volland delves into the double translation between languages and genres that provides an opportunity for agency to Chinese writers working under state-sponsored guidelines of socialist realism. Overall, we examine the important, highly debated role that Gorky’s writing played in Chinese literary and visual discourse from the May Fourth period well into the socialist era.
Paper Presenter: Keru Cai – University of Oxford
Paper Presenter: Wendy A. Larson – University of Oregon
Paper Presenter: Nicolai Volland – Pennsylvania State University
Paper Presenter: Lihua Zhang – Peking University