Developmental Aesthetics: Representing Railways and Extraction in Modern China
3: Railway Guerilla and Second World War Stories in China
Saturday, March 26, 2022
6:00pm – 7:30pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
University of Cambridge, United States
This paper offers a case study of literature-to-screen adaptations of Railway Guerilla. Railway Guerilla is a novel describing how guerilla fighters on the Jinpu Railways fought against Japanese invaders by destroying railway roads and grabbing goods carried by trains. It was based on actual events, after the writer Liu Zhixia interviewed the heroes involved. Since its original publication in 1954, it has been adapted to film, TV dramas and video games and has many derivatives such as the Flying Tigers. The characters of the guerrillas, the plot of destroying railways and the recognisable setting of Weishanhu have come up repeatedly in modern Chinese literature to consolidate a particular mindset about the Second World War.
Combining textual analysis and archival research of newspapers, I will discuss how the same war story has been created and recreated in response to the changing historical context in mainland China after 1949. This discussion will show how the writer fictionalises a battle in the war, and then the camera re-fictionalises and re-aestheticises it. I will also draw from critical essays and audiences’ comments to delineate how the second Sino-Japanese War has become an active memory through the contributions of different media and repeated storytelling.