2: Green Blood: The Artistic Regime of the PLA in Yan Geling's “Female Soldier Trilogy”
Friday, March 25, 2022
3:30pm – 5:00pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
In the late 1980s, the novelist Yan Geling—who had been a dancer in a People’s Liberation Army “cultural work troupe” (wengongtuan) and a military journalist—wrote three semi-autobiographical novels about female soldiers coming of age in late Cultural Revolution cultural work troupes. Green Blood (Lü xue, 1986), Whispers of a Woman Soldier (Yi ge nübing de qiaoqiaohua, 1987), and The Female Grasslands (Cixing de caodi, 1989) detail the militaristic vision of the arts, the disciplining and exploitation of female bodies, and conflicts between amateurism and professionalism that took place within these troupes. Drawing on both Michel Foucault’s “regime of truth” and Jacques Rancière’s “artistic regimes,” I understand the PLA cultural work troupe of Yan’s novels as a “regime”: a configuration of artistic production in which young people were validated as artists by their disciplined devotion to sanctified Communist narratives. Yan’s socialist bildungsroman turn ironic when her female protagonists achieve maturity by recognizing the impossibility of the ideals of the cultural work troupe. Examining this trilogy of novels provides context for two later developments in Yan Geling’s career: her engagement with the discipline of creative writing in the United States, and her collaboration with the director Feng Xiaogang on yet another cultural work troupe bildungsroman, Youth (Fanghua, 2017). The “female soldier trilogy,” taken together with its echoes in Yan’s later career, suggest that the professional author of postsocialism is the unlikely product of the PLA’s regime of artistic production.