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Des Forges, Alexander Townsend, “Street talk and alley stories: Tangled narratives of Shanghai from 'Lives of Shanghai Flowers' (1892) to 'Midnight' (1933) ”, (1998)

Title : “Street talk and alley stories: Tangled narratives of Shanghai from 'Lives of Shanghai Flowers' (1892) to 'Midnight' (1933) ”,

Author(s) : Des Forges, Alexander Townsend

Year : 1998

Type : Dissertation

Subject : Unknown

Keywords : literature;entertainment;culture;city;

University : PhD, Princeton University,

Language:Name : English

Support : Print

Abstract : Novels set in Shanghai first appeared in the 1890s and flourished for more than three decades. This dissertation investigates the complex links between narrative form and the practice of reading in these novels, raising questions about the relationship between literary texts and their means of production, and challenging the distinctions conventionally drawn between 'modern' and 'pre-modern' Chinese literature. In the first chapter, I outline the social context in which Shanghai novels appeared, describing the introduction of new printing technologies, high literacy rates, and rise of leisure time as social practice in nineteenth-century Shanghai. The second chapter delineates the 'Shanghai novel' as a genre, noting first its uniqueness in setting, and second, its new mode of production: publication in installments. The third chapter analyzes the textual construction of space in three early Shanghai novels (Haishang hua liezhuan--Lives of Shanghai Flowers; Haitian hong xueji--A Shanghai Swan's Tracks in the Snow, 1899; and Haishang fanhua meng--Dreams of Shanghai Splendor, 1898-1906), examining the place of specific public parks, theaters, teahouses, and streets, and showing how the 'Shanghai' of these novels differs from the 'Shanghai' of maps and guidebooks compiled during the same period. The fourth chapter addresses the way in which narrative lines begin, interact and develop, and end in Shanghai novels, and shows how this management of narrative time constitutes a response to conditions of literary production specific to turn-of-the-century Shanghai. Finally, I explore the influence of these conceptions of city space and time on 'Mandarin Duck and Butterfly' novels of the 1920s and Mao Dun's Ziye (Midnight). Previous readings of Midnight have presented it as heir to the nineteenth-century European realist tradition; I concentrate instead on its similarities to earlier Shanghai narratives and highlight the problematic aspects of approaches that find Mao Dun to be 'imitative' of European writers. In the conclusion, I reveal the motivated aspects of my choice of 'genre' as an analytical (and finally rhetorical) tool, and show how the selective and strategic use of categorical groupings can be a powerful technique for the critical reassessment of reigning paradigms.



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