Toward a Theory of Postmodern/Post-Mao-Deng Literature

  • Xiaobin Yang


If Adorno’s aphorism “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric”1 epitomizes the crisis of modernity that Europe faces in the post-World War II era, the Cultural Revolution marks both the culmination and the abyss of modernity in China. The Holocaust ends the belief in a rational, progressive world history that the Hegelian-Marxist theory envisions. The Cultural Revolution, too, both consummates and undermines the project of Chinese modernity,2 which has exposed itself not only as an utmost pursuit for historical progress and social perfection, but also as a striking presentation of the ruin of the grand History. The Cultural Revolution, like the Holocaust, defies any rational interpretation, for it blends grandiose discourses and atrocious realities that have gone far beyond reason. The simultaneously attractive and hideous experience of the Cultural Revolution has produced the emotional ambivalence that ultimately traumatizes one’s rational faculty. The Cultural Revolution, again like the Holocaust, has shattered subjective integrity in every way, for the Maoist omnipotence of human power, which promises a prosperous future, is met with a disastrous outcome that invalidates its original imagination. The most profound destruction lies not only in physical victimization, but also in psychic traumatization, which deprives the nation of its faith in the historical truth and the ethical good.


Cultural Revolution Chinese Literature Grand Narrative Modern Chinese Literature Cultural Paradigm 
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© Charles A. Laughlin 2005

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  • Xiaobin Yang

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