Nostalgia: The Cultural Configuration of the "Past"

Dr. Hong Jiang
To add a paper, Login.

One of the most obvious characteristics of post-Mao literary and cultural discourse is its insistent reconceptualizing of the past. Images of yellow earth, yellow river, the village and the country people conjure up not only a cultural consciousness and a national spirit China needs at a particular time and place but also a timeless collective imagined memory. It is this collective memory of the past or rural imaginations that provide 1980s root-searching writers with an alternative to what was officially sanctioned by the nation-state. When the spatial embodiment of China's identity shifted from countryside to city, from desolate yellow earth to congested alleys, the urban naturally provides an imagined space for the past or present/past. The emergence of urban nostalgia answers a cultural need in 1990s China. History in Wang Anyi and some other writers' recent writing was structured as a visual cultural phenomenon of people's "own interior daily life", with unique tastes and smells of trivial urban life, and suggests there is a way of time experienced subjectively and personally. This paper thus attempts to discuss how post-Mao Chinese writers have dealt the "past" and why this "past" has become a significant topic in literary and cultural discourse through close reading of several literary writings of Wang Anyi, which focus on describing urban consciousness and the life in Shanghai alleys.

Keywords: Nostalgia, Cultural configuration of the past, Urban consciousness, Daily life, Shanghai alley, Petty urbanites, Wang Anyi
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Nostalgia

Dr. Hong Jiang

Associate Professor, Department of German, Russian and East Asian Languages, The Colorado College

Hong Jiang is Associate Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at The Colorado College. She graduated from Fudan University in 1982 with a B.A. degree in Chinese literature and aesthetics. After she graduated from Fudan, she worked at Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences for a couple of years as Research Fellow and then went to the United States for her graduate study. She received her Ph.D. in literature (Chinese and comparative) from University of Minnesota in 1995 and began her teaching at Colorado College in the same year. Her most recent book is Small Well Lane: A Contemporary Chinese Play and Oral History (University of Michigan Press, 2002). She is now working on two projects: a book on modernity and women's writing in post-Mao China, and the other focus on discussing the intellectual discourse in China today.

Ref: H05P0409