Worlding the narod: Recontextualizing the Chinese Reading of Russian Realism

Colloquium | December 6 | 4-6 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Roy Chan, Assistant Professor, Chinese Literature, University of Oregon

 Edward Tyerman, Assistant Professor, Russian and Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley

 Center for Chinese Studies (CCS)

This talk aims to examine the various ways in which Russian ideas about realism circulated in China, with particular emphasis on the People's Republic of China's deep engagement with Russian and Soviet literature. As the "the people" (renmin) constituted a normative pillar that was central to the PRC's political legitimacy, aesthetic practices designed to provide representational articulation of "the people" were crucial to cultural production. Russian literary ideas, repackaged by Soviet critics, were a key vector through which the Chinese sought to argue how aesthetic activity should represent and define this concept in a way radically distinct from liberal democratic norms. While the Chinese poetics of popular sovereignty partook from an international socialist circuit of aesthetic ideas, it also recontextualized these concepts toward their own particular national concerns. The Chinese engagement with Russian literature provides a paradigmatic site to illuminate how aesthetic realism sought to meld aesthetics and politics in a transnational and transtemporal context.