Cai Xiang is Professor of Chinese Literature and Director of the Research Institute for Contemporary Literature at Shanghai University.Rebecca E. Karl is Associate Professor of History at New York University and the author of
Renarrating the History of the Revolution: From Hero to Legend
2016. "Renarrating the History of the Revolution: From Hero to Legend", Revolution and Its Narratives : China's Socialist Literary and Cultural Imaginaries, 1949-1966 , Xiang Cai, Rebecca E. Karl, Xueping Zhong
Download citation file:
How did revolutionary literature become and remain popular? This is the question Cai takes up in this chapter, arguing that it was by drawing on already existing rural oral genres of heroes and legends that revolutionary literature embedded itself thoroughly in the aesthetics and reading lives of a mass audience. In its appropriation of existing genres, however, revolutionary literature had to transform those genres to serve a new present; thus, rather than promote timelessness and enduring values of hierarchy and individual revenge, the new socialist legends and heroes had to be transformed into generalized individual figures that became collective class heroes spinning new socialist legends. This new genre of writing provided a major challenge to and opportunity for urban-educated cultural producers to learn from the countryside and repurpose local aesthetics into a new national form.