City University of Hong Kong Dep
Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics
“ The Madness of the Past Century” :
Voices of Trauma and Truth
in Modern Chinese Fiction
Dr. Birgit Linder
he China/Hong Kong Program Director of the United Board,
Chinese University of Hong Kong
Date: 16 Jan 2008, Wednesday
Time: 10:30am - 12:00noon
Venue: B7603 (Lift 3, 7/F, Blue Zone), Academic Building, CityU
Madness has been a continuous theme in literature from its beginnings to the present. While most of the Western canon is associated with guilt, ecstasy, creativity, hyperconsciousness, self-realization, psychoanalysis and the language of inwardness, the Chinese tradition is marked by feigned madness and public insanity and, in modern times, by madness as a voice of truth. Akin to Edgar’s outcry “Reason in madness!” in King Lear that allies insanity with insight, 20th century male Chinese writers from the May Fourth to the short-lived avant-garde of the 1980s have employed symbolizations of paranoia, schizophrenia, delusions, and other psychic conflicts to expose social trauma and its psychological wounds. This presentation looks at fiction by Lu Xun 鲁迅, Zhou Daxin 周大新, Ha Jin 哈金, and Xue Yiwei 薛忆沩 whose language of madness turns into a voice of truth and authenticity that speaks compellingly to the social and political contexts of 20th century China..
Dr. Birgit Linder was educated in Germany, the United States, and China. She did her undergraduate and much of her graduate work in Sinology, Dutch Literature, and Political Science at the University of Cologne, Germany, and received a Master’s degree in Chinese Literature (1994), as well as a Ph.D. (1994/1998) in Chinese with a minor in German Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since graduation, she has taught at the University of Wisconsin, Peking University, and Skidmore College in the areas of Chinese literature, film, and cultural studies, as well as German. Her research interests are in modern Chinese fiction, comparative literature, cultural studies, cross-cultural psychologies and theories, and representations of madness and mental illness in Chinese literature. Presently, she is Associate Director of the Asian Christian Higher Education Institute and the China/Hong Kong Program Director of the United Board, located at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
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