Genealogies of Literary Forms and the “Limits” of Realism in Contemporary China

Date & Time

05.12. 2022 09 AM, CET


Trainee centre 2.40, Tř. Svobody 686/26


This presentation aims to (re-)explore the ways in which the main Chinese literary movements of the Post-Mao Era reconstructed the uneasy relationship between reality and form, carving up some acceptable spaces of representation by means of a strategic work of formal restructuring. In particular, it focuses on how Chinese literary critics and writers set out to work “around” the problem of realism, so as to challenge the monopoly over the historical and social truth administered through this literary mode by the authorities.

It will attempt to lay out a very brief genealogical reconstruction of the anti-realist movements by which critics and writers managed to progressively distance Chinese literature from the normative territory of realism, describing them as a series of de-territorializations that progressively dissolved the core representational and epistemological principles of realism. These include the appropriation of modernist obscurity as a method to allegorize the present, the root-searching mythicization of culture as a way to create de-historicized representations of reality, the avant-garde emphasis on textual constructedness to create an epistemology of uncertainty, and, finally, the “new realist” and “individualizing” trends of the early Nineties as procedures to blur the social totalities surrounding individual life in the present.


Fumian Marco is Associate Professor of Chinese Studies at the Oriental University of Naples, Italy, where he teaches Mandarin language and modern Chinese literature. His main interests are in the area of modern Chinese literature and popular culture, with a focus on their role in the production of mainstream ideological discourses in the PRC.