Hermeneutics of Desire: Interpretations of the World and Chinese Intellectuals’ Self- contradictory Spirit in Yan Lianke’s Ballads, Hymns, Odes

Roman Lashin

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingConference proceeding

Abstract

Yan Lianke is one of the most prominent contemporary writers in China and worldwide. However, in this study, I look beyond the established masterpieces of Yan’s oeuvre and concentrate on work as often neglected as it is essential – Ballads, Hymns, Odes. Its plot focuses on a professor at Peking University’s fictional double who strives to revitalize Chinese society through his research. Instead, he ends up exiled to a rural backwater, torn apart by his professorial identity and bodily desires. This work is usually considered autobiographical, but Yan characterized it as a “spiritual biography.” Thus, I step away from biographical research and focus instead on the “spirit” of intellectual portrayed by Yan. I argue that the protagonist is a symbolic embodiment of the Chinese intelligentsia’s collective image, including but not confined to the author’s personal experience. I read this image as containing critique as well as praise of intellectuals, who go through the painful trials of exile and constant reinterpretation of the world to achieve a higher intellectual and spiritual state. Besides, Yan’s decision to portray the protagonist as a professor and a Shijing commentator and the novel’s structure, where every chapter is named after a poem, are also subjects of analysis. By exploring the connection between intellectuals, Shijing’s exegesis and the condition of exile in Ballads, Hymns, Odes, I aim to reconstruct and study the “spirit” of contemporary Chinese intellectuals as Yan sees it.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication臺港三校中文系研究生論壇會議論文集
Publisher臺港三校中文系研究生論壇
Pages197-214
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2023
Event臺港三校中文系研究生論壇 - 國立成功大學, 臺南, Taiwan, Province of China
Duration: 27 May 2023 → …

Forum

Forum臺港三校中文系研究生論壇
Country/TerritoryTaiwan, Province of China
City臺南
Period27/05/23 → …

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese literature
  • Shijing
  • Yan Lianke
  • Ballads
  • Hymns
  • Odes
  • Chinese intellectuals
  • academic fiction

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