By Roy Chan
Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 25, no.2 (Fall 2013), pp. 21-50
This article examines how the fiction of Zong Pu (Feng Zhongpu, 1928-) offers an aesthetics of collective affect. Chan focusses on two stories: “A Dream for Strings” (Xian shang de meng, 1978), a Scar Literature text that addresses the trauma of the Cultural Revolution; and her literary debut, “Red Beans” (Hong dou, 1957), the story of a young girl’s struggle to choose between private passion and collective struggle. Her fiction outlines a symbolic space where private and collective passions interact. Within this symbolic space emotions circulate between private and public concerns and reveal the porousness of both. Zong Pu’s articulation of the conjunction of intimate passions and political commitment allows her to present a collective aesthetics that does not negate, but rather incorporates, personal, intimate emotions as central components in the cultivation of mass politics. I show how Zong Pu’s sympathetic and melodramatic portrayal of women’s private emotional worlds are thus narratively linked with collective politics. “A Dream for Strings” concludes with a dramatic dream vision of collective attunement in the wake of the Cultural Revolution’s devastation. Chan argues that this finale is formally distinct from earlier Maoist-era representations of crowds. The article concludes with a consideration of how Zong Pu’s ideas about affect and collectivity may offer insight into present day yearnings for mass politics.