READCHINA Intervention 03:
Chairman Mao’s Good Reader: Mise en abyme in The Diary of Lei Feng
Lei Feng is commonly known in China as a model soldier. To “learn from Lei Feng” meant to mold one’s own behavior on that of the model, to embody his spirit and do good oneself to the point of self-abandonment and self-sacrifice. Oftentimes, in visual media Lei Feng carries a rifle over his shoulder—and holds a copy of Mao Zedong’s Selected Works in his arm as his ideological weapon of sorts. This Intervention shows that reading figures prominently in the Lei Feng cult. The trope of reading is particularly powerful, as it creates a mise en abyme effect: The reading act represented in the narrative finds a mirror in the reading act of the diary reader; the narrative depicts a text which mirrors itself in the text that the reader of the diary holds in his or her hands.
Read it here (PDF to download): https://readchina.github.io/interventions/LeiFeng.html