CHEN Xiaoming is Yangtze River Chair Professor, and Chair of the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Peking University. He is Vice President of China Literary Theory Association, China Contemporary Literature Association and China Literary Criticism Association. His research interests are contemporary Chinese literature, and postmodern theory and criticism. His publications include Boundless Challenges—Postmodernity of Contemporary Chinese Avant-Garde Literature, Main Movements in Contemporary Chinese Literature, Reconstructing the Critical Method of Close Reading the Text, The Bottom Line of Jacques Derrida, and Modernity That Cannot Be Terminated.
The Origin and Deviation of Contemporary Chinese Realism
As the dominant norm in literary theory and criticism, contemporary Chinese realism once followed the Soviet socialist realist model, as well as harbored possibilities for inheritance from modern Chinese realism. Historically, it chose a radical path that doggedly eliminated the modern tradition, as exemplified by the exile of Feng Xuefeng and Hu Feng. Since Mao’s “Speech”, contemporary Chinese realism withdrew from modern tradition to start anew. Borrowing from the Soviet model, it failed to successfully establish itself for the lack of support from the local artistic practices. Moreover, theorization of such practices failed to achieve proper criticism in aesthetic terms. Such an “origin” or “deviation”, “elimination” or “departure”, as we observe more than half a century later, presents us with valuable experience. Today, realism in China has evolved into a fundamental method, and is assimilated by all kinds of “-isms”, whether modernism, postmodernism or romanticism. We can safely conclude now that Chinese realism has finally opened up, and advance in the direction of diversification, thus making itself full of life and vitality.